Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Guest Blogger - JA Jance

Yes, there is magic in writing mysteries. Let me tell you why.

This morning I woke up in a suite at the Four Seasons in Chicago. I'm here because I'm on a book tour. I have two appearances and an hour long radio interview to do today. I arrived in Chicago yesterday by plane from Portland. A limo picked us up (my husband is traveling with me) at the airport and brought us to the hotel. No fuss, no muss. But it wasn't always so.

The first time I did book signings in Portland was in January of 1986. The publisher had nothing to do with it. I drove there in a 1978 Cutlass Supreme that my first husband said I never should have bought and would never be able to pay for. It was cold and rainy, but I had to drive with the windows open because the heater core had given out which also meant that the defroster didn't work, and since the signings were already booked, I had to go to Portland before we had either the time or the money to get it fixed. This time when we drove from Seattle to Portland we did so in a rented Lincoln and my publisher is picking up the tab.

For years we did book tours on our own nickel, visiting bookstores up and down the West Coast while driving the wheels off a whole series of cars. For many of those trips, we stayed in Motel 6s where the light fixtures fell apart when we tried to turn them on. Oh, and let's not forget the Americana in Redding where my husband tried turning on the bedside lamp and promptly set our mattress on fire! The Chicago Four Seasons is a long way from the Americana.

In the past seven years, this is only the second tour that we've done on commercial aircraft. The others were all done by using private jets--and, no, the publisher did NOT pick up the tab for those.

So how did this happen? How did a girl from the wrong side of the tracks in Bisbee, Arizona, end up with a life like this--a life that includes two houses, one in Bellevue and one in Tucson, along with a condo in downtown Seattle? Is it magic that put me here or is it a miracle or is it a combination of both?

For one thing, I had the benefit of an excellent education. I could name them all those wonderful teachers from Bisbee, but that's the problem--I'd need to name them all, from Mrs. Kelly and Mrs. Spangler right through to Mrs. Medigovich and Mrs. Riggins and Mr. Guerra. They taught me to love reading and writing, and they gave me a good enough schooling in the basics, that when I arrived at the University of Arizona, I had an inside track to the Honors English classes and another whole series of excellent teachers--Professors Inman, Grainger, Conroy, Rosenblatt, Milhizer, Ketchum, and Kay. All of those teachers had an impact on my education and on my life. Yes, I wasn't allowed in the Creative Writing program at the U of A in 1964, but I was allowed in all those other classes. And you know what? I still get to write.

To begin with, I wrote books because I loved it and not with any real expectation of ever being paid for what I wrote. When I sold the first two books it was for so little money that I was miles away from making minimum wage. Things are different now. For one thing, I'm very well paid, but I still write because I love it. Even having written at least 5,000,000 words in the past thirty years, I can still say I love writing. I've published 40 book but I've written 43.5. At a hundred thousand words per book, you do the math, and don't forget the countless words I've thrown away that have never made it into print. I also write my own blog--as well as this one--and I answer my own e-mail. I do that with my own little fingers, one word at a time, on a series of keyboards. (As far as my computers are concerned, the keyboards are always the first to bite the dust. I wear them out.)

Currently one of my books is in the top five on the NYTimes list. I was just presented with a Willo by the Northwest Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. The Willo is a lifetime achievement award given to me by my peers. And this morning I received no fewer than five e-mails from folks telling me how much they enjoyed my latest book--the one that came out this week. (Oh, and I answered them all BEFORE I wrote this blog entry.)

So is being a mystery writer magic? It seems to me there's more hard work involved than there is the use magic wands. I'd rather say that I'm a person who has the benefit of living the American Dream of overcoming difficulty and succeeding beyond my wildest dreams.

And to all of you out there who have made that possible by reading my books, I have two important words to say to you: Thank you.

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