Julia interviews Jane K. Cleland

Author of the Josie Prescott Antiques & Appraisal mystery series. Visit the author's web site.

For those new to your best-selling traditional series, can you describe the Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries?

Josie Prescott is an antiques appraiser who uses her knowledge of antiques to solve crimes. The traditional series has been referred to as an Antiques Roadshow for mystery fans. Josie moved from New York City to New Hampshire after getting caught up in a big price-fixing scandal that rocked the high-end antiques auction houses; she was the whistle blower. She was shunned by her friends and chased out of her job and finally, she decided to start fresh and open her own business. Set on the rugged coast of New Hampshire, the books are packed with antiques lore, complex characters, and intricate plots. If readers enjoy Agatha Christie novels, they’ll probably enjoy the Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries! [Excerpts (both text and audio) of the books are available on my website: www.janecleland.net.]

What is ANTIQUES TO DIE FOR all about?

After setting up shop as an antiques appraiser, Josie Prescott’s life has not gone according to plan: business is booming and she has good friends and a promising romance but dead bodies keep crossing her path. And now, in Antiques to Die For, a friend is killed just hours after confiding a secret to Josie, leaving a bereaved sister who reminds Josie of herself when her mother died.

It turns out that the victim had other secrets, too: a mysterious treasure she told her sister she was leaving behind and a secret admirer who now seems to be turning his creepy attention to Josie.

Can you imagine what it would be like to be a 12-year old orphan whose sister is murdered? Can you imagine what it would be like if your sister told you that you owned a treasure a priceless antique but you don’t know what it is or where it is?

Set on the beautiful and rugged New Hampshire coastline, Antiques to Die For is filled with antiques lore and complex plot twists. In the end, using her knowledge of antiques, Josie finds the valuable treasure and solves the crime. And in doing so, she gives a young girl hope.

A text and downloadable podcast of Antiques to Die For, and a book trailer, are available on my website: www.janecleland.net

I enjoy your website, www.janecleland.net . How does your interactive antique appraisal feature work?

“What’s It Worth? You Be the Judge” challenges visitors to pit their antiques appraisal skills against those of professionals. Each week we post photos and brief descriptions of three objects. Once you decide each item’s value, you can click over and compare your appraisal to that of the professionals at the world-renowned auction house, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers. It’s quick, easy, free, and fun! I invite folks to give it a whirl!

There are other fun elements on my website, too all for free: terrific book club discussion questions (starting with the all-important decision about which martini to prepare!); info-packed, fun newsletters; photos of Josie’s world; mom’s recipes; and Josie’s dad’s sayings, to name a few.

What’s your writing process? Outline or organic?

In Antiques to Die For, I wrote organically. Revising it became a nightmare because I created too many tangents and got myself distracted by engaging, but essentially irrelevant, characters. But I gotta say, I’m thrilled with the final product and the book is getting great reviews. It was a lot of work, but I’m pleased to report that I found my way and was able to tell the story I wanted to tell. It’s very gratifying to work that hard and see a positive outcome. An excerpt (both text and audio) is available on my website: www.janecleland.net.

For Josie #4 (April 2009, tentatively titled Killer Keepsakes), I wrote a detailed synopsis. It ran almost 40 pages. It was the first time I’d ever attempted to create an outline of this complexity. I’m very glad I did so. It provided such a solid structure, I could weave in additional characters and subplots without worrying that I would lose my way.

How did it feel to be nominated for an Agatha award with your first novel, the exceptional CONSIGNED TO DEATH?

Wow! You think Consigned to Death was exceptional?! Thank you, Julia. I was completely thrilled at the Agatha nomination. Thrilled, happy, and proud. (An excerpt is available on my website: www.janecleland.net )

What projects are occupying Jane K. Cleland at the moment?

I’m finishing up Josie #4 (Killer Keepsakes); planning the synopses for Josie #5 and Josie #6; writing a Josie short story; toying with a thriller I’d like to write called Night Stars; and getting ready to tour with Antiques to Die For. I plan on visiting many independent mystery bookstores, attending major mystery conferences and some smaller ones (I’m the Guest of Honor at this June’s Deadly Ink conference in Parsippany, NJ. www.deadlyink.com ), and guest-blogging.

What pithy words of advice would you offer for newbie crime fiction writers just starting out?

(1) Listen to your editor as if you were a reporter, and don’t get defensive. Most people say they want feedback, but in my experience, they don’t mean it; what they want is affirmation. (2) Adhere to the structure and conventions of the sub-genre you want to write in. Your readers want you to do so. (3) Try to end each chapter with a cliffhanger. Aim to create a page-turner.

Who are some new voices you enjoy in crime fiction?

So many authors are new to me, even if they’re not new-new. I love discovering fresh voices. I don’t read dark, grisly, depressing novels, so a lot of fine writers are off limits to me. I discovered your books, Julia, this year, and immediately became a huge fan. As you know I chair the literary awards for the Wolfe Pack. We’re the folks who give out the Nero. When the votes were tallied and I learned that you won for All Mortal Flesh, I was delighted!

Who were your literary influences growing up?

Nancy Drew. Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels. Robert B. Parker. Ed McBain. Georgette Heyer.

You chair The Wolfe Pack’s Literary Awards. These are the folks who give out the Nero Award and the new Black Orchid Novella Award in cooperation with Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. The Wolfe Pack is the official Nero Wolfe literary society. How did that come about?

I’ve been an avid member of The Wolfe Pack for longer than I can remember something like 25 years. I adore our book discussions and our annual Winter Banquet is so much fun it’s a highlight of my year. After the former chair decided to move on to other activities, I got drafted. I coordinate the awards I’m not a reader for either the Nero or the BONA I oversee the process. I love it! It is such an honor to award books that honor the literary tradition of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories. Anyone interested in the Wolfe Pack can find out more information at www.nerowolfe.org.

I didn’t grow up considering myself a writer. When and how did you discover your inner muse?

I wrote my first novel when I was seven, and I confess that the storyline reflected the fact that I lacked a certain worldly knowledge: The story revolved around a cow who was having trouble crossing a state line. (Don’t ask.) From that point on, I wrote off and on all the time, but it wasn’t until I reached my middle years that I was willing to work at writing. Up until then, I waited for inspiration. Now I get up in the morning and go to work. It’s a very different mindset.

Jane Cleland

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“I wrote my first novel when I was seven, and I confess that the storyline reflected the fact that I lacked a certain worldly knowledge: The story revolved around a cow who was having trouble crossing a state line. (Don’t ask.) From that point on, I wrote off and on all the time, but it wasn’t until I reached my middle years that I was willing to work at writing. Up until then, I waited for inspiration. Now I get up in the morning and go to work. It’s a very different mindset.”