J.L. Delozier is a practicing physician from Pennsylvania whose love for writing dates back to her days in junior high school. She's the author of two novels, which we'll discuss in a moment. I had the pleasure of meeting Jen at ITW's ThrillerFest 2017, and she's been gracious enough to take a few moments to answer a couple questions.
MB: Let's start by talking about some of your early writing. I understand that you submitted your first story, handwritten in pencil on lined notebook paper, to Isaac Asimov's magazine. What was the story about? Did it get accepted?
JLD: It was rejected, but in a kind and personal way, which I now understand is so unusual. I owe much to the magazine for not crushing my adolescent hopes of being a writer! The story, as I vaguely remember, was dystopian WAY before dystopian was even a thing. It was set in the near future and had a little girl thinking about her school assignment – an essay about what changes she would make to make the world a better place if she could – as she was walking home from school. During her walk, the reader is privy to her observations and commentary on what she sees around her: a polluted, destroyed earth on the verge of collapse. But at the end of the story, she decides she’s going to fail her assignment, because to her, everything is the way it should be, and she can’t think of a thing to change. It was meant to be about the power of perspective and how, sadly, we adjust and adapt to ever-worsening circumstances around us without giving them another thought. Heavy stuff for a twelve-year old in 1982!
MB: You've got two books out. Your first is called Type & Cross, which was nominated for International Thriller Writers "Best First Novel" of 2016. Your latest book is called Storm Shelter. Tell me about your books.
JLD: Type & Cross is a traditional pandemic thriller and has a criminal psychologist chasing a “mad scientist” around the globe in hopes of extracting the cure to the disease he’s created – a virus which chooses its victims based on blood type. Storm Shelter is, aside from the first and last chapters, set entirely within one building and has a stronger horror element to it. I tried to make my readers experience strong feelings of both claustrophobia and paranoia, and the setting is very much a character. It begs the question: If you were trapped with a 1000 people you don’t know in a place where people are disappearing and returning mutilated and dead, how far would you go to escape? Who would you trust? Where’s the line?
MB: Both Type & Cross and Storm Shelter are both disaster-oriented books. You've done a lot of work yourself as a doctor during disasters like Hurricanes Katrina, Ike, and Gustav. How much of your own experience with disaster work went into your books?
JLD: There’s not much of me in Type & Cross, but I like to joke that Storm Shelter is 80% real – up to the first grotesque murder. The setting of the book is 100% real. I was based there for Hurricane Ike. Many of the situations that occur are real, and most of the characters are based on amalgams of those I met throughout my various deployments. So it has a strong basis of truth to it. But that’s what I like to do – take scientific truths and bend them just a bit to their extremes, much like Michael Crichton did with Jurassic Park, back when the idea of cloning old DNA was fanciful.
MB: Every writer has specific nuisances when it comes to writing. Some have special places set aside where they write. Some are "pantsers" who fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to their plot. Others are plotters who feverish outline their stories within an inch of its life. Some edit as they go, and others won't edit until the draft is done. Talk for a moment about your writing process.
JLD: I was a total pantser for these first two books. Book three, working title, Blood Type X, is complete, but it was more challenging. I stalled out and ended up with a book which was way too short at 50,000 words (all my books tend to be short anyway, publishing at around 70-72,000 words.) It was a struggle to the end, so I decided I would at least do a rough sketch for Book four. I wouldn’t call it an outline – more like two pages of notes about the characters and plot – but we’ll see if it helps.
MB: Let's talk about reading for a moment. Is there a specific genre that you lean toward when selecting a book to read?
JLD: Thrillers, horror, and sci fi, although I’m not into fantasy, and it seems much of the sci fi leans that way, these days.
MB: What are you currently reading?
JLD: Nothing. I find I can’t read while writing as it taints my voice. I’m doing my first NaNoWriMo, so I’m writing my fourth book at a quicker-than-normal pace while still doing final edits on Blood Type X. I read in between novels as my reward.
MB: No spoilers, but what can you tell us about Storm Shelter that we won't find in the jacket copy or PR material?
JLD: I don’t THINK this was in the PR material, but I apologize if I’m incorrect: I wove a subtle homage to Lewis Carroll in general and Alice in Wonderland in specific throughout the book, simply for my own amusement. It’s in the characters names and little details. For example, there’s a schizophrenic named Carol who compulsively fiddles with a pocket watch. Little things like that amuse me when I’m writing.
MB: What can we expect from you in the future? Are you working on any new projects?
JLD: Blood Type X is the sequel to Type & Cross and is the final Persephone Smith novel. It’s completed but I’m dragging my feet on submitting it to my small press because an agent is reading it (I still don’t have one!) My work-in-progress is something totally different for me, and I’m having a blast with it. The working title is Superheroes, Inc. and it’s sort of Goodfellas meets Mystery Men, to use movie comps. It features an ordinary man who dresses up as a superhero at night and gets embroiled with some real-life nastiness, including the Italian mob, the Irish mob, and a mysterious woman who wants to recruit superheroes and “train” them. It’s a dark, comedic thriller, if there is such a thing, and I’m totally getting my geek on for it.
MB: Finally, give me a list of your top five all-time favorite books.
JLD: I hate questions like this. There are so many that I liked for different reasons and at different stages of my life, I just don’t know that I can. I’ll just throw out some ones that made a strong impact on me, in no particular order: The Hunger Games, Never Let Me Go, 1984, Carrie, Lord of the Flies, Little Women.
MB: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. Good luck with Type & Cross, Storm Shelter, and your upcoming new book.