Saturday, March 14, 2009

Interview with L.J. Sellers

L.J. Sellers has written an intriguing book in The Sex Club (review below) and I'm happy to report that this is the first in a series of Det. Wade Jackson books. Below, Sellers talks about her books:

Q: Your first mystery book, The Sex Club, is about middle-school teens involved in sexual situations. You weave in issues such as lack of sex education in the schools and parents who cloak themselves in religion rather than talk to their kids. Are these issues you’ve seen in real life, and why address them in a crime novel?

A: I was seeing the lack of sex education in schools begin to permeate our culture, most of it as a result of the policies of the last administration. My concern, when I was writing the story, was that teenagers would suffer through higher pregnancy rates and more exposure to STDs. And of course that is what’s happened now. I also have seen firsthand how religious suppression of sex and sexuality is unhealthy and often backfires, pushing individuals into risky behavior. I consider all of this to be a crime against humanity. So why not write it as a crime novel? Especially since that’s what I love to do.

Q: How has the reception been to this book?

A: Readers and reviewers have raved about it. I get e-mails all the time from people who have just finished it and feel compelled to tell me how much they liked it and to ask when my next book is coming out. I’ve only seen two brief reviews from individuals who didn’t care for it. Honestly, I expected more. When you write about sex and religion, you’re guaranteed to get some people worked up. That was one of the points I was trying to make.

Q: So, have you gotten any funny looks when mentioning the title of this book?

A: Surprisingly few. Most people respond favorably, saying something like, “That will get people’s attention.” Although some readers in the mystery community have commented that they didn’t care for the title. And one book group, who liked the story so much they asked me to join them for a discussion, said they were embarrassed to ask for it at the bookstore or library. On the other hand, one NY reader who posted on Goodreads said she loved carrying THE SEX CLUB around the subways. So the title has had mixed results.

Q: You’ve created a very likable character in Det. Wade Jackson, a separated father trying to balance raising a teenage daughter with his profession. I’m glad to see he’ll be back in a second book, Secrets to Die For. What can you tell us about the second book?

A: I’m so glad you like Jackson. I wanted him to be likable and respectable. I didn’t want to write a hard-drinking, bitter, morally questionable cop character. He’s not perfect, but his issues are the same as everyone’s: family, money, and health.

Here’s the pitch for STDF: A social worker visits the home of a young boy she has been assigned to and is brutally murdered shortly after. To Detective Jackson, it looks like an open-and-shut case against the ex-con father of the young boy. Then complications develop when new evidence points to a serial rapist whose violence is escalating. Meanwhile, the murder victim’s lover knows something about the rape victims but has secrets of her own that she’s afraid to reveal. Soon she is kidnapped and held captive, and Jackson must uncover the truth in time to save her.
SECRETS TO DIE FOR will be out in September from Echelon Press. Any everyone will be hearing more from me about it as the release date gets closer.

Q: Is Wade Jackson going to become a series?

A: It is a series. I’m working on the final draft of the third book now. And I have standalone thriller, THE BABY THIEF, in which Jackson appears as a minor character. I hope to have this book on the market soon too. I’m also outlining the fourth Jackson story. So by the end of 2010, I should have five Jackson novels available.

As background information: When I wrote THE SEX CLUB, it was story I felt very passionate about and had to tell. It also happened to have a detective in it, so I wrote the Jackson character as someone I liked well enough that I could bring him back in future stories if I wanted to. I didn’t set out to write a series. But readers loved the characters so much, I decided to write a few more Jackson stories and see how it went.

Q: You started out as a journalist, working many years in editor positions in pharmaceutical magazines. How did you make the jump to writing books, and was this something you had wanted to do for a long time? And did your experience as a journalist help in writing these books?

A: I started writing novels rather early in my journalism career. My first novel was a challenge to myself, after reading a particularly bad novel and thinking ‘I could do better than that.’ So I brainstormed a storyline, outlined it, then wrote the novel. It was so much fun, I wrote another one. Then I started thinking about getting published. BTW: It took a long time. My journalism experience is what led me to outline my first novel before I started writing — and every novel since. I believe this is tremendously helpful. Journalism also gives me the discipline and confidence to sit down and write every day whether I feel inspired or not.

Q: Is being a published mystery author what you thought it would be? Can you relate some of the more unexpected, or even stranger, things that have happened to you since you published The Sex Club?

A: Online social networking has drastically changed how writers interact with readers and with other writers. It’s not a scenario I imagined when I first fantasized about the life of a novelist. Ultimately, I have more friends and fun than I thought I would, but considerably less money.

One of the strangest things that happened was discovering that the name of the antagonist in THE SEX CLUB is the name of real person who’s involved in a mystery community we both belong to. I was horrified and hoped she wouldn’t find out. But she did and she contacted me, and fortunately I managed to smooth things out with her. But it made me realize that my fiction can have repercussions in the real world. Another interesting by-product is that now I get requests to read, review, blurb, and edit sexually explicit books. I don’t write sex scenes or read them as a general rule, so it’s funny to have people think that’s who I am because my novel has the word sex in the title.

Q: Which are the authors you read?
A: This is hard because some of my favorite authors from the past, I no longer read. And some new authors I like, I’ve read only one of his/her novels so far. So this list will be a mix. Favorite authors from the past: Lawrence Sanders, Steven King, Leslie Glass, Margaret Atwood, Sue Grafton, John MacDonald, Rex Stout. Favorite current authors: John Sanford, John Grisham, John Hart, Laura Lippman. Potential new favorites: Harlan Coben, Victor Gischler, Duane Swierczynski, Gillian Flynn, Karen Olson.

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