As J.T. Ellison deserves many more accolades than I can offer, I’m doing some due diligence by hosting her interview in three parts.
Today we find out how she writes, what she recommends to emerging authors and what she thinks of morgues on tv!
1. Publishers Weekly calls A Deeper Darkness (Samantha Owens, Book 1), being released April 17, 2012, “a scintillating first in a new forensic series.” It’s the first book of yours I read and I wholeheartedly agree with them. How does it make you feel when you release a new book that’s sure to be a best seller as it’s liked by new readers and critics alike?
From your lips to God’s ears… Seriously, thank you for that – I’m glad you enjoyed A Deeper Darkness (Samantha Owens, Book 1). It’s humbling to have a book be well received. I wish great reviews were indicative of a book’s best-sellerdom, but that’s not always the case. I just hope I can reach a new market with this story – Samantha Owens is a very different character than Taylor Jackson, and the book is much more of a suburban thriller, which means it’s more accessible than my standard fare. It deals with loss and hope, things we’ve all experienced. For me as an author, the connection to the reader is paramount, so it’s good to know that this story is doing that.
2. In a recent interview at Big Thrill, you mentioned you had a tour of a morgue to interview a forensic odontologist and you were struck. First, what specifically pulled at you and second, when you see a morgue portrayed on tv to you cringe or laugh at the false appearance of it?
It’s hard to describe how the sparks of an idea grab me and turn into a story, and in this case, a whole series, but my first morgue tour came while I was doing intensive, hand-on research on police procedure and forensics, and all I’d ever seen of a morgue was on television. It’s not terribly different looks-wise, a lab is a lab is a lab, but procedures and other things aren’t even close. No sheets on bodies, no perfectly straight limbs and clean, sanitary skin. So we don’t freak your readers out too much, I’ll give you this link. If you’re interested in details, read it.
There was something very cool about realizing what medical examiners do in real life, the care they take, the mysteries they solve, and I knew I wanted one in my stories. Samantha Owens was born, and her role in the novels grew bigger and bigger until I had to write a book just for her. It’s a very spiritual position as well as a scientific one, and that’s what really grabbed me, that dichotomy.
3. What advice do you have for new and emerging authors to reach the same stage you’ve found yourself at?
Keep plugging away, every single day. Never give up, never let another writer make you feel like you’re not worthy. Read, a lot, and try to write every day. Meet your deadlines, respect your art, respect your muse. If you treat yourself as an artist, the people around you will treat you as one as well, making it easier to demand time for your art. And read. And read. And read.
4. When you start a new novel do you know how it’s going to end or do you go where the characters take you?
I don’t. I’ve literally learned the identity of a killer of the last day of drafting, three pages from the end of the book. It’s fun that way, to have no idea where the story might take you, or how a
character might react to any given situation. But the more I write, the more heavily I outline, simply because it allows me to write faster.
5. Did you start by submitting your writing to contests or did you just jump to publishers/ agents? Is there anything you would change about how you got to be where you are today?
I jumped into the deep end first, without checking to see if there was water in the pool. I wrote what I thought was a novel (it was a novella, only 50,000 words) and submitted it directly to editors all over New York. And promptly received a ton of rejections. And THEN I started researching publishing and saw the “correct” way to submit, to agents, not editors. I also learned the right word counts, so I went back and started over and emerged with a full-blown novel. Luckily, before I got too far into the agent search, I matched up with my agent, Scott Miller, on Publishers Marketplace, and we’ve been together ever since, going on eight years now. I don’t know what I’d do without him – he’s a sounding board and trusted friend.
I’ve learned as I go, and that’s probably for the best, because while knowledge is power, it is also poison. I think if you’re aware of what might lie ahead, both good and bad, you’ll manage to alter your course and miss out on something. It’s been a long strange trip for me, but I think the journey is so much more important than the destination. Que sera, sera, truly.
Not only is J.T. Ellison a wonderful author but a terrific person to as she answered these questions in record time and with such valuable information.
Thanks for reading,