JL Wilson

J L Wilson is a Midwestern author who writes ‘mysteries with a touch of romance … and romance with a touch of gray.’ Her Fatal Writer’s Conference series might be just what you need to get you in the mood for any upcoming writing conference. Of course, a few authors die during the course of the series, but don’t let that scare you away! She also writes time travel books and has a paranormal-political thriller series, set on another planet. She can be found on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and a few blogs here and there. Check her web site to find out where (jayellwilson.com).

Cat: How often do you get lost in a story?
JL: You know, it’s been a long time since a printed story really took me away from the here and now. That isn’t to say I haven’t read any good books lately—I read the new releases from my friends and occasionally will browse a bookstore and pick up a book.

But I haven’t been swept away for a long, long time. I think it’s because I have a pressure of time against me—see my answer below about how I juggle the demands on my time (writing, working, family). To get really lost in a book requires a time commitment, I think, and I just don’t have that kind of free time any more.

I missed being lost in a story until…I discovered downloaded books. I’ve always listened to books on tape (and downloaded books) at the gym, but now I carry my iPod with me in the car, so I can tackle some really, really big books: I’m on Book 13 of the Wheel of Time series (2 more books to go, I think). Each book is about 25 hours long and I had to travel a lot lately because of family illnesses. So that series has been a real godsend to me.

After that series wraps up, I’m diving into Diana Gabaladon. I already have Outlander loaded on the iPod, and will listen to all of her stories next.

Then … well, who knows after that?

Cat: What turns you off like nothing else?
JL: I get annoyed when people say ‘I just don’t have time to write’ or ‘I don’t have time to exercise’ or ‘<insert really trivial thing here>.’

I realize we’re all busy but if you want it, you can make time for it. I work a 40-hour week outside the home. I exercise daily. I’m starting to delve into having a new home built for us 300 miles away. I have a husband, friends, and an active travel and social schedule. I enjoy gardening and have a lovely garden oasis in the back yard (well, it will be lovely when the snow melts). And I have 5 books releasing this year. I may have 8 releasing if I can get my older titles uploaded to Kindle, etc., in a self-publishing effort.

When I hear “I don’t have time” what I really hear is “I don’t want to give up something to do that” because that’s what it entails—giving up one activity for another. I’ve given up television, a lot of movies, and reading in my free time. In exchange, I have the chance to write, stay healthy and work in a job I enjoy and find rewarding.

Of course, that means I’m not in on a lot of the social chatter about television shows and movies and so-called stars. So be it. I find the fictional world a lot more entertaining than the television world, and many movies just aren’t time-worthy.

We all have to determine what has a priority in life. You can make time for it all. You just have to figure out what will fall off the plate to do so.

End of rant.
Cat: Where do you read and how often?
JL: Alas, I don’t read much anymore. I just don’t have time. I work full-time outside the home, I write almost full-time, and I do also have a social life.

When I do read, it’s usually in line: at the bank, at the airport, or on a plane. I have my iPod loaded with books and that’s usually how I read. I don’t carry my Kindle with me unless I go on a long trip.

Cat: What’s your favorite movie of all time?
JL: I have two favorites: Witness and Aliens. Yep, two opposite ends of the spectrum. I think they’re both good examples of character-driven plots. They also show the evolution of the main characters and how they change. And of course, who wouldn’t love Harrison Ford and who wouldn’t love to be so kick-ass like Sigourney Weaver?

Cat: What’s the first thing you do when you finish writing a book?
JL: I set that book aside and delve into the next one. I always have one on the back burner, simmering in the back of my mind.

I finish the first draft of a book, usually in 6-10 weeks then I set it aside for at least a month. In the meantime, I work on promotion for a current book or research for the next one, or organizing for conferences. I seldom immediately start writing the next book. That is, I don’t jump into it. I’ll play with it: do character sketches, work on scenes, get the setting figured out.

At the end of a month or so, I’ll go back and read the book. I’ll fix any obvious errors then I’ll give it to my beta reader to review. After I get it back from her, I’ll either tweak it some more, submit it to my editor, or (a new venture I’m considering) I’ll self-publish it.

Cat: If you were given a chance to travel to the past where would you go and specifically why?
JL: Well, I write time travel books, so I get to travel anywhere. But I think if I could physically travel back in time, I’d go to the turn of the 20th century, around 1890-1910. I like the fashions, the culture of the time, and the exciting things that were happening then – women were becoming more independent, America was opening up the West, and so on. In fact, my current Work In Progress is set in 1894 and the next one will be set in 1919. So I’m heavily immersed in that now.

Cat: Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?
JL: I’m not very aware of reviews. I do have Google searches set up to tell me when a review lands, but it doesn’t seem to work as efficiently as I would like. I seem to only randomly find out about reviews. My publishers are very good about posting the reviews, but I’m not very good about checking the posted list.

I do read reviews when I’m aware of them and a good review can really make my day. I got a 4-star review recently from Romantic Times that totally stunned me. I had no idea they were even reviewing my book Leap of Faith.

My mysteries have been somewhat extensively reviewed by the romance community but not by many folks in the mystery community, so when I get one of those reviews, that really piques my curiosity. I like to see how my mystery writing stacks up against others in that genre.

Do they influence my writing? Probably not. By the time the review comes out, I’ve already written at least one or two more books, so it’s a bit late to go back and change things. If I ‘failed’ a reviewer on one book, I just hope that reviewer will take a chance on another. Not all books appeal to all people.

Cat: Tea or Coffee? And how do you take it?
JL: Coffee, blonde and sweet (cream and sugar). Only 3 cups a day, though. The caffeine really doesn’t affect me, but it’s like chocolate: best in moderation.

I’ve never deciphered the whole mocha, latte, cappuccino way of ordering things. My nieces are a hoot: ‘soy latte with extra foam and yada yada’… it’s like a foreign language to me!

Cat: What’s your favorite kid joke?
JL: It’s not really a joke but a poem I had to memorize in 5th grade. It’s stuck with me all these years. Author: anonymous.

They walked down the lane together
The sky was studded with stars.
They reached the gate in silence
And he lifted down the bars.
She neither smiled nor thanked him
Because she knew not how
For he was just a farmer’s boy
And she was a Jersey cow.

::snort:: ::snicker::

If you were a t-shirt, what color would you be and why?

Red with a white peace symbol in the middle.

I like red. It’s a cheery color. Stands out in a crowd. Makes a statement. I’ve never been afraid of making a statement.

Readers: are you bugged by romance in a mystery book? I attended a conference recently and this was discussed. Romance was always a ‘no-no’ in mystery books before, but it’s starting to change.

I’ll give away a print copy to folks in the U.S. of my last 3 mystery books (the “Gypsy” trilogy) or will give PDF copies of the same to international visitors.***

Drop by and check JL’s web slog (web site blog): http://www.jayellwilson.com. Or find me on twitter (@JLwriter) or Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/jayellwilson).

***Note: Offer void where prohibited. Prizes will be mailed to North America addresses only. If an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) is available, the author may utilize that option for International participants. Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.


  1. Yes! I feel the same way! If you want to do something you find a way to do it! So glad I'm not the only one. Hope you aren't too buried in snow!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Anny. And yes, we're buried in snow. I think about 16-18" here at Casa Wilson. Oh well. This would be awful if it was November, but February...I can cope because I know winter is almost over!

  3. Welcome J L. I hope you're getting dug out. We only got about 12 inches and the plows came like little elves in the night to clean out our driveways and side roads. Thanks goodness we're on the right side of winter. These piles will be gone in a month or two.

    As for romance in mystery books. I like a little romance with my murders. Spices things up. I read a number of cozies where there's a handsome police detective and always enjoy the heroine's romantic tribulations.

    Thanks for joining us today!

  4. I don't consider myself a mystery reader, so a little romance entices me! Enjoyed reading the interview ladies! Happy Snow Day!

  5. Hi JL,

    Great interview!

    I am never bugged by a romance in any genre if the two are a natural part of the story. If done well, a love story helps develop characters and can also raise the stakes of a mystery/suspense/thriller. JMO!

  6. Great interview, Cat and JL. My busy schedule, the decision about what to give up and what to do - I can thank JL and The Artist's Way. You're a good role model - tough but good. No excuses.

    I like romance with my mystery. But if it's mystery I am aiming for, then light on the romance. But never without.


  7. Hi JL - Love your books and your chagrin with people who want something without putting in the time and effort.

    I like a little --or a lot -- of romance in everything I read. Even Clancy had romance in his books. (Not sure if he still does - because I stopped reading him.)

  8. You know, the more I think about it, the more I think any romance is a bit of mystery, too, isn't it? The mystery of how the two people got together and how they'll stay together ...

    Hmm. Something to consider!

  9. Welcome to GLIAS, JL !! Loved the interview and the frank answers! I like red too, especially just after I die my hair !