Paul’s Fantasy Writings today has the honour of an interview with author JT Ellison, who wrote the NYT bestselling noir thriller, Lie To Me, and who has won an Emmy for co-hosting a TV Show. She also has a new novel coming out at the end of the month – Good Girls Lie.
Fairly recently, I spoke with JT via Instagram and she kindly agreed to an interview.
Where do you live and does this place, or anywhere else that you’ve lived, appear in your writings?
I’m in Nashville, and it does feature prominently in my work. I wanted readers to see the Nashville we live and breathe. Yes, there’s country music here, but we are so much more.
You are a prolific writer! You have written well over 20 books, which is a fantastic feat in and of itself. Do you set targets for yourself, words-wise every day? On average, how many words do you write a day?
I do – my goal is to write 1,000 words a day, five days a week. I keep spreadsheets of metrics to make sure I’m staying on track. My annual per day average is 860 or so, right on goal for around 200,000 fiction words a year.
This blogger: That’s a very respectable word count. Your annual average makes me feel better as well, because my word count per day is around 700-words (*smiles*).
You have a new book coming out at the end of the month – Good Girls Lie. What is it about, and what made you write it?
Good Girls Lie is set in the fictional town of Marchburg, Virginia, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It features an elite, all-girls private boarding school called, The Goode School. Goode attracts only the best, so when an orphan from Oxford, England, arrives on campus, everyone pays attention. Ash Carlisle is quickly drawn into the school’s many traditions, ghost stories, and soon enough, murder. It’s Jane Eyre meets Pretty Little Liars.
I’ve always wanted to write a boarding school mystery; especially, since I went to an all-woman’s boarding college. The story has been banging to get out of me for years.
This blogger: That sounds pretty unique. I’ve watched films like St Trinians and Wild Child, both of which take place in all-girls boarding schools (albeit in England). But I have never come across a film or a book where a murder happens at such a place. That’s pretty cool!
Among many of your books, your noir thriller, Lie To Me, was a New York Times bestseller. Why do you think it did so well? And what message did you want readers to take from it?
I think Lie To Me spoke to readers on a number of levels. The main characters were both writers, which are always fun to read about. The voice was unique, and the settings were unique as well. I’m thrilled people have connected with the story; it makes me very happy.
If you had to choose three books or films that loosely come under the ‘thriller’ heading as a starting point for people who know nothing about the genre, which ones would you recommend? And why?
There are so many different types of thrillers— international, military, spy, domestic — and many, many more. I’d say anything by Daniel Silva or Vince Flynn for international; Tess Gerritsen and Lisa Gardner for police procedural; Lisa Unger for psychological; and Lisa Scottoline for domestic would be a good start for any discerning reader.
Also, I co-write a series with Catherin Coulter called “A Brit in the FBI” and they fit into several of these categories.
In two of my blog posts, I discuss how to write a memorable villain or antagonist. I believe that villains/antagonists make the story as much as the main character. What makes a memorable villain or antagonist in your opinion?
They have to be believable, they have to be relatable, and their motivations need to be clear and understandable. All the best villains are quite straightforward, not over the top moustache-twirlers.
This blogger: Yup! I could not agree more.
Which of the characters in any of your stories is the least like you? And why?
All of the characters are me, in some form, the good and the bad.
If you could give your younger self some advice about the writing process, what would it be?
To keep my head down, my mouth shut, and create from the heart.
This blogger: Great advice! That it has worked so well for you is very inspiring.
How has writing changed you?
I’m a very private, shy and introverted person by nature. Because of my writings, I have had to get used to speaking in public and meeting strangers. It’s not as much of a challenge as it was in the beginning. Plus, I’m more compassionate with my fellow man.
This blogger: That’s fantastic! As a writer, it’s always wonderful to know that others have grown as a person, as a result of their writings.
Have your family and friends read any of your novels? If so, what do they think of them and how do you feel when they talk about them with you?
My husband is one of my first readers, as is my father. So far, they’ve been pretty pleased with the work. But neither of them hesitate to tell me when I’ve gone off course.
This blogger: That’s good. They sound super supportive, yet uniquely objective confidantes. It is clear that they only want the best for you.
You are also an Emmy-award winning co-presenter for A Word On Words. For people (including myself), who don’t know anything about the show, please can you tell us a bit about it, and how you came to be its co-host?
The exceedingly talented and warm-hearted, NYT bestseller herself, JT Ellison.
For 40-plus years, John Seigenthaler hosted a television show on Sunday mornings in Nashville. He interviewed hundreds of authors, me included. When he passed away, NPT didn’t want the show to end. So, they reimagined it and brought on me and Mary Laura Philpott as co-hosts to do interviews. They’re shorter, more agile, and digital-friendly. It is one of the greatest honors of my life to be able to carry on John’s magnificent literary tradition for my adopted hometown.
This blogger: That’s so nice. I cannot imagine what an honour that must be. NPT have definitely chosen the right person to carry on John’s legacy!
Finally, what do you like to do when you are not writing, if you have any such time?
You’ll find me on a plane traveling somewhere fun, or on the golf course, chasing the little white ball.
Lastly, thanks for having me!
End of Interview
This brings an end to our interview with author JT Ellison. I would like to thank her for her time, as it has been delightful getting to know her. I wish her all the best in her future writings, as well as with her TV show, golf, travels and other ventures.
Otherwise, like JT Ellison on Facebook; follow her on Twitter and on Instagram; check out her page on Goodreads and Bookbub; and visit her website. Then, you can keep up to date with JT Ellison and be the first to know when she has a new, exciting announcement.
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