L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist and the author of the bestselling Detective Jackson mystery/suspense series: The Sex Club, Secrets to Die For, Thrilled to Death, Passions of the Dead, and Dying for Justice. Her novels have been highly praised by Mystery Scene, CrimeSpree, and Spinetingler magazines, and the series is on Amazon Kindle’s bestselling police procedural list. L.J. also has two standalone thrillers: The Baby Thief and The Suicide Effect. When not plotting murders, she enjoys performing standup comedy, cycling, social networking, and attending mystery conferences. She’s also been known to jump out of airplanes.
Can you sum up your book in no more than 25 words?
This is the short blurb I use: Two unsolved murders from the past, a corrupt cop, and a painful family connection—will this be the case that breaks Detective Jackson?
What was your motivation for writing it?
This story sprang from an interesting combination of driving factors. My first goal was to write another story that my loyal readers would love. Although Dying for Justice is the fifth book in the Detective Jackson series, it also features Detective Lara Evans, one of Jackson’s taskforce members. At the time I conceptualized the story, I was considering giving up the Jackson series, which was failing miserably because of my small publisher. I thought I would start a new series, with Evans as the main protagonist and Jackson as a sidekick, so I could pitch it to new publishers and keep my readers happy too. Then everything changed, and I set the story aside to save my career. When I came back to it, I still liked the plot well enough to write it, but I beefed up Jackson’s role.
The motivation for the plot springs from suspects being coerced into false confessions. This issue keeps coming up in the news, and the idea of people spending years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit sickens me. This story is my way of processing and highlighting this issue.
How much difference does a good cover make?
An eye-catching cover is critical. It can make a difference in whether a reader stops to look more closely at the title and book description. If they don’t stop and read more, you’ve lost the sale. Especially now that readers are shopping and scrolling on their devices, you have to catch their interest quickly.
I’m grateful that readers, and other writers, seem to really like my covers. I’ve chosen all the images used in the designs, even when I was with a publisher, because it’s too important to leave the decision to someone who’s not invested in the story the way I am. The cover of Dying for Justice is eye-catching, but also quite intense. I worried that it might be over the top, so I tested the cover with my Facebook and Twitter followers before finalizing, and the large majority loved it.
How important is a good title?
Titles are critically important with standalone novels, because you only have that once chance to initially engage the reader’s interest. A title has to be vivid, unique, and descriptive. With a series, it’s a little different. Some publishers choose each title to brand the series, for example, McNally’s Luck, McNally’s Secret, etc. I’ve done something similar with all the follow-up books in my Jackson series by including a variation of the word death in all the titles.
Then there’s the first book, The Sex Club, which I didn’t know would be a series when I wrote it. Some people, especially in the mystery community, hate the title. Other people love it and say that’s why they bought the book. Some writers/marketers I talk to say I should change it. And I’m tempted, but I haven’t come up with anything I like better. That’s the other thing about the publishing business. Everything is subjective, and if you write a powerful story or use a powerful image or title, it will offend as many people as it engages.
As a reader, how would you describe your taste in crime fiction?
I love fast-paced, complex stories with realistic scenarios and vivid openings. I’m a busy person and I don’t have time to read 50 pages just “to get into it.” Which is why I didn’t read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and watched the movie instead. I’m also done with serial killer stories, no matter how creative the author is. I like novels with original premises. Two of the best crimes stories I’ve read in the last few years are Beat the Reaper, about an ex-hitman who becomes a doctor, and The Lock Artist, about a psychologically mute safecracker.
What are the greatest opportunities facing writers these days?
The single greatest thing about being a novelist in 2011 is the ability to publish and market your own work at your own pace—without seeking permission from anyone. While I’m writing a story, I love knowing that it will find a readership. It’s so much more empowering than the old feeling of No one will probably ever read this.
Ever tried your hand at screenwriting?
I’ve written five screenplays, but none recently. When my first major novel failed to sell—after great feedback from publishers—I decided to write a script based on the novel. I had so much fun that I wrote another thriller screenplay, then wrote three comedy scripts. I’m very fond of those comedies, and I almost sold one. I love humour and sometimes do stand-up comedy, but I’ve never attempted to write a humorous crime story…but I might yet.
What aspects of marketing your book do you enjoy?
I love social networking and interacting with people. Now that I work at home, I wouldn’t get enough personal interaction if it weren’t for Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and all the others. I really enjoy meeting people online and getting to know them. It’s such a pleasure that I don’t think of it as work or promotion. There’s a great saying: “Find something you love to do and you’ll never work another day.”
Dying For Justice by L J Sellers