Saturday , February 24 2024
"I strive to have balance in my life, and I want my characters to have the same thing."

Interview: J.A. Jance on Her 50th Book, ‘Moving Target’

Let me start this with a confession: This is my first J.A. Jance book. I have seen her books at the library and at the bookstore and always made a mental note to read her books. By the time I did read her, with her new book, Moving Target, she had hit the amazing mark of 50 books (this one is the 50th) in 30 years.

So I made sure to ask, in the email interview below, where readers should start with her because I was pretty sure starting with the 50th was not the way to go.

That said, the 50th IS a great novel with some interesting twists and fascinating characters, and it didn’t seem to hurt too much that this was well into one of her series (she has four different series to date).
I recommend reading Jance and giving her a try but you may want to start at book number one in one of those series because I bet it’d be even better than essentially cutting to the front of the line, like I did.
An added bonus to me was that part of the book was set in Austin and areas near Austin so I liked that small world connection (since I live in Austin whereas Jance lives in Washington and Arizona)..

Thanks to Jance for the interview and school librarian Mary Zell for help with interview questions.

How did this story develop?

he story started with my husband sending me an article about the dark web — how to access it; what’s available on it.  That put me on the trail of Lance Tucker, a kid who develops GHOST (Go Hide On Server Technology) which is a program allowing users to access the dark web without leaving any cyber footprints.

How would you summarize this book?

From what I said above, it sounds like a techno-thriller, but it’s really a story about the people involved–some good and some very bad.  Lance Tucker, the teenaged hacker who invented GHOST, is targeted by people who want to control his program.  He’s in a juvenile detention facility and facing a bleak future at the beginning of this book.  It’s up to Ali Reynolds and her fiancé, B. Simpson, to keep him safe and get him on track to a better future.

One part of the story is the plotline about a school district requiring students to wear GPS devices so they can be tracked,  watched or helped. What do you think about such policies, which are being hotly debated around the country?

Lance Tucker and I are on the same page on this one.  (Since I created Lance Tucker, that’s hardly a surprise!)  I personally feel that the kinds of programs that compel students to wear any kind of tracking device is an unfair invasion of their privacy.

This is the first book of yours I’ve read and it’s several books into one of your series, in this case the Ali Reynolds series. Where should readers new to you start? At the beginning of the series or can they just jump in anywhere? How  do you pitch the other series to the readers?

I always recommend readers start at the beginning, in this case with Edge of Evil.  In that one, Ali, a long time news anchor in LA is booted off her news desk because she’s considered to be over the hill. When her marriage ends at the same time her career does, she goes home to Sedona as she looks for what she’s going to do with the rest of her life.  This is a book about losing your dream in middle age and going about finding another one.

As an Austin resident of five years I got excited at the events based in and around Austin. Have you been here?

Yes, I was there a year ago in November for the first F1 race on the Track of Americas.  Loved the race; loved Austin.  I was also there this past September on the book tour for Second Watch.

How does your police-trained protagonist differ from many other protagonists in the mystery genre?

I think my protagonists are people first and cops second.  They live complicated lives with family, friends, church and community commitments, and pets.  A lot of the other police procedural folks seem to be loners living lonely lives and living only to work.  I strive to have balance in my life, and I want my characters to have the same thing.

What kind of research do you do for books like this?

As much as necessary.

This is your 50th book in 30 years. That’s an amazing output, that comes out to almost two books a year. How are you able to write so fast? Or is there another reason you’re able to put out so many books?

I’ve always loved writing — it’s been my dream since second grade — and most of the time, since I’m living my dream, it doesn’t seem like work.  But I agree 50 books in thirty years is pretty remarkable, especially for someone who wasn’t allowed in the Creative Writing program at the University of Arizona in 1964 because I was a “girl!”

Is Wikipedia accurate in saying you use your initials for your pen name because a publisher told you that disclosing your gender would be a liability for a book about a male detective?

That is correct.  That’s what I was told by the marketing folks at Avon books in 1983.  Going by J.A. Jance rather than Judith Ann Jance has saved me a ton of time over the years.  JAJance is much easier to autograph than Judith Ann Jance.

About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been working in mental health for the last ten years. He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.

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