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Interview: September 9, 2005

September 9, 2005 contributing writer Amy Alessio interviewed J.A. Konrath, author of the addictive Jack Daniels series, from his home in the Chicago suburbs. Konrath is known for his original and surprising plot details as well as the humor that is prevalent in his mysteries. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels is a Chicago Police Lieutenant with a messy personal life and a habit of running into vicious killers. Konrath plans many more of these police procedurals, which have gained him critical acclaim and an exciting new writing career. WHISKEY SOUR and BLOODY MARY are about Chicago Police Lt. Jacqueline Daniels. How did you conceive this series?

J.A. Konrath: I wanted to write a funny mystery like Janet Evanovich and Dave Barry, but also a scary thriller like Patricia Cornwell and James Patterson. So I created a series that has both --- laugh out loud humor and enough chills to make the reader lock all the doors in the house.

BRC: Jacqueline deals with some horrific killers. In BLOODY MARY, there are some scary details about funeral homes. What kind of research did you have to do for this book?

JAK: My brother is a mortician, and he provided a lot of info. I also visited the Cook County morgue, which is one of the largest in the U.S. People are just dying to get in there...

BRC: For your research, have you spent time speaking with police officers? Have you ever worked in law enforcement?

JAK: I have some cop friends, and they all think that I base characters off of them. I've never worked in law enforcement, though I often dress up as a police officer and play "Interrogate the suspect" with my wife.

BRC: How did you get started writing mysteries? What did you do before WHISKEY SOUR was published? Were you always interested in writing?

JAK: I became a writer because I love to read. I became hooked on mysteries in the fifth grade with Robert B. Parker and Ed McBain. Prior to WHISKEY SOUR's publication, I'd write books in my free time, and for money I'd bartend. Go figure I'd write books about a cop named Jack Daniels...

BRC: At this time, how many more books do you have planned for this series? Can you share some titles?

JAK: BLOODY MARY just came out. Next year is RUSTY NAIL, then DIRTY MARTINI, then FUZZY NAVEL in 2008. I should call my sixth book "12 Step Program."

BRC: Can you tell fans anything about what is in store for Jack personally and professionally in the next books?

JAK: Jack may settle down and start a family --- but that hinges on her boyfriend not being horribly murdered. Jack may also wind up with a promotion, or maybe she'll lose her job and go private. Lots of possibilities.

BRC: Do you have plans for other books outside the series as well?

JAK: Not at the moment. I'm pretty happy with the series, and people are responding favorably to the books. I'd love to write these forever.

BRC: You teach writing and selling fiction. What makes a successful writer? What trends are you seeing in mystery publishing right now?

JAK: A successful writer is one who always seeks to improve while never giving up. I don't tend to notice trends, because they disappear so quickly, though I am working on a book called "Chicken Soup for the Da Vinci Code's Soul."

BRC: What mistakes do lots of new writers make?

JAK: They don't finish what they begin, don't rewrite what they finish, and don't submit to agents and editors. Or they submit things that aren't polished enough to sell.

BRC: Who are some of your favorite authors?

JAK: Current favorites are Barry Eisler, David Ellis, Melanie Lynne Hauser, Jeff Shelby, Harry Hunsicker, Lee Child, David Morrell, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Tasha Alexander, James Rollins --- I read a lot.

BRC: You attend many conferences. What are some of your favorites and why? What do new writers get out of conferences like Bouchercon?

JAK: I really enjoy Love Is Murder ( every February because it's local, and I lend a hand in organizing the event. Magna Cum Murder ( is great, so is Sleuthfest in Florida, Men of Mystery in California, and Left Coast Crime. Bouchercon is the biggie, and new authors can expect large crowds, big awards presentations (I'm up for a Macavity and an Anthony), and huge bestselling authors. If you want to find the writers, it's easy to track them down --- just head to the bar.

BRC: And lastly, we have to ask. What's your own personal favorite cocktail?

JAK: I brew my own beer, which I love. But for cocktails, I like tequila. I came very close to naming my hero Cuervo 1800.