J.A.Jance is Mystery Weekend's special guest
June 25, 2008 · Updated 11:26 AM
"Who better to pull the winning detective's name out of the hat than a premiere mystery writer from our own Northwest?The Langley Library got into the Mystery Weekend act this year by inviting J.A. Jance, bestselling mystery author of 23 published books, to be a special guest. Jance will appear at the Book Bay in Freeland and at the solution play in Langley Middle School auditorium, both on Sunday.The creator of Seattle homicide detective J.P.Beaumont and Arizona Sheriff Joanna Brady is now promoting her newest book, Kiss of the Bees, a psychological thriller that builds on her previous suspense novel, Hour of the Hunter.Back in 1964 I was not allowed in a creative writing class because I was female, Jance said. It's not a coincidence that the psychopath in the book is a former professor of creative writing. There was also the carpet installer who didn't come. He was already a suspect, she said.Taking advantage of characters like these is one of the ways Jance's fertile imagination draws on her own experiences.Why not use a known landscape? she asks. Remember the story of Rumpelstiltskin, who wove straw into gold? God has given me a lot of straw.That straw includes years in which she sold life insurance, lived in a desert shack and on an Indian reservation and was stalked by a psychopath. She was married to and divorced from a chronic alcoholic who died when he was 42. She raised a family as a single parent. She knows how to shoot a gun.It all contributes to her plots and her characters.In the book Payment in Kind, for example, hero J.P.Beaumont must trek Seattle streets covered in snow. That year there had been a showstorm that shut down the city. I thought that was pretty interesting. In the same book she writes about Beau's alcoholism. My first husband was hospitalized nine times for alcoholism, she said.After a divorce in 1980, Jance moved to Seattle with her two children. I finally gave myself permission to write, she said. And from 4-7 a.m. every morning before the kids went to school and she went to work, she wrote.Her first book, written in 1982, never sold. A thinly fictionalized account of a stalking incident in her past, the book was a 1,200-page opus, Jance said. Her agent advised her that she was really more of a fiction writer. Seventeen years later, Jance has published 23 books of fiction.I have a body of work I'm proud of, she said.In addition to the mysteries set in Seattle, Jance also takes her readers to Bisbee, Arizona, where Sheriff Joanna Brady is an insurance saleswoman turned sheriff.Like Brady, Jance sold insurance in Bisbee, Arizona. She was also a working wife and mother and later a single parent.I talk about things I really care about, she said. In order for me to write, something has to move me, has to make me mad.Jance, who enjoys mystery writers Don Winslow (The Death and LIfe of Bobby Z), Michael Connelly, and Lindsey Davis, says mysteries have two things to offer a reader: First, the bad guy always gets caught. In real life the bad guys don't always get caught.And second is the ancient charge of the storyteller -- to beguile the time. It's what makes them enduringly popular."