Q&A with L. J. Sellers

By Cherie Jung
(August, 2011)

Q. You have a popular police series featuring Detective Wade Jackson, of Eugene, Oregon plus several popular stand-alone thrillers. How do you choose what to write next — another book in the series or a stand-alone?

A. I wrote my first two standalones before I started the Jackson series. I penned The Suicide Effect while I was working at a pharmaceutical magazine, so that tells you where that story came from. Next I wrote The Sex Club, and it was reflective of what was on my mind at the time: concern about abstinence-only sex education. When I plotted the story, I didn't know it would become a series. But readers loved it and wanted more of Detective Jackson, so I wrote several more books in the series. After I finished book #4, Passions of the Dead, I thought I might start a new series because I wasn't making any money from my small publisher. Actually, I developed two story concepts, one was for the first book in a new series featuring Lara Evans, Jackson's sidekick. The second was for a futuristic thriller, something I'd always wanted to write. Readers kept contacting me, asking for my next Jackson novel, so I ended up writing the police procedural, with Lara Evans as co-protagonist, and published it as the fifth book in my series, Dying for Justice. But after five series books in a row, I needed a creative challenge, so I wrote the futuristic thriller I'd started a year earlier, The Arranger. Now I'm writing Jackson #6 to keep my readers happy.

Q. There's the tired old question of where do you get your ideas...but with so many instances of crime and violence in the news today — newspapers, TV, the Internet — how do you narrow down the possibilities and choose the focus of each book?

A. With each Jackson book, I wrote about issues and/or crimes that weighed heavily on my mind. Sometimes a crime or a story idea will be with me for years until I finally find a way to work it into a story. Usually, there are two things — often a crime and a social issue — and I bounce the concepts off each other, asking: How are they connected? Once I find a connection, I start to plot the story and more connections develop. With The Arranger, I envisioned the opening scene one day and liked it so much I knew I had to use it.

Q. Do you plot each book separately or do you have an idea of what is going to happen to Detective Jackson say, in the arc of several books?

A. So far, each story has been plotted separately, but I do think about Jackson as a person and what might be in store for him next. I usually have some ideas in mind, but they have to work with the plot, so I stay flexible. When I mentioned in book #2, or maybe #3, that Jackson's parents had been murdered, it occurred to me that someday I might plot a story around it, and I eventually did in Dying for Justice. I also knew in advance that Jackson would develop a major health concern. So far, in the development of book #6, I'm pretty sure Kera will have a POV role in the story and likely will be at odds with Jackson over a suspect's guilt or innocence. That's all I can say for now.

Q. Some authors become tired of their series character or wish they had written something a little differently. Are you satisfied with Detective Jackson, the way he's developing, or if you could go back, is there anything you might change?

A. I love the Jackson character and purposefully developed him as someone I could live with for a long time. I'm having fun with his various family issues and with his struggle to find time to have a relationship with Kera. I'm lucky that I don't have any regrets, especially considering that the first book was not plotted as the beginning of a series. So far, I've been careful not to write myself into a corner, but I did retire Detective Ed McCray and I'm not sure why. No readers have complained though.

Q. I think the Detective Jackson series would make an interesting TV series or series of TV movies like Robert B. Parker's Jesse Stone series, starring Tom Selleck. Who would you choose to play Detective Jackson, if he were brought to the screen?

A. I think Jackson would make a great TV series too, and I've heard from a lot of readers who want to know why it's not happening already. I keep envisioning Viggo Mortensen in the role. He's attractive, but not in a pretty-boy way, and he can play a wide range of emotionals.

Q. Is there anything else you would like to talk about?

A. I'd love to encourage my readers to check out my new standalone, a futuristic thriller called The Arranger, which early readers have raved about. The story features Lara Evans 13 years in the future. She's no longer a detective, but instead is a freelance paramedic in a bleak new world and witnesses a crime. Here's the short blurb:

In 2023, ex-detective Lara Evans just wants to win the Gauntlet, a national endurance competition, but a mysterious assailant wants her dead. Can she stop the killer and survive long enough to claim victory?

Books by this author include:

THE ARRANGER (reviewed)


THE SEX CLUB (reviewed)

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