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J.A. Jance has book signing in Mill Creek


Last updated 3/25/2015 at Noon

J.A. Jance is in Mill Creek on March 30.

Best-selling mystery writer J.A. Jance is an Arizona kind of person, but she has a soft spot for Seattle – and Snohomish County.

Among her 15 Washington state stops this month is a book signing March 30 at Mill Creek’s University Book Store, where she’ll read from her latest Ali Reynolds novel, “Cold Betrayal.”

She will not be appearing at the University Book Store in Seattle.

“The University store is not a good venue for signing,” she said. “Mill Creek is a far better one in terms of being able to speak and interact with people.”

She is sure to have plenty of fans in Snohomish County where, in addition to previous appearances in Mill Creek, she was the keynote speaker in Everett last summer at Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County’s annual benefit luncheon.

Jance is certainly a champion of support for domestic violence victims. Her Everett stop last year came at the request of Domestic Violence Services’ executive director, Vicci Hilty, who is the niece of one of Jance’s good friends in Seattle.

“People trapped in domestic violence situations don’t have easy answers,” she said. “That plays a part in this book, as well. It’s a domestic violence shelter that comes to the aid of this group of displaced women.”

In “Cold Betrayal,” Ali Reynolds is called back to the job when Taser-carrying Sister Anselm pulls her into an investigation of a polygamist cult after she rescues a young pregnant woman injured while making her escape.

The novel is based on a true incident from 1953, when Arizona Gov. John Howard Pyle ordered a National Guard raid on a cult called the Council of Friends, which had broken away from the Mormon church.

“I was a kid growing up in Bisbee (Arizona) when it happened,” Jance said. “It was a huge boondoggle. About 250 kids were taken who never got back to their birth families.

“The political fallout meant that the governor didn’t get re-elected. I created a fictional group for the book, and my purpose is to point out that if victims can’t go to the people who protect them, who do they go to?”

Jance, 71, has written 50 books featuring four characters. In addition to Reynolds, they include the Walker family, Joanna Brady and J.P. Beaumont. The latter character, a detective with the Seattle Police Department, struggles with the bottle while doing his job and living in Belltown. (Jance’s first husband died from chronic alcoholism at 42.)

The first Beaumont novel, “Until Proven Guilty,” marked Jance’s debut in 1985. But before the book was released, the publisher’s marketing department insisted on substituting “J.A. Jance” for the author’s real name, Judith Ann Jance. (Friends call her Judy.)

“They said that this is a police procedural written by a woman,” Jance said. “Men won’t read it.”

Men did, of course, as well as women, and made Jance one of the nation’s most popular writers of police procedurals.

Jance had been living in Seattle for two years before she starting writing the book. She conducted research there to make the story hold up, and said she learned much about the city while there. (She still has a home in Bellevue, in addition to one in Tucson.)

“I tried for six months to write that first book, but had the wrong point of view,” she said. One day, she decided to use the first-person narrative, writing from Beaumont’s point of view.

The first line of “Until Proven Guilty” became: “She was probably a cute kid once, four maybe five years old. It was hard to tell that now. She was dead.”

“I was suddenly inside Beau’s head,” Jance said, “and we’ve been together for 30-plus years.”

In 1993, Jance debuted the Joanna Brady series with “Desert Heat.”

“Edge of Evil” with Ali Reynolds came in 2006.

Although the Walker family series originally debuted in 1990, Jance rewrote the book and released it years later due to the popularity of the Beaumont and Brady series.

Jance’s next book, “Dance of the Bones” with the Walker family, will be released this summer, as will an e-book novella with Beaumont.

Jance says she wants to release the novella in paper format, as well. “I have a lot of readers who don’t read e-books. I called them DTRs – dead tree readers.”

Jance says she continues to support brick-and-mortar bookstores, including Mill Creek’s. But she’s also a fan of e-books.

“From my point of view, the e-book phenomenon has done an immense service for me,” she said. “It attracts new readers, who can go back and read all of the books.

“In the old days, books would go out of print, and the only way to get one was to go to a used book store and hope it was there.”

Will Jance ever make Mill Creek a plot point?

“The mayor of Sammamish tackled me at the end of a book signing once and said, ‘How come you never put Sammamish in your books?’

“You have to watch what you ask for. I put a couple of homicides in Sammamish in a story.”

J.A. Jance reads and signs copies of “Cold Betrayal” at 7 p.m. Monday, March 30, at the University Book Store, 15311 Main St., Mill Creek.


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