Monday, August 18, 2014

A Conversation with Joyce and Jim Lavene

Today I'm interviewing Joyce and Jim Lavene, authors of several series and stand-alone novels. Joyce and Jim write award-winning, bestselling mystery fiction as themselves, J.J. Cook, and Ellie Grant. They have written and published more than 70 novels for Harlequin, Berkley, Amazon, and Gallery Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family.

Jessie is thrilled when she finds Bill Warren, an old fashioned shoemaker, and he agrees to come back to Renaissance Village with her. She’s not so thrilled when claims to have elf magic, and he falls for Princess Isabelle. The dancing slippers Bill makes for Isabelle make him a suspect when the princess takes a leap from the castle terrace. Now, Jessie must find the lady or lord who helped the princess with her last dance before she loses her star attraction.  Purchase Link: Amazon

Author Links

MW:  BEWITCHING BOOTS is the seventh book in your highly regarded Renaissance Faire Mysteries featuring Jessie Morton, former assistant professor at the University of South Carolina and current director of the Arts and Crafts Museum at the Renaissance Faire Village and Marketplace in Myrtle Beach. In each of the first five books, Jessie apprenticed with various crafters at the Faire, learning everything from basket weaving, glass blowing, and sword-making to hat and toy making. How did you research the various trades described in your books? Did you seek advice from craftsmen at an actual Renaissance Faire?

J&J: We researched the crafts by talking with local craft people and visiting Renaissance festivals. We also did some research in books and online. We wanted to know as much as we could on the subjects. We couldn’t put everything we’d learned into the books, but research is a reward in itself. We enjoy the process.

MW: I love your play on words when naming Jessie’s sweetheart, Chase Manhattan. At 6’ 8”, the Village Bailiff certainly towers over the other characters in the book, much like the 60-story Chase Manhattan building towers over many other buildings in New York. Was this play on words a simple stroke of genius on your part, or did you choose the name for some other good reason?

J&J: Chase is a larger than life character! We planned him that way since he has so much to take care of in the Village. His name was an accident – taken from the bank while looking at our credit card. Chase’s family is rich and we wanted to use the Richie Rich concept, also naming his brother Morgan Stanley. Yet we made his family life in upheaval since his father went to prison for stock fraud. We wanted him to be a complex character, not just all brawn and beauty!

MW: You’ve written nine mystery series under your own names plus two different pseudonyms. How in the world have you managed to juggle writing so many series without ever making any two protagonists sound and act exactly alike?

J&J: Each character is different, just like we’re all different. We don’t think or talk the same. Once you get to know these people who inhabit your books, you have to be able to tell them apart. They become like family. I couldn’t confuse my first daughter with my second. It’s important to be a student of behavior as well.

MW: Do you work together on each story, or do you divide the writing by chapters or series? Who does the research for your mysteries? Both of you together, or do you do research individually depending on the series?

J&J:  We do most of the work together. We write the rough draft together by telling the story to each other as we type it in. Research is together too. The only parts we do separately are formatting and promotion. I promote and Jim keeps up with everything computer related since he once did this for a living.

MW: You’ve written some of your nine series using the first person point of view with the protagonist acting as narrator. Your Renaissance Faire series is an example of this; Jessie relates what’s happening in each story. At the same time, you’ve written other books using the third person point of view. How do you decide which point of view to use when you’re starting a new series? Are there certain aspects of the series that demand the use of a particular point of view?

J&J:  When you start writing and the characters start speaking to you, you know what voice to use. We’ve written several pages in one voice and then looked at each other and knew it was wrong for the story.  A lot of writing is guesswork and then tossing aside what doesn’t work. You have to be able to step back and let the characters take the lead.

MW: Have you ever considered bringing together characters from your different series to solve a murder in a stand-alone mystery?

J&J:  No. Actually we’ve never considered that idea. But  what an interesting notion! We may have to try that one day!

MW: Do either of you have a favorite series character, one who tickles your funny bone, or one who makes you dig deeper to explain her motivation?

J&J: Jim really loves Bart from the Renaissance Faire Mysteries. He pictures him as Andre the Giant from The Princess Bride. He likes his size and his ability to be compassionate. You notice Bart takes care of the computers in Renaissance Faire Village? This was no accident!
Joyce really likes all her characters and would never play favorites!

MW: You slipped a bit of the paranormal into your sixth Renaissance Faire mystery with the introduction of Wanda LeFey’s ghost. Will her ghost return to bother Jessie in BEWITCHING BOOTS?

J&J: Yes. We always thought paranormal was a good mix with the Ren Faire. We’d like to expand that as we continue the series. Buttercup the dragon will also be in Bewitching Boots.

Thanks for having us on your blog! Great questions!


Tour Participants
August 5 – Booklady’s Booknotes – Review, Guest Post
August 6 – Melina’s Book Blog – Review
August 7 – readalot blog – Review
August 8 – deal sharing aunt – Interview, Giveaway
August 9 – a chick who reads – Review
August 10 – Books-n-Kisses – Review, Guest Post, Giveaway
August 11 – Bea’s Book Nook – Review
August 12 – Shelley’s Book Case – Review, Interview
August 13 – Chloe Gets A Clue – Interview
August 14 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – Review
August 14 – Victoria’s Pages of Romance – Guest Post
August 15 – Back Porchervations – Review
August 15 – Melissa’s Eclectic Bookshelf – Guest Post
August 16 – Brooke Blogs – Review
August 17 – Teresa Trent Author Site – Interview
August 18 – Community Bookstop – Review
August 19 – Cicero’s Children – Interview
August 20 – dru’s book musings – Guest Post

For a chance to win a Bewitching Boots tote, a print copy of the book, and a $20 Amazon gift card, enter the raffle at