I am thrilled to have best selling author on today L.J. Sellers.
She is an award-winning journalist and the author of the bestselling Detective Jackson mystery/suspense series: The Sex Club, Secrets to Die For, Thrilled to Death, Passions of the Dead, and Dying for Justice. Her novels have been highly praised by Mystery Scene, Crimespree, and Spinetingler magazines, and the series has been on Amazon Kindle’s bestselling police procedural list.
L.J. also has three standalone thrillers: The Baby Thief, The Suicide Effect, and The Arranger. When not plotting murders, she enjoys performing standup comedy, cycling, social networking, and attending mystery conferences. She’s also been known to jump out of airplanes.
Today L.J. tells us what happens when she just can’t get a character out of her mind.
What do you do when a minor character is so much fun you can’t let her go? You plot a novel just for her. That story became The Arranger, a futuristic thriller involving two wildly different concepts: a software technician who devolves into a killer and a national endurance competition called the Gauntlet.
This unusual story developed from several concepts that came together for me: a character I couldn’t get out of my mind, a vivid opening scene I had to use, and a growing concern about the effect of long-term unemployment on our country.
The protagonist is Lara Evans, one of the task force investigators from my Detective Jackson series. In the fifth book, Dying for Justice, Evans had a major role, and I had such a good time developing her character and writing from her perspective that I knew she needed her own novel. After five Jackson titles, I was ready to take a break and stretch my creative side.
One day as I watched paramedics carry someone out of a house, I thought: What if they had witnessed a crime? What if the paramedic became a target? Instantly, I had a premise and an opening scene. Of course, I thought of Lara Evans, who had been a paramedic before she became a cop.
Around the same time, my concern for the economy led me to wonder: Would jobs become commodities that were ripe for exploitation and crime? From there, my antagonist was born, and I knew I had to write a futuristic thriller. But I didn’t want it to be dystopian or supernatural. Like my police procedurals, I wanted it to be gritty and realistic.
Now I had 1.) a protagonist, an ex-detective working as a freelance paramedic; 2.) a setting, a distressed economy 13 years in the future; 3.) a premise and opening scene; and 4.) an antagonist to exploit the situation. All I had to do was find a way to bring it all together.
Lara Evans’ energy and physical fitness led me to create the Gauntlet, an intense contest that also includes an intellectual component and provides jobs as the prize for the winner’s state. So I plotted a story set in a bleak near-future, in which a paramedic witnesses a crime and becomes a target for a killer, then competes in a national contest. Believe me, it was the most challenging outline I’ve ever developed.
Yet writing The Arranger is the most fun I’ve ever had as a novelist, especially the breathless competition scenes. I also became quite attached to my antagonist, and his role in the story developed into a character study. Readers have already asked if this is the first book in a new series, but I don’t know yet. My own future is a little harder to predict.