Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Little interview with JT Ellison

Some years ago I published a small flash fiction story, called "Madonna in the Grass", by American writer JT Ellison in one of my mags, Ässä. So it was nice to notice she made it pretty big with her Nashville-set Taylor Jackson series. Especially nice was that Taylor Jackson also made it to Finland. Her first novel with Jackson, All the Pretty Girls, came out in Finnish before Christmas. I managed to find a copy, though the MIRA paperbacks have a very short shelf life and they are not available everywhere, and I read the book during the holidays. I'm not big into serial killer, but I thought All the Pretty Girls was entertaining and pretty plausible in its solutions. A fast, solid read.

I sent some questions to JT and got some answers back - the thing that usually happens with interviews, right? Okay, here's the Q&A.

Was it always clear to you that you'd write about a woman character?

Yes. From the very beginning, I wanted to have a strong female lead, one that was strong without being strident, who commanded the respect of her peers not from fear, but because she’d earned it. A female Lucas Davenport, that was my goal. Half cop, half rock star. On a deeper level, I see Taylor as Athena, the warrior goddess of Nashville. She is the city’s protector in every way. A hero.

But having a strong male lead was important to me as well. That’s why Baldwin has such a big role in the story from the get go.

Taylor Jackson is not the main character and actually not all the time very crucial to what's happening in the book? Why is that?

Taylor is definitely the main character of the book, she’s just working on a secondary investigation. That’s just the way the story played out in this first book. Because she is a police office with Metro Nashville, she can’t go jetting off to other jurisdictions to follow the Southern Strangler. John Baldwin is the profiler tasked with finding the Southern Strangler, but Taylor’s role in that investigation has to be focused on the Nashville aspects only. Real cops can’t move into other jurisdictions without a lot of paperwork and headaches. I thought it would be fun to show what it’s really like for a cop dealing with a multi-state investigation.

You've published six books about Taylor Jackson? What's happened to her after the first book (mind you, I haven't read them before this). What's going to happen to her later?

Taylor faces all sorts of challenges in the following five novels. In 14, she’s investigating the case of a long dormant serial killer who seemingly has returned from the dead. In JUDAS KISS, she’s working a single murder of a young mother, and dealing with a major invasion of her privacy that results in her being demoted. In THE COLD ROOM, she’s up against another serial killer, The Conductor, and chases him across Europe with a new character to the series, James “Memphis” Highsmythe, from New Scotland Yard. THE IMMORTALS has her back in Nashville hunting for a killer who’s tied to the occult, and the newest book, out March 1 in the US, SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH, sees her up against her nemesis from 14, the Pretender. The girl has a full plate. I’ve just finished the seventh, WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE, (Oct 1) which is more of a gothic suspense than my usual thriller. No killers to hunt, just Taylor, working through some rather serious issues.

Do you have any other series characters or one-off books in mind?

Yes, I do. I’m starting a new series right now, but I’m not ready to talk about it yet.

There are quite a lot police procedural influences in the book, which I found refreshing. Could you name some of your influences in that genre?

I’m a big fan of John Sandford. He’s the one that got me going on police procedurals. Tess Gerritsen, Alex Kava, Erica Spindler, Karin Slaughter, John Connolly and Lee Child all inspire me too. I breathlessly await their new books.

In your earlier web-published stories, there were more noir and hardboiled influences in sight. Will you go back to those influences someday?

I find that most of my short stories have the darker, noir feel to them. I love experimenting though, love to stretch my wings and try new genres. I absolutely have some more noir up my sleeve.

How do you see the future of books and publishing? You made it big from the webzines to Harlequin/Mira, but that leap is not possible to everyone.

I am quite bullish on the future of publishing. We’re in flux, yes, with the advent of ebooks and their popularity. But readers will always want a well-crafted, well-told story, and publishers will continue to bring those stories to them. I was very blessed to have an excellent agent who had a plan for me, and followed through on that. I know it doesn’t always happen that way. My work is more commercial in nature, I think, and that’s what helped springboard me to the place I am now.

How about e-books and all that?

Love them. I have a Nook Color and think it’s the bomb. I hate that they’re putting bookstores out of business though. It’s painful to watch. I adore going to bookstores, feeling the weight of the books in my hand. But I travel so much that an ereader is a great solution for me. I read probably 50% of my books on the Nook now.

BTW, seems like JT's "Madonna in the Grass" is available as an e-book, with some other short stories of hers. Check the collection Sweet Little Lies out here. And JT has also another book out in Finnish, check it out here. It's called Lumikkimurhat (as in "The Snow White Killings").

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