by Gloria Feit
& Lorie Lewis Ham
This week we have a review of mystery author Janet Dawson’s latest book What You Wish For, an interview with Janet, and a chance to win a copy of the book-details on entering at the end of this post. You can also purchase this book from Mysterious Galaxy and a portion of the sales will go to support KRL.
What You Wish For by Janet Dawson
Review by Gloria Feit
Lindsey Page, first introduced to readers by this author as a friend of the protagonist PI Jeri Howard in Witness to Evil, one of ten books in that series, returns here as one of four women, friends since their college days in Berkeley, California, around whom the story revolves. Lindsey is a historian who usually writes about the 19th century American west, but whose current work-in-progress is a study of Latin American women who had emigrated to the US as a result of wars and upheavals in their native countries. One of her interviewees is a Salvadoran woman who begs Lindsey to help her find her son, taken from her at the age of two in the midst of a horrendous attack which destroyed her village and slaughtered most of its inhabitants.
The friendship of Lindsey, Gretchen, Claire and Annabel was forged when they lived in the same house while attending college. Gretchen (whose oldest child, now ready to start college, was an adoptee) has been working with an adoptive parents organization. She and Claire are cousins, both on the board of a corporation founded by their fathers
The book is equal parts family rifts, corporate intrigue and power plays, as well as images of a war-torn and strife-ridden foreign landscape. It starts out fairly slowly as the groundwork is laid with details of each of the women’s backgrounds and the path of their friendship over the years. Then the pace picks up, as does the suspense, when the frequent flashbacks to Berkeley in the ‘70s and El Salvador in the late ‘80s fill in gaps in the narrative. Although coincidence initially strained credulity somewhat, that soon fades as the reader is pulled along into the story. Dual themes have to do with the past that comes back to haunt one in later years, as well as the one implied by the title: Be careful what you wish for, you might not be happy with the result.
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Interview with Janet Dawson
Lorie: How long have you been writing?
Janet: From an early age. When I was in elementary school I wrote stories. At one point, I think I was in the 5th grade, I wrote what I called a novel, which was a short story, and it was a mystery. About that time I wrote a play based on a book I’d read, and my teacher was so impressed by that she had our class perform it.
Lorie: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? A little about it?
Janet: Kindred Crime came out in June 1990. My protagonist, an Oakland, CA private eye named Jeri Howard, gets involved in a long-ago murder in her hometown. I have now written a total of 10 in the series.
Lorie: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Janet: Other than that play I wrote in grade school and some poetry in college, yes, mostly mysteries.
Lorie: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Please tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Jane: The setting of What You Wish For is the Bay Area and the characters are more like me, women who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s. They have lots of baggage. Don’t we all? I write about the Bay Area, and Northern California, because I’m here and I can get to the places I write about.
Lorie: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Janet: Both. I definitely want to keep people turning the pages but I also want them to find out about things that have engaged me while writing the book.
Lorie: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Janet: I get up early in the morning and write before going to work. I have been doing this for 30 years. If I’m knee-deep in a book I also put in some writing time on the weekends.
Lorie: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Janet: I wouldn’t call it an outline. When I start a book, I sit at the computer and write whatever comes into my head, and I follow along wherever the train of thought leads me. As that happens I find that the plot and the characters take shape. Then I’ll write a synopsis of sorts that is rather vague in places. One thing I find useful is in the middle of the book, I write a more detailed chapter-by-chapter synopsis. That helps me see where I have been and usually helps me figure out what I need to do to get to the end.
Lorie: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Janet: Morning. I’m fresher, there are fewer distractions. If I could just get the cat to quit standing in front of the monitor.
Lorie: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Janet: Actually, I had a stroke of serendipity, right-place-at-the-right-time, in that I won the St. Martin’s Press Private Eye Writers Best First Private Eye contest. That’s a mouthful.
Lorie: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Janet: It’s related to the aforementioned contest. After I entered it I received a photocopy of my manuscript back with a form rejection letter, as though I’d sent the manuscript in unsolicited. So I figured I hadn’t won the contest and I’d move on. A couple of weeks later I got the phone call telling me I’d won.
Lorie: Future writing goals?
Janet: I have about six or seven plots I’d like to get on paper. A couple of historical novels, no mystery involved.
Lorie: Writing heroes?
Janet: Ross Macdonald, Dick Francis
Lorie: What kind of research do you do?
Janet: I want to sound like I know what I’m writing about so I do lots of research. For Witness to Evil, I went to Bakersfield–twice! (Hey, I like Bakersfield.) For A Killing at the Track, the Jeri Howard horseracing mystery, I hung out at the track with a woman trainer. The book I just finished, Death Rides the Zephyr, takes place on the train called the California Zephyr back in 1952, so I interviewed people, read a lot, hung out at train museums, and even drove a locomotive at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola, CA.
Lorie: What do you read?
Janet: Mysteries and history.
Lorie: Favorite TV or movies?
Janet: Lots of favorites. Movies: The first two DVDs I bought were The Magnificent Seven and Some Like It Hot. Lately I’ve been going through a 1950s movie phase. I like a good western and a good war movie. TV: I hang out at Masterpiece Theatre: Upstairs, Downstairs, Poldark, The Jewel in the Crown, all those Peter Wimseys with Ian Carmichael. And both The Winds of War and War and Remembrance.
Lorie: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Janet: Butt on chair, fingers on keyboard, on a regular basis.
Lorie: How do you feel about the growing popularity of e-books?
Janet: I think it’s great. I’ve got all my backlist and all my short stories available as e-books.
Lorie: Do you read e-books yourself?
Janet: Yes, got my Kindle loaded. I’m discovering all sorts of authors that way, and I don’t have to shelve them.
Lorie: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
Janet: Yes, but I don’t check the last two very often. Website is www.janetdawson.com and I blog whenever I feel like it.
Lorie: How do you compete in an overcrowded market?
Jane: Write, write, write. Write the best book I can. And get it out there.
To enter to win a copy of What You Wish For, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Wish”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 24, 2012. U.S. residents only.
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