L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist and the author of the Detective Jackson mystery/suspense series based in Eugene, OR. The first two books, THE SEX CLUB and SECRETS TO DIE FOR, have been highly praised, and the third book, THRILLED TO DEATH, will be released in August. Her next two novels, PASSIONS OF THE DEAD and THE BABY THIEF, will be published in 2011. When not plotting murders, L.J. enjoys performing standup comedy, cycling, social networking, attending mystery conferences, and editing fiction manuscripts. She’s also been known to jump out of airplanes.
Monday morning, a young mother disappears after a doctor’s appointment. Monday evening, a young socialite leaves a risqué lounge and never makes it home. Detective Jackson lands both cases, but at first he can’t find signs of foul play. When the socialite turns up dead, his investigation uncovers her dirty secrets, which complicates everything.
The case runs into even bigger trouble with a suspect who hasn’t left his house in a year. Jackson must push all the boundaries to find the connection and answer the question: Where is the other missing woman?
What draws you to write mysteries?
It’s what I like to read. I’ve loved crime novels since high school when I discovered Rex Stout’s detective series. I love the action, the puzzle, the fast pace, and the grittiness. I write the kind of stories I would love to read—that no one else seems to be writing.
The first book of your series—what came first: the main character of the series or the main situation that arises in the first book?
When I wrote The Sex Club, it was simply a story I was compelled to tell. I felt very passionate about the subject of abstinence-only sex education and the damage it could do to teenagers. But I’m a practical person, so I figured I might as well create a character, a detective, that I could base a series on—if I was fortunate enough to sell the book and readers wanted more.
Who are some of your favorite mystery/suspense novelists, and why?
I love John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport series. They’re great police procedurals with fast-moving action and a compelling character. The same is true for Michael Connelly’s series about Harry Bosch, and Leslie Glass’ series about detective April Woo. There are too many great crime novelists to mention them all, but my all-time favorite author is Lawrence Sanders because he was so versatile.
What is a key element to any good mystery/suspense?
For me, the key to a great crime story is a complex puzzle. I want to be mystified and unable to figure out what’s happening. I want layers and twists and turns. I want the unknown factor to pull me along.
I know that mystery/suspense is your major genre for writing; have you thought about moving into other genres in the future?
I’m writing a futuristic thriller now, but it’s still in the crime genre. I may occasionally read sci-fi or even something literary, but I have no compulsion to write in either genre. I’m still a journalist so I write nonfiction as well. That’s all the diversity I need.
For those interested in writing mysteries, what three pieces of advice would you offer?
1) Read dozens, if not hundreds of mysteries, to become familiar with various tones and structures.
2) Take a workshop if you can. There’s nothing like direct instruction and feedback to help develop the craft.
3) Be patient. Nothing in writing or publishing happens overnight. Don’t send your manuscript out until you’ve let it sit, revised it, and had someone else proofread it. Don’t be surprised or disappointed if it takes three months for someone to answer your query. Don’t give up after 15 agents say no thanks.
Monday, April 6, 9:52 a.m.
"I want to give my baby away." The words nearly tripped over each other in their rush to leave her mouth.
Dr. Callahan's eyes widened briefly. "How much thought have you given this?"
"I don't know." Danette squirmed in her chair. This was why she was in the psychiatrist's office, to verbalize some of the horrible things she'd been feeling. "I've been thinking about it for weeks, but without really admitting to myself that's what I want. I'm overwhelmed and depressed all the time. I don't think I love this baby as much as someone else would."
Dr. Callahan scribbled something on a pad. "Are you talking about giving him up for adoption?"
"Micah's grandmother would love to raise him."
Her shrink looked at the clock. "We're past our time, and I have another patient waiting." She handed Danette a slip of paper. "This is a prescription for Lexapro. Start on it right away. I don't think the Paxil is working for you. Please don't do anything rash until we've had a chance to talk some more. You'll be back on Thursday, correct?"
Danette nodded. Thursday was her regular day, but she had called Dr. Callahan last night, crying and begging to come in because her life felt out of control and she no longer trusted herself with little Micah. Luckily there had been a cancellation for this morning.
Danette bolted from the office, feeling ashamed. What was wrong with her that she didn't want her own baby? Dr. Callahan clearly disapproved. Danette pulled up the hood of her sweatshirt, wishing she could hide her face as well. She pounded down the stairs and out of the building. Maybe she should leave Micah with Kera
As Danette turned the key in her car lock, she heard the van door slide open.