The recent ARCE newsletter carries an interview with Janis and a preview of her latest book. “Publishing simultaneously under four pseudonyms, the author shares her deep passion for Egypt and writing and then reveals the genesis of her current project, A Killing at El Kab. Read about her stay in the dig house of 19th century English architect and Egyptologist, Somers Clarke, where the story is set. Says May, “Our trip to the dig house was spectacular, the stuff of dreams. The house itself is a fantastic, romantic, domed dream of a place.”……………….
Oh, what an exciting two weeks we have had! The Husband and I drove to Denver, where we went to the Historical Novel Society international conference. This was the first of these conferences we had attended, and this one was special. On Saturday, June 27 I was privileged to be part of a panel on Egyptology and Elizabeth Peters. This was especially exciting, as Barbara (Mertz, Elizabeth Peters’ real name) had been a friend. Fellow panel members Bill Cherf, Libbie Hawker, Lindsey Davis and I each talked about a different facet – Bill about her early life and schooling, I about her life as a writer, Libbie about how her Amelia Peabody series had affected Egyptian-set fiction, and Lindsey about researching a novel in Egypt. It went smoothly and was very well received.
What did not go well was the booksigning. There were many, many of us and a stuffed-full bookstore, but the only interest among the book-buyers was for Diana Gabaldon. She had been set up quite a ways away from where the rest of us were; people came in, got her to sign their book and then left, most without even glancing toward the other authors. The most books I heard of any of us selling was four; that caused a lot of bad feelings, and some authors were quite outspoken about their feelings regarding a woman who has sold a bazillion books syphoning off all the attention from everyone else. I can’t say I blame them. The whole thing was badly managed.
After the conference ended, The Husband and I stole away from Denver to Colorado Springs, where we had a room waiting at the Air Force Academy, and for the next two days did the tourist thing. On Monday we planned to spend half a day at the Garden of the Gods, a fantastic place of spectacular rock formations that will take your breath away. We were still there at six-thirty in the evening. Yes, that’s me in the pictures – look kind of different from when my hair is fixed and my jewelry on for the seminar and signing, huh?
The next day we drove to Cripple Creek and took the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine tour. You get in this tiny little wire elevator – there were five of us in it and it was as full as it could be – and go down 1,000 feet into the earth. Not my favorite idea of something to do, but not as bad as I feared. The mine tour was fascinating, and we had a lovely guide who has agreed to help me with research and facts on a novel. Yes, I got a simply splendid idea for a 1910 Western Gothic while down in the mine… I can’t go anywhere without getting at least a couple of ideas. Sigh. So many ideas, so little time!
After the mine tour was over we had lunch in a lovely little café, then walked across the street to a charity shop, where I saw the most fantastic Victorian candlesticks and rose bowl in beautiful acid-green vaseline glass. Now we do not need any more stuff, but I had never seen anything like them, not even during the days I owned an antique shop. Of course I couldn’t leave without them, so after some dickering and a quick run to an ATM, I proudly tucked them into the back of the car.
On the way back to Colorado Springs we stopped in a little town named Wood-something (I am terrible on names) at the dinosaur museum. It was fantastic! They actually had ancient bones you could touch, and so many fossil skeletons that some were hanging from the ceiling. There were film presentations and of course a gift shop, but the sheer number and variety of dinosaurs was overwhelming. We could have spent a whole day there, and plan to on our next trip to Colorado.
The next morning we started home, and now real life has taken over. I have books to write. The Husband has to go back to work. But – we’ll never forget our stolen holiday in Colorado. Hope everyone had a spectacular 4th of July!
…always a good story!
Janis Susan May
…committing crime with style!
Catch this great interview
- mysteries as Janis Patterson
- romances and other things as Janis Susan May
- children’s books as Janis Susan Patterson
- scholarly works as J.S.M. Patterson.
Why do you use two names for your books, Janis Susan May and Janis Patterson, why not keep to one name?
Sometimes I wonder that, too! Actually, it’s a matter of branding. I started writing many years ago and Janis Susan May was my real name, so I used it. At the time I wrote only romance – and incidentally am one of the original 40 or so women who began Romance Writers of America. As time passed I branched out from writing romances and wrote a couple of short horror novels, also under the Janis Susan May name. It didn’t bother me, because romance and horror are such different genres and the covers alone would indicate to a reader what kind of book they were.
I had always wanted to write mysteries, so after I married (adding Patterson to my name) I decided I would write them as Janis Patterson. This was a conscious decision to create a decidedly different persona. It would help the reader, because if they pick up a Janis Susan May book they know they are getting either a romance or a horror, and the cover should make it obvious which. However, sometimes romance and mystery covers aren’t so sharply delineated as to genre, ergo Janis Patterson. I chose Janis Patterson for three reasons – (1) it is my legal married name, (2) it honors my wonderful husband, and (3) with any luck at all it will get me shelved next to James Patterson. (grin).
Do Janis Susan May and Janis Patterson have different personalities in your mind? Who do you like best?
Interesting question. I never thought of that. To me my writing personas are so totally divorced from the real me that there really isn’t a correlation in my mind. As I think of it though, Janis Susan May was my name for so many years it is loaded with the emotional weight of my childhood and family history and young womanhood, of all the experiences I had when I was single. I married quite late, when most of my contemporaries were becoming grandmothers, so the Janis Patterson name carries a sense of change, of unbelievable happiness, of a wholly new and different life.
As for different personalities, I don’t need different names for that. I have always been reality-challenged, and as a former actress have been known to change my behavior the way most women change a dress – which is sometimes disconcerting to my staid and very grounded husband! As for the differentiation between Janis Susan May and Janis Patterson, though, I don’t see them as being two entities, but just two different facets on a whole.
Your marriage sounds so romantic, have you ever thought of writing a book about it? Would you write as Janis Susan May or Janis Patterson?
Yes, I am indeed blessed with a very romantic marriage. How many women are proposed to in the moonlit gardens of the Mena Hotel across the street from the Egyptian pyramids? It was truly a romance-novel moment. And not the last – he took me to Paris to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. Every day has its moments of romance.
As for writing a book about our love story, I don’t think so. First of all, it’s private and special and I don’t want to expose all of it to the big wide world. Secondly, when I write about my life, no one believes it! For example, in the 80s (long before I met my husband) I was working on a film crew making a documentary in Israel. I had some adventures there that curled even my hair! (And I didn’t go searching for them, honest! They just happened!) Anyway, when I got home I wrote a novel about some of it, fictionalizing it only a little and giving the two protagonists a happy ending, which I didn’t have then – and thank goodness I didn’t, or I might not have the sublimely happy life I have now! I sent the book to my then agent and waited for the call that said the book was going to auction and I would soon be rich and famous.
It didn’t come. In those days all we had was regular and very costly long distance, which I couldn’t afford, so I waited. And waited. And waited. I was on the verge of writing a letter when my agent called on a different matter. I asked if she had received the book and what she thought of it, or if she hadn’t should I send another copy. She laughed and said everyone in the office had loved it, that it was the best parody of the then-popular romantic adventure stories they had ever seen.
Parody? Parody?? I promptly told her that it was not a parody, it was almost a documentary, but I had left out some of the more spectacular things, and then proceeded to tell her what they were. She was silent so long I thought we had been disconnected (thank goodness this was on her nickel), but she finally said that she believed me because she had known me for years, but no one else would.
Years later I used a few of the milder incidents in an otherwise totally fictional story called THE JERUSALEM CONNECTION, which is selling rather well. And no, I don’t tell anyone which incidents they are!
So you see, I can’t answer your question. I don’t write about my life, so it doesn’t make any difference which of my names would write it. And truthfully, I’d rather live my life than write about it… Remember, fiction has rules – real life doesn’t!
…always a good story!
…committing crime with style!
Looking for a good holiday read, check out my latest Janis Susan May book. Published June 4, a tasty traditional Victorian Scottish Gothic romance.
Curse of the Exile | Books from Janis Susan May Patterson: “CURSE OF THE EXILE is a traditional Gothic mystery reminiscent of the best of Victoria Holt and Virginia Coffman that no lover of Gothics should miss. A courageous heroine, 1860s Scotland, two handsome brothers, a moldering castle, an unknown villain bent on a horrid vengeance… delicious! A perfect book for curling up with for a long enjoyable trip to the past.” Carla Renard, The Literary Lady
A message from Janis Susan May Patterson.
Welcome to my new website! I am so excited about it.
Didn’t the designer do a fabulous job? And it’s set up where I can maintain it, which means it should be updated much more often!
This has been an exciting year so far. In January The Husband and I took the Florida Romance Writers Cruise Conference. Yes, a conference set on a cruise ship. It was fantastic.
This is the second time we’ve done it, and it was better than the last – both conference and cruise! It went from Fort Lauderdale to Cozumel, Mexico, with two sea days and one shore day. As he does some work as my assistant, The Husband went as a conference participant and I think he enjoyed it. I know I did. The entire cost was justified when he was the only man in a late-night conference on writing erotic romance – he handled the whole thing with good humor and aplomb, including the audience participation questions. I am so proud of him.
Then magic happened. My dear friend Dr. Dirk Huyge – Director of the Belgian Archaeological Mission to El Kab (Egypt) and Curator Prehistoric and Early Dynastic Egypt, Royal Museums of Art and History (Brussels) who was such a wonderful help when I was writing THE EGYPTIAN FILE) and I had been chatting about doing a mystery set in the dig house at El Kab, which is long reputed to be haunted by its builder, the English Egyptologist Somers Clarke. (He is also buried in the courtyard…) .
Well, Dirk asked The Husband and me to come stay for a few days. Trust me, civilians never get invited to stay at dig houses! Of course we accepted! Dirk had to get permissions for us to stay and go on the site from two branches of the Egyptian government – the Ministry of Antiquities in Cairo and the Aswan Governorate, but he did get them and within just a few months of the invitation we were off to Egypt. Which totally wrecked our budget, but it was worth it!
Deciding that it was silly to go halfway around the world for just a few days, The Husband and I decided to make a real holiday of it. I contacted my beloved friend Jane Akshar, who through www.flatsinluxor.co.uk rents wonderful holiday flats on the West Bank, and we had a wonderful two weeks in a luxury flat with a view of the Gurneh Hills (where the Valley of the Kings and Deir el Bahri are) for less per day than we would pay for a standard hotel room on the East Bank.
Anyway, the book I went to research is now titled A KILLING AT EL KAB and is progressing quite well. I hope to have it finished by late summer and on sale in late fall, if I can get my editor, formatter and cover artist scheduled!
After coming home we went to Houston to attend the international conference of the American Research Center in Egypt, with which we have been associated for years, and had a lovely time – four whole days of nothing but talking Egyptology with professional Egyptologists. Heaven!
In June we’re off to Denver and the Historical Novels Association, where I am presenting a paper on (what else?) Egyptology and Elizabeth Peters. As most everyone knows, she was really Dr. Barbara Mertz and also wrote under the name of Barbara Michaels. I have loved her books for decades, and actually meeting her for the first time was one of the stellar moments of my life. When we became friends…heaven. We didn’t see each other that often, for which I am now sad, and we maintained a sporadic correspondence until her death. I miss her terribly.
I do promise (hand on my heart) that I am going to keep this site current, and I do hope you will drop by regularly. Now I have to go write!
Oooh, Oooh, and I almost forgot to tell you! Right around the first of June my new gothic mystery comes out. It’s called CURSE OF THE EXILE and is written by my Janis Susan May persona. It’s set mainly in Scotland during the early 1860s and is about a female librarian and the tribulations of her life when she falls in love with a Scottish laird, gets mixed up with a family ghost and an-all-too-real murderer. Reviewers have compared it to Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney! In late June (perhaps early July) I’m releasing a cozy murder mystery by my Janis Patterson persona entitled MURDER AND MISS WRIGHT.
Which means I really have to get busy…
Janis Susan May Patterson
Just come back from a wonderful holiday in Egypt which is going to be the setting for my new mystery novel.
Okay, it’s long past time, but I admit the old website needs a complete overhaul. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be done now!
I’m swamped in both writing and publishing and so very happy to be so! I sold CURSE OF THE EXILE, a traditional Gothic romance set in Victorian-era Scotland, to Entangled, one of my dream publishers. It’s scheduled for release in the middle of 2015.
Even more excitingly, I have begun my own publishing imprint for the re-release of my backlist as well as brand new self-publishing projects. I chose the name Sefkhat-Awbi Books, which – as both The Husband and I are enthusiastic amateur Egyptologists – resonates with us. For those who are curious, Sefkhat-Awbi is an obscure New Kingdom variant on the name of Sheshat, the Ancient Egyptian goddess of writing.
While a few of my backlist romances have been in limited distribution in ebook format, I am in the process of re-releasing all of them with new covers and – drum roll, please! – in paperback!
My first paper and re-vamped ebook release is a traditional Gothic romance set in Victorian-era Scotland (and it wasn’t planned to coincide with the Entangled sale, believe me) called FAMILY OF STRANGERS. It’s now available at most retailers. Here’s a peek at the new cover –
Stay tuned – I’ve scheduled an Ancient Egyptian time-travel romance, a few more Gothic mysteries (not necessarily set in Scotland, though), a clutch of traditional Regencies, a couple of international romantic adventures and a mystery or two to come.