We’d like to extend our thanks to our April Featured Author, J.T. Ellison. Be sure to check out the reviews we’ve posted this month for a few of Ellison’s titles. Also, don’t forget to pick up book one of Ellison’s brand new Samantha Owens series, A Deeper Darkness.
We sat down with Ellison recently to discuss her series, her writer’s road and the good and bad of e-books and self publishing. Thanks, again to J.T. for supporting LitStack!
Is anything in your books based on real life experiences or is it purely imagination?
99% imagination, for sure. The only time I ever based anything on a real case was Judas Kiss, and that was simply the opening, the pregnant mother being murdered. I have enough bad dreams to make up for the rest. That said, what happens more often than I’d like is something I’ve written, or planned, suddenly appears in the news. That’s creepy.
Many authors struggle with rejection. Tell us about your Writer’s Road and your journey toward publication.
I have been very, very lucky. I’ve suffered from rejection just like everyone else, but I was never derailed by it. This is such a subjective industry – if you believe the good you have to believe the bad. When I got started in 2003, I wrote a novella I thought was a book and sent it all over New York, and promptly received thirty rejections. I realized something was wrong, did some research on the industry, figured out my mistake, took the story and reworked it, and that book caught the eye of my agent very quickly. That first novel never sold, but my second one did. Perseverance is absolutely vital if you want to be a writer.
What is the genesis of your novels?
Dreams, songs, news clippings, people who do weird things in grocery store parking lots… in other words, anywhere and everywhere. I am not lacking for ideas.
What is your writing routine like from idea to publication?
I use Scrivener, so the first thing I do is open the file and start a book journal. That way I can keep track of ideas, milestones, frustrations, etc. I usually give my editor and agent a brief summary of the idea, get their approval, look at the research needed, buy those books, then get to writing as quickly as possible. It’s often the first lines that are so hard to do, just getting the nascent idea to the page. Then I despair until I start hitting actual milestones, 10K, 25K or 100 pages. That’s when it feels like there might be a book in here, but also that there is so much left to do. It takes me between 4 and 6 months to do a draft – sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. When I finish a draft, I give it to my beta readers, then make revisions and turn it in to my editor and agent. I then do one to two revisions based on their notes, then it goes to copy-edit, then final proofs, galleys and release. And in the meantime I’m usually editing the previous book, launching the current book, and approving art and such for the new one. Vicious cycle. So much fun!
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That I’m never, ever going to be satisfied with my writing, and the worse I think a book is, the better it’s received. I am apparently not the best judge of my own work.
What books/authors have most influenced your life most?
John Sandford, who inspired me to try my hand at crime fiction, John Connolly, who told me all good books find a home, Lee Child, who mentored me through my debut year. But I can back that up even farther, to childhood – Madeline L’Engle, who gave me hope, Vladimir Nabokov, who taught me how to write believable monsters, Ayn Rand, who gave me intellectual curiosity, and J.K. Rowling, who proves yet again that there is always room for a hero. I like the Greeks and their mythological stories as well – all of my books have a mythology and fairy tale theme to them.
What book are you reading now?
I’m into the Game of Thrones books by George R.R. Martin, and just started Case Histories by Kate Atkinson.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Golf. It’s my passion. It’s so nice to be outside, just you and your game. It’s a very meditative experience for me. I’m into yoga now too, and meditation. My husband and I love to travel, and I’m a pretty decent cook. And wine – I love discovering excellent red wines. And of course, reading. Lots and lots of reading.
If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?
Well, when I was little, I wanted to be the first female firefighter in Denver. I remember how crushed I was when someone beat me to the punch. Next to that, being a mother. That’s a full time job, for sure. But that wasn’t meant to be for me, so writing it is. I couldn’t do anything else.
The scope of the publishing industry is changing. What is your opinion of the evolution of the e-book and self-publishing and their impact on the industry?
I think ebooks have their place. I have ereaders, and I buy ebooks. But I also buy real books. I’m probably at a sixty-forty real to ebook ratio right now. I still love the tactile reading experience. At the same time, the convenience of traveling with an ereader is amazing – plus, there’s more room for shoes in my suitcase! But it seems things are settling down nicely – that ebooks are complimentary to real books, and not decimating them, the way some people claim. Which makes me very happy – it’s all in the delivery method, so regardless of what happens, we authors are reaching more and more readers.
There is one issue with self-publishing, and that’s the glut of people who aren’t doing a good job of it. If you’re going that route, hire an editor, hire an artist, hone your craft, rewrite your work. Make it your best effort. The successful self-published authors are treating it as a business, just like they would if they were traditionally published.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Read. Read. Read. I have a section on my website called For Writers, which has several articles on getting and staying published, and a list of books I recommend. But honestly, reading is the best way to learn the craft.
Thanks for joining us this month, J.T.!
Thanks so much for having me!
*Thanks Stephanie Ward for contributing to this interview*