How can I join your awesome newsletter?
Why, thank you for the compliment. You can join the newsletter here, where you'll also receive a free ebook.
Do you have a printable book list?
Right here – print to your heart's content.
Do you have a blog?
I do. Check out Tao of J.T.
you're co-writing with Catherine Coulter. What's up with that?
I am honored to be co-writing a new FBI series with Catherine called "A Brit in the FBI." The first novel is called THE FINAL CUT; the second is THE LOST KEY; the third is THE END GAME; the fourth is THE DEVIL'S TRIANGLE. Our latest is THE SIXTH DAY. Collaboration is so much fun, especially with a writer of Catherine's caliber, and our main character, Nicholas Drummond, is to die for. Think Memphis Highsmythe meets Dr. John Baldwin meets James Bond. And if you haven't read Catherine's gritty FBI series or historicals, I very much recommend them both.
When is the next Samantha Owens book?
The fourth Samantha Owens novel, WHAT LIES BEHIND, is out in paperback now. I do have plans for the next book in the series, but I don't currently have a release date for that. I will let you know as soon as I do.
When is the next Taylor Jackson book?
I have signed a new deal for more Taylor and Sam novels, but right now I'm focused on writing standalone novels. Hang in there! As soon as I have news, I will let you know.
You can also read more Taylor adventures in THE FIRST DECADE.
I hear you've written some standalone novels. What is it about? and what does the term "standalone" mean?
"Standalone" is an industry term for a book that is not part of a series. In other words, you won't see these characters again.
My newest standalone novel, TEAR ME APART, comes out August 28. It's the story of a young downhill skiing phenom and Olympic hopeful named Mindy Wright. After horrifically breaking her leg, Mindy is rushed to surgery and doctors discover she has an aggressive form of leukemia. A stem cell transplant is her only hope. When Mindy's parents are tested to help their daughter's treatment, they make a terrifying discovery: Mindy is not their daughter.
And now you're hosting A Television series called "A WORD ON WORDS." WHA???
That's right! In 2015, I was honored to be asked to help continue John Seigenthaler's literary legacy by co-hosting A WORD ON WORDS, his long-running literary television series. It has been an incredible ride. You can see more here, and follow along online at #keepreading.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Colorado, then moved to Northern Virginia in my early teens. I attended high school, college and graduate school in the area, then moved to Tennessee in 1998 with my husband.
How did you get into writing?
I've always written, though not always creatively. I received my first rejection at the tender age of ten, when my grandmother submitted a school poem to True Confessions Magazine. Multiple short stories and poems ensued. I studied creative writing in college, and was planning to go on to get an MFA. My thesis advisor discouraged me from that path; she felt I wasn't a good enough writer to see publication. Sadly, I listened, and went into politics instead. I returned to writing full-time in 2003, and I haven't looked back since.
What's your typical writing day?
I like doing business in the morning to get my head geared up – email, social networks, research, news, then at noon, turn off the internet and write in a lovely, quiet cocoon until 4:00 p.m. I try to write 1,000 words a day, about five pages. I start by rereading what I wrote the day before to get myself in the flow, then I charge ahead. I don't worry about getting it perfect, I worry about getting the story down. I tend to do several drafts before I turn the book in to my editor.
How long does it take you to write a book?
About six months – a month for research, four for writing, and a month of editing. That said, those six months are spread across a year's true time frame because of editorial and promotion with other books in the series. I'm generally always writing a book, editing a book and promoting a book at the same time. The bane of the two a year schedule, but it works for me.
Where did you get the idea for Taylor Jackson?
She was born because of John Sandford’s PREY series. I was driving down Interstate 40, thinking about Lucas Davenport’s icy smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes, and that scar, and his depression, and realized I wanted to write about a woman in his shoes. A woman in control, who’s strong without being strident, who commands the respect of her peers and her enemies. One who’s worked hard and paid her dues. Taylor literally leapt fully formed into my mind, talking in that low, smoky drawl, and I was hooked. I knew I had to tell her story. She’s half cop, half rock star to Nashville. She’s a wonderful character to write – difficult, sometimes, but a lot of fun. My Athena. Nashville’s Athena.
And what about Samantha Owens? Where did she come from?
Long ago, when I was first starting out as a writer, I did a tour of our local morgue in conjunction to interviewing a forensic odontologist. I was struck by the place, and knew I wanted to have a medical examiner in my stories. Samantha became that character in the Taylor Jackson series – she was Taylor’s foil, her conscience, her best friend from childhood to adulthood, and her moral guide. She's the lodestone of the Taylor books. So creating a series around Sam was a natural extension of her character.
Where Taylor is the embodiment of my hero complex, Sam is the embodiment of my nightmares, of what could happen if everything in my life was stripped away. She's a very powerful force in the books, an example of the strength we all carry inside us.
Whatever happened to EDGE OF BLACK, the book that was excerpted at the end of JUDAS KISS?
What is the chronological order of the Taylor Jackson books?
1. FIELD OF GRAVES (2016)
2. ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS (2007)
3. 14 (2008)
4. JUDAS KISS (2009)
5. THE COLD ROOM (2010)
6. THE IMMORTALS (2010)
7. SO CLOSE TO THE HAND OF DEATH (2011)
8. WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE (2011)
What is the chronological order of the Samantha Owens books?
1. A DEEPER DARKNESS (2012)
2. EDGE OF BLACK (2012)
3. WHEN SHADOWS FALL (2014)
4. WHAT LIES BEHIND (2015)
Do I need to read your books in order?
That's a hard question to answer. The truth is yes, you'll probably enjoy them more if you read in order, simply because the characters and story lines have a certain interconnectedness that's necessary to sustain a series. But each book has enough information so you can pick it up and read them out of order. So it's really your choice. For the Taylor series, I would recommend reading 14 before SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH, but it's not a necessity.
Are your books available on my e-reader?
Yes! All of the books are in all digital formats.
Are your books available in audio?
Yes! All of my books are currently available from Brilliance Audio. The Taylor and Sam books are read by the incomparable Joyce Bean. NO ONE KNOWS is skillfully voiced by Teri Schnaubelt and Nick Podehl. The performers for LIE TO ME—Matthew Waterson, Saskia Maarleveld, Sarah Naughton, and Julia Whelan—hit it out of the park.
Have your books been made into a movie or television show yet?
We've had a couple of close calls, but not yet. Feel free to contact my agent, Scott Miller of Trident Media Group, with inquiries.
Will you donate books to my foundation/school fundraiser/charity event?
Due to the volume of requests, I have to ask that you direct all donation requests to my publishers. Thank you!
How do you do your research?
Very carefully. I love research, and try to do as much hands-on as I can. I think the more important question is how do YOU do research? My advice is don't be afraid – just pick up the phone and ask. It's been my experience that all aspects of law enforcement, from the police to the military to the FBI, want you to get it right, and are willing to help you do so.
Can I get the name of your contacts?
Now where's the fun in that? There are no shortcuts in publishing, especially in research. I had to work hard to cultivate my contacts, and you'll be much happier working with your own.
How can I get published?
The very best advice I can give is to do your research, and learn everything there is to know about the publishing industry. Publishers Marketplace, Publishers Weekly and Writer's Digest are all must-reads. Once you've polished your work through multiple revisions and outside critiques, then you need to look for an agent. Agents take a lot of the pressure off you, handling everything from securing your publishing deal to the money to advice and friendship. Look for agents who are reputable, who adhere to the AAR (Association of Authors Representatives) guidelines. Agents typically charge a 15% commission on all monies you make. A note of warning - in legitimate publishing, the money always flows to the author. Any agent who wants money up front is a scam, and should be passed on. Read Preditors and Editors for warnings about shady agents.
What books do you recommend writers read to help learn the craft and stay focused?
- ON WRITING – Stephen King
- WRITE AWAY – Elizabeth George
- THE WRITER'S JOURNEY – Christopher Vogler
- BIRD BY BIRD – Anne Lamott
- FOREST FOR THE TREES – Betsy Lerner
- THE WAR OF ART – Steven Pressfield
- THE CREATIVE HABIT – Twyla Tharp
- RAPT: ATTENTION AND THE FOCUSED LIFE – Winifred Gallagher
- FLOW: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF OPTIMAL EXPERIENCE – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- HAMLET'S BLACKBERRY – William Powers
- THE ARTIST'S WAY – Julia Cameron
- DEEP WORK – Cal Newport
And here are some more . . .
Will you endorse my book?
Please direct all endorsement requests to my agent, Scott Miller, at Trident Media Group.
Will you help me spread the word about my new digital release?
This counts as an endorsement, so please direct your request to my agent. Just as with traditional books, I need two months advance notice to look at digital releases.
Will you read my unpublished manuscript?
I wish I could, but the liability issues are tremendous. Get a good independent editor, a critique group, and beta readers. Join the national organizations and make contact with other writers who are coming up. Support one another through honest, gentle critique.
If I have a great story idea, can I send it to you and we can write the book together?
No. Again, liability issues are at play, but I have too many ideas of my own to process. If it's that great an idea, I suggest you write the book yourself!
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
You become a great writer through reading other great writers. If you don't read, I truly believe that your writing will suffer tremendously. So read, everything you can get your hands on. Also, read Stephen King's ON WRITING, Twyla Tharp's THE CREATIVE HABIT, and Steven Pressfield's THE WAR OF ART, and Elizabeth George's WRITE AWAY. If those books speak to you, you have the soul of a writer and you should push on. Create good writing habits. Join the organizations like Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime. All these groups have arms for unpublished writers and are a font of great information. You can also read my Top Ten List for Unpublished Authors for more tips.