I want to welcome Janis Susan May, also known as Janis Patterson. First I’d love you to introduce yourself.
Hello, everyone. I’m a writer, though I prefer to tell people, when they ask what I do, that I kill people. It’s so funny to see their reactions until I relent and tell them I’m a mystery writer. I’m a seventh-generation Texan who lived off and on in Mexico for a few years. I’m an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist. The Husband and I met through our mutual interest in Egyptology. The North Texas Chapter of the American Research Center in Egypt was begun in my den; I began, published and edited the NT/ARCE Newsletter (now retitled Menhedj) and for the nine years of my reign (word chosen deliberately) was the only monthly publication for ARCE in the world. I also got it catalogued as a scholarly journal in universities and museums around the globe. I sold my first novel in 1979. I am one of the original 40 or so women who founded RWA in 1980 and have maintained my charter membership. I sit on the Southwest Region board of MWA, and am a member of Author’s Guild, Sisters in Crime and NINC. The Husband and I share our Texas home with a varying number of rescued furbabies.
Tell us about your latest release.
I’ve just released a tasty traditional Gothic romance called CURSE OF THE EXILE. It’s set primarily in Scotland during the 1860s. Angelina Barstow had a varied and generally unloved growing up, finally creating a niche for herself as her father’s assistant. A librarian with a wandering eye, her father is content to let her do most of the work while he plays around. They go to a moldering castle in Scotland where there are two very attractive brothers, an unscrupulous mushroom of a cit who wants to buy the castle, a family legend of a ghost and… ah, but I don’t want to tell too much. It’s a great romp, and one lovely reviewer compared me to Victoria Holt and Virginia Coffman. This was written as Janis Susan May.
Janis Patterson has a new release in about three weeks – a cozy mystery called MURDER AND MISS WRIGHT. It’s a contemporary set at a scholarly Egyptololgy conference. There’s antiquity smuggling, three murders, an ancient piece of jewelry… simply delicious!
Now I have a few questions for you – I have found readers do like to know fun things about us writers.
1.) Who is your favorite villain – it can be from a book (even one of yours), movie or TV show. And why?
Can he be from real life? In my long-ago wild single days, I dated this perfectly lovely Turkish man. He was fun and exciting and was the quintessential bad boy. There was an air of danger about him and it was sexier than any cologne you could think of. I didn’t know what he did, but he either had plenty of money to burn or was so flat broke I had to feed him. I was young and stupid and thought that exciting. He was a fascinating creature – we would talk almost every night over the phone for hours. He had been just about everywhere in the world and had the gift of telling stories that lived so much you felt you had been there yourself. I knew he wasn’t a keeper, but he was a very thrilling ‘right for now.’ Then one day he came by the house in a dreadful hurry and asked me if I had any money. I was poor, but had about a hundred dollars, which I gave him. He then kissed me and would have gone, but I held on to him and demanded to know what was going on. It seemed he had killed a man and the police were after him. He had to leave the country. I found out later it wasn’t just one man – my sweet and very charming bad boy was an international hit man.
Ideally I never would have seen him again, but fate intervened and on one of my trips to the Middle East (with my mother, no less!) we met again. It was a disaster. He was now fat and bourgeois and as much of a dead bore as I could imagine. We were in the same town for two days, but my mother’s and his wife’s presences made any intimacy impossible. We did have a lovely dinner, the four of us, and we two did get to have a sweet private conversation while we took a tour of the harbor on his boat, and he did put his car (a top of the line Mercedes, no less – very impressive, though I have always preferred BMWs) and driver at our disposal while we were in town, but he wasn’t the interesting bad boy I remembered and had sort of loved. On the other hand, I would never want him mad at me.
2.) Who is your favorite character out of your books? Why?
Unfair! You might as well ask which is your favorite child. I can’t answer that one.
3.) What do genre do you write? What made you pick that one?
One? One?? I write romance, horror and few other things as Janis Susan May, cozy mysteries as Janis Patterson, children’s as Janis Susan Patterson and nonfiction and scholarly as J. S. M. Patterson. I can no more imagine writing in just one genre than I could imagine sprouting blue feathers from my arms and flying off the roof. I bore too easily, and the world is too full of variety. Just one genre? I would die.
4.) What are you working on now?
Several things. Most to the forefront is a cozy mystery called A KILLING AT EL KAB. El Kab is a fascinating archaeological site in Upper Egypt, between Luxor and Aswan. This spring we were fortunate when my dear friend Dr. Dirk Huyge, director of the site, asked The Husband and me to come stay at the dig house for a couple of days. Dirk and I had been talking about a mystery set at the dig house, and he said I couldn’t write about it unless I saw it. Believe me, civilians are NEVER invited to stay at dig houses, so we went! The book is going well – about one-third done – and I’m having a wonderful time with it.
As I believe in always having at least three projects going, I have another cozy mystery set in 1916 New Orleans called A KILLING ON BASIN STREET. And… another cozy mystery about a free-lance researcher set in contemporary Dallas called A WELL-MANNERED MURDER.
All three of the above are written as Janis Patterson; under the Janis Susan May name I’m almost finished with a contemporary Gothic romance called THE MASTER OF MORECOMBE HALL.
5.) What got you to start writing?
Genetics. Both my grandmothers were teachers – one of English, one of history. One grandfather was the publisher of a small town newspaper when small town newspapers were a force to be reckoned with. My mother was an English teacher, a play producer, a magazine columnist and an advertising agent. My father started as a printer’s devil in his father’s paper when he was nine; he was editor/publisher for several small newspapers across Texas, taught journalism at Texas A&M (and made journalism a separate discipline from the English department and, as it was during WWII, got the mascot Reveille into the K-9 corps), wrote radios dramas and, with my mother started an advertising agency which for 16 of its 17 years of existence was one of the top 300 in the nation as rated by AADA. With all this behind me, I didn’t have a snowball’s chance of being anything but a wordsmith of some stripe. When I was nine I started work in the ad agency as a stripper (no, not that – I took apart ad boards and saved the artwork etc that could be used again) and by the age of twelve was writing copy. That too was a bore. There’s nothing exciting at all in extolling industrial washers and dryers or commercial auctions.
6.) Where do you get your ideas from?
Everywhere! I defy anyone to sit still for five minutes and watch what’s going on around them and not come up with a minimum of half-a-dozen ideas. The thing about ideas, though is that you need more than one. You need hundreds, and they all have to intermesh with each other to form a coherent plot. That can sometimes be a little tricky, because some ideas are just so delicious that they lead you away from the core of your book, and it’s hard to know if you should ignore them or follow them.
The best way, for me at least, to come up with ideas is the old ‘what if’ game. Suppose I’m sitting in a coffee shop and I see a middle-aged, somewhat seedy looking man sitting alone at a table, nursing a small plain coffee. He keeps looking first at his watch, and then at the door. What is he waiting for? What if he is a thief or terrorist, waiting to meet a conspirator who is late? What if he is hoping to see his ex-wife – for good or for ill? What if he is here to interview for a much-needed job? The list of possibilities is endless. Now what if the barista is really a secret agent sent to keep an eye on this guy? What if he is going to blow up the coffee shop if his ransom demands aren’t met? What if he’s newly divorced and waiting for his first date in over a quarter of a century? Yes, I do have a melodramatic mind, but they are all viable ideas, all culled from the single visual of a shabby man checking his watch in a coffee shop.
7.) What would people who read your work be surprised to find out about you?
I have no idea. I’m really rather boring, and most of my professional life is out there already. My private life is – save for a few seminal moments, such as being proposed to in the gardens of the Mena Hotel across the street from the Giza Pyramids – is private. Hmmm…. The more I think about this, the more I wonder if I do have anything surprising about me. I married for the first time at 54. I’m a seventh generation Texan, and if there hadn’t been a disastrous fire in a Tennessee country courthouse in the 1880s I would be a member of both the DAR and Colonial Dames. My brother and I were both only children. Nothing much exciting.
8.) Do you have any special talents?
Special talents… I don’t know how you define talent. I pick up languages easily – and without regular use tend to lose them just as easily. I used to be an operatic coloratura soprano. I make absolutely killer jewelry. Animals love me (and I most definitely do not, as The Husband has suggested on occasion, rub my ankles with hamburger to get their attention.)
9.) What was the one piece of advice you received when you were an aspiring author that has stuck with you? Why?
Hmmm. From my earliest infancy my parents stressed on me that whatever I did I was to do it well and to the best of my ability. They weren’t talking about writing, particularly, but it fits not only writing, but just about everything in life. For writing specifically, it was something Nora Roberts said – “Finish the book, even if its garbage. You can fix garbage, but you can’t fix a blank page.” I also like to quote “Writing is easy – all you do is stare at a blank screen until drops of blood appear on your forehead.”
10.) If you could talk to any famous figure (present, past or fictional) who would it be and what would you talk about?
Oh, my… who wouldn’t I want to talk to! I would love to talk to Hatshepsut, the woman pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. I’d love to hear what she could tell me about life then, and how she got and held onto the position of the most powerful person in the world when she was a woman and pharaohs were always men. I’d love to talk to Augustus Caesar and both Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington. Since I find abnormal psychology fascinating I would like talking with Adolf Hitler and Henry VIII. On the literary side, Charlotte Bronte and Henry Fielding and Marie Corelli. I’m sure there are lots more, but this blog is already much too long.
11.) What song would you say describes your life?
Gracious, I don’t know. I’ve had so many ‘lives’, so many changes of direction and career and everything it might take an opera to cover it all. If you want just one song, though, perhaps ‘Send In The Clowns’ might fit.
12.) If you could come back as any animal – what would it be?
That’s easy – one of my pets. They’re all spoilt and pampered, even to the extent of having their own rooms, though the two kitties do have to share.
“CURSE OF THE EXILE is a traditional Gothic mystery reminiscent of the best of Victoria Holt and Virginia Coffman that no lover of Gothics should miss. A courageous heroine, 1860s Scotland, two handsome brothers, a moldering castle, an unknown villain bent on a horrid vengeance… delicious! A perfect book for curling up with for a long enjoyable trip to the past.”
Carla Renard, The Literary Lady
After an unhappy childhood and a cruelly broken romance, Angelina Barstow has found a kind of respectable life working as a librarian with her charming but womanizing father. In 1860 they come to the Scottish castle called Merlon Motte, where the owner and his much younger brother are sharply divided on the necessity of selling the place. An ancient sword is stuck into the ceiling of the Great Hall and family legend says it was put there by a long-ago exiled son, who promised to curse anyone who endangers the castle. Angelina regards this as just a charming family story until the prospective buyer is murdered, the Sword of the Exile driven through his heart.
In spite of herself, Angelina has fallen in love, but though she loves one and sincerely likes the other she doesn’t know which of the brothers is the murderer. She thinks things can get no worse, but then there is another, more shocking death when her father is found drowned and the prospective buyer’s friend, the same man who tried to dishonor her years before, says he intends to make her his mistress by force if necessary. Two more long held secrets threaten Angelina and her beloved before the Curse of the Exile is finally lifted.
Once the project was actually under way working at Petter’s Subscription Library was not so bad. We obtained rooms most reasonably within a few minutes’ walk and there were several inexpensive chop houses in the neighborhood. The area could not have been what it was when Miss Petter opened her establishment, but it still held on to a sort of respectability, which meant I could go and come alone without fear. As usual Pappa spent the first two days with me, directing, arranging, making a great number of his beloved notes and generally getting in the way before he finally decided that he had a ‘few little things’ to see to and left me to it.
I had never before worked in a shop – closed or open – and although the experience was different, it was by no means frightening. In fact the bustle of people outside the shrouded windows, the clatter of carts and wagons and carriages and horses over the cobbles outside was stimulating. I had no fear of being there alone, as I was neither of an age nor a station to be noticed by anyone and the shop was perfectly safe. Or so I thought until the afternoon Nairn MacTaggert entered and after that nothing in my life was ever the same.
Seduced by the sunny summer afternoon I had opened the shades and the door and pulled my table into one of the yellow spills of light. From that lapse of discipline it was easy to slip even further; before I knew it I was curled comfortably on the splitting leather divan, lost in the pages of a book and far, far away from
. It was unlikely I
should be caught, as in all the days there I had never been disturbed.
Doubtless all the denizens of the city seemed to know that Petter’s
Subscription Library had died with the late Miss Petter, so when a large shadow
fell across the page the surprise jerked me back into the present with a start. Bath
The sun was behind him and for a moment all I could see was a large, indubitably masculine silhouette. Unnerved more by my unaccustomed rush of fear than by his sudden appearance I quickly stood and straightened up to my full height – a maneuver which had seldom failed to intimidate both males and females. In this case it was utterly wasted. He still topped me by several inches.
“May I help you?” I asked in arctic tones.
“What a great number of books!”
He had stepped out of the direct glare, giving me a chance to see him. I tried not to stare, but it was difficult. I had never seen such a handsome man. My heart, painfully schooled to being nothing but a working organ, gave a fluttery little jump as if I had been nothing but an impressionable schoolgirl. Even my memories of Myles paled in comparison.
His skin was burnished to a golden bronze by a sun that had never touched this clime. His curly hair was thick and richly chestnut-colored, while his eyes were remarkable, being the same brilliant turquoise of a dimly remembered
. His body was lithe, but with an
unquestioned look of strength. Only a rugged cast to his features and a nose
that seemed to have taken a fair amount of abuse over time kept him from being
downright pretty. Mediterranean Ocean
No, that wasn’t quite right. On closer inspection there was a harshness about his face, a hint of ruthlessness in the eyes that would make one cautious about crossing him. Despite the heat in the stuffy little shop a tiny shiver danced on my spine.
“Well,” he asked, “am I acceptable as a customer?”
“I’m sorry, sir, but the library is closed.” Embarrassed both at being caught in a dereliction of duty as well as scrutinizing him so openly, I spoke more coldly than usual.
“But your door is wide open.”
“I did not make myself clear. The library is permanently closed and has been since Miss Petter’s death. I am a librarian here to compile an inventory for the heir.”
He did not seem surprised. “And do you like being a librarian?”
“What an extraordinary question!”
“Quite right. I apologize.” He smiled and a flash like summer lightning shot from his eyes. My knees trembled. “But it is the most extraordinary luck, too.”
“I do not understand.”
“Because I am seeking a librarian.”
“A librarian?” I repeated stupidly, mesmerized by those glowing eyes. Seldom had I seen a man who appeared less likely to need the services of a librarian. “But why?”
“To take home with me, of course. Home to
Buy links for Curse of the Exile
CreateSpace eStore: https://www.createspace.com/5530621
Amazon : http://amzn.com/194152012X
Amazon : http://amzn.com/B00YW9MCYM