by Lorie Lewis Ham,
& Terell Byrd
As we finish up our On The Road to Left Coast Crime 2012 series this week we have with us mystery author Jonnie Jacobs. Not only do we chat with her, but we have a review of her latest book Paradise Falls & at the end of this post there are instructions on how to enter for a chance to win a copy of the book! Hope to see many of you at LCC next week! And while you are here go back and check out some of the other authors we talked to who will be at LCC this year, some LCC tips & panel assignments from other author LCC attendees in this week’s issue and come back Wednesday night where everyone who is part of the Musical Mysteries panel at LCC will have their book reviewed!
Paradise Falls by Jonnie Jacobs
Review by Terell Byrd
It has become a familiar front page story: Teenager Disappears in Broad Daylight, No Witnesses. All of us shiver at the newspaper headline then go on eating breakfast and living our lives. We never believe it will be our son or daughter. What if you are the parent of the missing child? What is it like to be at the center of the storm of police, press and lawyers? How do you live through the greatest of terrors, the deepest of sorrows? In this stand alone novel we meet Grace Whittington, mother to Caitlin, fifteen, last seen waiting for a ride home from school.
Caitlin is the second girl to go missing in less than six months. The residents of Paradise Falls begin to talk about a serial killer. Grace and her blended family (second husband Carl, stepdaughter Lucy and stepson Adam) begin to look at friends and acquaintances and wonder who might have taken Caitlin. Eventually Grace starts to suspect her own stepson, Adam.
Paradise Falls Detective Rayna Godwin is assigned to the case. She did not find any real leads to a suspect in the disappearance of the first girl and has extra pressure from the press and her superiors to find the culprit. Rayna has her own demons. She left San Jose to find a job in an area with a lower crime rate. Rayna also wanted to leave behind the memories of the murder of her daughter at eleven years of age.
When another girl vanishes, the race to find the wolf in the quiet fold of Paradise Falls accelerates to a dangerous speed. Grace’s happy family life shatters as loyalties to her daughter and Carl’s to his children put them on opposite sides of the case. Rayna finds herself in personal and professional danger. The story takes some rapid, surprising twists and turns before it hits the stunning conclusion.
This is the first book I have read that deals with the problems experienced by losing a child in a mysterious manner. Grace has the emotions and problems of a real mother who does not know what happened to her daughter. Particularly effective is the chapter outlining her first day back at work. There are some fascinating chapters from the point of view of Adam and Detective Rayna Godwin also. Rayna gives us the long term emotions and permanent damage done to the heart by the death of a child.
This is a thoughtful, powerful story that tackles serious subject matter. I looked at Jonnie Jacob’s website and found that this is her thirteenth book. I am looking forward to reading the first twelve and many more.
Interview with Jonnie Jacobs
Lorie: How long have you been writing?
Jonnie: I’ve been writing pretty much my entire life but I never considered writing for publication until the early 1990s when I took a leave of absence from my job to spend time with my kids. The first book I wrote (never published) was something I did just for fun because I found my patience for children’s play was more limited than I thought!
Lorie: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? A little about it?
Jonnie: The first book was Murder Among Neighbors, the first in the Kate Austen suburban mystery series. It came out 1994. With her husband off in Europe “finding himself,” Kate’s world is suddenly transformed by the murder of her neighbor and fellow carpooler and the arrival of handsome homicide detective Michael Stone.
There are now three more books in the Kate Austen series, seven Kali O’Brien legal mysteries, and two stand-alones.
Lorie: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Jonnie: All of my published books and short stories have been mystery or suspense books. Because I enjoy reading non-mysteries also, I try to include personal stories and interpersonal drama as part of the mystery plot. I use the mystery plot as the frame on which to explore human drama.
Lorie: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Can you tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book?
Jonnie: The most recent book is Paradise Falls, which just came out this March (2012). The main characters are Grace Whittington, a mother who suspects her teenage stepson in the disappearance of her daughter, and Rayna Godwin, the detective on the case who struggles with her memories of her own daughter’s murder and with her complicated relationship with Neal Cody, the FBI agent sent to help with what’s beginning to look like the work of a serial killer. The book is set in a fictional small town in Oregon.
Lorie: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Jonnie: To entertain, but also, hopefully, to raise questions what makes us tick as humans.
Lorie: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Jonnie: I used to have a very regular writing schedule, but when my husband retired, he threw a monkey wrench in all of it! Now I have to be more flexible because my days are never all the same.
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?
Jonnie: I don’t outline, although I wish I could, and every time I finish a book, I promise myself that next time I will outline. But I find I can’t because my mind doesn’t work in the abstract. I have to put the characters into situations and develop the story as we all move through it. That said I do generally have an idea what the book is about, where I’m headed in the end, and a few major plot points along the way.
Lorie: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Jonnie: Mornings and afternoons. I’m a zombie at night.
Lorie: There are too many of you morning people out there lol Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Jonnie: The first book I wrote has never been published, despite querying a long list of agents and publishers. But my second book, and first published, found a home relatively easily. A lot of it is luck, I think.
Lorie: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Jonnie: Most rejection letters, especially today with the advent of email, are kind and encouraging form letters. But early on I’d sent a written query to an agent and received my letter by return mail with a big, red NO scrawled across the front.
Lorie: Most interesting book signing story–in a bookstore or other venue?
Jonnie: The most memorable book signing was at a trade show where my publisher was giving away copies of my book for free. I had the longest signing line I’ve ever had and felt like a celebrity.
Lorie: Future writing goals?
Jonnie: I want every book to be different and exiting to me.
Lorie: What kind of research do you do?
Jonnie: Only what is necessary. For my last book, The Next Victim, I had to research the porn market. It was a real eye-opener.
Lorie: What do you read?
Jonnie: Mysteries, women’s fiction, historical fiction–all sorts of books, but mostly it’s all fiction.
Lorie: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Jonnie: Keep at it. Read, write, and live life with your eyes open.
Lorie: How do you feel about the growing popularity of e-books? Do you read e-books yourself?
Jonnie: I have been slow to adopt e-reading myself, although I now have a Kindle and enjoy reading books on it. All things being equal, I still prefer a hard copy book, but there are many, many people who do not. My new book is not yet in digital format (publisher’s doing, not mine) and believe me, I heard from readers who aren’t happy about that!
Lorie: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
Jonnie: I love to hear from readers. You can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or catch me on the web at http://www.jonniejacobs.com
Lorie: How do you compete in an overcrowded market?
Jonnie: It’s difficult because I’m a shy person and reticent about getting my name out to the public. I have author friends who are active bloggers and I think that’s an excellent way to reach an interested public.
Lorie: Is this your first Left Coast? If not, what kind of tips would you give to people attending their first one?
Jonnie: I’ve been attending LCC for years. My advice (which I did not follow myself) is to open up and talk to people. I still attend panels because I find them interesting and I learn about authors who are new to me.
Lorie: And what do you like best about Left Coast conferences?
Jonnie: It’s a nice conference because it’s not overwhelming or stand-offish.
Lorie: What do you enjoy most or are you most looking forward to at Left Coast?
Jonnie: Panels and catching up with friends.
Jonnie’s panel at LCC is at 10 a.m. on Saturday and called Barely Legal.
To enter to win a copy of Paradise Falls, simply email KRL at email@example.com with the subject line “Paradise”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 31, 2012. U.S. residents only.
Check out our other On The Road to Left Coast 2012 interviews with mystery author Cindy Sample & and L.F. Crawford, interview with Lee Goldberg, an interview with Michael Orenduff, Carola Dunn, Juliet Blackwell, and D.P. Lyle, along with an article on Left Coast Crime‘s past and present.