An Interview with Janis Susan May Patterson

Please help me welcome Janis Susan May Patterson to my blog today. She’s given me a great interview which I know you’ll enjoy. She’s also giving away a $5 Amazon gift card to one lucky commentor, so be sure and leave her a comment.

Hollow_house_final_cover_2Tell us about yourself.

Oooh, that’s a dangerous first question! I can talk about myself forever… The short version is, I’m proud to be a seventh generation Texan. In my 50s I married the world’s most wonderful man – a Naval officer several years younger than I. It was my first marriage and he had been single for over twenty years; we were the poster children for middle age romance. We’re both also enthusiastic amateur Egyptologists and I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t know that he proposed to me in a moonlit garden in Egypt. I was one of the original 40 or so women who began RWA. I’m also a member of MWA, NINC and Author’s Guild. I published my first novel in 1979. I’ve been a talent agent, an actress and singer, a jewelry designer, Supervisor of Accessioning for a bio-genetic DNA lab (not easy when I’ve never taken a science course in my life), editor in chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups, edited and published the only monthly publication for The American Research Center in Egypt in the world (for nine years at least)… and that’s the short list. Yes, I bore easily. I’ve raced cars, flown planes and am a serious shooting enthusiast. Now I’m a very happy Stepford wife who loves staying home, cooking, gardening and looking after The Husband – best job I ever had. Oh, and I have been writing books since 1979.

How did you get started writing?

Genetically. I’m not kidding. One of my grandfathers was a small town newspaper publisher, back when that was a position of power. Both my grandmothers were English/literature teachers. My mother was a teacher, a play producer, and a magazine columnist, among other, non-literary things. My father started in his father’s newspaper as a printer’s devil when he was nine. He edited and published newspapers in several Texas towns, then taught journalism at Texas A&M. He was instrumental in separating the journalism department from the English department and making it a separate discipline. With my mother, he began an advertising agency that for sixteen of the seventeen years of its existence was rated by AADA in the top three hundred in the country. I started work there when I was nine. You see, I didn’t have a choice but to be a wordsmith of some sort.

Tell us about your current series/WIP.

I never have less than three or four projects underway at any given time. Told you I bore easily! Right now I’m primarily working on a romantic adventure called THE EGYPTIAN FILE, a chase/caper book set in (guess where?) contemporary Egypt about the lost treasure of the Pharaoh Ahmose. Makes me want to pack my bags and go back right now! I’m also working on an English-set gothic called THE WIDOW OF WESTOVER HALL (though that title will have to change), a plain sweet romance called SNOW JOB, a contemporary cozy mystery called A WELL MANNERED MURDER about cold-case murders in a defunct charm school, a cozy mystery set in New Orleans of 1916 called A KILLING ON BASIN STREET and a portion of a scholarly non-fiction college textbook – as yet untitled – about archaeological illustration. My portion is “The History of Archaeological Illustration Before the Napoleonic Paradigm of 1798.” It’s going to be a real page-turner! I’ve also just finished the editing on a traditional Gothic mystery called CURSE OF THE EXILE. It’s set in 1858 Scotland with a remote castle, a brooding laird, a prim and proper female librarian, hidden gold, a ghost called Mad Margaret and a couple of murders. It was great fun to write and is now flying around looking for a home. One most perspicacious reviewer once called me the logical heiress to Phyllis A. Whitney and Virginia Coffman. I hope she’s right!

What inspired your latest book?

Talking about THE EGYPTIAN FILE, it was a graffito in the tomb of Renni in the necropolis of El Kab, which is between Luxor and Aswan. It has been known since the Middle Ages and as soon as I saw it I knew it had to be in a book. Well, as books are organic and grow, it turned out that (with the help of Dr. Dirk Huyge, Director of the Belgian Archaeological Mission to El Kab) I had to invent both a new tomb and a new graffito to fit the needs of my story, but both have archaeological integrity if not physical reality. Most of the story for THE EGYPTIAN FILE came to me while The Husband and I were in Egypt for the month of January in 2010, but I couldn’t really work on it until I cleared the desk of more pressing projects. Our dear friend Dr. Stephen Harvey of Memphis has also been a great help, giving me all kinds of information on the great Pharaoh Ahmose, and in fact changed the direction (for the better!) of the last third of the story.

Beaded_to_Death_cover_2How does your family feel about your writing career?

I’m blessed to have been supported and encouraged by my family. My parents were both word people and loved the idea that I wrote, even in the years when I was concentrating more on traveling and having fun and adventures. When I married, after they were gone, I didn’t know how The Husband would react. He, like all of his family, are science people and writers are both alien and somewhat suspect beings. It took a while, but all of them have generally come around. The Husband is now an enthusiastic supporter, though occasionally bemused, but he’s behind me and my dreams all the way.

How has your experience with self-publishing been?

Costly and unremunerative. I am in the process of bringing out my backlist, but although they have been professionally edited, have dynamite covers and are quite good stories, they are just lying there like dead marmots. Of course, I don’t write sexy (to me sex on the page is a dead bore) so that could be part of the problem. However, as some wise person said, ‘this is a marathon and not a sprint’ so my books will be available for a good long time and who knows what will happen?

What was the deciding factor in self-publishing your book(s)? Did you decide on ebook or print only or both?

Thrift, and to a point, a hate of waste. I had the rights back for my old books; they were good books, edited by major houses, and they were just sitting there, gathering metaphoric dust on my hard drive and various other storage locations. I figured that whatever they earned would be more than I have now, so I put them up. Right now I’m only doing ebooks; someday I would like to go into print, but that is a big learning curve and quite frankly I do not have the time right now. Perhaps when The Husband becomes my assistant. At the moment I have too much to do, both in writing and the real world, and feel what time I do have is better spent writing.

All self-pubbed books are rumoured to be shoddily edited. What do you say to that?

Too many are, unfortunately. To me bad/lack of editing just screams ‘Amateur’! I can live with a typo or two (having had a long and intimate association with the Typo Gremlin myself) but scads of them, many misspelled words, lack of coherence in story form, pathetic characterization and, sadly, much more just says the “author” wasn’t doing his job. It’s sad today that so many people are seeking the cachet of “published author” by putting out unbelievable dreck. It makes all of us look bad and, unfortunately, there’s no way to stop them. They wouldn’t dream of doing brain surgery or replacing brake pads or whatever without any training, but ‘hey – anyone can write a book, right?’ It’s things like these that make me grieve for the days of the gatekeepers. At least then there was a pretence of maintaining standards. Sometimes I am very tempted to do a violence to those clueless ones.

TDODH_WEB_small_-_142k_2Do you have a view in your writing space? What does your space look like?

View? You’re kidding, right? I believe that writers should be looking at their writing, not a view. As for my writing space – ! Our house is large, but very weird; it was my mother’s dream house and is not like any other house anywhere as she designed every inch to her peculiar desires – very few but huge rooms, no front door, no side door, two back doors and no hallways at all. Most peculiar. The location, however, is top-notch. The Husband’s office is a small room off the sunroom where, before a minor remodeling, the heater used to live. My ‘office’ is a small desk against one wall in the guest room. It’s as far away from his talk radio and TV as I can get – if I moved any further away, my desk would have to be in the driveway!

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do to combat it?

Other than distraction from family tragedies, when all writing and most everything else goes by the board, not often. If it does strike I get up and get a cup of coffee, or go do my exercises in the hot tub, or walk around for a while and do something else. There’s nothing like housework (which I loathe worse than doing publicity) to make writing look attractive! Then I go back to the computer and, inspired or no, put down a word. Then another. Then another. And keep repeating. It might be absolute rubbish, but generally that primes the pump and I can throw the rubbish out later. If that doesn’t work, or if I’ve been doing nothing but rubbish for a day or two, I put that project aside for my subconscious to work on and take up another. It’s always good to have a back-up plan!

Janis_Susan_2Where can readers find you?

The best place to find my books is just about anywhere they choose to look. My books are at 5Star/Gale/Cengage, Carina Press, Amazon, Kobo, B&N, Smashwords, and most any other reputable online retailer… I can be found at either of my websites, and . Come on by and say hello!

5 thoughts on “An Interview with Janis Susan May Patterson

  1. Ah, Egypt. It’s such a fascinating place and I loved our visit a few years ago. It sounds as if you have a busy and full life. I enjoyed reading your interview. Happy writing.

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