J T Ellison is the international award-winning author of seven critically acclaimed novels, multiple short stories and has been published in over twenty countries. A Deeper Darkness is the first book in a brand-new series for J T Ellison, following her successful 'Taylor Jackson' novels.
What were some of your favourite books when you were growing up?
I was a precocious child and an early reader, and loved all kinds of books, from Nancy Drew to Madeline L’Engle. I was fascinated with Arthurian legend, so anything and everything that was set in Camelot. Here Be Dragons, by Sharon Kay Penman, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, Forever, by Judy Blume. My least favorite was The Thornbirds. I had very long hair and my mother used to tell me if I didn’t let her brush it I’d get lice like Maggie’s daughter. I balked and made her cut it all off. A wonderful source of drama for a child, truly. I like the Greeks and their mythological stories as well – all of my books have a mythology and fairy tale theme to them.
What led you to your career as an author? Is writing something that you have always been passionate about?
Not surprisingly, I’ve always been a writer, though I took a rather large detour after college because my thesis professor told me I wasn’t good enough to get published, and I believed her. I came back to writing in 2003, and I have been very, very lucky. I’ve suffered from rejection just like everyone else, but I was never derailed by it. This is such a subjective industry – if you believe the good you have to believe the bad. When I got started, I wrote a novella I thought was a book and sent it all over New York, and promptly received thirty rejections. I realized something was wrong, did some research on the industry, figured out my mistake, took the story and reworked it, and that book caught the eye of my agent very quickly. That first novel never sold, but my second one did. Perseverance is absolutely vital if you want to be a writer.
You’re an international award-winning author of eight critically acclaimed novels and have been published in over twenty countries. How does this success make you feel?
It’s incredibly humbling, the idea that people I’ve never met read my books and connect with them. I’m thrilled at the way my career has been going, building from book to book, and I work very hard to make sure it continues on that path – meeting deadlines is paramount, and since I do two books a year, I’m almost always on the train – writing, editing and promoting at the same time. I’m very grateful to my readers – they’re allowing me the freedom to write full time, to explore new worlds and new characters, and supporting me through it all.
What have been some of your most memorable experiences as a writer?
So many wonderful experiences: Winning the thriller award in New York last summer. It was an insane night – I was dreadfully ill, had laryngitis, a wicked case of nerves, and two of my literary heroes were in the room: John Sandford and Diana Gabaldon. To win a prestigious award in the presence of two of the writers who shaped me was incredible and gratifying. The very first Thrillerfest in Phoenix, 112 degrees and all the people I’ve only ever heard of there in the flesh; meeting Lee Child and having him react with, “Oh yes, I’ve heard your name.” I was floored. What? How? OMG!!! Allison Brennan talking to me like I was a real writer. The moment my agent called to tell me I had my very first deal – and not just for one book, but three. The day my agent called to tell me he wanted to be my agent. The first time I finished a book – Christmas Day, 2003, at my parents’ house in Florida, and the exhausted realization I’d finally done something special. But the very best was the very first sentence I ever wrote with intention to follow it with another, and another. I finished that paragraph and began to cry. There’s true magic in intention.
Do you have any quirky writing habits?
I wish. Truly, I do. Some of my writing heroes have these great idiosyncrasies that drive their writing. Me, I’m just a get down to work girl. I’ve been messing with my process over the past two years, looking for ways to streamline, but outside of the need for a laptop and a god cup of tea, that’s about it. I do try to shoot for 1000 words, or 5 pages, a day. That keeps me on schedule.
What can you tell us about your latest novel, A Deeper Darkness?
A Deeper Darkness is the first book in the Dr. Samantha Owens series, a spin off from my Taylor Jackson books. Sam is a regular in the earlier series, and she’d been lobbying for her own book for a while. Sadly, in order for her to standalone, she had to lose all encumbrances from the earlier books, so as the novel begins, we are two years post losing her family. The book became so much more than I ever expected when I allowed Sam to become hurt and vulnerable – I see her as a heroine instead of a hero like Taylor, if that makes sense. She’s very damaged, yet still so resilient and strong. It was an eye opening writing experience.
The thing with losing it all – you have to gain something in the end. Sam has two men vying for her attention in this book – Detective Darren Fletcher, and the enigmatic former Army Ranger Xander Whitfield. They are her path to redemption.
What was your inspiration?
For a subsection of the plot itself I was inspired by a real-life incident involving the death of a brave young man. My third cousin and former high school English teacher, Dave Sharrett, sent his son to Iraq. PFC David H. Sharrett, II was killed in a friendly fire incident, tragically shot by his Lieutenant, who left him behind in a field to bleed to death instead of bringing him back to base. The tragedy of the case was compounded by the Army cover up, and it has just been resolved. I dedicated to book to “Bean”, as we all knew David, and I’m still heartbroken over the situation, for all involved. And the only way I know how to deal with heartbreak is to write about it.
What would you like readers to take away from A Deeper Darkness?
That it is a story of hope. We are all such fragile creatures, existing in a rather cruel world, yet we overcome our heartaches and fears to live rich, imaginative, content lives. Sam and Xander are destined for happiness, they just have to be tortured a bit first to appreciate it fully.
Can we expect another novel in the near future?
Yes! Edge of Black is the next book in the series. Sam finds herself in the midst of a terrorist attack in Washington, D.C. and the race to find the suspect is compounded by the fact that Xander Whitfield may know who that person is, and Darren Fletcher isn’t going to let his feelings get in the way of justice.
Do you have any advice that you would like to offer aspiring writers?
Read. Read. Read. I’m always astounded when people say they want to be a writer, and I ask what they’ve read recently, and they say they don’t have time to read. Every single successful fiction writer is also a huge reader.
I have a section on my website called For Writers, which has several articles on getting and staying published, and a list of books I recommend. But honestly, reading is the best way to learn the craft.
Thank you so much for having me!
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