As promised on Wednesday’s blog, today’s post is an interview with J.T. Ellison, author of the soon to be released THE IMMORTALS, a Taylor Jackson Novel. The pre-release reviews are awesome and I plan to be at Davis Kidd next Tuesday (Sept 28) for the launch of the book. For a chance to win a personalized, autographed copy for yourself, leave a comment telling us why you’d like to win. The contest is open to US mailing addresses only, though all comments are welcome. The winner will be chosen by an online random generator.
KE: Hi JT. Thanks for agreeing to do a blog interview with me. You have a new book about to be released. Tell us a little bit about it.
JTE: Yes, THE IMMORTALS, the 5th Taylor Jackson novel, which comes out September 28. I love this book. I know you’re not supposed to pick favorites amongst your own works, but when I started writing this one, I’d just come off a really grueling serial killer novel, one that kept me up at night with terrible nightmares. In THE IMMORTALS, Taylor Jackson is faced with a totally new kind of adversary, a world she’s not at all familiar with in Nashville, the subculture of witchcraft and mysticism. On Hallowe’en night, Samhain, eight teenagers are murdered, all with pentacles carved into their flesh. It’s staged to look like Satanists, but these crimes are much more complex than they first appear. Taylor is aided by a Wiccan high priestess, Ariadne, who helps her understand the pagan and Wiccan lifestyle, and the truth behind the murders.
The research I did for this book was so much fun. I’ve always been a seeker, though I was raised Episcopal and went to church for ages, I’ve always been rather open to all kinds of theologies. Coming off THE COLD ROOM, and the incredibly difficult to stomach research I needed to do to make that book come to life, I felt an affinity for gentleness and naturalism of Wicca and paganism, which led to deeper research than I might have normally done, especially on Wicca and Buddhism. I have a couple of friends who are Wiccans too, so they were a huge help pointing me in the right direction. What I loved was the fact that the entire time I was researching and writing the book, I didn’t have a single nightmare. Mysticism doesn’t scare me nearly as much as the horrors we inflict on one another.
KE: I can’t wait to read THE IMMORTALS. I have to tell you THE COLD ROOM, scared the stew out of me. I was afraid to go to sleep. It makes me feel better that it troubled you, the author, as well. What was that like?
JTE: Terrifying. Having nightmares is no fun, but par for the course for me. But the ones I had from THE COLD ROOM were channeled right onto the page.
KE: I don’t usually read suspense/thrillers (those damned nightmares). What drew me to your series initially was that it was set in Nashville and I’m writing a cozy mystery series also set in Nashville. (Nothing like yours, believe me.) What are the advantages/disadvantages of using a “real” city for your setting and how do you merge fiction with real places?
JTE: I love having the real Nashville as my backdrop. When I first started out, I was committed to having Nashville be a character in the books. Now, 5 books in, I think I’ve accomplished that. I rarely alter the city to suit my own purposes, but it’s been known to happen. It’s such a great town, I love writing about it.
KE: Though I read your first book because of the setting, I read the others because I wanted to know what was going to happen to the characters. That Taylor Jackson…she’s quite a girl. What was your inspiration for her character?
JTE: John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport. I wanted to write a female Davenport, half cop, half rock star, a woman who was not only respected by her peers, but well-liked too. She leapt fully formed into my mind, talking in that low smoky drawl, and I was hooked.
KE: I was hooked too, but I have a crush on Taylor’s hunky fiancé, FBI profiler John Baldwin. I don’t like Scotland Yard Detective/profiler Memphis Highsmythe. You aren’t going to mess things up for Taylor and Baldwin are you?
JTE: I invoke my 5th Amendment right to decline to answer the question in the event that my answer may incriminate me in some way.
KE: Well, I had to try… Taylor’s best friend is medical examiner, Dr. Samantha Loughley. Both of the women are former Nashville debutantes. I get Taylor as a detective though I can’t imagine why a girly girl like Samantha would want to be a medical examiner. What drew her to the profession?
JTE: Sam is better with dead people than live ones, though she does a great job at pretending. She’s a classic introvert – much prefers quiet, solitude, but can turn it on when necessary. She’s a great foil for Taylor, who retreats behind her thin blue wall and won’t come out unless coaxed. Sam’s a special, important character, the one female that Taylor truly trusts. She’s elegant and smart and so very Southern. But she’s as committed to Nashville as Taylor is – Taylor protects the city, and Sam uncovers the secrets of Nashville’s dead. They compliment one another, I think.
KE: I had just finished THE COLD ROOM when Rizzoli and Isles debuted on TV this year. My first thought was to e-mail you someone had stolen your stories and moved them to Boston. Then I saw both you and Tess Gerritsen blogged for Murderati so I was pretty sure she wasn’t a thief. Do you see similarities between the Rizzoli and Isles novels and the Jackson Taylor series?
JTE: Absolutely – I’ve been a huge fan of Tess’s work for years. I didn’t set out to make something similar, that happened rather organically because of the nature of the characters’ work. I think Tess has done an amazing job blazing a trail through the thriller world with Jane Rizzoli and Maura Iles. I’m really happy to see the series doing so well too, it’s important to have female role models who are tough and still feminine. I love that. But there are major difference between our books – in mine, Sam and Taylor are more like the TV Rizzoli and Iles – dear friends, dependent on one another. Tess’s books have the characters in a respectful but wary friendship, something I chose consciously to do differently.
KE: Speaking of Murderati–I just love this website. The authors who post there seem to be a pretty tight-knit group. How did this all come about?
JTE: Pari Noskin Taichert was the brainchild behind Murderati though my husband was the one who came up with the name. We started back in 2004, before I had a book deal. The blog has grown from 7 authors to 14, in all stages of the process. Readers can go back to the beginning and literally trace my career, which I love. It’s been such a joy to share my journey with our readers. 5 years in we’re one of the most well-respected group blogs in the crime fiction ‘verse, which is a huge honor for us all.
KE: How many foreign editions do you have? It must be a major rush to have your work published in other languages. Do you have each of the foreign editions in your bookcases at home?
JTE: It’s up to 21 by the end of 2010. Let’s see, in addition to Canada and the US, the first foreign translation was France, then Australia (which includes the Philippines), then the rest came in: Germany, and Austria, Poland, the Nordic Bloc (Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark), Spain (with Mexico, Argentina and Chile), Holland, the UK (Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales) and most recently, Turkey. It’s rather surreal to me to see the books in other languages. Every so often, a box will arrive with the foreign editions in them – it’s such a treat! I’m hoping for Italian rights to sell – I’m Italian, and my family there is chomping at the bit to get a book in their own language.
KE: Congratulations on your success. It’s inspiring. Thank you for your time and for agreeing to appear on the blog of an unknown, yet to be published author. I want to be your new best friend, but that’s probably pushing it a bit so I’ll just end by asking if there’s anything else you’d like to include in this interview?
JTE: I think you’ve pretty well covered it, Kay. Thanks for having me!
Don’t forget you have to leave a comment for a chance to win a personalized, signed copy of this intriguing book. I’ll announce the winner on next Wednesday’s blog. If you can’t get to a bookstore next Tuesday, you may pre-order this or any of the books from this series from the links below.
Have a great, safe weekend. I hope you’ll visit my blog again on Monday.
P.S. If you are a blog subscriber, you might not see the links to the books below. Double click on “Kay Elam Writes” above and they should be there. KE