Category Archives: L. J. Sellers

Kindle L. J. Sellers

My Kindle 3 is on its way!

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Now that our massive, five-part interview with L.J. Sellers is in the books, the biggest thing on my mind tonight is: my account was debited and, according to Amazon, my Kindle 3 will be shipping my way soon!

That’s the ticket! I have been holding off buying anything else on Amazon that needs to be shipped, like enamel cookware or a stronger vacuum cleaner, because I didn’t want to see an email from Amazon saying something was shipping and having it NOT be the Kindle 3.

Now that it’s on my way, I can load up on a few more books and rest easy, knowing that soon I’ll have that darling piece of tech in my hands and won’t have to read off my very bright PC monitor anymore.

L. J. Sellers

Interview with novelist L.J. Sellers: Part 5 of 5

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We’ve covered a lot of ground so far with mystery/suspense novelist and Kindle author L. J. Sellers. We have talked about her writing background, her breakthrough series of Detective Wade Jackson Mysteries, the craft of writing, and ePublishing. Now that it’s time to round out our interview with L.J., what’s left do discuss?

Why, her latest offering, of course! For the first time since breaking into print with her Detective Jackson Mysteries, Sellers has moved outside of that series to introduce readers to another side of her writing personality. THE SUICIDE EFFECT is a standalone thriller based on the medical industry, and a typically exciting read. And as we learned yesterday, it is also a novel Sellers decided to bypass traditional print publication with.

What are her thoughts on jumping into the ePublishing pond with no print version to back it up? Let’s find out as we wind up this fascinating interview.

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The Suicide Effect

L. J. Seller's latest offering is a standalone medical thriller, The Suicide Effect, available now exclusively on Kindle!

PART FIVE: The Suicide Effect

Craig A. Hansen ( THE SUICIDE EFFECT represents, for you, a huge risk on several levels. It is your first non-Detective Jackson novel since breaking into print. It’s more of a traditional thriller than a mystery novel. And it’s your first completely independent publishing effort. What caused you to take a leap of faith on so many levels at once?

L. J. Sellers (novelist): It doesn’t feel that risky to me. Maybe because I have so little to lose. But lots of mid-list authors are publishing their out-of-print titles and unsold manuscripts as eBooks. It seems to have little stigma attached to it. As for readers, some of my fans may not like the book as well as the Jackson stories. That can happen no matter what I write or who publishes it. I may also pick up some new readers who haven’t tried my work yet (because they don’t like police procedurals). I hate to say this, but the motivation is money. If I can make money selling this book on my own, why shouldn’t I? (My beta readers liked it a lot.)

CAH: Kindle authors on the Amazon boards tend to talk a lot about the value of having a series, how that’s the key to indie success. Was that a concern when deciding to make THE SUICIDE EFFECT your first novel without a print publisher?

LJS: Not at all. I’m still writing the Detective Jackson series. Lots of crime fiction authors write both series and standalone books. It’s a way of pleasing fans, reaching new readers, and trying new challenges.

CAH: Talk a bit about the value to you as an author in taking some time away from a series to explore other ideas.

LJS: I just mentioned new challenges and that is what makes writers get better at the craft. Also, writers are creative people, and they like to try new things. By stepping away from the series for periods of times, I’m less likely to get burned out on it too quickly. In the long run, that benefits readers.

CAH: Now, in all honesty, I just bought and downloaded THE SUICIDE EFFECT about five minutes before I began pulling together this interview, so I haven’t had a chance to do more than skim the first page. But I grabbed it on the day it was released, based on my good time reading your Detective Jackson series. But for the benefit of someone reading this interview, who hasn’t bought it yet, give me your pitch. What makes THE SUICIDE EFFECT a compelling read? What makes it worth my $2.99?

LJS: THE SUICIDE EFFECT has two compelling characters at complete odds with each other. The reader is drawn into the “contest” between them and is pulled along by wanting to find out who will prevail. Many lives are at stake, including, eventually, the protagonist’s. The ending is heart-thumpingly scary and emotionally powerful.

CAH: What was the inspiration for this particular story?

LJS: I was working for a pharmaceutical magazine at the time and learning all kinds of behind-the-scenes information about drug development and known side effects. I started with the basic question: What if this drug…?

CAH: As we begin wrapping up, for the benefit of people who try some of your novels off this interview and decide they like your work and want more… what can they expect from your in the coming months, or the next year or two? What do you have in the works?

LJS: I’m writing a fifth Jackson story, and I’m also working on a futuristic thriller featuring Detective Lara Evans 20 years from now. So I’m writing about her in the present and future at the same time. It’s trippy and fun and interconnected. I hope I can pull it off. It’s a somewhat new genre for me but I love the challenge.

CAH: Finally, just as a tribute to Barbara Walters, I’d like to throw in a completely unexpected and disorienting question. If you could be a superhero, what superpower would you like to possess, and what would you do with it? (This is, of course, inspired by her asking Jimmy Carter what kind of tree he’d like to be.)

LJS: Okay, I’ll play. I love to dance. It’s such a joyful experience. So I would be Dancing Queen, with the power to put music in people’s heads and make them dance with joy—instead of committing whatever evil they had in mind. You can’t be mean while dancing!

CAH: Thank you so much for your time with, L.J. Best wishes with THE SUICIDE EFFECT and all your upcoming releases!

LJS: Thanks for hosting me. Your questions were terrific. But now I need a nap because they exhausted me.


L. J. Sellers

Interview with novelist L.J. Sellers: Part 4 of 5

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In the penultimate installment of our five-part interview with mystery and suspense novelist and Kindle author L. J. Sellers, what do we have left to talk about? We’ve already discussed her writing background, her breakthrough series of Detective Wade Jackson Mysteries, and the craft of writing. What could possibly be left to discuss?

Well, how about ePublishing? Sellers has all her novels on Kindle and has even gone so far as to make a couple of her books (one currently available and one yet-to-come) Kindle exclusives. What better person could there be to discuss the ePublishing revolution with? That’s what we focused on in Part Four, tonight’s installment.

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Thrilled to Death

Thrilled to Death was the third installment in L. J. Seller's Detective Wade Jackson Mystery series. It was ePublished on Kindle several weeks before the print version hit store shelves from Echelon Press.

PART FOUR: E-Publishing

Craig A. Hansen ( Now, you have a print publisher, Echelon Press. Three of your Detective Jackson mysteries are in print through them, but they’re a smaller press so it’s not like you have huge stands of hardcover books at the front of every Barnes and Noble in America alongside James Patterson just yet, either. And the way I found your novels was through the Kindle store on I’d like to dig into this ePublishing topic with you, so let’s start out with this: are your novels on Kindle through your own efforts, or through Echelon?

L. J. Sellers (novelist): It’s a combination. I published THE SEX CLUB on Kindle before I signed with Echelon, but the next two novels, SECRETS TO DIE FOR and THRILLED TO DEATH, are published in eBook and print form by Echelon. My newest release, THE SUICIDE EFFECT, is a standalone thriller I ePublished on my own. I also plan to release another thriller called THE BABY THIEF. I wrote both of these before I started writing the Jackson stories. I updated them this year and gave Jackson cameos in each book.

CAH: This summer, you’ve become more proactive about ePublishing your work. You released the third Detective Jackson novel on Kindle several weeks before its print release. What was Echelon’s reaction to this?

LJS: Echelon is the publisher and, at my request, released the third Jackson novel on Kindle before the print book came out. Also at my request, Echelon dropped my eBook prices from $7 to $2.99. My publisher knows I’m releasing the thrillers on my own. I have a good relationship with Echelon, and I’m upfront about what I’ve got going on.

CAH: With your most recent novel, the non-series release THE SUICIDE EFFECT, which is a standalone thriller, you decided to bypass traditional print publication, retain the full rights to your work, and publish it independently on Kindle. What led you to decide to go independent if you had Echelon interested in the novel?

LJS: The decision was mostly about timing and money. Echelon only wants to release one book a year from me, and the fourth Jackson story is coming out next year. Which meant my thrillers would not be released until 2012 and beyond. I need to make money now. The sooner I start making a living from book sales, the sooner I can write full time. I also think that by 2013, very few of my book sales will be in print. And to be honest, I don’t need a publisher to get eBooks to readers.

CAH: Without becoming too transparent, what would you say the breakdown is like for you right now, in terms of print sales versus Kindle sales? Just as, say, a percentage.

LJS: I think it’s about half and half, except for THE SEX CLUB, which is selling better as an eBook now, because its peak print sales were in 2008 and 2009.

CAH: I know it’s too early to tell with THE SUICIDE EFFECT, but your Detective Jackson series has been up for a while. Do you see potential in going independent on Kindle, in terms of it providing a sustainable revenue source for you to maintain a living as a working novelist?

LJS: I see the potential and I’m actively preparing for it. Kindle eBook sales will eventually liberate me from the freelance editing I still do for the pharmaceutical industry. I love my client, but talk about dull! I can’t wait for the day I can turn that work down and write instead.

CAH: Amazon DTP pays significant, generous royalty rates of 35 or 70 percent, depending on several factors, but no advances up front, unlike book publishers. Considering you get to retain your rights by going independent, if one of the big New York houses came calling and said, “We think you’re the next James Patterson. We want to pay you big advances, small royalties, and buy all rights to your work in the process…” what do you think your response would be today, compared to, say, five years ago? Do you think your response might shift further down the road?

LJS: I’ve asked myself this and I know I feel very differently now than I did five years ago. Giving up the eBook rights is not something I ever want to do. Yet, if they waved a big enough check at me, it would be tempting, of course. I’m human and money talks. But that’s not going to happen. The process of submitting to publishers is something I won’t go through again. I’ve spent so much time and energy on it, and it’s gotten me nowhere.

CAH: Let’s speculate a little bit. Where do you see the publishing market going, keeping in mind the deep pockets of the big publishers, but the burgeoning market represented by Kindle and other eBook readers. Is this a trend or a game-changer, in other words?

LJS: eBooks are a game-changer in the long run. Big publishers are already pulling back on print runs, and fewer print books sold means fewer bookstores in the future. With readers shopping in eBook stores, which have infinite capacity, instead of brick-and-mortar stores, which have limited capacity, the playing field will become more level for all authors. I’m not rooting for the demise of the printed book, but I am preparing for it.

CAH: If Amazon and a few others eventually displace New York, do you think they’ll eventually lower the compensation rates they offer right now while they’re trying to attract content and grow their market?

LJS: Oh, that’s a good question. I’d like to think they won’t because it will just open the door to more competition. New online eBook retailers are already burgeoning, and authors will shift to wherever they can make the most money.

CAH: There are a lot of services traditional publishers provide that sometimes get overlooked by an uneducated public. Do you think the power of the big New York houses to sell movie rights, foreign rights, promote books to stimulate sales and such offset the surrender of rights to your work?

LJS: Not any more. With electronic markets flourishing, soon writers won’t need foreign publishers. And movie deals come about for a lot of reasons, often through the author making a connection. Publishing houses have cut back on staff, so even the level of editing offered is less now than it used to be.

COMING UP THURSDAY: The Suicide Effect (L.J.’s latest thriller!)

L. J. Sellers

Interview with novelist L.J. Sellers: Part 3 of 5

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Our interview with mystery novelist and Kindle author L.J. Sellers has been a lot of fun so far! On Sunday, we discussed her writing background and last night we went in depth on the series of novels that broke her into print and have given her a name: the Detective Wade Jackson Mystery series, which has three installments so far, with two more already scheduled and on the way.

Tonight, however, we begin to dig in to the craft of writing, particularly of novel writing. L. J. shares her insights and experiences and even offers up some tidy advice for young writers hoping to follow in her footsteps. So please join us for Part Three of this five-part interview.

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Detective Jackson 2: Secrets To Die For

The second Detective Wade Jackson novel by L. J. Sellers is Secrets to Die For.

PART THREE: The Craft of Novel Writing

Craig A. Hansen ( Who are some of your most direct influences on your prose style, your crafting of scenes and characters?

L. J. Sellers (novelist): I don’t try to channel other writers, and my prose is pretty bare bones. But the authors I’ve read and enjoyed the most, who probably inspired me to write a police procedural, are Michael Connelly, John Sandford, Lawrence Sanders, and Leslie Glass.

CAH: In THE SEX CLUB, you waited until late in the second chapter to introduce your main character, Detective Jackson. It’s always a challenge to ask yourself, “How do I want to introduce my readers to my main character?” What approaches have you found work best for you?

LJS: In that first book, I intended to have two main characters, so it felt okay to start with Kera. I also wanted readers to see and know the victim before she turned up dead, so that’s why I showed her in the clinic with Kera. In my second book, I opened with the POV of the victim for the same reason. I want readers to care about her, so that Jackson’s solving of her case is important to them. I just realized I used this technique in the third book as well, again opening with the victim. In other genres, it might be better to introduce the protagonist right away. What is most important is that readers very quickly get an idea of what the story is about.

CAH: A lot of young writers get hung up on providing too much background information on their main characters the first time they are introduced; the narrative can sometimes stop cold while they tell you all these details that don’t advance the story. What would your advice to young writers be on how to balance description, back story, dialog and narrative?

LJS: Small doses! Especially in the first chapter. A sentence here, a paragraph there. You tell readers just enough to hook their interest, so they’ll keep reading to get the rest of background. Use back story like breadcrumbs to lure the reader along. (I just made that up.)

CAH: How much time do you devote to writing each day? Do you set time goals or page-count goals? Describe your approach.

LJS: I’ve been through many phases. When I had kids at home, I wrote whenever I could, often with three boys playing Nintendo nearby. When they grew up, I wrote mostly in the evenings and weekends to work around my journalism jobs. In early 2008, when I got laid off, I started writing first thing in the morning, with the idea that my novelist career would come first. I try to write for at least two or three hours and hit 1500 words in that time. It’s just a goal though, and this year, I’ve been in rewrite mode, so I’m not tracking word count at all.

CAH: You deal primarily in the mystery genre. The trick of mysteries is to not only know what really happened, but to know how to camouflage the direct path to what happened with red herrings, plausible misleads and other such obstacles. How much of this do you figure out ahead of time, before you set pen to paper, as it were?

LJS: I do extensive plotting before I start writing the story, so I know all the broad strokes and false suspects. But the specific details of misdirection usually come to me as I’m writing. I make careful notes of everything as I go along in separate files (evidence, problems, ect.)

CAH: When I was in college, one exercise I tried was typing out a complete chapter from a finished novel I liked. For me, that ended up being the opening chapter to FLETCH by Gregory McDonald, and by typing it out, I got a feel for what polished, publishable prose felt like. It really drew my attention to how much word economy matters. I learned more from the words he left out, in some respects, than those he left in. In your writing process, how much time do you indulge in really crafting and paring away at your prose, and how do you decide, “OK, enough is enough. Time to let this one go?”

LJS: What an unusual exercise. I can see how it would be effective though. I’m a very lean writer, and it’s probably a result of my journalism background. In my second drafts, I usually add to the word count, filling in detail. Some things always get cut though, such as extraneous prepositional phrases.

CAH: Have you ever taken part in writing classes, writer’s groups or any of those sorts of resources that young writers are often pointed toward to learn their craft? How useful did you find them?

LJS: In the first few years of fiction writing, I read everything I could about the craft. Eventually, I took several workshops and attended writers’ conferences. But I’ve never belonged to a writing group that critiqued my work, chapter by chapter. That process feels too collaborative. I’m a solitary writer.

CAH: Do you have a group of trusted readers – aside from family members – who review and help you improve your novels in progress before sending them on to your agent or publisher?

LJS: I have a group of beta readers I send my first 50 pages to for feedback. If I’m on the wrong track, I want to know early in the process. Their feedback is essential. It’s usually minor things they suggest, but all the little stuff adds up. I send the finished story to the same group and give it to my husband as well. He’s my toughest critic.

CAH: When I interviewed Charlaine Harris last year, I got a little jealous when I found out that she’s successfully found a publisher for every novel she’s ever written, and in the order she’s written them. I can relate a bit more to your journey, where you’ve had success in other areas of writing, like journalism, but it’s taken you time to break through as a fiction writer. What was it like to work at it for so long before finally finding success?

LJS: At times it was very discouraging, which is why I wrote scripts for while. I had to keep telling stories, because that’s who I am now, but I couldn’t commit to a novel, knowing the odds were against selling it. But eventually I came back to writing novels, and I’ve continued since. I’m a very tenacious person, but I also love the process.

CAH: At this point, if I understand what I found on your Web site correctly, you still work as a freelance editor and a journalist in Eugene. You now have three novels in print, four out on Kindle, and three or four others waiting in the wings. How far would you say you might be from being able to let go of some of your other responsibilities and devoting yourself to writing on a more full-time basis?

LJS: I’d like to think I’m getting close. E-books are starting to generate a steady income for me, and my goal is that by the end of this year, I’ll be able to cut out one of my regular freelance gigs. By the end of 2011, I hope to be a full-time novelist.

COMING UP WEDNESDAY: Part 4: E-Publishing

L. J. Sellers

Interview with novelist L.J. Sellers: Part 2 of 5

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On Sunday, I debuted the first installment in my five-part interview with mystery novelist and Kindle author L. J. Sellers, in which we delved into her writing background. Tonight’s installment will focus on the novel that gave her her big break: THE SEX CLUB. That novel spawned her Detective Wade Jackson Mystery series, and we discussed the series at length.

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The Sex Club

The Sex Club was L. J. Seller's first big break into becoming a published novelist.

PART TWO: The Detective Wade Jackson Novels

Craig A. Hansen ( Your breakthrough novel was THE SEX CLUB, featuring Detective Wade Jackson, but you’d been trying for something like twenty years prior to finding success. How many novels did you work on before THE SEX CLUB sold?

L. J. Sellers (novelist): I used to be embarrassed to talk about this, but so many authors now are admitting that they wrote eight or nine novels before breaking through that my five don’t feel so bad. I also took a break during that time and wrote five screenplays too. The first two novels weren’t very long, and one of the five was a YA novel. I also wrote a hundred pages of two novels that I didn’t finish. The good news is that two of the novels I wrote before THE SEX CLUB will finally be published.

CAH: Your initial sale came from a small independent publishing house, Echelon Press, which handles around 50 authors or so. How has that experience been, being part of a smaller press?

LJS: Like most things, it’s good and bad. It’s good because I have a personal relationship with my publisher and can call her to talk about things. I also have a lot of control over my book covers and titles. The bad part is the lack of promotional support—but that’s more and more true at big publishers too—and the difficulty of getting into bookstores, which will soon be a moot point as bookstores continue to go out of business and chain stores carry only bestselling authors.

CAH: What inspired the character of Detective Wade Jackson?

LJS: I knew I needed a homicide detective to tell the story of THE SEX CLUB, and I knew I wanted him to be a good guy, not an alcoholic or a bully or constant rule breaker. I interviewed two police detectives and based my story on a composite of those two men, plus some of my husband thrown in. For example, my husband is a trike builder, and it’s such a cool hobby I had to give it to Jackson. I wanted my protagonist to have some balance in his life because he tends to be a workaholic. He’s also a family man, doing his best to raise a daughter mostly by himself.

CAH: Nearly all of your novels deal with very controversial topics. What is your general approach to tackling hot-button topics in a work of fiction?

LJS: First, the issue has to be organic to the plot. It only comes up because of the crimes being committed. So the issues aren’t tacked on as extra food for thought, they integral to the story. I know I shouldn’t come on too strong, so I try to work in some counterpoints from other characters. I also make a conscious effort to tone everything down in the rewrite, cutting almost half of the references to the issue.

CAH: In THE SEX CLUB, Jackson almost seems to take a back seat for a good chunk of the novel to Kera Kollmorgan. Was Jackson someone you knew you wanted to use again when you wrote THE SEX CLUB, or did that occur to you later on?

LJS: When I wrote THE SEX CLUB, it was just a story I had to tell. I needed both main characters, the nurse and the cop. So I wrote it from both their POVs. I didn’t know that it would become a series, but I knew that a homicide detective would be a great recurring character and I wrote Jackson with that possibility in mind. Kera is not very present in the second story, but she has a larger role in the third novel. I try to bring different characters forward in each story to make them all unique.

CAH: Writers like Spenser creator Robert B. Parker and comic book legend Stan Lee have stated that the key to successful series characters is to give readers the illusion of change without ever essentially changing the status quo. Other writers prefer to develop their series characters over the course of several novels. Which approach are you taking with Detective Jackson?

LJS: Character arc is the most challenging aspect of writing a series. If your characters change too much, your readers get disappointed or lose interest. If they don’t change at all, reviewers and readers will ding you for that too. So Jackson’s changes are subtle, and they are also organic to the plots. His circumstances—such as his relationship with Kera, his ex-wife’s involvement with his daughter, and his home arrangement—are changing slowly too. I may move him forward in one novel, then move him back in the next. But life is like that for all of us. Jackson’s life is complicated and stressful, like most of ours.

CAH: You now have three Detective Jackson mysteries out and a fourth on the way next year. How sustainable do you think Jackson is, and do you foresee an end to his story arc over the course of several novels?

LJS: I think Jackson has a few more novels in him. But I want to end the series before I get bored writing it. To keep that from happening, I’m writing parts of the fifth novel from the POV of Detective Lara Evans, one of his task force members. It’s possible that down the road, I’ll end up writing several books with her as the main character. I also think the reporter, Sophie Speranza, might have her own story someday too. So I have lots of characters to work with who can help prolong the series and keep it fresh.

CAH: How do you keep your interest in the same main character fresh over the course of several novels?

LJS: I do that by including the POV of several characters, such as Lara and Sophie. In the fourth story, PASSIONS OF THE DEAD, I write sections of back-story from the POVs of the victims. That was challenging and made the story feel very different from earlier novels. Also, I keep giving Jackson new circumstances to deal with. It’s not that I enjoy torturing him, but watching him struggle is what keeps it interesting for all of us

CAH: What does the future hold for Detective Wade Jackson?

LJS: I don’t really know, and if I did, it wouldn’t be smart to tell you (and any fans who might be participating here). Readers like surprises!

CAH: Your Jackson series is set in Eugene, where you live. Do you ever get self-conscious about what you write about Eugene? I mean, I know my mother was always fretting, whenever I wrote some fiction piece and wanted to use my home town as a setting, over whether people who lived locally would think I was talking about them. Anything like that ever get voiced to you, and how do you field that?

LJS: I don’t worry about anyone seeing themselves in the story. I do refer occasionally to real crimes that have happened here, so if those criminals are reading my series, they’ll know I’m talking about them. People in Eugene seem to love that I’ve set a series here. They say it makes the novels more real. I’ve had people say, “You know that house you described, I grew up there.” And, “I went to that school; that made your story so scary for me.” I’ve also had readers say that I really capture the flavor of Eugene, and it makes them proud and happy. The one thing I do worry about is my occasional mention of Springfield. I think I called it “a blue-collar sister city” once, and one of my beta readers wrote “ouch” in the margin. I forgot she lived in Springfield. So now I’m more careful.

COMING UP TUESDAY: Part 3: The Craft of Writing

L. J. Sellers

Interview with novelist L.J. Sellers: Part 1 of 5

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Over a year ago, landed a massive, eight-part interview with New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris. It proved to be a popular feature, but I haven’t done an author interview since then, primarily because I don’t want to just do a bunch of author interviews in a really impersonal way, just to say I interviewed them.

For me, it simply must flow from a familiarity with an author’s work, a real interest in and affection for their novels, and a genuine curiosity to about how they view the craft as well as the business of writing and what brought them to where they are today. In other words, it has to be someone I’m interested in finding out more from than what their latest novel is about.

Today, and for the next few nights, at 7 PM CDT, I will be unveiling my second-ever massively in-depth author interview, and this time the author in question is someone I’ve become a recent fan of, and whose work I discovered while exploring $2.99 and under books on the Amazon Kindle. (I don’t have my Kindle yet; I pre-ordered it on Aug. 1st and am hoping for delivery by early September. I’ve been getting by on Kindle for PC 1.2.0.)

Anyway, having been drawn in almost from the first paragraph of her first novel, The Sex Club: A Detective Wade Jackson Mystery, I immediately recognized that there were very talented authors publishing on Kindle, and it was a legitimate way for a writer overlooked by the Big Six publishers in New York to draw an audience, make their work known and even perhaps make a living.

L.J. immediately became someone I wanted to interview, so I contacted her through her blog, and she graciously agreed. Little did she know I’m not a “ten standard questions, interview by template” type of interviewer. Fortunately, she was still willing to do the interview, even after I emailed her the massive set of interview questions.

So, it begins tonight and will continue for a total of five nights, Sunday through Thursday, August 22-26. Tonight, I am including L.J. Sellers’ biography, as well as the first part of our interview, which focuses on her writing background. Those who love to learn how and why writers become writers should read this with great interest!

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L.J. Sellers

L.J. Sellers

L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist and the author of the Detective Jackson mystery/suspense series based in Eugene, OR. The first three books, THE SEX CLUB, SECRETS TO DIE FOR, and THRILLED TO DEATH have been highly praised, and the fourth Jackson novel, PASSIONS OF THE DEAD, will be published in 2011. L.J. also has two standalone thrillers, THE SUICIDE EFFECT and THE BABY THIEF, coming out this year. When not plotting murders, L.J. enjoys performing stand-up comedy, cycling, social networking, attending mystery conferences, and editing fiction manuscripts. She’s also been known to jump out of airplanes.

PART ONE: Writing Background

Craig A. Hansen ( L.J., thank you for agreeing to this interview and welcome to I’d like to start out with some of your writing background. Going back to your childhood, or whenever is relevant, when did you first find yourself drawn to writing?

L. J. Sellers (novelist): I loved to write even in grade school. Writing assignments were always fun for me, especially reports that involved research. Learning new things, then putting it all down on paper was very satisfying. When I started college, I spent a term or two thinking I should be a social worker, but quickly realized that getting a degree in journalism was the only thing that made sense for me. Throughout my years in school, I also enjoyed creative writing assignments, but I found them more challenging. I even convinced myself I simply wasn’t creative enough to write fiction. I believed that until I was thirty.

CAH: What was your first real achievement as a writer that prompted you to pursue it seriously?

LJS: I’m answering this question as a novelist. After completing my first novel, I was so pleased and excited, I started another one right away. I was hooked! At the time, I was also reading Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Al Zuckerman, founder of Writers House. So when I finished my second novel, I brazenly sent the first three chapters to Zuckerman, one of the best-known agents in New York. A month later he called me! He said he couldn’t sell the novel I’d sent him, but that I was talented and he wanted to see the outline of what I was working on. I was so excited! It was that moment that I knew I was on the right track, that if I continued, I would eventually find success as a novelist.

CAH: How long did your journalism career last, and share some highlights, if you will.

LJS: My journalism career is ongoing. I write freelance features for our local paper, which I used to work for directly. One of the longest running journalism jobs I had was as an editor at pharmaceutical magazine (seven years!). I learned more about drugs than I ever thought I would, and it gave me some great material for my stand-up comedy. It also inspired one of my medical thrillers, THE SUICIDE EFFECT. I also worked for an educational publisher, creating comprehension material and little stories for first and second graders. It was the most challenging job I’ve ever had. Writing for kids who only know certain letter sounds was hard! (Try writing a meaningful story with only S, M, A, and J.) But it was fun too. So my adventures in writing and editing are quite varied.

CAH: Now, in the long bio on your Web site, you share the moment you realized you wanted to write fiction. Could you share that story in more detail here?

LJS: I’ve always loved to read fiction, most of it crime stories. One day I was reading a particularly bad story. I remember being so disgusted I threw the book down and thought: I could write a better novel than that. So I started thinking about it and wondering if it was true. Then I had to prove to myself that I could actually write a novel. I spent a day or so brainstorming ideas, then sat down and started outlining. Jeffery Dahmer was in the news, and I was raising three young boys, so I wrote about a mother who confronts the serial killer who murdered her child. Emotionally very difficult at times, but it helped me work through my fears.

CAH: I have to ask: do you remember which novel you were reading that made you decide you could do the job better?

LJS: I’m sorry, I don’t. But I remember that it was a cozy mystery, which I no longer read.

CAH: How did journalism prepare you as a writer for the task of novel-writing?

LJS: As a journalist, you don’t have the luxury of writers block. You get an assignment, you write the story, you meet the deadline. It’s not always pretty, but you get it done. So journalism gave me a certain discipline and confidence to know that I’ll get the story done.

CAH: You have continued to have day-jobs in various journalism roles, and you now offer editorial services to other writers. Plus you’re a mom. How do you manage your time so that you don’t sacrifice your own writing?

LJS: Sometimes I do sacrifice my writing! But now that my kids are grown and I no longer have a full-time journalism job, it happens less often. About two years ago, when the educational publisher laid me off, I dedicated myself to my fiction and I started writing first thing every morning. The idea was that I would do my work first at least for a few hours. That has worked out well for me. I wrote three Detective Jackson novels during 2008 and 2009. This year I’ve been focused on rewrites—of my last two Jackson novels and two standalone thrillers I’d written in the past. It’s a different kind of productivity and not quite as much fun, but part of the novelist life.

CAH: You sometimes work as a stand-up comic. Has anything from that part of your life benefited you as a writer?

LJS: Now you’re making me laugh. I don’t get paid for my stand-up. (Making it much like my novel career.) I do comedy for fun. And for the challenge. I got going on it when I took a humor writing class. At the time, I was writing comedy screenplays and I sought out a way to sharpen my humor in the scripts. Over the course of the class I wrote a stand-up routine, and as the final, I performed it. I was terrified! But the crowd was friendly—and drinking—and I did great. So I perform with a local group every once in a while just to stay in practice. And I performed at a talent contest at Bouchercon last year. That was probably a mistake. Some of my humor was a little “blue” for the crowd, I’m afraid. But let me clarify: My novels aren’t humorous. That’s a different personality. I have several, as you might have noticed.

CAH: Did you have any mentor, or a group of peers, to help and encourage you as a fiction writer?

LJS: I’ve always been a solitary writer. The only encouragement I sought or received was from my husband, who doesn’t read my stories until they’re done, and from the agent I mentioned and later from a second agent I signed with. Once I finally got published, I started sending my work-in-progress to beta readers. And now I have fans who encourage me.

COMING UP MONDAY: Part 2: The Detective Jackson Mysteries

Kindle L. J. Sellers

Debuting soon: L. J. Sellers Interview!

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For the second year in a row, has landed a huge interview with a significant author. Last year, it was Charlaine Harris. This year, it is mystery and suspense novelist and Kindle author L. J. Sellers! Hailing from Eugene, Oregon, Sellers has three novels in print and four novels on Kindle. She’s experienced on both sides of the fence and has some interesting views to share on her craft, her novels, ePublishing and maybe even on the fun that can be had on Branson vacations… well, maybe not that last bit, though it sure would be interesting.

Anyway, I just wanted to give all my readers the heads-up on when this interview will debut.

The interview is done; the posts are completed and scheduled to appear.

The final touch-ups are being made by L. J. and myself, but it looks like we’re ready to roll.

So, beginning THIS SUNDAY, August 22 at 7 PM CDT, Part 1 of our five-part interview with L. J. Sellers will debut. Then, on each successive night at the exact same time, another part of the interview will appear until it concludes on Thursday night, August 26.

Please don’t miss a single installment of this interesting and ground-breaking interview with one of my favorite mystery-and-suspense novelists working right now, and publishing on Kindle as well!