~Q&A Conducted by Scott Butki
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. I’ve finally gotten around to it. I read her latest, Moving Target, and the stride she’s hit after publishing forty-nine other titles over the last thirty years produced a really fun read.
So, when I was given a chance to interview her for MysteryPeople, I made sure to ask where readers should start when jumping into one of her four current mystery series.
All that aside, Moving Target is a great novel with some interesting twists and fascinating characters, and it didn’t seem to matter much that it was well into an established series. An added bonus: part of the book was set in Austin and the Austin area.
I would like to thank J. A. Jance for the chance to interview her, and School Librarian Mary Zell for help with the questions.
MYSTERYPEOPLE: How did this story develop?
JA JANCE: The 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.
MP: How would you summarize this book?
JAJ: 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.
MP: One part of the story is 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?
JAJ: 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.
MP: This is the first book of yours I’ve read and it’s several books into one of your series (the Ali Reynolds series). Where should readers new to you start? At the beginning of the series or can they just jump in anywhere?
JAJ: 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.
MP: As an Austin resident of five years I got excited at the events based in and around Austin. Have you been here?
JAJ: 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.
MP: How does your police-trained protagonist differ from many other protagonists in the mystery genre?
JAJ: 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.
MP: What kind of research do you do for books like this?
JAJ: As much as necessary.
MP: 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?
JAJ: 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!”
MP: 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?
JAJ: 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. J.A. Jance is much easier to autograph than Judith Ann Jance.