A negative comment from one of her college professors proved quite prophetic in the life of Nashville author J. T. Ellison.
“I was struggling along trying to do this literary and academic type of writing and one of my professors put a note on a paper and said it was too much like B-grade detective fiction,” Ellison said. “It took me quite a while and some time in other careers like politics and marketing before I realized that writing crime novels was really what I wanted to do.”
Ellison has now emerged as one of the nation’s hottest writers in the genre, with her second book 14 (Harlequin/MIRA) earmarked for fast tracking by her publishing company. Ellison, who’ll formally launch the book Wednesday at Past Perfect restaurant and also Thursday at Davis-Kidd Booksellers, said that there were some things she wanted to do with her series that differ a bit from past depictions of female detectives and law enforcement officers.
“I wanted to create a character who didn’t become a detective out of some traumatic event like being raped or the death of a sibling,” Ellison said. “Then I also wanted to establish a series of novels using Nashville as the backdrop. Our heritage as Music City is a great one, but there’s a lot more to Nashville than just the music community. It was my goal to really emphasize the many things that make the city so unique and special, and incorporate them into this series of stories about a female detective.”
The new 14 features detective Taylor Jackson involved in a difficult and complicated story that covers many other problem areas that arise during investigations. These range from issues of jurisdiction to problems with the chain of evidence, particularly when pursuing those whose criminal acts occurred many years ago.
There are also some professional and personal challenges that threaten to derail Jackson, and the political backdrop of a high profile crime and the second-guessing that comes from both media and superiors when it seems things aren’t moving quickly enough.
However, Ellison adds she wanted to show in her work that not every woman in law enforcement is mistreated or harassed.
“I felt it was important to have a woman investigator that’s not such a strident, harsh figure, and not someone who’s constantly battling for respect and suffering from bad practical jokes and hostility from her partners,” Ellison said. “I’ve gotten a lot of positive reinforcement and response from law enforcement people who’ve told me that they feel I’m accurately portraying what they do, how they operate and the problems that they face, and that’s a good feeling.”
Ellison maintains a prolific schedule for a novelist. She’s already completed both Judas Kiss and Edge of Black, the third and fourth novels in the series. She completes the research, plotting, and writing for each novel in a six-month period, something that she says “means I have no life.”
“But it really isn’t work,” Ellison said.” I’m getting to do something I love — create characters and stories that I enjoy, and get paid for it as well. This is fun, even if it often means most of my time is spent on Taylor Jackson’s next adventure.”
What: Nashville mystery author J.T. Ellison discusses her new novel 14
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday and 6 p.m. Thursday
Where: Past Perfect, 122 Third Ave. S. (Wednesday); Davis-Kidd Booksellers, 2121 Green Hills Drive (Thursday)
Cost: free and open to the public
Info: 736-7727 and 385-2645