With women's rights at the forefront of many conversations these past few weeks, it may be eye-opening for younger women to hear stories from the early movements. And, as a self-proclaimed early adopter of feminism, New York Times bestselling author J.A. Jance brings a wealth of advice and stories to writers of any age.
Best known for her Seattle-based J.P. Beaumont series, Jance has an impressive collection of published books under her belt considering her first published book - a book of poetry - came at the age of 40. She is also known for her Ali Reynolds series and five interrelated thrillers about the Walker family. But she's quick to let you know, age is just a number, and like her popular character J.P. Beaumont, there's still more to come from this prolific writer.
You can hear J.A. Jance talk about her latest J.P. Beaumont installment, "Proof of Life," at 11:20 a.m. Feb. 17 at the Savannah Theatre as part of the Savannah Book Festival.
Do Savannah had a chance to get some insight from Jance on her upcoming trip to Savannah, what's next for "Beau" and her struggles to become a published author.
Have you ever been to Savannah?
Jance: This will be my second time at the festival, although I don't remember which year it was when I came. It was a long time ago â€¦ I went to one of the cooking demonstrations - by Paula Deen - and enjoyed it immensely. I was also in the middle of a book tour, as I remember, so I spent some time hiding out in my very nice hotel room. This time I will be doing an event in West Palm Beach and visiting relatives in Aiken, S.C., prior to the festival.
You've just released "Proof of Life." What can you tell fans about this new J.P. Beaumont novel?
Jance: "Proof of Life" is Beaumont No. 23. If you read to the end, you'll learn that Beau discovers there's life in the old guy yet, and he definitely plans to continue.
Do readers often assume a male narrator in a novel is written by a man? Any thoughts on that? Was that a tough sell to your agent in the beginning?
Jance: When I gave my agent the first Beaumont manuscript in 1983, she read it and then changed the title page from "Until Proven Guilty" by Judith A. Jance to "Until Proven Guilty" by J.A. Jance. The second editor who read it called my agent and said, "The guy who wrote 'Until Proven Guilty' is a good writer." She replied, "What would you say if I told you the guy who wrote 'Until Proven Guilty' is a woman?" His response? "I'd say she was a hell of a good writer."
Later, when the marketing people got hold of the manuscript, they decided that male readers wouldn't accept a police procedural written by a woman, so Judith A. Jance became J.A., and the rest is history.
From 1985 on, my next-door neighbor on the shelves in libraries and bookstores have been P.D. James (Phyllis Dorothy), who had to use her initial for the same reason a generation and a half earlier.
No matter, when it comes to signing books, J.A. is way easier than Judith Ann.
I read your bio; you talk about the trouble you had just getting accepted to a writing program as a woman and the struggles to become a published writer. What do you think about today's climate? What advice do you have or have you given to women who want to become writers?
Jance: Being a beginning writer is tough no matter what. My first book, a book of poetry, was published when I was 40, and my first mystery came out when I was 41. As Helen Reddy would say, "It's been a long hard climb."
I was an early adopter feminist in the '60s, and in the '70s I walked 10 miles for the Equal Rights Amendment in Tucson in August on the occasion of Susan B. Anthony's birthday. At the time, I was busy viewing all men as the enemy as opposed to taking a long hard look at the particular man I had chosen to marry.
There are still inequities in the system; in the book reviewing media, for example. Although 20 or so of my books have appeared in the Top 10 on the New York Times list, the only time I was ever reviewed by the New York Times was a snarky mention back in the '80s when I was still doing original paperbacks.
One of the organizations that addresses the reviewing situation is Sisters in Crime, of which I am a proud member.
What will you talk about at the festival?
Jance: It's important to know who my audience is at the time. If I walk into a roomful of people who have never heard of me (highly possible!), I'll send the talk in one direction. If I have a roomful of devoted readers, we'll be old friends from the start and the talk will go in another direction. Fortunately, I don't require a teleprompter.
I love supporting reading, and book festivals are devoted to doing just that. I'm also looking forward to being part of the festival's school outreach.
Book: "Proof of Life"
When: 11:20 a.m. Feb. 17
Where: Savannah Theatre, 222 Bull St.