March 2-3 the University of Arizona will host the annual Tucson Festival of Books. During the festival, people can meet and attend workshops and panels led by authors of all genres.
This year, J. A. Jance, a New York Times best-selling author, will be one of those guests. Jance has written an array of novels like the J.P. Beaumont series and the Joanna Brady series. The Daily Wildcat talked to Jance about her books and the panel she will present at.
Daily Wildcat: How did you find your inner storyteller?
J.A. Jance: During the years I was a school librarian on the Tohono O’odham Nation, I told 26 stories a week in K-6 classrooms. I’m six feet tall, and on storytelling days, I often wore a long-sleeved green dress. The kids called me “The Jolly Green Giant,” because they knew that when I came to visit it was going to be fun. Storytelling has been part of the human existence since people first huddled around a campfire to keep warm. The ancient sacred charge of the storyteller is to beguile the time, and I’m honored to know that people consider me more of a storyteller than a novelist.
DW: You mention that the "Wizard of Oz" led you to your love of writing. What was it about the book that captivated you?
JAJ: I was in the second grade at Greenway Elementary School in Bisbee. I wasn’t struck so much by the Wizard hiding behind the green curtain as I was by realizing that a living, breathing human being — L. Frank Baum — was hiding behind the words. From that moment on, I wanted to be a storyteller putting words on paper.
DW: Is this your first time at the Tucson Festival of Books? What are you looking forward to at this year's festival?
JAJ: As far as the TFOB is concerned, I’m 10 for 10. I’ve really missed wintering in Tucson this year, so I’m looking forward to some sun and will definitely be wearing sun screen.
DW: What about the mystery and thriller genres interested you?
JAJ: I’ve always loved mysteries, starting with Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, and nothing has ever changed my mind on that score.
DW: How long have you lived in Arizona?
JAJ: My family moved to Bisbee in 1949 when I was five. I grew up in Bisbee, attended the UA and then taught both in Tucson and out on the reservation for several years. I lived in Bisbee, Tucson and Phoenix for a period of time in the seventies and eighties before moving to Washington State in the early eighties, where I began my career as a writer. My husband and I have owned a home in El Encanto since 2001.
DW: How much do the geographical and cultural aspects of Arizona influence your work?
JAJ: People who have never visited Arizona assume it’s all saguaros and dust. I try to bring Arizona's real and very varied landscapes into focus whenever possible. The Walker Family books, starting with "Hour of the Hunter", include what I learned about the desert people while working on the reservation.
DW: Do you intentionally draw from your past, or does it happen involuntarily?
JAJ: Part of it is intentional and part of it is accidental. I wrote five books about J.P. Beaumont without realizing that his drinking problem grew out of my experiences with my first husband.
DW: What motivated you to keep going and pursue writing through the roadblocks you've faced?
JAJ: It was my dream. It’s what I wanted to do, it’s what I had to do, and now I get to live the dream.
DW: Can you tell me about any upcoming projects you're working on?
JAJ: I’m finishing up the next J.P. Beaumont book right now. Once I finish the book tour for the new Ali Reynolds book, "The A List," it’ll be time to start writing the next Ali.
DW: What advice would you give to an aspiring writer? How about an aspiring female writer?
JAJ: When I purchased my first computer in 1983, the guy who sold it to me fixed it so that when I booted it up in the morning, the words that flashed across the screen were these: A WRITER IS SOMEONE WHO HAS WRITTEN TODAY, and for the record, today I qualify.
To know more about Jance, her books or the panels visit the Tucson Festival of Books website.
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