I am delighted that JEN J DANNA is joining me on my blog today. Her latest book Two Parts Blood Murder was published by Five Star Publishing on 18 February 2015.
So Jen, what inspired you to write a book in the first place?
TV shows that cut corners (like CSI and Bones) drive me absolutely nuts. Forensic science simply can’t be done in under five minutes (and in the dark… really, are there no light switches in some of these places?). So I challenged myself to write a mystery with accurate science that was still exciting. If PCR* can’t be done in two minutes to make a 100% match to your suspect (and it can’t), then that’s a challenge the characters have to deal with. And challenges make for more interesting storytelling.
Where do your ideas come from?
Many places. Often they come from my partner Ann who always stays on top of national and international news, and shoots interesting real-life stories to me as idea prompts. One of our books was written because a relevant bone disorder was highlighted in a TV documentary. One book was written based on an offhand comment about architecture. One book we plan to write is based on a real historical tragedy. So our ideas come from many places.
Have your personal experiences influenced your writing? And if so, how?
The biggest personal experience to influence my writing is my career in science. Without it, I wouldn’t have had the background to learn a completely new field of science on my own (as an aside, my job at a university gave me access to all the scientific journals/texts I needed to learn it). Infectious diseases may be my background, but the science of forensics is fun and interesting, and using it to tell stories has been very enjoyable.
Describe your writing style in 10 words or less?
Edgy mysteries accented by realistic science.
You work as a scientist specialising in infectious diseases. How do you find the time to write as well?
I have a slogan – ‘Sleep is for sissies’. But really, the trick is simply to work as much as you can possibly manage. I work before my day job, on my lunch break, after work, after dinner and all weekend. It’s the only way to shoehorn in what is essentially two full-time jobs. Luckily for me, I have a very supportive family who understands the insanity of my schedule.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
Sadly, no. I’m incredibly boring in that respect. My writing is more about hitting my daily and weekly word counts, putting my butt in the chair, and just getting the job done. Not sexy, but very productive.
Do you plot out the whole book before you start or just start writing and see where it leads you?
Because we write mysteries, we have to plot the whole book out from the beginning to make sure all the clues add up to the killing. What can change though is how much we outline. We’ve tried a range of methods from a full fifteen page outline to milestoning, which is essentially hitting all the major plot points and leaving the rest a little loose to allow for any left turns that might develop during the writing. This last technique is what we try to do more often than not now. However, for our new FBI K-9 Mysteries series with Kensington, because we sold it as a proposal, we had to fully outline the first book in the series and then provide story ideas for books two and three. That first book is what we’re writing now, and we’ll see where the outline takes us. I’m sure if something brilliant occurs to us while we’re drafting, we’ll have the freedom to go in a slightly different direction if it makes for a stronger story.
What do you consider to be the hardest part of your writing?
Without a doubt, it’s the first draft. Editing is never as hard as the first draft, but sometimes pulling those 85,000 words out of my head can be a real struggle. Especially if the day job has been high stress or exhausting, it can be hard to find the creativity needed for the drafting phase.
Do you read? If so, who are your favourite authors?
Simply due to time constraints, my reading these days mostly comes in the form of audiobooks. Though mysteries are my go-to genre, I try to read widely in both fiction and non-fiction. Current authors I’m enjoying include J.D. Robb, Robert Galbraith, Kathy Reichs and Louise Penny. Right now I’m listening to ‘Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania’ by Eric Larson, who always writes fascinating narrative nonfiction novels around interesting and tragic events.
If you were writing a book about your life, what would be the title?
'How to Juggle in 12 Easy Lessons'
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Be persistent. This is a subjective business that’s not for the faint of heart or the thin of skin. Just because one (or 10 or 90) people don’t think they can sell your book, you’re looking for the one agent and the one editor who can. And those people are out there; it’s all about making the right connections and being patient until you do. Don’t try for a few weeks and then give up because it’s too hard. Believe in yourself and keep trying. Our slogan for trying to get a traditional publishing deal has always been ‘Go big or go home’. I didn’t want to look back in 10 or 20 years and think ‘why didn’t I even try?’. So we took a shot at it, queried until we found our agent, Nicole Resciniti, and she’s sold four books in one series and three in another for us. It can happen - just stick with it and don’t give up when it becomes a difficult slog. Because at some point it will, but you can come out successfully on the other side. We’re living proof of that.
And lastly, why should people read your latest book?
Two Parts Bloody Murder is the fourth book in the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, but it can be read as a standalone if you haven’t read the previous three novels. In it, Massachusetts State Police Trooper Leigh Abbott and forensic anthropologist (and ex-Marine) Matt Lowell team up to solve what turns out to be a series of murders spanning over 80 years. Set against the fascinating historical backdrop of 1930s Boston Prohibition, it will take all the skills and knowledge of Matt, Leigh, their team of grad students, and Medical Examiner Dr. Edward Rowe to stop the killing spree before the next victim is lost.
About Jen J DannaA scientist specialising in infectious diseases, Jen works as part of a dynamic research group at a cutting-edge Canadian university. However, her true passion lies in indulging her love of the mysterious through her writing. Together with her partner Ann Vanderlaan, she crafts suspenseful crime fiction with a realistic scientific edge. Their Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries include Dead, Without a Stone to Tell It; No One Sees Me ’Till I Fall; A Flame in the Wind of Death; Two Parts Bloody Murder; and Lament the Common Bones (coming in 2016). Their new FBI K-9 Mysteries series debuts in 2016 with Lone Wolf.
Jen lives near Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and two daughters.
Find Jen J Danna through her website, her Facebook page and Twitter - @JenJDanna
TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER
Published by Five Star Publishing on 18 February 2015
Prohibition was a time of clandestine excess - short skirts, drinking, dancing… and death. But a murder committed so many years ago still has the power to reverberate decades later with deadly consequences.
It's a double surprise for Trooper Leigh Abbott as she investigates a cold case and discovers two murder victims in a historic nineteenth-century building. Together with forensic anthropologist Matt Lowell and medical examiner Dr. Edward Rowe, she uncovers the secrets of a long-forgotten, Prohibition-era speakeasy in the same building. But when the two victims are discovered to be relatives - their deaths separated by over eighty years - the case deepens, and suddenly the speakeasy is revealed as ground zero for a cascade of crimes through the decades.
When a murder committed nearly forty years ago comes under fresh scrutiny, the team realises than an innocent man was wrongly imprisoned and the real murderer is still at large. Now they must solve three murders spanning over eighty years if they hope to set a wronged man free....