REMAINS OF INNOCENCE
Written by J.A. Jance and
reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
WriterAdvice seeks flash fiction, memoir, and creative non-fiction running
750 words or less. Enlighten, dazzle, and delight us. Finalists receive
responses from all judges.
DEADLINE: Submit to the 10th WriterAdvice Flash Prose Contest by
April 21, 2015.
JUDGES: Former prizewinners, Gretchen Clark and Lili Flanders and
Carl Small will judge. Read their pieces and biographies by clicking on
PRIZES: First Place earns $200; Second Place earns $100; Third Place
earns $50; Honorable Mentions will also be published.
FOR BEST RESULTS:
1. Include your name, contact information, and title in the
cover letter, but only include your title in the submission
so it remains anonymous.
2. Tell us if the submission is fiction or memoir in the cover
3. Since we judge these anonymously, please don’t tell us
your background or where you’ve been published. If you
are a finalist, we’ll ask for a bio.
4. Please double-space your submission. We recommend
that you use a 14-point font that is easy to read. Times
New Roman, Cambria, and Ariel all spring to mind.
5. We're reading these as blind submissions so put both
your name and your title in your cover letter but leave
them off your manuscript.
SUBMISSIONS: All entries should be submitted through Submittable:
You may enter UP TO THREE stories, but each is a separate submission
with a separate fee of $15.
Names of all winners will be announced in the summer issue of
E-mail questions, but not submissions to editor B. Lynn Goodwin at
WRITER ADVICE ANNOUNCES ITS 10th FLASH PROSE CONTEST
In her sixteenth Joanna Brady mystery, Sheriff Joanna Brady finds herself
investigating two murders. In Great Barrington, MA, Selma Machett, who is
dying from emphysema, asks her daughter, Liza, to bring her a cookbook.
Searching for it, Liza finds a fortune in hundred dollar bills hidden in the tall
stacks of books and magazines that crowd every corner.
Liza and her stepbrother, Guy, grew up with an unstable mother and no
father. So when the house is torched during her mother’s funeral, and her
landlady also burns in a fire at her own place, Liza flees. She plans to turn to
her stepbrother, the new medical examiner in Cochise County, AZ, but no one
can reach him to do an autopsy on Junior Dowdle, a developmentally delayed
man in his sixties who is found at the bottom of a limestone cavern near a
badly injured kitten.
Tension reigns. Sheriff Brady faces two mysteries, and has only a skeletal
staff to seek clues and relationships between the two mysteries. As usual
Jance’s characters are well drawn, three dimensional, and intriguing. The
beauty of the Arizona desert provides a stark contrast to small town Great
Barrington, which is steeped in tradition. Jance makes us ache for the victims,
and there are many in this story, but she also makes us cheer for Joanna
Brady whether she’s in uniform or not.
It was a pleasure to ask questions of the author. Here she shares her
thoughts and insights about…
LG: Tell us a little about the moment when you decided you were a writer. What was the first piece you ever had published?
JAJ: My first published work was a book of poetry, After the Fire. It is still in print. In poetry and prose, it tells the story of the end of my first
marriage to a guy who died of chronic alcoholism at age 42, a year and a half after I divorced him. It may be poetry, but it's also my autobiography
and gives readers a lot of insight into the origins of many of my characters.
LG: Interesting that it was more memoir than mystery. When / how did you know that mystery was your genre?
JAJ: Mystery was my genre because I always read mysteries, from Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys right on through Travis Magee.
LG: It seems like you liked risk-takers. In Remains of Innocence which came first, Liza’s story or Junior’s, and how hard was it to put the two
JAJ: Liza's story came first in a conflict that set her on the road to Joanna's Cochise County. Junior's story was already in progress, although Joanna
didn't learn that until long after Liza's journey was underway.
LG: Is there any chance we’ll see more of Liza Machett?
JAJ: Liza seems to have captivated many of my readers. They're asking the same question with opinion running 50/50 as to whether she stays on in
Arizona or returns to Massachusetts. I won't know what happens to her until I sit down to write the next book.
LG: That’s a tantalizing answer, and writers will get a clue to your process from it. You pace your plots so well. Any tips for when to add material, and
when to withhold it?
JAJ: I write the books as you see them, from beginning to end. I usually add information when I discover it. By the way, this means I do NOT outline,
don't know the end of the book when it start writing it, and sometimes don't even know who the killer is.
LG: That tells me you’re as gutsy as your mystery heroes. What is a typical writing day like, if there is such a thing, and how long did it take you to
write Remains of Innocence?
JAJ: It generally takes six months to write a book. I get up in the morning, commute from the bedroom to my writing chair by way of the kitchen-
based coffee machine. I read and answer e-mail, read the newspapers, and then go to work on writing. Today the writing part consists of doing
copy editing on the next Ali Reynolds book, Cold Betrayal, due out in March.
LG: Excellent. I reviewed Edge of Evil, which might have been the first Ali Reynolds book back in 2006. It will be good to check in on this character
again. Can you briefly describe your writing process?
JAJ: I stitch pieces of my life into the background of my books. For instance, Joanna's mother is a version of my own mother, although my mother
never noticed that. I have to get inside a story before I can write it. I have to think my way into my characters response and reactions to certain
events. What they do has to be something I can believe or my readers won't believe their actions, either. I write books and stories that satisfy ME
before they satisfy anyone else. I write one day's chapter. The next day I go back and reread the previous day's chapter. I don't go back to the
beginning of the book. That's a recipe for having a great FIRST chapter and never finishing a book.
LG: I can’t stop laughing about Joanna’s mother. She is so authentic in her own, unique way. How do you know when a book is ready to share with an
JAJ: It goes to my first reader, my husband, and my agent at the same time. After I install their edits and corrections the manuscript goes to my
editor. By the way, my agent wasn't able to sell my first manuscript, but she's been my agent for more than fifty books now. I think new writers who
happen to get an agent who can't sell their first attempt, go off the rails by firing the agent and keeping that first manuscript. I did the opposite--
fired the manuscript and kept the agent.
LG: Wise advice. Where can people learn more about you and your work?
JAJ: They're welcome to go to my website, www.jajance.com. They're welcome to read my blog--my autobiography written in weekly installments.
As I said earlier, I'm doing editorial work on the next Ali Reynolds book. Next up will be writing another Beaumont.
When I bought my first computer in 1983, the guy who installed the software fixed it so that every morning, when I booted up, these are the words
that flashed across the screen: A WRITER IS SOMEONE WHO HAS WRITTEN TODAY. Those were words I clung to before I was published, and they're
words I still live by today. Since I'm working on copy-editing today, that means I qualify as a writer today.
LG: Thank you so much for sharing the words that flash across your computer screen.
If you visit J.A. Jance’s web page, read her “About Me” page. At the end she says, “I’m thrilled when I hear that someone has used my books to get
through some particularly difficult illness either as a patient or as they sit on the sidelines while someone they love is terribly ill. It gratifies me to
know that by immersing themselves in my stories, people are able to set their own lives aside and live and walk in someone else’s shoes. It tells me I’m
doing a good job at the best job in the world.”
I have been a J.A. Jance fan since I met Joanna Brady, and it was a thrill to receive her answers and share them with you. If you haven’t met her
characters yet, take a trip to your bookstore or library before the week is out. Her plots, characters, and setting will leave you wanting more.