It took a while for Judy “JA” Jance to be able to fully pursue her ambition to become a writer, but boy when she did she made the most of it. Since publishing “Until Proven Guilty” in 1985 she has become one of the most successful and prolific authors in the world. She produces four – yes, four! – different mystery series featuring a collection of very different but equally engaging characters: J.P. Beaumont, Joanna Brady, Ali Reynolds and the husband and wife team of Brandon Walker and Dianna Ladd. Her newest book “Field of Bones,” is her 56th novel, and she already has one more in the can and another she is working on. Somehow she found time recently to share some insight with me about her work, the state of the publishing industry for women and how she handles rejection.
Open Mic: You just published your 56th novel, “Field of Bones.” Tell me a bit about it.
Jance: I’d say it’s a Joanna Brady novel once removed. The book starts on election night. She is running for her third term as sheriff of Cochise County in Southeastern Arizona and she and her family and campaign workers are at an election night gathering. Joanna is pregnant with her third child, and the baby decides to arrive prematurely. So for most of this book while the crime is being solved, Joanna is sidelined on maternity leave. But as sheriff she is also an administrator, so she has to bring her staff along and develop people and she’s taken a guy who was once her jail commander, Tom Hadlock, and turned him into her police deputy. So this is the first time Tom Hadlock has really had to stand on his own two feet, and he’s the one essentially in charge of the investigation into a serial homicide.
Open Mic: The new book is the 18th in the Joanna Brady series. You also write long running series featuring your characters Ali Reynolds and J.P Beaumont. How much do those characters reflect a portion of yourself, if at all?
Jance: A lot. Certainly when a mother speaks, as when Beaumont is referring to things his mother said or when Joanna is talking about her mother Eleonore Winfield. When I’m writing these characters I am often hearing my own mother’s voice. Joanna Brady is the last parent standing in her family, and Eleanor was the last parent standing in her family. Joanna was a teenager when her father died. I’m the last parent standing in my family, or at least I was for a very long time until I married my second husband, the good one. My first husband died when my children were very young and what often happens is the parent who is dead is instantly elevated to saint-like status while the parent left standing – the one who says you have to do the dishes, take out the garbage, clean your room, do your homework – that parent becomes the source of all evil. That is certainly reflected in Joanna’s life and in her relationship with her mother.
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