Lisa Jackson (Author - 'Lost Souls')
Lisa Jackson was born in a small timber town in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. To hear her tell it, she had a magical childhood filled with swimming, riding horses, hanging out with friends at the river and generally chasing rainbows.
Actually, after high school, she went on to college where she studied English and never really thought she'd be a writer. She spent a few years working in banks, insurance companies and trust companies, then quit all that business stuff to have a couple of babies.
But lo and behold, her only sibling suggested they start writing a book, a romance novel no less. LJ's immediate response was "NO WAY." But then she took a second look at her current career (baby-sitting a dozen or so toddlers) and she rethought her options!
When her sister came by to pick up her daughter (LJ's niece) Lisa had whipped out seven pages of 'STORMY SURRENDER,' which, ultimately, you might guess, never sold. But LJ and Sis were pretty determined. So they kept at it. Her sister sold first and the door cracked open. LJ didn't give up.
A year or so later, she sold her first novel, snagged the nom-DE-plume Lisa Jackson and, the rest, as they say, was history. 'A TWIST OF FATE,' from Silhouette Special Edition was on the book store shelves a year and a half later.
Now she has about 50 books for Silhouette under her belt, around 12 bigger mainstream romantic suspense novels for Zebra and 8 or so medieval stories of adventure and romance from various publishers.
The author of such thrillers as 'HOT BLOODED,' 'COLD BLOODED,' 'THE NIGHT BEFORE,' 'THE MORNING AFTER,' 'FINAL SCREAM,' and both 'FATAL BURN' and 'SHIVER,' Lisa's latest book 'LOST SOULS' is finally now out on Kensington Books.
Chatting recently with Lisa taking it from the top and I first wondered what had initially brought her into the world of fictional writing? "From the top is a long, long time ago in a small town far away . . . actually my sister, fellow author, Nancy Bush, was the one who suggested we start writing fiction. The year was 1981 and she'd read an article in Time magazine about young mothers who, after the last diaper was washed (remember 1981) and the last bottle rinsed, and the baby fast asleep, would drag out their typewriters and write romance novels. Nancy thought we could do the same and I thought not."
"We'd never even read a romance novel. However, the next day at my job (babysitting as I was a stay-at-home mom), I decided she was right. Taking care of toddlers wasn't exactly a great career path, so I wrote a prologue and when she picked up her daughter, I handed her the diaper bag, my niece and the first seven pages of Stormy Surrender. We did finish that book with another friend, sent it out, and it was rejected all over New York. Fortunately, Nancy and I are both stubborn and we split up wrote separate novels and eventually both sold, Nancy first."
For the Average Joe who may not have heard of you and was thinking of buying some of your other written novels which one would you ask them to pick up and read first ... and why? "I would suggest 'SHIVER.' It's one of my favorite books, set in New Orleans and an abandoned mental hospital. It has several themes running through it and the characters are popular. There's kind of a story within a story, a mystery in the past that dovetails into the mystery of the present. 'SHIVER' is creepy, sexy and chilling. I loved writing that book!"
Please tell us more about your new book, 'Lost Souls' and what your public can expect from it? "Oh, 'LOST SOULS' is a fun book set in post-Katrina Louisiana. The heroine is Kristi Bentz who's at the crossroads of her life. She wants to be a serious crime writer and, over her father's protests, has gone back to grad school at her alma mater, All Saints College in Baton Rouge."
"On the campus, she discovers an old boyfriend is now her professor and she uncovers a secret cult that seems to be involved with vampires and a group of missing coeds. Believe me, Kristi's hands are full. Readers can get a glimpse of both 'ABSOLUTE FEAR' and 'LOST SOULS' at www.LisaJackson.com, where I've posted excerpts and even a map of the All Saints campus."
Being that the story for 'Absolute Fear' is the sequel to 'Shiver,' I'm wondering if you 'write' your sequels to each story in your head even before the story you're then currently writing has even allowed its ink to dry? "Well, not exactly. But it's true that when I'm in the "plotting the book" mode, the stories flow freely and I'm so invested in the characters that I do see the next story."
With a story line that includes a mounting body count along with some unexpected twists and turns, are there ever points in your writing days where after you've written a grim paragraph you have to sit back, shake your head and wonder just where all the said grimness came from?! "Well, yeah. I scare myself and I wonder about the way I can get into the killer's viewpoint. It's a trick, just like I can get into a man's viewpoint or a cop's viewpoint, even though I'm neither. The killer's perspective is disturbing, but has to be, in order for the character to be believable. That said, I admit that after a particularly intense scene, I get up, walk around and spend time with my dogs. I've scared myself to the point that I actually jump or gasp as the scene unfolds. Weird, I know, but true. That's when I know I've nailed the scene."
Indeed, where does it all come from, this grim, deathly constructed world that you put down on paper?! Was there ever a time in your life where such travesties were part and parcel of your real life, perhaps? "Not at all, thank God. I had such a normal, good, innocent upbringing. Loving parents, loving grandparents, loving great-grandparents in a small lumber town in the 50's and 60's. My folks were upper middle class for the town and we had tons of fun with the neighbor kids. I got into my share of trouble, but nothing devastating. I just have a great imagination and I'm sensitive. I can "feel" things though I've never personally experienced them. I've been blessed all my life."
With regard the setting of New Orleans, and admittedly being that it's not a huge city, you still manage to have all these people related to each! Be honest, is that even slightly credible in this day and age? "Well, it is fiction and I did grow up in a small town. I don't believe it's that much of a reach. Slightly credible, you betcha."
It has been pointed out to me - by a fellow reader of 'Absolute Fear' - that this continuing saga of the patients and lunatics still rambling around that old asylum is perhaps getting a bit stretched to say the least. And that former patients becoming nurses and nuns at the same institution where they were incarcerated for treatment was a tad bit over the top! What are your own thoughts on this though? "I loved it! Again, it's fiction and it's fun and exciting. I guess I could have peppered the story with insurance agents, accountants and farmers."
With regard 'Almost Dead,' the follow up to 'If Only She Knew' you brought back some of your favorite characters and returned to San Francisco (one of your favorite cities). But, if you hadn't been back there yourself in real life for a while, would you ever take a trip there to see what had been newly constructed or torn down to keep the ambiance of the book updated, etc.? "I love to visit the cities I write about and I try to as often as time allows. In the case of San Francisco, it's easy. I live on the west coast and have friends and family who live in the bay area, so I do keep up."
It seems in this book that while the mystery is strong you've gone back more towards your romance roots. Do you have alternate book writing styles where murder/plot twists/grim stuff is all good for one book, but the next has to be lighter, contain more romance to balance things out, perhaps? "I think each book dictates how it will be written. Some are more serious, others lighter. I try to let my characters dictate the "tone" of the book. Sometimes a romance is natural, other times it just can't happen. I never think about "balancing out" the amount of romance or humor or mystery; I just write the book the way I feel it should be written."
At times your stories are very reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock movies. Were you ever a big fan of the God of Mystery? 'I love Alfred Hitchcock, though I haven't seen one of his movies in over thirty years. As a teenager, though, I thought they were the best and I still think he had a handle on what exactly is suspense."
Finally, have you ever had writer's block? If so, when was the last time, how long for and how did you bring yourself out of it?! "Oh, it comes from time to time. Writer's block for me usually indicates a problem in the story, not the scene where the block occurs, but earlier on. I always walk away from the computer, think about it, try going at the scene from another character's point of view and dissect what exactly is wrong with the scene. Often times I throw it out entirely and start over. But I never let it cripple me; it can't. This is my job."
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Lisa's new book 'LOST SOULS,' just answer this easy question: Which one of Lisa's past books begins in a rambling plantation house on the sultry shores of Lake Ponchartrain, where popular late-night radio host Dr. Samantha Leeds receives a threatening crank call?!
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these great new and AUTOGRAPHED books! Just send us an e:mail here before July 1st with your answer and the subject title 'LISA JACKSON SIGNED BOOKs' to: firstname.lastname@example.org
'Lost Souls' Book Purchase Link
'Final Scream' Book Purchase Link
'Fatal Burn' Book Purchase Link
'Shiver' Book Purchase Link
Lisa Jackson photo credit: Sigrid Estrada
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