J. A. Jance is an American author of mystery novels. She writes at least three series of novels, centering on retired Seattle Police Department Detective J. P. Beaumont, Arizona County Sheriff Joanna Brady, and former Los Angeles news anchor turned mystery solver Ali Reynolds. The Beaumont and Brady series intersect in the novel Partner in Crime, which is both the 16th Beaumount mystery and the 10th Brady mystery. They intersect again in Fire and Ice.
you're listening to good sentences podcast that's guaranteed to tickle your literary ear holes and make you wish you'd listen to dear old mom when she said Toe put down those lawn darts and learn how to read. And now here your hosts, neither of whom listened to dear old mom. This is Craig a Heart and S. J. Marengo J. A. Jance on the show. Now we've had a Siri's going on the podcast lately, which we've been talking about character, character creation, character motivations. Now you've created a ton of characters over the years, but the two, I guess, that stand out in my mind. R. J. P. Beaumont and Joanna Brady. Now am I correct in thinking that J. P. Beaumont was the first major character of yours?
J. P. Bomb up was the purse. When I wrote the first Beaumont Book in 1982 and 83 I thought I was writing a standalone
book. I had
no idea department sure was going to purchase it as the beginning
of the series, and I
had even lets idea that close to 40 years later I would have published putting poor bum up, unlock about it or not,
But that's incredible. When you started out writing that first book, was this something you wanted to do? Was a career.
I wanted to be a writer. From the time in second grade, when I read The Wizard of Oz books, I didn't fare much without the wizard hiding behind the curtain. What I was fascinated by it was Frank Bohm hiding behind the words. That's what I wanted to do. I grew out the win a scholarship
to the University of Arizona, because I wanted to be a writer. I signed up to be an English major, and then in 1960
four, when it was time for the Upper Division course is I tried to enroll and the creative writing course, and the professor said, You're a group and I said So He's
girl. Become teachers or nurses. Boys
become writers and he wouldn't let me into your
class. So origins of character when I wrote my purse hardback. 10 years into my career, our of the Hunter plays Killer turns out to be a former professor of creative writing. My position on characters is that it has to be someone you care about in either direction. Neither have to love him or you needed to hate him. But I'd like to tell you how I met J. P. Boma because essentially, we met on a train. I had spent six months trying to write what would be the first Beaumont book through the point of view of the wrong character. So in 1983 when spring break came around, I sent my two kids to camp for Kyla up in the island, and I sent myself Courtland to spend several days with a friend from my days in the life insurance business. And as I got onto the train, I had a stack of blue Line notebook. I had this full of ballpoint pen, and as the train pulled out Station, I thought, What would happen if I wrote this book through the detective's point of view? And so I picked up a pen in my road. She might have been a cute kid once. Well, it's hard to tell now. She was dead from that very mama. I waas with J. P. Beaumont at a crime scene. I was walking around in his shoes of the saying it through his eyes, caring what other people said. I'm hearing what he said, but also hearing what was going on in his head, and we've been together ever since.
That's really cool,
By the way Unto Proven Guilty was published as The Red Pill paper back in 1985. It's still in print, so it's actually historical fiction Now. Nobody ever heard of Vienna. It's still in print on If you read the first page, you'll find that although I never got a computer in 1983 and I never went back
that hand written coffee
after the book
was published. But you'll see that the
book just that way
a writer and even a reader hopefully down the road can get to know or feel if they know a character so well that they have the same love for that character as they do a quizzical riel person. It's incredible how literature and it's really a testament that Scott and I were talking on another episode, a testament to the power of literature that it can do that for its
well, and it can take us to another place. I have countless emails from people who have found respite from loved ones Day an intensive care, the loss of a loved one speak afterwards, who found comfort in picking up with my story and going to my character's lives Get away from their own. And that's what stories are during. The ancient sacred charge of the storyteller is to beguile the time fun in hospital waiting room is time desperately in need of Big Island.
When you have a character as beloved to both U. N. Readers as as J. P. Bowman. What made you decide to create another major character?
I have limited attention. Then I could never be. I could never be a Sue Grafton.
never get out and chart myself the self imposed course of writing 26 books about the same character. And I'm so sorry she didn't move beyond Why I'm so sorry. Way Lost of Grafton and Kensi, Mel
Home before that journey was finished, but after nine book, I was bored with
J T. Bone and
I threatened to knock him off. My editor said, Oh, please don't do that. So I had written a book earlier, before I wrote until proven guilty. It was a fictionalized version of an encounter my first husband and I had with a serial killer in to zone in 1970. When I wrote that story, I wasn't allowed in the creative writing program, so I didn't know you should leave some things out.
So I put everything in.
The manuscript ended up being 1300 pages long. I actually found an agent, and I went to see her with my manuscript in a box, and she looked at the box and she looked at me and she said, This is your first book. Yeah, she didn't even touch it. She said, It's too long. Cut it in half. So
did, and she started sending it out after I cut it Me how she would head. D'oh! I didn't just what she did,
and no one ever bought that book.
The editors who turned it down said that the stuff that was fiction was fine, and the stuff that was really was unbelievable and would never happen, even though it had
all rights happened. So
eventually, Alice, my agent told me, Well, why didn't you write something that's totally fiction? So I wrote that for us. Poem A book, the now after nine books. My editor said You remember that first book you wrote, the one nobody ever bought? And I said Yes. And he said, Well, why don't you reworked out? And we'll turn that into your first hardback says it. Okay, so there's a mid shack. They sent me a contract, all of that stuff that gave me a
deadline. But I had a real problem with that book because the real killer, a guy who murdered three people at 20 minutes after two on the 22nd day of the month,
was then and still is in prison in Florence, Arizona. And I didn't want to write a book that would make him look at me.
I had a contract. I had a paycheck, I had a deadline and I didn't have bad guy. And then my University of Arizona alumni magazine came out, and there was this little box article at the back that said the newly re created creative writing program at the University of Arizona is just going swimmingly. I turned to my husband. My seconds has been the nice one, and I
should you know, I wrote
that written all the books. Now I graduated from the U of a. Maybe they'd like me to come down to Arizona and the writer in residence for a semester and the sonny's I will call him up. Ask him. So I sell life insurance for 10 years. I'm not afraid of making a cold call, So I got the number from information. I called him up. I told them who I was, What I get, Didn't they want me to come be writer in residence and the guy on the phone told me, And this is a direct quote. Oh, we don't do anything. Was genre fiction here We only did lead.
We're, uh, you
know, But it was a miracle. I was healed of Writer's block
and former creative writing professor from the U of A went smack dead into my books. People have told me that Andrew Phillip Carlisle is one of the scariest people days characters they've ever met right up here with that guy in Silence of the Lambs. Now I wrote that book. I want a vacuum, right, Beaumont. It was fun again. Believe it or not, this is a very long answer to your question. My husband says duty with you there? No,
there's no short
and they're only long. So I broke the next boat book and my editor saw that I was a happy camper again and he said, Okay, why did you come up with another character so Beaumont can alternate with that other character? When I started writing about a month, I had lived in Seattle for less than a year. So was the Seattle native. He was a homicide cop. I've never been a police officer. He was male. I've never been that either. Writing those books in the first person took riel concentration and effort. So I thought, OK, if I'm going to have another character, how about if I said it someplace I'm familiar with? I grew up in southeastern Arizona. I know the landscape. I know distances. I know timing. I know speed limits. I know Rose. I know history. Then I thought, OK, writing about a male protagonist, especially from the first person, is challenging. So why don't have righteous in the third person? And why don't I have a female protagonist? So But you can't see from where you are and where I am and what you can't tell about me from my book covers is I'm six feet one inch tall,
and I always
wondered what it would be like to be sure I made Joanna short. Five court. Sometimes my memory big, my little grey cells slip a little and her heightened has varied a couple of times by about two inches. It
much dead on five for now. But by making her short when I write about her, I always have to see the world through her point of view. And so I know things about the top of Julian Brady's refrigerator that she will never get. So that's where Joanna Brady came from. Right now, I'm working on, uh, Joanna Brady Number 19 a book called Missing An Endangered That's due out next well within into then, here I go again in
I am sick and tired of all of my characters one. See what I mean about about to ground him? I was winding on the phone to my editor, and she's okay, Judy, Here's the deal. Why don't you write a book? It could be a new character and old Charger said it, or an old character set of where be like Just have it here by the first of January and we'll publish it as the mass market paperback sometime when we consider them to the schedule so that we may They wanted it. By January, I could write a book between May and January. I signed the contract. They said You checked. That gave me a deadline and then I had Writer's block May and June past June and July
past posits in September. Suddenly,
it was the middle of October, and I still
have no idea
what it's going to be in that book. So we were in Tucson. When I have writer's block, I tend to compulsively watch the news in the middle of October on a Thursday, when it was time for the new news. It was writer's block time. So I went to box the news, and my favorite news broadcaster in Tucson was on the air. So she was on the air at noon. She was someone who graduated from the You Obey. She had worked for K, be away from the time she was in college and so watch the moon is she was there and then at five o'clock I still had writer's block, and when I went to lock the five o'clock news, she was nowhere to be found. They didn't say she was on special assignment. She was just a well, so over the weekend. The other news outlets let it be known that between the new news and the five o'clock news, her 35 year old brand new news director came to her desk, told her she was past her pull Dai Pai date. She was too old to be on TV and escorted her from the building. You shouldn't Mystery Bride is mad because we
have our ways of getting even.
And within minutes I was writing about Allie Realms being plucked from her news anchor disc in L. A. And being cast adrift at age. Yes, what? 53? And so my I'm just doing the copy of the day on Allie Reynolds number 15. I have essentially four different sense of characters. Beaumont, the Walkers, the Brady of the Brady Books and the Ellie Reynolds books. I think that really helped keep me fresh, because when I go back to one of those other Castor's I've been away for Pile and I'm interested to see what's happening with them now, and what has been happening with them on my back was drunk. There was one time when Joanna Brady's mother, Lochte, during our hiatus and 21 Brady found out her mother had a love. She almost wrecked the car, and
I almost dropped my computer. Beaumont and Brady are both actual law enforcement or retired in bone months. Case Reynolds is not. What are the pros and cons out of having a character available to who isn't official law enforcement?
Well, I didn't know I was writing police procedurals until three books in from the editor told me. As far as I was concerned, I was writing
time to write Joanna Brady book, my initial assumption was
that she would
be an amateur sleuth. But then I got into writing it, and she is at home on Page one book one waiting for her husband to come home so they can go out and celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. And they're smart. Daughter Jenny, who is nine, has just had second head at school and figured out that there aren't enough months between the wedding anniversary and her birth date, And
he asked her mom, she was screaming.
But your reason her husband and he is late is he's going down in the road on High Lonesome Road because somebody shot him and he was a deputy sheriff at the time. He was shot and killed, and he was also running for the office of sheriff. So she's trying to find out what really happened to her has opened, and there's a lot of pushback in the department. But there was a lot of pushback for me to this has every time she asked a question or tried to do something. I think Wait a minute. You can't do that. You're not a
you can't ask that question. You can't do that. Finally, I said, Okay, she is not going to be an amateur sleuth. And at the end of the book had Andy's general. Someone comes up to her and says, How about if you run in your husband's dead to become share? Well, her father used to be sheriff. Her husband was a deputy sheriff, and so she agrees, and sure enough she wins. She becomes sheriff and everybody thinks it's sort of a sympathy vote and shoes just going to be sheriff in name of late, and it's kind of what the county owes her. But then, in the second book, Tombstone Courage, she makes one of the 10 fatal errors that police officers make. And that's Tombstone courage, not waiting for backup. And so at that point, I thought she needed to learn how to be a
in the next book, I sent her out off to the Police Academy in Phoenix, where she could really learn to be a professional police officer. So here is passed and I was down in Kleenex doing the book Sonny and this crusty old lighting in the audience says, My father was a doctor. My husband was a doctor, but that doesn't mean I can be a doctor. And just because joined Brady's father was a Cheryl and her husband doesn't with the sheriff doesn't mean she can be a shera. And I looked at her and I said, Well, did you read the book where she goes to the police academy? She said, No, I don't like this book.
last night, I received an email from someone who wrote to me about one of the characters in until proven guilty in until proven guilty. At the time I was writing it, I had some family members who have gotten involved with a cult. And so when I decided to write this book, I just had to create a cult where the leader of self same cope Reverend Brody, used Scripture to justify all kinds of really revolting behavior. So that book was written in 1982. 83 came out in 1980 slot. This is 2020. When the book came out, I was afraid my family members would be insulted, but he read the book and they loved it. It never occurred to them that I was writing about them. But this past week, that cult leader has resurfaced in my life in
ugly fashion and passed on bologna, and a reader wrote to me saying, You need we have been chatting about that incident and she said, Well, you know, you need to take a take a step back. This sounds too much like Reverend Bro date and when it's a holy crap, it iss I really did model that character after that man, and that man did exactly the same kind of revolting things that I had written about, but I didn't find out about until years later. It's really spooky to me when my artistic sensibilities seem to be able to peer into the future. Wouldn't one of my favorite characters right now is a character named frig and Rig happens to be an a I My husband, My 2nd 1 the 1st 1 who was allowed in the creative writing program was the guy who told me in 1968 there's only going to be one rider in our family and I'm it.
my second is a lot nicer than that. He says that my first husband set the bar so low that
it has made his
bill is a retired electronics engineer. He actually built the first brick sized telephone for Motorola in 1968 without benefit of integrated circuits. Didn't he built it in 1968? Just exactly the size and shape of that Great Britain phone went on sale in 19 in the
mid 80 right? But
hey, here's your basic electronics genius and he reads all this stuff that my liberal arts mind could never penetrate. So a few years ago, he says me, L A. I is really interesting. You should write a book about a I and I said, You're talking to
But he planted the idea. And pretty soon, huh I'm reading a book called Man Overboard, Where the Killer Is This computer genius the likes. His name is Ellen, but he likes to prefer referred to himself as Odin Andi. He creates an aye aye, which he called frig to be his computerized partner in crime breaks. Sort of grew on me, and over the course of the book as you would me, was going farther and farther into the deep, and I could see that he was just going to fall off the edge because he was losing it. He was no longer listening to Prick's advice.
supposed to be planning his strategy, which he suddenly began ignoring. And I thought, Well, the end of Odin is going to be the end of break, too, and actually, that's what I thought I wrote. I wrote the book, but as potent goes farther and farther afield, frig starts taking steps to preserve herself in the deep learning. Somehow she has learned about self preservation. By the end of the book, she's more than prepared to throw Odin to the wolves as
long as they
can keep on keep the knowledge. At the time I broke that book, my editor was a woman of a certain age in New York City who only used her BlackBerry, and she's going to get halfway through this manuscript. She's going to throw it over her shoulders, to say, called you. They get our money back and that is not what happened.
Thankfully, you can
manage, get. She called me up and she said, Don't kill Break Which is how come Pregnant still around
later. But shortly after that book came out, Bill was reading one of his scientific articles, and he handed me one. It turns out that some Google Ai ai engineers who were playing video games with her Aaaaaah noticed that if they stopped taking their a eyes advice the way I started to cheat about bingo, I called that conversation has been a brief history of the origins of almost all of my characters.
Nicely done. I'm currently reading the A list and So I am pretty infatuated with Allie as a character. She's incredibly deep, multilayered. She's essentially had to reinvent herself numerous times. Was that process something that evolved for you, or did you envision it right from the get go with her?
I had no idea. You have to understand. I encountered outlining and Mrs Block in sixth grade geography class in Bisbee, Arizona. I hated outlining then nothing that has happened to the end. The intervening decades has changed my mind, so I don't outline my book, and I certainly don't outline my theory. So no, her evolution has evolved, but I think her evolution is a reflection of my own evolution. If you had met me and 1975 76 you would have found me living in a mobile home, uh, 14 by seventies single wide on my folks back lot in Disney Junction, Arizona, struggling and selling life insurance, dreaming of being a regular but with no hope of doing that. If you had seen me in 1980 struggling with divorcing my husband, who, by the way, died of chronic alcoholism at age 42 a year and 1/2 after I divorced him But at the time I was contemplating a divorce, would I be able to feed my kid? Would I be able to keep a roof over my head? I didn't know, but that is what they on. And then when I left Arizona with my kids in the backseat and all our worldly possessions loaded into a U Haul trailer behind, I had no idea that I would come to Seattle to a new life with me. No one would come home from a Disney cruise at the end of March, will be flying home on a private
I. No ideas that my, you, Walter Taylor would end up turning into
a That's a nifty trick,
but I think Elliot's life has involved into something she never imagined. Just as my life has evolved into something I never imagined. But I think for both of us, we value the journey. We noticed the journey. It is just getting to the destination. Now I have to ask you a question about the A list. How far are you into the A list?
I haven't gotten very far, So if I'm about 100 pages in
that book, has a lot to do with kidney disease. Kidney disease is the subplot of that book. What is ironic is, at the time I was writing that book, I said in my chair in the family room, writing. My husband sits in his chair in the family room, and when I finish a chapter, he reads it. And he had back surgery in October, and he seemed to be recovering pretty well. And then in November, he started not really recovering, sort of Platt toad. And then he lost his appetite. All kinds of things were haywire. He was grumpy. He was, but I was still writing. He was still reading. There comes a point in the Ellie Reynolds books for one of the parents involved held. Tell me about her daughter's symptoms shortly before she died. Ah, acute kidney failure, right? So we're walking along. My husband has now reached a point in early December where the only thing he wants to eat our eggnog and lemonade. Fortunately, with Christmas, you could buy eggnog,
because he wasn't eating anything, he was losing a lot of weight, and he was happy about that. So every day he posts his weight on fat secret. And on the 17th of December, that secret sent him a message saying you were losing weight too fast. Call
your doctor Way
called the Doctor. We didn't ultrasound, and the next day he was in the E. R. With acute kidney failure with 14% kidney function. While we have waited another day, he wouldn't have made it. And that app actually literally saved his life because having his phone tell him he needed to see a doctor was a lot more effective than having me
it a few weeks later between Christmas and New Year. Right at that time, I was doing the copy editing of that book, and I got to that passage for the mother tells loudly about her daughter Symptom, right? And the hair literally stood up on the back of my neck because I reserved the symptoms. I wrote him into the book without realizing they were sitting in the chair right next to me.
Well, it's been incredible to have you on the show, and you are, in my mind a real inspiration to people in just a nothing. Just two might be facing similar circumstances, but anybody who might be facing some sort of road block that they feel may not. They may not be able to overcome or something that they feel is holding them back. But you have shown that you can overcome whatever is in your way. I mean, and the researcher for this, for the show. I did some reading, but hearing you talk about it brings it all home, and it's an incredible story, and I really thank you for sharing that with us.
Well, I'd like to add one more piece of the puzzle. I bought my birth computer in 1983. It was an eagle computer, a do a floppy, not steam driven, but close with 128 okay of memory. That much. The guy who sold it to me fixed it. So every morning when I booted up the computer, these are the words that flashed across the screen. A writer is someone who has written today, and those were an incredible gift to me. When I was, I thought over the writer and nobody else believed it. I think there and so they're a gift. I pass along to other writers who are starting out
have to say right this minute. Today I have 3830 steps. I've been to the dentist.
will be taking my dog, Petey. But right now I am not a writer. Because today I haven't written a damn word.
We'll still consider that we We've talked to a writer and one of the greatest writers as well. So thank you so much for indulging us again talking about character than in January. And you blown the discussion wide open. Um, I really appreciate you joining us here on good sentences.
Thank you for inviting