Talking with J.A. Jance about the literature of Seattle

J.A. Jance is the author of more than fifty mystery novels and novellas, parceled out into four distinct series. Arguably her most popular series revolves around Seattle investigator J.P. Beaumont, who has headlined 24 books since his introduction in 1985. Jance has been publishing at least one book a year for three decades, and she’s a bestselling author many times over. Her latest mystery, Dance of the Bones, pairs Beaumont with another of her series protagonists, Sheriff Brandon Walker, for the first time. Next Tuesday, Jance begins a four-day, 12-reading (!!!) tour of Washington state. She’ll be at Seattle Mystery Bookshop, Redmond Regional Library, and the Mill Creek University Book Store at 11 am, 2 pm, and 7 pm, respectively on the 8th. Other appearances include a pair of retirement communities, the Costco in Silverdale, the Bing Crosby Theatre in Spokane at 7 pm on the 10th, and more. Find her full readings schedule on her website.

You write mystery series set in both Seattle and in Arizona. Do you consider yourself a Seattle author?

When I came to Seattle in 1981, I was a divorced single mother with two children, a full time job in the life insurance business, and the long-deferred dream of becoming a writer. I began writing my first mystery in March, 1982, and my first book was published in June, 1985. Yes, my books are set in both Arizona and Seattle. Arizona may be my home — it’s where I came from — but Seattle is my CREATIVE home. It’s where I was first able to set my hand to the serious task of writing.

Do you believe there is such a thing as a Seattle literary tradition?

Of course. Think about Ivan Doig. If he wasn’t literary, I don’t know what is. Or what about Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain? Or David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars?

But there is also a long tradition of just plain fiction — think Betty McDonald’s The Egg and I. We’re the people who write the kinds of books that people buy in better bus depots everywhere. Or airports. Or drugstores. Or hospital gift shops. We write to entertain or to help people pass the time and turn away from their own difficulties.

Who are my fellow Seattle-based writers? Robert Dugoni? Check. Jayne Ann Krentz? Check. Stella Cameron? Check. Mary Daheim? Check. The late Ann Rule? Check. Yasmine Galenorn? Check.

Our books seldom merit more than a paragraph in local or national book review pages, but our readers buy them and love them.

That’s literary enough for me.