Julia's conversation with J. A. Konrath

Julia, How have independent bookstores influenced your career?

Indies have MADE my career. Without independent booksellers laying my books in their customers’ hands and saying, “Read this,” I’d have to go back to --ugh--lawyering.

You left out the most important point of all: Booksellers are the smartest, nicest, and most attractive people on the planet. I named a major character in RUSTY NAIL after an indie bookseller, and have thanked many others in print. Anyone who sells more than 20 of my books, I put in the acknowledgements. It’s the least I can do.

Hey! I’m having an acknowledgement page in my next book for bookstores that sell more than 20 copies of To Darkness and To Death and send an e-mail letting me know. So you’re the guy I stole that idea from.

Switching gears, Is it true that each of your book titles is also an Episcopal hymn? Can we expect Kumbaya next?

Yes, all my titles are taken from hymns. Of which "Kumbaya," thankfully, is not one. Episcopalians do not sing anything that can be accompanied by a guitar. In fiction, however, they do solve murders and tangle with handsome police chiefs. At least, the Reverend Clare Fergusson does.

How about your titles? Why are they all named after drinks?

My hero is a cop named Jack Daniels. She’s in her forties, divorced, has a train wreck for a personal life, but is great at catching criminals. She works in Chicago—I like the gritty urban setting to play against the laugh aloud humor in the books.

What drew you to the small town environment?

The fact that if I tried to write about Chicago, I couldn't fake my way out of a paper bag? I know small towns. As a writer, I love the intimacy that comes from having all my characters' lives intertwined. Really, when you think about it, we all wind up writing about "small towns." No matter how huge the environment, human beings organize themselves into smaller communities.

That’s why I love writing a series. My community is a cast of returning characters—Jack’s overweight partner, her ex-husband, her current boyfriend, her elderly mom, her cat, her friends—it’s so much fun to revist them and watch them grow.

Speaking of series, just how many awards has your series received at this point?

Math has never been my strong point, trust me. But my editor tells me the Millers Kill books have won, or been shortlisted for the Edgar, Agatha, Anthony, Dilys, Nero, Gumshoe, Barry, Macavity and Romantic Times RC Awards. And thanks to the remarkable efforts of independent booksellers the books have appeared on ABA Booksense, IMBA, and NEBA bestseller lists, and been selected as Booksense Picks. You?

I’ve been shortlisted for the Anthony, Macavity, and Gumshoe, and won a Derringer and a Love Is Murder award. But more important than any award is hearing from readers. I get about 50 emails a week from fans, many of whom were hand sold by independent booksellers. WHISKEY SOUR was a Booksense Pick, a Booksense Hit, and twice an IMBA bestseller.

How about audio? Brilliance Audio does a wonderful job with my titles---each story is read by several people and acted out like a play. I even get to speak a few parts. Are you happy with your audio versions?

Oh, yes, Suzanne Toren’s Sound Library performances are terrific!

So we both know that readers love mysteries and thrillers. What other authors would you compare yourself to? My books are a cross between the humor of Janet Evanovich and the scares of James Patterson---readers laugh like crazy, then makes sure all the doors and windows are locked.

I tend to get compared to Dana Stabenow and Nevada Barr, who write incredibly realistic and daunting outdoor settings, and to Deborah Crombie, whose sleuthing pair has a tortured and tumultuous romantic relationship. In other words, cold hands, warm heart.

What’s next for J.A. Konrath?

Jacqueline Daniels will be back in RUSTY NAIL, coming in June from Hyperion Books (available through Time Warner books and all distributors) and Brilliance Audio.

What’s next for Julia Spencer-Fleming?

The next Millers Kill book, ALL MORTAL FLESH (ditto on distributors), is Minotaur’s hardcover lead title for September. And I’m contemplating a new series in romantic suspense. I was raised on romance novels, a fact I am publicly proud to proclaim.

JA Konrath

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“My books are a cross between the humor of Janet Evanovich and the scares of James Patterson---readers laugh like crazy, then makes sure all the doors and windows are locked.”