Janis Patterson's The Hollow House

My guest today is Janis Patterson. Janis is a seventh-generation Texan and a third-generation wordsmith who writes mysteries as Janis Patterson, romances and other things as Janis Susan May, children’s books as Janis Susan Patterson and scholarly works as J.S.M. Patterson.

Formerly an actress and singer, a talent agent and Supervisor of Accessioning for a bio-genetic DNA testing lab, Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups aswell as many other things, including an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist.

Janis married for the first time when most of her contemporaries were becoming grandmothers. Her husband, also an Egyptophile, even proposed in a moonlit garden near the Pyramids of Giza. Janis and her husband live in Texas with an assortment of rescued fur babies.

Anne – Welcome to my little corner of the blogosphere, Janis. Do you have a fear, phobia, or habit you’d rather no one knew about?

Janis - Well, everyone kind of knows that I am addicted to chocolate. Does that count as a habit? I also have to have something to read (whether I get to or not) within arm’s reach. As for fear, not many people know that I have a terror of roaches, crickets and similar critters. I will go on top of the furniture to avoid one, which is ridiculous, since when I was a child my cousin and I milked rattlesnakes to earn spending money. You just can’t explain a phobia!

Anne – I cannot imagine every milking a rattle snake. Yikes. Let’s think chocolate and books! Tell us about The HollowHouse.

Janis - Released on 14 November by Carina Press and written as Janis Patterson, THE HOLLOW HOUSE is a cozy historical mystery set in Denver in 1919. The Great War to End All Wars is over, the Influenza Epidemic has ended and my heroine is struggling to find a new life, one where she can escape what she was. The teaser is, “When a murder is committed in her employer’s home, Geraldine Brunton knows she must solve the crime to hide the fact that she herself is a killer.”

No one was more elated than I when, two days after release, THE HOLLOW HOUSE was positively bombarded with laudatory reviews, including 4.5 stars and a Top Pick rating from RT!

Anne – Huge congrats! Tell us about the defining moment when you felt as if you’d finally made it as an author. 

Janis - Dunno. Even after 24 books I haven’t hit it yet.

Anne – Oh, come on. I’ve got chocolate. ;-) Okay. Moving on…how many rejections have you received? Was one more memorable than others? Why?

Janis - How many? I have no idea – hundreds and hundreds. The most memorable, however, came along just a few months ago. I had several books in submission to several houses and got back a rejection that sliced, diced and julienne-fried (for those of you who remember the old Veg-O-Matic commercial) my story. After nearly a page of unremitting criticism the editor condescendingly allowed that if I kept studying and kept at my writing, I might be able to do something someday. Since I had already sold over 20 books to major publishers, it was obvious to me that she didn’t bother to read my resume! Then, to make things perfect, two days later I got notice from another, bigger house (my dream house for that story) that they liked the manuscript and wanted to publish it. Success is indeed the best revenge!

Anne - Any words of advice for struggling, unpublished writers?

Janis - Write. Learn. Write. Read. Write. Study. Write. And NEVER give up.

Anne - Outside of writing, what accomplishment are you most proud?

Janis - Being a good wife to my wonderful husband. We waited a long time for each other. In the professional arena, it was beginning (from scratch!) and editing the Newsletter of the NT chapter of the American Research Center in Egypt, which is writing in a way, but more scholarly/business oriented. I saw that it was accepted and archived as a scholarly journal in museums, universities and libraries around the world. I don’t know about now, but during the nine years of my reign the Newsletter was the only monthly publication for ARCE in the world.

Anne - What activity (cause, charity, or organization) consumes your time when you’re away from the keyboard?

Janis - The American Research Center in Egypt, a scholarly organization for the study of Egyptian history. East Lake Pet Orphanage, a wonderful organization that rescues all kinds of animals. And, to a lesser extent, any organization that helps unwanted, abandoned and/or abused animals.

Anne - Have you experienced writer's block? If so, how did you work through it?

Janis - One dogged word at a time, one after another. A lot of them may be garbage, but as Nora Roberts said, You can fix garbage. You can’t fix a blank page.

Anne – Would you share an excerpt from TheHollow House with us?

Janis – Of course!

There was one light bulb in the servants’ stair, a poor thing that gave little light. It gave more than enough, though, to show the twisted body of Annie lying in an unnatural heap on the landing, her legs lying indecently up the stairs, her head jammed against the wall at a forty-five degree angle.

I screamed.

Then the incredible happened. She blinked.

I could hear footsteps, but my entire focus was on Annie. I scrambled down the steps, maneuvering as best I could over her legs and contorted torso until I was level with her face.

I stared at Annie. She saw me, I know she did. She blinked again. Then she died. The transition from a living—however tenuously—creature to a dead one is unmistakable to anyone who has ever witnessed it. I don’t know if it is a soul, or a life force, or what, but some invisible something leaves and suddenly everything is changed forever.

Eula was shrieking.

Behind her, Mrs. O’Toole was weeping and calling on her pantheon of saints. Behind her, Dawkins, to my intense surprise, was swearing with both fluency and unrepressed emotion.

I could not take my gaze from Annie’s twisted body. Though it was almost as close to dawn as dusk, she wore her everyday pale brown uniform and the work-stained apron from earlier in the day. She was not, however, wearing shoes. Her feet, indecently stuck almost straight up, were clad in nothing but heavy socks that showed signs of darning.

There was something else.

Her arms were thrown about as if she had tried to break her fall, but from under her right hip I could see a small flash of green. I leaned forward, startled at the sight of a twenty-dollar bill. Twenty dollars in a single bill, when that was probably most, if not all, of her monthly salary.

“Should we send for a doctor?” Milton was asking. “Mrs. Brunton? Should we—”

“No,” I said softly, feeling oddly that I should keep my voice low so as not to disturb Annie.

“No, she doesn’t need a doctor. I think we need to call the police.”

Anne – I want to read more! Where can readers reach you online?

Janis - At my romance/horror website: www.JanisSusanMay.com
and my mystery website: www.JanisPattersonMysteries.com. Plus on Twitter: @JanisSusanMay

Anne – Thanks so much for taking time from your busy schedule to chat with me today. Let’s do it again…soon!

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Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

So nice to learn about you, Janis, and your book. It's funny how we aren't afraid of certain things and not others. I really, really don't like mice. Spiders, scorpions and other bugs don't scare me at all, I can dispatch them with ease.

Allene said...

I just reviewed the book The Hollow House on Mystery & Me. I highly recommend it. Thanks, for the interview, it was nice to learn more about Janis Patterson. I, too, share a concern for abused animals. Three of my dogs are handicapped.

Charmaine Gordon said...

Wonderful chatty interview, Anne and Janis. Nice to meet an author new to me ad one so accomplished. The Hollow House sounds like a must read.

Earl Staggs said...

I enjoyed this interview and learning more about you. It's so hard keeping up with you because of all your names, but you'll always be Susan to me. Best wishes for great success with THE HOLLOW HOUSE.

And Go Cowboys!

Janis Patterson said...

Just home from a wonderful family Thanksgiving to find the gift of such lovely comments!

Marilyn, if you'll take care of the bugs, I'll take care of the mice. Actually I used to own a rat, whom I took for walks on a leash. We had the sidewalks to ourselves!

Allene, bless you for loving those dogs and all other animals. I think it was E.M. Rilke who said elephants were the roots of heaven, but I think it applies to all animals. And thanks for your wonderful review of Hollow House!

Thanks for the kind words, Charmaine - and I hope you enjoy The Hollow House. Let me know what you think of it!

Earl - old friend, what can I say to you. You know all my names and have for years. I think you even made up a few! Are you ever coming to MWA? Miss talking to you.

Thanks again to all of you - hope you had a splendid Thanksgiving and wish you the best and merriest Christmas ever!