Tuesday, December 9, 2008

On TEASER, the murder mystery

JRW: We can't resist. We want to interview our own Jan! (Here's a special photo of her.)

Teaser is out officially--today! (And here's the cover!) Congratulations. It's so scary, and such a cautionary tale. Just tell us a bit about it.

JAN: Thanks Hank! Teaser is about social networking going horribly wrong. Hallie (the fictional Hallie, my main character. Not our Hallie.) comes across a provocative video clip when she's trolling a chatroom and realizes the young teens are local. She convinces her editors that she's got a great story, a story parents need to hear. Her investigation leads her to some very dark places, and when girls start dying, it becomes a personal crusade -- especially when she loses the newspaper's support.

JRW: How did you decide to write about teenagers on-line?

JAN: Well first of all, I was a difficult teenager who did a lot of stupid things. I actually used to hitch hike just to meet guys and had to bolt from the car more than once. So I feel like I relate to teenagers and understand how easily it is for them to lie and to ignore their parent's warnings. In raising my own teenagers, I began to view the Internet as a sewer pipe, something that could pump really bad stuff into my own home.

JRW: Your four-star review from Romantic Times said TEASER could be ripped from the headlines...is it based on reality?

JAN: It was definitely inspired by two headlines. The first was in Rhode Island, when two young teenage girls posted naked pictures of themselves on MySpace. The attorney general's office did not consider this a teenage whim. These girls were prosecuted for child pornography. Also the Justin Berry series in The New York Times alerted me to how kids could get in really big trouble with a webcam.

JRW: As a parent....does it give you chills? What do you think parents don't know?

JAN: Although I know the Internet is incredibly useful, much of its traffic and revenues are driven by pornography and I think parents should understand that. There is an overwhelming U.S. demand for pornography that contributes to the internationl sex slave trade. And I think exposure all our kids are getting to pornography is changing the culture.

I think parents don't know how vulnerable teenagers are, especially around 13 and 14 years old. Or how lonely for attention or acceptance they can be.

And it was an eye opener for me to learn how adept and patient sexual predators can be at grooming kids on line. They take very small steps, the process is so incremental, it can seem non-threatening to a kid. I really don't think parents should allow teens, especially young teens, laptops behind closed doors.

JRW: This is the third Hallie Ahern mystery--was this one different to write?

JAN: It was a little different in that the teenage characters came easily to me. I didn't fuss quite as much with this book. The odd thing was I didn't think I dwelled as much on Hallie's gambling addiction in this book, but every reviewer seemed to note it more here than in earlier titles.

JRW: Your video is so...edgy. Here's the link, for anyone who hasn't seen it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJNye1b1FIM
What did you think when you met the "real" Hallie? And the "real" girls?
And hmmm....didn't we see a secret actress in one scene?

JAN: It was such a thrill to have my characters come to life. I walked around in a cloud for days afterward. And I felt strangely maternal about the actresses. I was oddly proud that Hallie was so pretty -- as if she were my daughter. They were so much my characters that I had the hardest time calling them by their real names. Jaime, Gillian and Alma. They were all terrific actresses. And about that secret actress -- I have no idea where she came from!

JRW: And now-- The BIG LIE! Tell us four things about yourself--only three can be true! And we'll try to guess which one is a lie...

JAN: Wow, I FINALLY get to play the Jungle Red game!! And you know what?? it's a lot harder than I'd imagined.

I tapped dance before an audience on stage when I was nine-months pregnant
George Harrison was my favorite Beatle
My great, great, great grandfather was a guard in the Tower of England
I'm part Native American


  1. I've loved all the Hallie Ahern mysteries, but I especially loved this one. And in part it's because of the way you write kids. As a mother of two daughters, this is my worst nightmare, and you never trivialize or sensationalize what you're writing about. It always feels real. But I also love these books because they are FUNNY! Hallie has got an oddball take on the world, and it's great to spend 300 pages in her head.

    BRAVA, Jan.

    George Harrison was your FAVE??

  2. Congratulations on the release of TEASER.

    I can't wait to read it -- it'll be dessert during holiday season.

    Excellent well done, Jan!

  3. Thanks Hallie for such kind words, they really mean a lot. Especially since you are forced to read my books in their very roughest form! (Hallie sees the first,ugly drafts!)

    And Susannah, thanks so much. still trying to figure out a way to get to Texas....

    Could George Harrison really have been anyone's favorite Beatle?
    I'll keep you in suspense a little longer.....

  4. I'm about 100 pages into Teaser right now. I picked it up at a conference this weekend. I'm lovin' it. I can't wait to get stuff done and get back to the book.

    BTW, the video turned out really creepy. Now that I'm reading, I recognize characters from your book in the video on the screen.

    The creepy part comes from how all-too-real it all is. My MIL used to counsel sex offenders, mostly guys who usually committed crimes of opportunity (stepdads or boyfriends). But that was because, when she did that job, most teens in her rural area did not have computers. It's still an economically depressed area, so teenagers at computers aren't as common as they are up here in the 'burbs.

  5. I love your trailer--It was so much like a film trailer and I really got a wonderful sense of the novel. The transformation of the little Catholic school girl was chilling.

    Hm. I'll go with George Harrison. The tap-dancing thing is just too good to make up. But I'm pretty much always wrong on the quiz. That's what happens when professional liars get to work!

  6. Hi Rhonda,
    I'm so glad your enjoying Teaser! Sadly, I think sexual offenders of opportunity (as you call them) the stepdads, dads etc. are still the biggest threat to kids. The worst thing about the Net though, is that it provides more opportunity for people who should stay farther away!
    Glad you liked the trailer. SO NO ONE thinks ANYONE could prefer George Harrison???

  7. Yes, I went through a George Harrison phase.

    But that was because Debbie Snively liked John, and both of us couldn't like John. Then she moved to Florida (which she insisted on spelling 'Flordia' and it drives me crazy to this day.) and then I got John.

    But it could happen.

  8. It DID happen. I never went for the guy everyone else liked. Even in high school, I found mob popularity a turnoff. I never thought Paul was cute. John had those glasses, and Ringo?? Didn't seem all that bright. So I fell in love with George.

    I am not part Native American, although my husband and kids are part Fox Indian.

    Also, they changed the video at YOUTUBE, so the old link won't work,

    For anyone who has been frustrated, the new one is:


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  10. Hi Jan! I was in bed all of yesterday, devouring Teaser. I just couldn't put it down! What an amazing book. I feel very lucky to have been part of the "teaser"...