The photo on the left is from Lisa's official website. According to the bio on her website, "Lisa is known for her more than fifteen bestsellers, including the number one New York Times Best Seller, FATAL BURN. She has written more than 75 novels and has over 15 million copies of her books in print in 19 languages. Lisa is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America. Born in Molalla, Oregon, Lisa hasn't strayed far from her roots. She continues to live, love and work in the Pacific Northwest."
Her latest novel, WITHOUT MERCY, which I reviewed on Donna's Book Pub yesterday, is set in an isolated area of a mountain range in Oregon.
NOTE: Anyone who leaves a comment by April 25th about yesterday's review or today's interview will have a chance to win one of two copies of WITHOUT MERCY. Two names will be selected at random. Names of winners will be announced here on Monday, April 26. Winners will then need to contact me with their e-mail addresses so copies of the books can be mailed to the winners by Lisa's media representatives. (Only residents of the USA or Canada are eligible to win.)
So, here are my interview questions (DV for Donna Volkenannt) and Lisa's responses (LJ for Lisa Jackson):
DV: I've read several of your books, including your latest suspense thriller, WITHOUT MERCY. For those unfamiliar with your work, can you briefly share how you got started as a writer?
LJ: I wrote my first novel with two other women, one being my sister, author Nancy Bush. That book was never sold. It was 1981. I remember there were rejection letters saying it had too much suspense in it. Ironic, I think, considering the path my career has taken. So, when I did first get published, I wrote romance novels for Silhouette Books. Suspense was a no-no. I was told to take it out, out, OUT! Well . . . a little suspense always slipped in because I’m a suspense/mystery reader. I cut my teeth on Nancy Drew and The Black Stallion mysteries. LOVED them. Suspense came naturally Isn’t that great? Once romantic suspense came into reading vogue again, I was all over it. Believe you me. I think it is what I was always meant to eventually write—suspense, thrillers, romantic suspense, whatever description suits doesn’t worry me. It just makes me happy writing it.
DV: My sister Kathleen and I loved reading Nancy Drew books while we were growing up, too. Each week we checked out the maximum at the library then traded with one another so we could read twice as many. And, on the topic of sisters, as you mentioned above, your sister Nancy Bush is also a successful writer. That makes me wonder about why you both followed the same career. As children were you encouraged to write?
LJ: I had always thought about being writer, even in grade school and throughout high school and college. However that dream always seemed a tad unrealistic. I'm a pragmatist at heart, I think.
DV: The characters in WITHOUT MERCY are vivid and compelling. Are they based on people from actual events, are they fictional creations, or a little bit of both? What was your inspiration for WITHOUT MERCY?
LJ: My characters sort of arrive, almost fully formed, in my head and then grow and change from there. Although people I know will sometimes say I took one of their quirks or expressions and incorporated them somewhere along the line. So, no, my protagonists are not from actual events. However, the inspiration for WITHOUT MERCY did come from an actual event—though probably not the sort you have in mind. I was in the car, the radio was on and a commercial came on talking about a private school for troubled teens. I thought…hmmm, what if…and the fictional Blue Rock Academy began to take shape.
DV: When creating your novels, which comes first: character, plot, or setting?
LJ: Every book is different. Sometimes it’s the characters that have reveal something about themselves that I just have to follow up on and others it’s the sort of “what if” that occurred with WITHOUT MERCY. Though I must say that Reuben Montoya, Rick Bentz and other New Orleans characters have more or less insisted that they are going to be in my next hardcover, out in 2011.
DV: Your next hardcover sounds like another book I will enjoy reading, especially with a New Orleans setting. Speaking of which, the settings for your novels have been varied: Savannah, New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Wyoming, and WITHOUT MERCY is set in an isolated area of a mountain range in Oregon. How do you decide on the setting for your story?
LJ: For WITHOUT MERCY, I wanted somewhere rugged to set Blue Rock Academy. Someplace that was also hard to get to and hard to leave. It to be isolated enough that when the blizzard hits and things are going from bad to worse, there’s no hope of anyone can get in or out, Jules, Trent, Shaylee and the others are truly on their own. Since I love the mountains, especially here in Oregon, I thought of the Siskiyou Mountains and right away I knew they were perfect. For some of my other novels, the settings have been chosen because of their own ambiance or sense of mystery, or because of a plot point—such as being a location where their could actually be an abandoned hospital for the mentally ill.
DV: That makes sense. Another important element for a novel is its title. Sometimes I will select a book because of its intriguing title, which makes me wonder how they are selected. Do you select the titles for your novels, or do you suggest a few titles and the publisher decides on which to use?
LJ: It’s very much a collaborative effort between me and my editor. We both have ideas of what may fit and specific suggestions and we talk them out until we both know it sounds right.
DV: One question I'm certain other writers would be interested in knowing is: What one piece of advice would you like to share with other writers?
LJ: Work hard and don’t forget what’s important—including family, friends and some time for you. Easier said that done, I know. I have to remind myself of this all of the time.
DV: That's good advice, no matter what one's profession. Here's another question about how you approach writing your novels: When writing, do you follow an outline or plunge right into the story?
LJ: I have a lot of the plot on paper before I can truly lose myself in the book. It’s not so much an outline as it is, I guess, the skeleton of the book, fleshed out somewhat, but still bare bones. Of course, there are changes on the way to the final version, but the essential idea holds it all together.
DV: Have you ever had a character take over while you were writing and demand a bigger role in the story?
LJ: A bigger role??? Rick Bentz stood up and insisted on his own book, last year’s MALICE, just out in paperback. And, yes, they can be a nosy bunch. Often what’s happening is that ideas and character development find their way into the story because ideas about how a character may change in future work sends me in an unexpected direction.
DV: Please describe what happens after you finish your first draft.
LJ: Many things, though not necessarily in this order—sleep, walking on the beach with the dogs, touching base with humans again, putting on real clothes not just sweats, and the list goes on. Also, though, the first draft may or may not be ready to go to my editor. I may be making notes on changes I already know I want to make. And it’s time to take care of some of the business of publishing.
DV: What are you working on now?
LJ: WITHOUT MERCY just came out so I’m very involved right now in promoting that book and responding to readers who have been getting in touch. Otherwise, though, sister Nancy and I are working on revisions for on our next book together, WICKED LIES, out in February 2011, and I’m digging in on my next hardcover novel, which takes us all back to New Orleans.
DV: WICKED LIES, that's another great title. Sounds like a fascinating book. What is the best way for readers to find out about book signings or author events?
LJ: Readers should please head to my website, http://www.lisajackson.com/. We try hard to keep it as up-to-date as possible. And, if you want to sign up for news of upcoming book releases, you can do that there and you’ll get updates from both me and Nancy. Thanks for asking!
DV - P.S. For curious minds who want to know how I was able to get Lisa for an interview on Donna's Book Pub--and to comply with FTC guidelines--please note: Lisa's Media Consultant e-mailed me awhile back and asked if I would be interested in interviewing Lisa on my blog and reviewing her latest book. I thought interviewing Lisa would be a unique opportunity for my visitors (and me) to learn about how successful writers approach the art, craft, and business of writing. So, I read her latest book, reviewed it, and came up with interview questions for Lisa, which I forwarded the her media consultant, who in turn forwarded the questions to Lisa and then returned her responses to me.For the record, while I received a complimentary Advance Uncorrected Proof of WITHOUT MERCY, I was not paid to review her book or to interview her on my blog. Whew! And I thought working for the DOD was complicated--just kidding!
Hope you enjoyed Lisa's interview, and don't forget to leave a comment to be entered in the book giveaway.