Meet mystery author J.A. Jance at Sammamish Library

February 7, 2012

By Warren Kagarise


The author J.A. Jance, a regular on The New York Times Best Seller List, is beloved by fans for taut plotlines and relatable characters.

The journey from concept to novel is almost a science for the long-established author.

“I usually start with somebody dead and I spend the rest of the book trying to figure out who killed that person and how come,” she said. “That’s the process.”

Jance’s latest novel, “Left for Dead,” dropped Feb. 7. Fans can meet the author at the Sammamish Library on Feb. 16.

The thriller’s protagonist is a character familiar to Jance readers — Ali Reynolds, a former TV journalist. The action in “Left for Dead” starts after Reynolds’ friend, a deputy sheriff, is shot in the Arizona desert. The case appears as violence from drug cartels in neighboring Mexico, but readers soon discover the plot is more complicated.

Jance centered the Reynolds novels around Sedona, Ariz., but the action in “Left for Dead” revolves around Tucson, Ariz. — a challenge for the main character. (The author splits the year between Seattle and Tucson.)

Experiences from Jance’s life and research expeditions in the Southwest and around the globe form the basis for characters and scenarios.

If you go

J.A. Jance book signing

  • 7 p.m. Feb. 16
  • Sammamish Library
  • 825 228th Ave. S.E.

“When I go around in the world, I’m collecting stuff and it sticks in my head,” she said. “It’s sort of like what oysters do with grains of sand. They turn them into pearls eventually.”

The process for crafting a novel is organic. Jance usually writes with a laptop perched on her lap.

“I met outlining for the first time in Mrs. Watkins’ sixth-grade geography class,” she said. “I hated outlining then. Nothing that has happened to me in the intervening years has changed my mind about outlining.”

Readers often find Jance’s books difficult to put down — praise the author hears most often at book-signing events. Other anecdotes carry a deeper sentiment.

“One of the things I really like to hear is how people have used my books to get through some kind of difficult health crisis in their family, either for themselves or someone else,” Jance said. “The ancient, sacred charge of the storyteller is to beguile the time — and time in the hospital in the waiting room is time desperately in need of beguiling.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment at

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