I'm pleased to welcome J. T. Siemens to Cozy Up With Kathy today. J. T. writes the Sloane Donovan Mystery series. TO THOSE WHO KILLED ME is the first book in the series and will be released April 1, 2022.
Kathy: In TO THOSE WHO KILLED ME we meet Sloane Donovan, a disgraced ex-cop who now works as a fitness instructor. Have you ever had to make a major career change? Hopefully not by disgrace!
JTS: Thankfully, I’ve never had to leave a career in disgrace, but Covid was the catalyst for a major change in my career as a trainer, in that I began freelancing exclusively. That benefitted my writing as I was able to more favorably restructure my schedule.
Kathy: As a mental health professional I believe in the importance of lifting the stigma from mental illness. Why do you think it's important to have a protagonist with a diagnosis?
JTS: Some of the aspects of Sloane’s physicality and psychology are loosely based on some people I’ve known, and her backstory was developed from some of the anecdotes they were kind enough to provide. Sloane’s psychiatric past is important to the story, as well as to her struggles and growth as a character. I didn’t want to beat people over the head with the fact that she deals with bipolar disorder, but based on my research, I thought that as much as it might hold her back, certain aspects of it could actually prove to be beneficial in solving crimes.
Kathy: As Sloane looks into her friend's death she explores the seamier sides of Vancouver, even those hiding behind a golden veneer. If you were investigating would you rather stick to the mean streets or slip into those wealthy enclaves? Which do you think is sleazier?
JTS: I prefer the mean streets, hands down. They are tough, gritty, real, and devoid of pretense. I find wealthy enclaves anywhere sterile and somewhat boring. That said, having spent twenty-five years working in a country club similar to the one Sloane worked in, I can unequivocally state that there is way more sleaze to be found in places like that than in the streets of the Downtown Eastside. It’s big money sleaze, and the trickle-down effect of that is immense.
Kathy: What first drew you to thrillers?
JTS: First and foremost, I like exciting stories with interesting and dynamic characters. I’ve never been interested in a slow burn tale of someone sitting on a porch and ruminating about loss, no matter how well it is written. So many books are superbly written, but not nearly as many make my pulse speed up, and where I have no choice but to turn the page and keep reading. That’s what I like to read, and what I like to write, whether it’s called crime, mystery, thriller, or suspense.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
JTS: Currently my focus is crime thrillers. It’s just where my creative soul feels most at home.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
JTS: The series centers around Sloane Donovan, an ex-cop turned private investigator, who, amid struggling with PTSD and her mental health, finds herself immersed in the kind of cases that affect her the most. These cases are based on real events and issues occurring in and around the city of Vancouver, centering around crimes like human trafficking, missing women and children, and murder.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
JTS: I have a lot of fun with my characters, even the despicable ones, but my favorite would have to be Sloane. She’s got her issues, but she’s tenacious and fearless, and despite being willing to bend a few rules, she has a strong moral compass and an unwavering desire to seek justice for those who can’t do it for themselves.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
JTS: There is a lot of great crime fiction centering around tough male protagonists. There is also a lot featuring really amazing women protagonists, but not many where they are portrayed as physically tough. Yet in my career as a trainer, I’ve met many extremely athletic women who would be able to clean the clocks of most men. So, it’s wasn’t a stretch to imagine a character like that. My inspiration was to do something with this character and this series that I haven’t seen done before.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
JTS: From the very beginning it was my goal to get published. It took me a little longer than anticipated, but one attribute I have in common with my hero is tenaciousness. I keep going. I keep trying, always.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
JTS: Charles Bukowski, Lawrence Block, Gillian Flynn, Don Winslow. I think that would make for an interesting night.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
JTS: THE BAT, by Jo Nesbo.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
JTS: Fitness is huge in my life, and when I’m not in the gym, I’m out on my bike, or doing yoga. In the summer I do a ton of stand-up paddleboarding. And I love to travel! First big trip in over two years will be to Sicily in June, and I can’t wait.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
JTS: Creamy root beer Zevia, chicken, sweet potatoes, various types of mustard.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
JTS: I’ve completed the second book in the Sloane Donovan series, CALL OF THE VOID, and am in second draft mode of the third, entitled BLOOD ALLEY. Beyond that I have a few ideas jotted down on notes, but I like to focus in on one book at a time. That said, even by book three, Sloane has a lot of growth ahead of her, and I’m excited to find out where she goes with it.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
JTS: I love the daily process of sitting down and getting words out, of taking an idea and shaping it, through various drafts, into something that I’m proud of, and that hopefully people will want to read. But my absolute favorite is being immersed in the creative flow of a first draft. That venture into the unknown is a bit scary, but definitely the most exciting, and the most rewarding.
Disgraced ex-cop Sloane Donovan has relied on her job as a fitness instructor to keep her mental illness and PTSD in check--until she finds a close friend dead, apparently by her own hand. Obsessive demons triggered and doubtful of the official narrative, she teams up with Wayne Capson, a PI willing to bend the law, to find out who really killed her friend. The search leads Sloane from Vancouver's wealthiest enclaves to the street's darkest corners, questioning millionaires, tennis instructors, sex workers, former police colleagues--anyone who might provide answers.
For more information, check out the publisher's website: