There is a big anthology on tour right now that includes some our favorite cozy mystery authors with their first in series. Sleuthing Women contains ten complete novels which makes it an incredible value and the chance to read some authors you may not know yet. Jonnie Jacobs, the author of Murder Among Neighbors, stopped by today to talk about her novel and shared a little about her life as a stay-at-home mom and as an attorney. Be sure to look for the prize guy below to enter to win a FREE copy of this amazing anthology!
So, here’s Jonnie.
I came to writing as a third career, but in my head and heart, I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. However, I never thought about actually being an author until I took a leave of absence from my job as an attorney when my second child was three. I started a book just as a creative diversion from full time “stay-at-home-mom.” That book didn’t sell (it was pretty awful actually), but I was hooked. Murder Among Neighbors, the first book of the Kate Austen series, came next, and then Shadow of Doubt, the first book in the Kali O’Brien series of legal mysteries. I continued with both series and then branched out to a stand-alone title several years later. My three most recent books have all been single-title books.
I enjoy writing (except on days when things are not going well) because it lets me create my own fictional world and characters to “play” with. I get to put words in people’s mouths and tell them what to do (something I never get to do in real life.) Things work out the way I want them to (again, not always true in real life.) And I get to explore relationships, personal secrets, and individual psychologies. I’m curious by nature (my family calls it being nosey), and by writing, I can dig into a multitude of “whys” and “what ifs.”
What inspired the idea behind your story?
When most of us picture the quiet, tree-lined streets of suburbia, the last thing that comes to mind is murder. Yet there are often secrets and conflicts and real drama going on behind those closed doors. And it’s the drama leading up to the crime—the fractured relationships, emotional tensions and private fears of everyday people that interest me. I chose an amateur sleuth because I’m fascinated by the things we know about friends and neighbors that it would take the police a bit of digging to uncover. I also wanted a sleuth who was personally connected to the crime, who felt pain and loss in the way a professional investigator wouldn’t. And I wanted to use that sensitivity to explore the ripple effect of crime.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
The book is completely fictional but I think all writers draw on personal experience to some degree. My characters are generally an amalgam of people I’ve met, read about, heard about from friends, and observed (like most authors, I’m a great people watcher). There’s always a bit of myself thrown in, too. I’m interested in people’s stories. I want to know what happened and why, and how the person felt about it.
In my case, I also drew on two particular incidents involving murder. In the first, a workman who was at my house killed another woman he was working for the next week. It was a heart-thudding, oh-my-gosh kind of realization. And secondly, I had an oblique acquaintance who was convicted of murder. These experiences didn’t work their way into the book directly, but did feed my interest in knowing the story behind the headline news. We often learn that so-and-so was arrested for a crime but we never learn the backstory and motivation. I wanted to write a book where I could dig into that.
What was harder, being a lawyer or a mother?
Both are hard in different ways, but being both at once was more than I wanted to take on. Writing provided a nice balance and a much more flexible schedule. And my children have, over the years, unsuspectingly provided me with some great “kid lines.”
I noticed you are an amateur photographer. Did you provide photos for any of your book covers?
I’m a very amateur photographer, but yes, I did provide photos for the ebook version of two of my books. Not because they are such great photographs, but because I couldn’t find a stock photo that was what I wanted. Intent to Harm, the sixth book in my Kali O’Brien series, takes place in the California Sierra near Lake Tahoe. In the opening scene, Kali meets with a mystery client who is shot before Kali has a chance to figure out who she is or what she wanted. The meeting took place in a mountain park, and all the photos I could find were either urban or eastern. During one of my favorite Sierra hikes, I saw exactly the setting I was looking for. I took a photo with my cell phone (while my husband grumbled about my lollygagging.) And a photo I took years ago of our then puppy is the cover of my short story, Doggone.
What advice would you give beginning writers?
Above all, write. I’ve met too many people who talk about writing but never actually write. You learn by doing, tweaking, editing, and re-writing. You can’t learn by simply thinking about it. Secondly, read. Read both broadly and in your chosen genre. Read critically as well as for enjoyment. See what works and doesn’t work, analyze how a writer you admire handles the things that give you trouble. And lastly, live life and keep your eyes open.
There are lots of books that cover techniques, and they are good to read, but read them with a healthy dose of skepticism. Classes and critique groups can also be a great help.
How can readers find your books?
My books are all available in print and digital formats, and, in increasing numbers, as audio books. They can be found at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, as well as through independent bookstores where they can be ordered if they aren’t in stock. All of the books were initially in libraries, although over time I’m sure copies have been lost.
Murder Among Neighbors is one of the books featured in Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries, a collection of full-length mysteries featuring murder and assorted mayhem by ten critically acclaimed, award-winning, and bestselling authors. Each novel in the set is the first book in an established multi-book series—a total of over 3,000 pages of reading pleasure for lovers of amateur sleuth, caper, and cozy mysteries, with a combined total of over 1700 reviews on Amazon, averaging 4 stars.
Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, an Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery by Lois Winston—Working mom Anastasia is clueless about her husband’s gambling addiction until he permanently cashes in his chips and her comfortable middle-class life craps out. He leaves her with staggering debt, his communist mother, and a loan shark demanding $50,000. Then she’s accused of murder…
Murder Among Neighbors, a Kate Austen Suburban Mystery by Jonnie Jacobs — When Kate Austen’s socialite neighbor, Pepper Livingston, is murdered, Kate becomes involved in a sea of steamy secrets that bring her face to face with shocking truths—and handsome detective Michael Stone.
Skeleton in a Dead Space, a Kelly O’Connell Mystery by Judy Alter—Real estate isn’t a dangerous profession until Kelly O’Connell stumbles over a skeleton and runs into serial killers and cold-blooded murderers in a home being renovated in Fort Worth. Kelly barges through life trying to keep from angering her policeman boyfriend Mike and protect her two young daughters.
In for a Penny, a Cleopatra Jones Mystery by Maggie Toussaint—Accountant Cleo faces an unwanted hazard when her golf ball lands on a dead banker. The cops think her BFF shot him, so Cleo sets out to prove them wrong. She ventures into the dating world, wrangles her teens, adopts the victim’s dog, and tries to rein in her mom…until the killer puts a target on Cleo’s back.
The Hydrogen Murder, a Periodic Table Mystery by Camille Minichino—A retired physicist returns to her hometown of Revere, Massachusetts and moves into an apartment above her friends’ funeral home. When she signs on to help the Police Department with a science-related homicide, she doesn’t realize she may have hundreds of cases ahead of her.
Retirement Can Be Murder, A Baby Boomer Mystery by Susan Santangelo—Carol Andrews dreads her husband Jim’s upcoming retirement more than a root canal without Novocain. She can’t imagine anything worse than having an at-home husband with time on his hands and nothing to fill it—until Jim is suspected of murdering his retirement coach.
Dead Air, A Talk Radio Mystery by Mary Kennedy—Psychologist Maggie Walsh moves from NY to Florida to become the host of WYME’s On the Couch with Maggie Walsh. When her guest, New Age prophet Guru Sanjay Gingii, turns up dead, her new roommate Lark becomes the prime suspect. Maggie must prove Lark innocent while dealing with a killer who needs more than just therapy.
A Dead Red Cadillac, A Dead Red Mystery by RP Dahlke—When her vintage Cadillac is found tail-fins up in a nearby lake, the police ask aero-ag pilot Lalla Bains why an elderly widowed piano teacher is found strapped in the driver’s seat. Lalla confronts suspects, informants, cross-dressers, drug-running crop dusters, and a crazy Chihuahua on her quest to find the killer.
Murder is a Family Business, an Alvarez Family Murder Mystery by Heather Haven—Just because a man cheats on his wife and makes Danny DeVito look tall, dark and handsome, is that any reason to kill him? The reluctant and quirky PI, Lee Alvarez, has her work cut out for her when the man is murdered on her watch. Of all the nerve.
Murder, Honey, a Carol Sabala Mystery by Vinnie Hansen—When the head chef collapses into baker Carol Sabala’s cookie dough, she is thrust into her first murder investigation. Suspects abound at Archibald’s, the swanky Santa Cruz restaurant where Carol works. The head chef cut a swath of people who wanted him dead from ex-lovers to bitter rivals to greedy relatives.
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Jonnie Jacobs is the author of fifteen novels. A former practicing attorney, she lives near San Francisco with her husband. Find her at http://www.jonniejacobs.com.