Janet Christian began her adventure in writing in second grade, with a book of fanciful poems about cats. She later became a professional technical writer, creating complex but boring computer manuals. To escape the drudgery of describing hardware circuits and software routines, she returned to writing fiction. She served as 2003 President of the Heart of Texas Sisters in Crime in Austin, and became a published author in 2012.. She now also maintains a weekly blog at http://janetchristian.com.
Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
These days I live with Eric Marsh, my husband and best friend since 1989, on a 100 acre ranch in Lockhart, TX – 30 miles south of Austin. We have four goofy dogs, an ever-changing population of cats (usually around ten… or so), and a small herd of four-horned, spotted Jacob sheep.
Q: What do you do for fun?
When I’m not writing, I create art pieces in my combination pottery studio and tiki bar. I don’t throw (an odd term for making pottery, for sure). I have a slab roller, which looks like a giant lasagna noodle maker. There’s nothing quite like working big flat pieces of wet clay into fun shapes while also sipping on a fresh, cold Mai Tai.
My husband and I also travel, which is incredibly inspiring for a writer. In the past three years we’ve been to 18 countries in Europe and Asia. In the fall we’re going to Portugal.
Q: What genre do you write in?
That’s a trick question for me. I’m mostly attracted to murder mysteries, but you couldn’t tell that from my track record. I write what shows up in my head. Stories come to me in a flash, like a “blipvert” fromMax Headroom (I guess I just dated myself). It usually happens at three in the morning and I have to get up and capture it right then or I’ll lose it. I’ve written a children’s novel, a murder mystery, a dystopian science fiction, and I’m currently writing a speculative fiction. I’ve written short stories in all those genres, although most of my short stories seem to end up with a horror twist in them.
Q: Tell us more about your books
My first was a coming-of-age children’s novel called Wanda’s New Eyes. I originally wrote it before cell phones, so I’m busy rewriting it for a contemporary audience. I already have a great cover design, thanks to Karen Phillips, who now designs all my covers.
After Wanda, I wrote and published The Case of a Cold Trail and a Hot Musket, which is, hopefully, the first of a series of murder mysteries featuring Private Investigator Marianna Morgan. My next novel was a dystopian science fiction called Born Rich. I still love that story, but I pulled the book off Amazon after rereading a Frank Herbert novel. I couldn’t stop thinking of ways to improve and expand my first effort at creating a new world, or at least a new future for this world. There is so much more potential in Born Rich than I originally envisioned. I’d never really pushed it, so sold few copies. I’ll be offering anyone who bought the original version a free copy when the expanded one comes out.
These days I’m finishing up a speculative fiction novel called Virgilante. It can best be described as Dexter-lite. Virgil takes karma into his own hands; he just doesn’t use plastic sheeting and large knives. And his victims don’t end up in small pieces.
Q: How do you tackle writing in such diverse genres?
As they say, “Research, research, research.” I do a lot of online research and even face to face interviews and site visits. I’ve found most experts love it when you ask them questions. I’ve interviewed police chiefs in two small towns, the Historian and Curator of the Alamo, head librarian at the San Antonio Public Library, the owner of the Snake Farm (a roadside attraction north of San Antonio), bicycle police who patrol the San Antonio River Walk, the Ford Mustang Vintage Car Club, a former professional motorcycle racer, a database specialist, a psychiatrist, a veterinarian, and a realtor. They were all thrilled to be asked for their expertise.
I also belong to an awesome critique group called the Lockhart Writers. In spite of the unimaginative group name, everyone is incredibly creative, knowledgable, and capable, not just in the mechanics of good writing, but across many areas of expertise.
Q: What was your favorite research effort?
Hands down, my visit with Dr. Richard Bruce Winders from the Alamo. My murder mystery was inspired by a news article. Someone had donated a Brown Bess musket to the Alamo. There were thousands of these muskets used at the battle of the Alamo — most every Mexican soldier had one. What made the one in the news article unique was that its triangular bayonet tip had an unusual bend in it. My brain thought, “It could be identified years later!”
The problem was, I knew nothing about Brown Bess muskets, so I arranged an interview with Dr. Winders. First, I told him I’d never seen one other than pictures and was wondering how a wooden-stock musket could be hidden for 35 years without damage or deterioration. He got up from his desk, crossed to a closet, and handed me an actual Brown Bess to hold. I then told him about the article that inspired my story, and about the bent bayonet tip. He pulled open his desk drawer and said, “You mean this one?” He had the ACTUAL TIP! He let me hold it, too. Definitely the most awesome book research I’ve ever done.
Q: What’s next?
Finishing Virgilante, of course. Karen is working on the cover and my new editor, Crystal Hubbard, is waiting for the final draft. I have three different beginnings for sequels to my Marianna Morgan series. I want to get back to one of them. I love all the plot ideas, so I’ll probably have to flip a coin. Also I want to tackle expanding Born Rich. I’m honestly not sure which I’ll do first, the murder mystery or the science fiction. I’m not good at writing simultaneous stories. When I’m writing, it feels as if I’m living in that world. Writing two stories at the same time would be like jumping between parallel universes. Plus I think both stories would suffer.
Janet’s book (soon to be books):
Private Investigator Marianna Morgan finds she has more than she bargained for when Stephen Davidson hires her to tail and identify a woman he believes is his long lost sister Stephanie. There’s just one problem: Stephanie was kidnapped and presumed murdered 35 years ago.
The twins were seven when the Davidson home near San Antonio was burgled, their father was murdered, and one item, an Alamo-era, Brown Bess musket was stolen. Now, 35 years later, if the woman in question is Stephanie, why has she suddenly resurfaced, where has she been all this time, and why hasn’t she contacted her brother? If it isn’t her, why is the woman in question searching for the musket and attempting to stop Marianna via death threats… and worse?
Marianna must use all of her investigative skills to figure out what is really going on and resolve the decades-old mysteries.
Amazon print and ebook: http://www.amazon.com/Case-Cold-Trail-Hot-Musket/dp/1477699597