Saturday, July 16, 2011
JAN BURKE VISITS JUNGLE REDS
RHYS: Jan Burke was supposed to be my Wednesday guest, but alas, various factors, including my disappearing internet, did not cooperate, so I'm giving her the whole weekend to shine.
So welcome to JRW Jan.
I was at ALA and saw great piles of the new Jan Burke book DISTURBANCE, Obviously Simon and Shuster are excited about this and when I eard that it was a follow up to Bones, I was too.
So tell a little about the new book, Jan:
JAN:Disturbance is essentially a sequel to Bones. If you haven't read
Bones, don't worry — Disturbance's plot is separate. It won't spoil
Bones for you, and you don't need to have read Bones to know what's
going on in Disturbance. But if you are someone who like to read a
series in order, you may want to read Bones first.
In Disturbance, Nicholas Parrish, the serial killer who pursued Irene
in Bones, has recovered from injuries he sustained when she escaped
him. Although others remind Irene that he's in prison, she isn't much
comforted by that — he has a group of supporters who call themselves
the Moths and they threaten revenge on his behalf. She is unnerved by
an increasingly disturbing series of events, events that she sees as
the Moths' way of letting her know they can reach her.
Disturbance is also about reinvention. In addition to her problems
with Parrish and the Moths, Irene has other troubles. The Express,
the newspaper where she has worked for most of her adult life is on
the verge of closing. Irene, who has identified herself with the
Express and newspaper reporting on a bone-deep level, may soon be
forced to say goodbye not just to a job, but work that brought meaning
to her life and provided her with an extended family.
RHYS. Was Irene Kelly an alter ego when the series started? Is she still?
JAN: No, never. I imagine her as a completely separate individual, one with
whom I enjoy spending time.
RHYS:You write about very dark subjects, darker than most women writers.
How do you handle the darkness? I know I once had to murder a child in
a book and in the end I couldn't do it. Have you learned to distance
yourself from your subjectmatter? Or are you just super tough?
JAN:You are determined that I won't get to demonstrate how funny I am,
aren't you? Okay seriously, then --
First, for anyone who may wonder if I inspired your example, I should
quickly point out that there are no dead children in Disturbance.
It's interesting to me that you say I write about very dark subjects,
because I don't view my books as especially dark. Irene is not a
depressed and brooding loner detective — unlike at least a dozen
others who quickly come to mind — and although she has to struggle
with understandable fears, she is ultimately resilient, an optimist
with a sense of humor and strong loyalties. I see most of my books as
having themes related to hope, justice, and forgiveness.
All of that said, like 99% of writers of crime fiction, I do write
about violence. The smaller subset of writers I belong to are those
who write about the emotional impact of violence, and sometimes, that
It has been extremely important to me, though, even from the time I
wrote my first novel, to not emotionally distance the characters in my
books from the crimes that take place in them. In Goodnight, Irene,
it was important to me that she grieve the loss of O'Connor, rather
than merely set out to avenge him. Again, she's doesn't spend the
book crying in a corner, but you come to know O'Connor because she
misses him so much. Many books later, in Disturbance, although she's
moved on with her life, she still misses him.
By the time I started the second book, I was concerned about how
seldom I saw any representation of the emotional impact of violence on
protagonists. They'd get the hell beaten out of them, and then they'd
just knock back a shot of whiskey and go out after their attackers.
They were about as emotionally affected by the beating as someone who
had nicked himself shaving. But in real life, if you or anyone you
know has been attacked, you know the cuts and bruises heal relatively
quickly — it's your state of mind that is never the same. Your
ability to feel safe — more important to many of us than we realize —
is altered forever. Some would say the tough guy shows us how a
courageous man acts. But to me, the kind of courage that is more
interesting is the kind we see in so-called ordinary people. People
who may need every ounce of courage they have just to step outside the
front door, but they do it. They feel afraid, but act anyway.
While my research on those who are violent has caused its share of my
nightmares, I suppose it is the example of courage and persistence in
the face of adversity that I've found in survivors and in those who
are working in law enforcement, criminal justice, and forensic science
that allows me to feel hopeful.
Oh I should add -- I'm not super tough. I probably cry more easily
than anyone you know. Do not whistle the theme to Lassie if I am
RHYS: We're going to be seeing each other in a couple of weeks at the Book
Passage Mystery Conference. Can you tell us a little about that?
What will you be teaching?
JAN:I first attended this wonderful conference as a keynote speaker, back
when Judy Greber and the late Marilyn Wallace were organizing it. I
love Book Passage, one of the Most Wonderful Bookstores on Earth, and
hope those of you who are not interested in writing conferences will
still take the time to browse its Website.
For those of you who are interested, you can't pick a better
conference. (Sign up soon, the conference is limited in size.) Why
do I like this conference so much? Part of it is the Book Passage
itself — while some bookstores do little more than temporarily house
writers' books, Book Passage has become a kind of home place for
writers and books. This store has a strong relationship with its
community, and also with its community of writers. That means they
can put together conferences with faculty members such as Daniel
Silva, John Lescroat, Rhys Bowen, Jacqueline Winspear, Gregg Hurwitz,
Martin Cruz Smith, and many others. They bring in experts, agents,
and editors. They give attendees the opportunity to have manuscript
consultations. And its all in beautiful Corte Madera, across the
Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.
That would all be enough for most folks, but I should add that the
Book Passage goes out of its way to ensure that the first concern of
the faculty is to teach. That may sound obvious to anyone who hasn't
been to a conference that was full of authors who do little more than
pitch their own wares.
As for what I'll be teaching -- I'm in a conversation with Jodi
Compton, and we'll be talking about our research styles and other
general topics. I'm also doing an advanced session with Tony
Broadbent on Developing Character and Dialogue.
RHYS: What's next? Do you enjoy Irene books more than standalones or the
other way around?
JAN: I've decided that I'm not going to say much about the next one yet.
I've found I can talk myself out of manuscripts if I talk too much
about them while they are in progress.
I enjoy standalone and series books equally -- each has its own
challenges and rewards.
RHYS: You've recently started an experiment called "Spoilerville." What
is Spoilerville? Why did you start it?
JAN: Spoilerville ( http://spoilerville.com ) is a place where readers who
have already read a book can comment on it or ask questions of
participating authors and feel free to give away plot -- you visit
Spoilerville *after* reading a book. For those of us who have wanted
to let an author know how much we liked a certain twist, or had a
question about something we read, or wanted to make a comment that
might get us lynched on a list or blog, Spoilerville is your new safe
Many writers get a lot of wonderful blog comments and good questions
from enthusiastic readers who -- if the post goes through --
unintentionally give away parts of the plot. Websites, Facebook,
author blogs, and email discussion lists are places where those who
haven't had a chance to read a book might have things spoiled for them
by such comments. Spoilerville is essentially marked by its name with
a giant spoiler alert -- it's a place where our readers will be able
to meet and discuss books they've finished reading, and ask
plot-specific questions in an environment where those who haven't yet
read the book are not be likely to accidently see them.
Books are on Spoilerville because authors are willing to place them
there -- I'm happy to see you're willing to be one of the pioneers
there, Rhys! I hope your readers will visit Spoilerville! I think we
can have some fun there.
RHYS: Thank you so much for taking the time to visit us, Jan. I know your readers will be lining up for the new book. See you next week!
Photo by Sheri McKinley Photography.