Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Conversation with Thriller Writer J.C. Lane

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with J.C. Lane

We are delighted to welcome author J.C. Lane to Omnimystery News today.

J.C.'s new thriller Tag, You're Dead (Poisoned Pen Press; July 2016 hardcover, trade paperback and ebook formats) is published next week, and we had a chance to catch up with her to learn a little more about it.

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Omnimystery News: Tell us something about Tag, You're Dead that isn't mentioned in the publisher's synopsis.

J.C. Lane
Photo provided courtesy of
J.C. Lane

J.C. Lane: When I began this book as a Nanowrimo project it was going to be a YA book. I really enjoy YA fiction, and it just felt right to write one. (Actually, Tag is about the sixth YA book I've written!) The main characters are teenagers, and some of the themes involve their age. But … when the editors at Poisoned Pen Press read the book they thought immediately that it didn't have to appeal only to teenagers. They thought adults would enjoy it just as much — it was a thriller for all ages to read, no matter what the ages of the protagonists. This made me see the book in a new light, and I'm having fun talking it up to teens and adults!

OMN: When starting a new book, which comes first: the storyline or the characters?

JCL: Tag first came to me as a concept. I'd been trying to think of what could get the intensity and danger of a dystopian novel but take place in the present day. Dystopian novels have flooded the market so much that it's hard to sell one anymore, but that life-or-death kind of scenario seems to be attractive to readers. My husband is a phys-ed teacher, and I was listening to him talk about class one day when the idea of a game of Tag struck me. What if it was a game, but had much, much bigger consequences than just winning or losing? What if losing meant the end of everything for you? I began with research about different games of Tag and that led to the story, which brought up the different sorts of characters who would be involved in such a thing. My agent describes it as Person of Interest meets Clockwork Orange, and I've had a reviewer describe it as a marriage between The Hunger Games and The Purge.

OMN: Describe the process you took to write this book.

JCL: This book was a conglomeration of different processes. Once I had the basic idea of the Game down I was ready to start with characters. I went through The Plot Whisperer's Handbook by Martha Alderson, and fleshed out each character with pages of detail, and when the six main characters felt real to me, I began writing the actual narrative of the book. I knew who was going to "win" and who was going to "lose," but a great deal of the interaction and secondary characters came with the writing itself. I used a very involved timeline since the book comes at you from the viewpoints of six different people and is organized in 30-minute increments because of the parameters of the Game. I had different-colored Post-its up and down my wall just to keep myself organized!

OMN: How true are you to the setting of the story?

JCL: The majority of this book takes place in Chicago. As a child I lived in Evanston, a suburb of Chicago, for a year, but most of my more recent memories are from weekend visits. This meant I needed to rely on Internet research and Chicago-area friends for specifics. I tried to be as true as I could to the city, but I know there are a few things that natives would be able to quibble with! I ask their forgiveness in the Acknowledgements — sometimes the story had to take precedence over reality!

OMN: Was Tag, You're Dead your working title?

JCL: When I first started the book the working title was simply The Game and it stayed that way all the way through my writing process. It wasn't until I began agent hunting and participating in Twitter contests that it changed. I took part in Query Kombat on Twitter and the hosts asked that as part of the information authors stated the title and also a nickname for the book, and it would be referred to as its nickname for the length of the contest. I stated the title as The Game, and the nickname as Tag, You're Dead. I had earlier thought about making that the name since it's so provocative, but had done some research and found another book and a TV show with that title, so I didn't use it. But as the contest progressed and the book won its matchups against its opponents, one of the largest items of feedback I received was that the judges liked the nickname better than the more generic title. After thinking it over, I decided to change the name. A lot of authors have books with the same titles, so in the end it probably wouldn't matter that others were out there with the same name. Funny enough, the book did receive the "most self-explanatory title" on RT Book Reviews Forewords page.

OMN: Why did you opt to go with a pen name for this boook?

JCL: My publisher and agent both wanted me to go with a pen name for this book because it is different from the series "Judy Clemens" writes. So J.C. Lane (taken from my initials and my middle name, which is Alane) came to life! We decided this would not be a secret at all, which is great, because I want to tell people I wrote the book. But there have been challenges, since people sometimes aren't sure what to call me, or even what to put on marketing and promotional materials. I talked to several friends who use pen names and they gave me a few pointers and encouraged me that it would be okay.

OMN: What kinds of films or television series do you enjoy watching?

JCL: I enjoy an eclectic list of movies and TV. I like some quiet films, mysteries, police procedurals, comedies, and action movies. Right now I am going back through old favorites — M*A*S*H and Friends — but am also watching things for the first time, like Sherlock, Person of Interest, The Blacklist, and Homeland. Some of my favorite movies include Enchanted April, Stranger than Fiction, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and How to Train Your Dragon. Anything that can transport me to another world is welcome!

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J.C. Lane also writes mysteries as Judy Clemens. She lives in Ohio, where she shuttles her kids to events, loves cooking and baking new recipes, and is training for a half-marathon.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at JCLaneBooks and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Tag, You're Dead by J.C. Lane

Tag, You're Dead by J.C. Lane

A Thriller

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)iTunes iBook FormatKobo eBook Format

Six young people play a dangerous Game of Tag in public, chasing through the crowds, streets, and buildings of Chicago. This secret, one-of-a-kind, wildly expensive Game offers a macabre twist to the childhood version … if you get tagged, you get dead …

Three "Its" have their reasons for buying a place in the Game. Surgically enhanced Brandy is obsessed with destroying a naturally beautiful girl. Untalented Robert covets his target's position as superstar of the basketball team. Brainiac Charles craves a battle against an intellectual equal. Given their elite social status, they reject any possible downside to the contest. Each expects the satisfaction of killing their prey, then walking away.

Hand-picked innocents play as "Runners," under threat to their loved ones should they refuse to participate: lovely, small-town Laura; celebrated athlete Tyrese; and Amanda, gamer extraordinaire. Alone, hunted by their adversary, each feels a single hope … to survive.

Technological wizardry controls the Game. As soon as Runners receive the "Go" signal on smartwatches locked to their wrists, the Game rockets them through the city, from the El to Michigan Avenue to the Lincoln Park Zoo. There is no time to rest. Every thirty minutes the Runner's location is transmitted to the It, which steadily diminishes the Runner's chance of ever reaching Home Base alive.

The Game will not end until someone is Tagged, so the Runners must choose how to play. Will they accept death? Murder their Its? Or find a way to use individual strengths to stop the Game before anyone dies?

Tag, You're Dead by J.C. Lane


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