Jan Christensen grew up in New Jersey and now resides in Texas. She's had over fifty short stories published in various places over the last dozen years, two of which were nominated for a Derringer Award. Others won a Fire to Fly award and the Mysterical-e 2000 Award for Best Story Previous to 2001. Jan writes a regular column for Mysterical-e about reading and can be found on Facebook, location Corpus Christi. She's also had one novel published, "Sara's Search," now available in Kindle format. Learn more at her website .
Jan, you are a short story wonder! Over fifty published! Do you have any series characters?
Jackie, first I want to thank you for having me here. To answer your question, I do have a few series characters, and they are all characters with outsized personalities. Which is probably why I like to keep writing about them. One is “my” female PI character who has appeared in a couple of short stories (unpublished) and a couple of novels (also unpublished, but hope to get them self-published soon). Her name is Paula, she lives in Rhode Island, and she’s very smart. Twins who are also private investigators, brother and sister, have only appeared in two short stories (both published), but I wouldn’t doubt that there will be more. And there’s Artie, the burglar, which leads me to answer your next question.
“Artie and the Long-Legged Woman”. What a title! Can you tell us a little about Artie and the story?
Artie has just stepped out of the jewelry store where he helped himself to some watches and fine jewelry. Unfortunately, he bumps into the long-legged owner of the place. And she has a deal he can’t refuse unless he’s willing to go to prison for robbing her store. Sort of a pact with the devil. But those legs! Poor Artie. In the next, also already-published story from Untreed Reads in this series, he meets the red-headed woman who begs for his help to get away from her father, an old friend of Artie’s. How can he refuse? That one is titled, “Artie and the Red-Headed Woman,” no surprise. Coming up soon from Untreed Reads are “Artie and the Green-Eyed Woman,” and “Artie and the Brown-Eyed Woman.” Then I have to get busy and write some more in the series!
How do you come up with so many characters and storylines? Where do you begin your stories?
I can’t explain how I come up with different characters and storylines. I think it’s mainly because I’ve read so much since I was pretty young. An average of two-to-three books a week, mostly novels, mostly mysteries. All those stories have to be percolating in the back of my mind. Give me an idea of any kind, I can write a story about it. I can pick an object in a room, pick out a certain trait from someone I know and take off with it. It amazes even me, and I don’t take any kind of credit for it. I only take credit for sitting in the chair and doing the writing. The rest just is. As for where I begin—I try to begin in the middle of something interesting going on in my main character’s life. Usually. But don’t hold me to it. I might begin anywhere.
Did you fall into writing shorts, or was it your plan all the while?
I did deliberately decide to write short stories in order to hone my craft. I figured it would be easier and quicker to learn by writing many stories with many characters and situations. Then I became hooked on writing them and find them a lot easier to write than novels. Tightly focusing on one small part of a character’s life is easier for me than the big sprawl of a whole novel. Not that I don’t like writing novels, too. I’ve written eight so far, and one, “Sara’s Search,” was published back in 2004 and is now out in Kindle format. But it’s really easier for me to write short stories.
You have several articles on reading, including “Reading Thoughtfully”. What’s the one piece of advice you want readers to remember the next time they pick up a book or short story?
I never thought of writing a column about reading, but the publisher of Mysterical-e, Joe de Marco, where I’ve had several short stories published over the years, asked me to. I took up the challenge and have a column now in every issue. I want readers to enjoy reading. I suggest they leave their critical minds behind while reading fiction. Trust the author until the very end. Then you can become critical if you want to think more about the story or the book or write a review or discuss it with others. In other words, go along for the ride, enjoy the journey. Maybe because we are in touch with so many more people because of the internet, and many writers are also talking about reading with other writers, it seems to me we are not always enjoying reading as much as we used to.
Are you in or do you have any desire to be in anthologies?
I’ve already been in several anthologies. Two from Whortleberry Press, edited by Jean M. Goldstrom—“Strange Mysteries” and “It Was A Dark and Stormy Halloween.” Then there’s a story in “Carols and Crimes, Gifts, and Grifters” edited by Tony Burton with all proceeds going to Toys for Tots. And I have one in “On Dangerous Ground” edited by Ed Gorman (what a thrill to have my story in the anthology right next to his!), Dave Zeltserman (a true gentleman, publisher of “Hardluck Stories,” but sadly “Hardluck” is no longer being published) and nice guy Martin H. Greenberg. All three of those men had to okay the story for the western noir anthology. It’s one of the highlights of my career. And sure, I’d love to be in more. But, I need to submit more!
What’s up next for you?
In a word (or two—it’s hyphenated, after all): self-publishing, plus the Artie stories still to come from Untreed Reads. First, I’ll have a collection of three already-published-but-no-longer-available short stories in ebook format. It was just uploaded to the Kindle last week, and your readers are the first to know about it except a few close friends and family. The collections will all be called “Warning Signs,” but each will also be numbered, so everyone can kept track of what they have and don’t have. There will be many more collections to come because so many of the magazines and ezines I’ve been published in are out-of-print. They are all titled “Warning Signs,” and a mile marker on the cover will indicate which volume you’re reading.
Next I have a few novels to publish in ebook and soft-cover format. The first one of that batch is called “Revelations.” I’m waiting for an edit, and when that’s done, out she goes. I already have the cover. It takes place in the 1980s and is about a religious cult and a murder. After that are several more novels along with the collections. Right now I’m concentrating on getting everything set up to publish. I’ll be happy when that’s done and I can get back to the main thing—writing! But a side-note here. My cover artist is Derek Murphy, and he is so easy to work with, and does such a wonderful job, don’t you think?
Jackie, thanks so much for letting me blather on here. You ask great questions, and I really appreciate it.