Jackson District Library, Jackson, MI Author Interview with: J.A. Devereaux
Interviewed by: Rebecca Skau, Adult Services Librarian, Jackson District Library.
Rebecca: What are your hobbies and other interests?
JA: I have been a distance runner from age 15—so, distance running, for sure. I also had a singing ministry for 15 years, and even recorded three songs, but I’d have to say writing is basically my hobby now. I also love making the videos that we use as marketing trailers for the books … so, I actually LOVE the heists—planning them and executing them. Learning to pick locks and pick out of handcuffs, which was research for the books, was a blast, and I got pretty good at it. I would have to say that picking locks has become a very real interest and hobby for me, as well.
Rebecca: Confirm list of works published: 1. The Price of Notoriety
JA: The Price of Notoriety is off the market. I published it in 2003 before I knew anything about how to write publishable prose. I consider it poorly written as it stands now. However, I plan to republish it as a prequel to the Requisition For: A Thief series at some point, since it is the story of Gregg Hadyn’s (my thief) heirs, the old west outlaws, Cayle and Skye Hadyn, and documents how the Hadyn thieving legacy began. The Price of Notoriety no longer jives with the rest of the Requisition For: A Thief Series, but perhaps remains a fun, good clean romance for anyone who might be looking for that type of story. A heads-up: The Price of Notoriety is a blatantly Christian story, which the Requisition For: A Thief Series and the Thief à la Femme Series are not. Thus, the writing style is very different from what I do now.
Rebecca: 2. Requisition for: A Thief Series Books 1 – 7 (Book 8 publishing late next Spring/or early Summer). What do you want readers to know about this series?
JA: Just to qualify: I expect to publish Requisition For: A Thief – Book 8 – 13th Rule of Theft late Spring/or early Summer 2019.
The Requisition For: A Thief Series is a type for a contemporary reboot—with new characters not related to the original characters at all—of an old TV show that ran in the late 60s—“It Takes a Thief”—starring Robert Wagner as international jewel thief Alexander Mundy. The premise for this storyline has not been used, that I know of, before nor since that TV show … until I came along and wrote this series. That premise is: The concept of getting a thief out of prison, not to catch other criminals, but to do what he does better than anyone else in the world: steal. My thief, Gregg Hadyn (loosely based on the character of Alexander Mundy), has been “requisitioned” by the President of the United States and the director of a United States Intelligence Community agency (an agency of spies) to steal for our government. What does he steal? Anything. Everything. Whatever is needed to protect the security of our country. Though Gregg Hadyn was primarily a jewel thief before coming to work for the U.S. government, there isn’t anything he can’t steal. He’s a smoking hot, genius thief, with a pronounced set of “morals.”
Rebecca: 3. Thief à la Femme Series Books 1 – 2. What do you want readers to know about this series?
JA: I never thought I would write another series. Never needed to, never wanted to. I was all about the hot male thief working for the spies—there both because he has no choice and, at the same time, because he, ultimately, wants to be there. The Thief à la Femme Series came about because of The Heist videos I put out on YouTube as marketing trailers for the REQThief books, but they ended up appealing to a different crowd, a different type of reader. One of my Heist video fans actually asked me to write a book about a female thief. I think I surprised even myself when I started seriously thinking about it.
Because I cannot condone or write about some thug or thugs—(the definition of a thug being a gun-toting robber shooting people or threatening to)—ripping off innocent people for their own gain, my thieves, both in REQThief and Thief à la Femme, had to have a saving factor about them. They had to be basically good people who possessed the incredible training—literally trained from childhood—to be the best thieves in the world. For Gregg Hadyn, my REQThief hero, I needed to find a way to get him on the right side of the law, but I couldn’t bear the thought of him being caught, at least not in the commission of a theft. I wanted him to be better than that. So, I came up with Gregg’s Achilles heel: falling in love, which clouded his judgement a bit. That, I could live with.
But I didn’t want to do anything similar to that with Thief à la Femme. If I were to start a new series, it had to be totally different than what I had done with Requisition For: A Thief. So, when I began to seriously contemplate maybe starting another series, or at the least writing one other book outside of the REQThief series, I had to come up with another way to make my thief a good person, but without putting her on the right side of the law this time. She had to remain a thief. So, Thief à la Femme incorporates the Robin Hood scenario. Rayla Rousseau, my heroine from Thief à la Femme, has been trained from the time she was seven to be a hero to the poor and those who cannot obtain justice through regular “legal” means. In so many ways, she’s always been a good person, much more so than even Gregg was before he becomes intertwined with the spies. Gregg starts out in REQThief Book 1 as a regular high-end thief, pretty much stealing for his own gain, but still with rules… because he’s “a thief, not a bad guy …” That’s the REQThief mantra. Rayla and the Thief à la Femme mantra is: Beautiful. Intelligent. Consummate Professional. She’s a thief with a heart for justice…
I guess the thing I want readers of both of these series to know is that these stories aren’t about bad guys. Both series are about thieves who are not bad at all. And if I’ve done my job as a writer and author, the reader should be pulling for them—even in love with them—by the end of the first few chapters of either series.
Rebecca: Briefly, explain how you got into writing.
JA: Before I deal with that question, I think it would be helpful to set the stage for you, and possibly answer one of the biggest questions that I get, personally, as a writer. That question is: Why do you write about thieves? What is the draw for you that keeps you writing stories about thieves as “good guys” to the exclusion of any other type of storyline?
I first fell in love with the concept of “the thief who isn’t really a bad guy” when I was an impressionable preteen through the TV show “It Takes a Thief” and then later a show with a similar concept – “Alias Smith and Jones”—a show about two outlaws trying to go straight.
Now, to answer your question, fast forward from the late sixties and my preteens to early 1986 and my early thirties. My husband and I had a little girl that was almost two, our first child, and I had been watching the syndicated reruns of “Alias Smith and Jones”—a show that had never had a proper ending. It was just pulled off the air after 2 ½ seasons—and so, while immersed in watching the reruns, I had this dream one night. It wasn’t the ending for the show or anything that spectacular, it was just a weird dream about the characters interacting with me … these old west outlaws who were trying for an amnesty. I don’t even remember what the dream was about exactly, just that I was there with them—Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry—on this train.
That dream stayed with me for weeks as I continued to watch the TV show every day while my almost-two-year-old napped. Usually, you have a dream and maybe it stays with you for a few days if it’s an exceptionally good one, and then … poof … it’s gone. Well, this one never “poofed.” And a couple of weeks later, that dream combined with the fact that the show had never had a proper ending—those two lovable outlaws who “weren’t really bad guys,” never got their amnesty despite trying to go straight for those two and a half years—caused me to begin writing their ending … because I had what I considered the perfect one.
Ultimately, when I began thinking about possibly publishing my story, I changed the characters names, a lot of the storyline, and rewrote it to become “The Price of Notoriety,” which is the book this library has now, published in 2003. That’s how and when I began writing, and that’s how and why I continue to write storylines exclusively about “the thief who isn’t really a bad guy.”
Rebecca: What is one of the hardest things you had to learn as a writer?/ What do you wish someone would have told you when you first started writing for more than just fun?
JA: I think the hardest thing I had to learn was how to write in a way that publishers and editors were looking for in this day and age. I knew how to tell a story—that I was good at. Learning to write in a way that was expected by publishers/editors and effective now, in the twenty-first century, was the lesson I needed. When I finally contracted a professional editor, she taught me how to do that—how to write publishable prose for today’s market. And that’s the answer to the second part of your question. I wish, more than anything, someone would have told me to contract a professional editor before I published my first book. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, is more important to a writer who is serious about publishing than having a good editor.Patricia Woodside – Professional Editor/Writing Teacher Extraordinaire
A second point I wish I had known was the impact a good cover has for the sale of a book, and I wish someone had told me it really is important to contract a professional cover design artist for the job. I published four books in the Requisition For: A Thief Series before contracting my professional cover design artist. Once I saw the incredible, phenomenal difference, I went back and republished those first four books with the new covers, a move which cost me in both dollars and time, but was, nevertheless, well worth it. Having great-looking covers designed by someone who knows the industry and knows what he’s doing is right up there with having a superb professional editor.Jeffrey Kosh – Cover Design Artist Extraordinaire
Rebecca: What authors most influenced your writing? Other influences?
JA: I majored in English in college; got my BA in English. So, that means I was a Lit major. Anyone majoring in English was, effectively, a Literature major … unless you specifically take the extra writing and journalism classes, which I did not. That meant I read a lot of classic literature. My favorite author, hands down, back then was Charles Dickens, and at least in the beginning of my writing career, he influenced the way I wrote. I soon found out, publishing editors in the 21st century weren’t looking for Charles Dickens-type writers, though! His flowery prose went out sometime in the 60s.
My favorite author these days is J.K. Rowling—specifically her Harry Potter series. I love Rowling for two reasons: Number one, the lady is a master storyteller, and number two, she can also really write well. That’s not a combination you generally see. Usually an author is good at one and not so much at the other, but Rowling breaks the mold. She’s a phenomenal storyteller and writer.
Nevertheless, I don’t believe her writing style is anything like mine. I would have to say that the writing you’re reading from me now was most influenced by my first professional editor, Patricia Woodside. She taught me everything I know and everything I apply in the writing of all of my books. But the way I set up a scene, the way a story flows? That’s all me. I believe everyone has “talents” in life, and that’s mine.
In my own reading, I am constantly searching for books like mine, stories about heists and thieves who are heroes, but, as you can imagine, there aren’t very many of those out there. Some of my other favorite writers are Lee Child, Gretchen Archer, Chelsea Field – all mystery writers, though Archer and Field incorporate humor. Just for the record, my books are NOT mystery books. Mysteries are murder stories. My Requisition For: A Thief Series genre is mainly Espionage, though I would also add Crime/Heist to that – and the Thief à la Femme Series is Crime, Crime/Heist.
Rebecca: What are the top 5 Books you want every reader to check out from the library?
JA: Well … I’d really like to see every reader who walks through the Jackson District Library doors check out Requisition For: A Thief Books 1 – 7 and Thief à la Femme Books 1 & 2!
But if you mean, other than my books? Mmmm…. I honestly can’t answer that. There are so many genres out there: Mystery, action, adventure, crime, espionage, fantasy, science fiction, romance … Everyone has their own preference. I couldn’t possibly tell someone, “Oh… you really need to read such and such,” which might be a fabulous science fiction novel, but it turns out he or she is a mystery or romance fanatic. I just don’t believe one person can tell another person what they should read. If you’re a newbie to the reading scene and you’re unsure what genre appeals to you, try a little of everything. I guarantee before you finished with the last genre, you’ll know what lights your fire!
That concludes the interview with Jackson District Library’s Rebecca Skau, Adult Services Librarian, Jackson District Library.
Watch for a brand new website for J.A. Devereaux coming in the next few weeks: