Exclusive: Lisa Jackson On Writing, Romance, and Giving Back

By Clay Stafford

Nothing could make me happier than seeing Lisa Jackson’s picture on the cover of February’s Killer Nashville Magazine.

I’ve been a fan of Lisa’s for years, but only met her two years ago when she was Killer Nashville’s 2014 Guest of Honor. What a delight she was!

It seems the feeling was mutual because before she left on the night of the Killer Nashville Guest of Honor and Awards Banquet, she said, “What can I do to help? How can I help these writers?”

That moment was incredible.

From that grew the annual Killer Nashville Lisa Jackson Scholarship for deserving writers. What is it? It’s a chance for an all-expense paid trip to Killer Nashville for writers who otherwise could not afford the trek. And, as Lisa wanted, it’s yet another way for Killer Nashville to help transform writers’ dreams.

Clay – Lisa, for those who don’t know your beginnings, did you always know you were going to be a writer?

Lisa – I always loved writing and was an English major in college.

Clay – I’ve found being an English major certainly opened doors in my life. Not!

Lisa – After school, I worked in banking until I had my kids and then my career was babysitting.

Clay – I’m with you.

Lisa – My sister, Nancy Bush suggested we take a stab at writing romance novels. This was the ’80s and she’d seen an article about young mothers making their fortune writing love stories. I laughed and said, “Are you nuts? We can’t do that. We’ve never even read a romance novel. We like suspense, mystery and horror. However, the next day when I was surrounded by a handful of kids under four, I thought, “Why not?”

Clay – I’ve heard of defining moments. I guess applesauce flying across the room is as good as any!

Lisa – Well, I loved reading and writing and The Wolf was at the door. Fortunately, standing right beside him was Opportunity and she was knocking. I pulled out my manual typewriter and by the time Nan had come to pick up her daughter, I’d penned the prologue to Stormy Surrender, which we wrote with another friend. The book was rejected all over New York, but Nan and I were bitten by the writing bug. She sold her first solo effort and I sold a year after that. The moral: Never believe you can’t do something. If you want it badly enough, go for it.

Clay – How many books have you written? Do you even know?

Lisa – I think around 100 but no, I don’t keep count.

Clay – You and your sister Nancy Bush continue to write books together. How does the co-writing play out?

Lisa – We’re very close. Great friends, as well as sisters, and we get along. We like the same things in stories so we plot together, work out the kinks and characters, then write a synopsis which goes through several transformations as we hand it back and forth. Eventually, we write the story, first one, then the other reads over those chapters, changes and goes onto her chapters, then back to author one. Depending upon our schedules, one sister may write more of a book than the other, but it all works out. Only once did we get into a significant argument. We were both tired and in a hotel at a conference. Instead of fighting, we closed the laptop and went out for a drink.

Clay – Great way to resolve a conflict. We provide bar space at Killer Nashville just for that very reason. You started in romance, but I would venture to say that when people – at least in my circles – think of you, they think of romantic suspense. When you write, what elements do you introduce to make the shift from romance to romantic suspense?

Lisa – For me it’s pretty easy. As I said, I’m a suspense/mystery reader by nature. The first novels I wrote for Silhouette Books were difficult because I had to take the suspense out and fight my natural urges, but I learned about romance. The way I see it in romantic suspense is that the romance heightens the danger/suspense and the suspense heightens the romance; it’s as if each emotion is super-charged because of the other.

“People told me this, of course, and they still do and I still don’t listen, but I try. Also, it’s important to finish a book. Not just start one, or come up with an idea. Write the whole damned thing.”

Clay – I can see that. After writing so many books, does it get easier or harder to crank out new novels?

Lisa – It’s never easy. Some books are much easier to write than others though I really believe, for me, it’s the outside influences that make a project hard. If I have family issues, or health issues or whatever, the story seems to knot up. I don’t think writing is ever easy.

Clay – That’s a good point. I think that’s where the hobbyist and the professional draw the line. It’s easy to write, but not always easy to write well. Just curious, after years of turning out bestsellers, what is the one book that has meant the most to you?

Lisa – Oh, that’s an impossible question.

Clay – You have to have one.

Lisa – There are so many.

Clay – Something that meant something to you personally.

Lisa – I loved writing Shiver and I used my mother’s birthday in it, and then in Close To Home, I brought back Bonzi, our beloved pitbull. Starting the Montana series with Left To Die was a thrill as I worked with two female cops for the first time and Cold Blooded, the second book in the New Orleans series was something I’d been thinking about for a long time. So . . .

Clay – As you have lived the dream over the years, what would you tell a beginning writer that you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?

Lisa – Don’t stress out. Find a balance in life.

Clay – Take time for a little meditation. Go with the flow.

Lisa – People told me this, of course, and they still do and I still don’t listen, but I try. Also, it’s important to finish a book. Not just start one, or come up with an idea. Write the whole damned thing.

Clay – You make me smile. Fatal Burn and Revenge are coming out this month. What can you tell us about those books and what about each is important to you?

Lisa – Both books are being republished. Fatal Burn was a bestseller when it was first published and hit the #1 slot on the New York Times, so that’s special to me. It’s being republished now along with Deep Freeze as they are linked to my latest hardback, After She’s Gone. As for Revenge, it’s actually three books in one, novels I wrote years ago and were very popular at the time, so it’s nice to see them repackaged into a romantic suspense format.

“It’s important, no matter who you are, to help others who are in need. Animals, children, victims of abuse. If each person gave a little, what a better place this world would be.”

Clay – Always great to keep those works in print. You’ve chosen to get involved with numerous charitable causes. What is your inspiration to give back?

Lisa – I believe I’ve always been blessed and there is so much suffering in the world. It’s important, no matter who you are, to help others who are in need. Animals, children, victims of abuse. If each person gave a little, what a better place this world would be. I try never to take my good fortune for granted.

Clay – And it shows and comes through everything you do. One of your charities is the Killer Nashville Lisa Jackson Scholarship. Can you share with us your goals for the scholarship?

Lisa – Well, first off, I love the Killer Nashville Conference, as you know and I like to encourage other authors as best I can in ways I enjoy. I was broke a few times in my life. Very broke. I was also a single mother. I could never have afforded going away to a conference. This is my way of helping a would-be writer.

Clay – And this is where you, Persistent Reader, can take action. If you have the dream to be a writer, like Lisa and her sister Nancy, take the first step.

You can see from Lisa’s story where it leads.

From humble beginnings with no contacts, things happen when you move forward. Don’t stress out. Finish writing the book. And come connect with us at Killer Nashville.

We’ll connect you to agents, editors, and other writers and resources to make your dreams come true.

This is the year to do it.

Money isn’t an object; we just want your passion.

Get more information on the Killer Nashville Lisa Jackson Scholarship. And while you’re at it, check out the Killer Nashville Jimmy Loftin Memorial Scholarship opportunities here as well. You’re welcome to apply to both.

I look forward to seeing everyone at this year’s Killer Nashville! And thanks Lisa, for a wonderful chat.

CClay Staffordlay Stafford is an author / filmmaker (www.ClayStafford.com), founder of Killer Nashville (www.killernashville.com) and publisher of Killer Nashville Magazine (www.killernashvillemagazine.com). In addition to selling over 1.5 million copies of his own books, Stafford’s latest projects are the documentary “One of the Miracles” (www.oneofthemiracles.com) and writing the music CD “XO” with Kathryn Dance / Lincoln Rhymes author Jeffery Deaver (www.jefferdeaverxomusic.com). He is currently writing a film script based on Peter Straub’s “Pork Pie Hat” for American Blackguard Entertainment (www.americanblackguard.com).

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