IL 2006: Opening Keynote J.A. Jance

48 states and DC. Along with 9 countries attending the conference this year. 1250 attending conference.

“Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all. The conscientious historian will correct that.Herotodus.

Today is the day the swallows leave Capistrano.

Info Today and SLA have announced a strategic alliance.

Jane Dysart introduces J.A. Jance. Author of 35 books, many of them mysteries. Undergrad in English and MLS. Worked as school librarian. Married with 5 kids, 6 grandkids, 2 dogs, 6 granddogs.

“I’m very tall.” Tall, elegant woman, with grey hair and a wonderful sense of humor.

Wanted to be a writer since second grade. Wizard of Oz books inspired her. Won scholarship to U of Arizona. Became English major. Couldn’t get into creative writing class become “you’re a girl.” Married a man who was a writer and chronic alcoholic. Finally divorced and moved her kids to Seattle in 1981.

Sold life insurance for 10 years. Attended Dale Carnegie course. Was a course in public speaking. One of the classes involved giving a talk about something that happened in your life that changed the course of your life. Recalled when she and her husband had crossed the path of a serial killer; when he was caught, they learned that they were to be his next victims. [ripple goes through the crowd at that one]

Gave a talk about how living through that period changed her life. When she finished her talk, a woman told her “someone should write a book about that.” Started to write her first booking fall of that year. Single parent with two kids, selling life insurance. Wrote from 4:30 to 7:30 every morning. When she wrote, she felt like she was doing something she was meant to do. Finished the book in May, on the same day as the serial killer had struck in 1970.

Editor told her the stuff that was real was too unbelievable, even though it had actually happened. It was suggested that she write something totally fiction. Took her suggestion.

Her ex-husband died of complications of chronic alcoholism at age 42. When she remarried, her father bought life insurance, of which she was the beneficiary. When he died, she took some of the proceeds of the insurance and bought a computer. Only had 15K of memory after the word processing program was installed; her first books have short chapters that are very punchy.

When bedeviled by writer’s block, reads the U of A alumni magazine and gets ideas from that. Offered at one point to be a writer in residence at the Creative Writing program at UofA and was told that “We don’t DO genre fiction, we only do LITERARY writing.” The serial killer in her next book was a professor of creative writing at UofA.

The Internet allows her to hear from people. Ideas come from lots of places. Heroine in Edge of Evil based on local television anchor who was cut loose because she was too old. Starts a blog called “Cut Loose.”

Got incredible snarky email from Melissa G. telling her, “Jesus, you’re an ugly broad.” The email went downhill from there. Judy actually answered with a short, polite email. But she was writing a book, and by some strange coincidence, someone named Melissa G. wrote an email saying the exact same things to the character in her book.

Was 6 feet tall by the 7th grade, and wore thick glasses, and was very smart. Junior high and high school not her favorite times. In 1980-81, she listened to tapes while driving around. Listened to a lot of Janis Ian. Both of them had issues with their mothers. One song in particular really spoke to her, “At 17.” [Goes on to sing the song for the audience, in quite a lovely singing voice. Takes courage to sing a capella like that. And stays on key, too, through a number of modulations. Impressive.]

Ends with, “Thank you for making my dreams come true.”


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