Members of Murder among Friends (MAF) were joined by phone with J.T. Ellison, the author of our November discussion book, A Deeper Darkness. J.T. had a number of things to say in telling us how this story came about. This is the first in her spin-off series with Dr. Samantha Owens, who is not only the head medical examiner for the state of Tennessee, but best friend of Ellison's first series heroine, Det. Taylor Jackson.
We learned that Dr. Sam is a character who J.T. more closely relates to than Taylor, through Sam's vulnerabilities -- particularly as they relate to Sam's grief in dealing with the loss of her husband and children. Sam is not an expert shot, she's been more a behind the scenes character who is very, very good at the forensics. Eleanor Donovan, the mother of her former boyfriend, know this – and that Sam is the best person to help her find out how her son has died. She asks Sam to perform a second autopsy on former ranger Eddie Donovan, which brings Sam back to the Washington area where she’d gone to school – and fallen in love with Donovan.
We talked with J.T. about how she achieved the depth of the characters that were so heartfelt and real in the story. She told us that while she doesn’t keep character bios, she has extensively researched their backgrounds, and that in her editing and rewriting she has an opportunity to weave new strands into the story and the characters. J.T.’s daily writing goal is to write 1000 words per day, and that more of her time is devoted to writing the closer she gets to her deadline. She also shared a great tip for aspiring writers – to leave the day’s writing with something that’s really going to more the story, character, etc. forward. (It can help prevent staring at the screen waiting for inspiration!)
We also asked her about how she goes about researching these stories and she told us about the contacts she made with local police, as well as military professionals who have not only been instrumental themselves in helping her, but have led to other contacts, many of whom have become friends. MAF let her know that we definitely consider her to be one of our author friends, and that chocolates are on their way to her from the group as our thank you for a very fun evening!