J.T. ELLISON: WITHOUT LOVE, WE HAVE NOTHING
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
The New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison continues to share the amazing adventures of Dr. Samantha Owens. The next book What Lies Behind will be released on May 26. The novels of our next guest are published in over twenty countries. She won many writing awards. It’s a great honor to welcome her at Land of Books.
– J.T., What Lies Behind will be released in May? What the readers will find in the next part of Dr. Samantha Owens’s adventures?
– That’s correct, May 26. This is the fourth Samantha Owens novel, and her first official case as an FBI consultant. What looks like a murder/suicide is quickly revealed to be a case of bioterror, and Samantha and Washington D.C. homicide detective Darren Fletcher must stop an imminent attack on the US. Xander Whitfield, Samatha’s boyfriend, is also involved, providing close protection to a billionaire who might be involved in the attack. It was – is – a very topical novel, as it deals with an enhanced hemorrhagic fever. And, of course, the Ebola crisis exploded just as I was finishing writing the book.
– How did you decide to write the story of Dr. Owens?
– Samantha is such a strong character, she needed her own series. She is the medical examiner in my Taylor Jackson novels, and works as the lodestone – the conscience – of that series. She’s great fun to write, and she had her own point of view in the 7th Taylor book, WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE. It was so much fun seeing the world through her eyes, I decided to give her a chance to live and breathe on her own – with, of course, the great challenge she faces, the loss she must recover from. I have a tendency to put my characters in rough spots, because that’s when their true colors emerge.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– The topical nature of the story, certainly. It felt like everything I wrote kept coming true, and I kept having to alter things during the revision process. Though that’s often the case for me. I should probably write stories about people winning the lottery.
– Tell us something more about your main character Dr. Owens? Is she 100% fiction or it’s close to someone from your real life?
– She’s very fictional. None of my characters are based on real people, except for the real people who’ve lent their names as characters for charity, or nods I want to give to research helpers. I have a vivid imagination, can see a stranger on the street and have a whole world concocted for them in a matter of minutes. Taking Sam from the Taylor books and placing her in her very own series was a challenge, as I needed to eliminate any preconceived notions I had of her, and flesh out the shortcuts I may have taken when I wasn’t in her mind. But Sam is a nurturer, very sweet, but tough, vulnerable, and strong. She’s a very relatable woman, I think.
– Do you remember how much time you needed to finish your very first book and to publish it?
– It was about a two-year process. I knew nothing about the police, and did several ridealongs with a detective from our homicide department. The actual writing took six months or so. I found an agent rather quickly, and then things slowed, as that novel didn’t sell. It was my second novel that landed me a publishing deal, which I’d begun working on the minute I finished the first one.
– Your team work with Catherine Coulter resulted in popular A Brit in the FBI series. What is the story of your tag team?
– When Catherine approached me about co-writing the Drummond novels, and I agreed, I hung up the phone in a state of shock. I was both thrilled and slightly terrified at the thought of working with another author to write a novel. I wasn’t in the market to co-write, and I wouldn’t have done it with just anyone. But I’ve been a huge Catherine Coulter fan my whole life. I’ve been reading her books – both romances and thrillers – since well before I wanted to be a writer. The opportunity to work with one of my all-time favorite writers was impossible to pass up. And as it happens, it’s bigger and better than I could have ever hoped. We have a real synchronicity together that leads to heights of creativity we’d never find ourselves.
– What are the benefits of the co-writing a book and what are the most difficult moments compared with writing a book with single author?
– We writers are solitary beasts, despite what it seems on Facebook and Twitter. We need quiet time, careful reflection, hours lying on the couch or rocking on a porch, letting the voices talk to us. How does that happen when there are two brains on opposite sides of the country? Two sets of imaginations, two sets of vocabularies, two sets of voices chattering in two very different brains?
Turns out, it’s not hard at all. It’s simply a matter of putting the two brains to work on a problem, and voilà, answers come.
Communication is key. Catherine and I talk multiple times a day. We email, we call. We get together in person several times a year. And in so doing, we are constantly taking the temperature of our story and our characters. Does this fit here? Should we move that there? Things are lagging a bit here – let’s have a fight in the apartment – no, let’s make it the garage.
– Who are you?
– Someone who will hopefully be remembered for loving her work, her family, her friends, her kittens, a good bottle of wine, a nice round at the golf course, the symphony, and has a severe problem with notebook hoarding and fountain pen collecting.
– You are writing 1000 words a day and you stop around 4.00 PM? When you set such a strict rules and how important for you is to follow your routine?
– Routine is everything for a creative. If you only work when you feel like it, you’ll never get anything done. Giving myself daily goals, working in blocks of time (the Pomodoro method), makes me accomplish things, even when I’m not in the mood. When I get out of my routine, I get quite cranky.
– Do you have plans for your next novel after What Lies Behind and would you unveil something around the plot?
– The next is THE END GAME (9.15.15), the third Nicholas Drummond novel with Catherine Coulter. Nicholas and Mike are pitted against a terror organization with designs on the president.
– What are you doing to promote by the best possible way your book?
– Come by my blog for insider tidbits. I also have a great Facebook fan page, and on Twitter, I’m @thrillerchick. I send out a monthly newsletter where I divulge secrets about the books and run contests, and, of course, I’ll be touring bookstores in the US and attending a few conferences. It will be a busy early summer.
– During your college, you have been discouraged to become a writer by your thesis advisor. But in 2003 something changed as you read John Sandford’s Prey series. How did you find your inspiration in literature?
– I was a writer from the moment I could speak – telling stories, then writing them down. I’d always planned to follow this path, and then, that fated conversation, when I was told I wasn’t good enough, stopped me in my tracks. I quit, didn’t write for eight years. When I was reading MIND PREY, I had a vision of a tall, blonde homicide lieutenant, half cop, half rock star, who lived in Nashville – and Taylor Jackson was born. I started writing the very next day, and haven’t looked back. Nashville gave me back my creative juices, I’m sure of it.
– Ask yourself a question.
– What’s the meaning of life? Love. Love and kindness and generosity of spirit. Without love, we have nothing.
Take a look at her books: