Jamie Denton: Interview with a Writing Queen

Before the interview, take a look at the blurb for Jamie’s book, The Matchmaker.Book cover: The Matchmaker


The dead always have a story to tell. All he has to do is wait for the truth to be revealed to him. The living trust him with their grief – and their dirty little secrets. Only then is he able to ensure that the dead are given the happy ending they’d been deprived of in life. Only then can he set about playing matchmaker, uniting the dead with their true soul mates … for all eternity …


Exhuming a body over a contested will is the last thing former FBI profiler Greer Lomax wants to do. Just the thought of it brings on the panic attacks she’s fought for two years. Now, as deputy sheriff, Greer Lomax is going to have to face her darkest fears. Becaue the body she’s exhumed isn’t alone. He’s joined by a young woman whose name is on a missing person’s list.


The one person Greer can call for help is FBI agent Ash Keller. Ash hasn’t forgotten the hot blonde with the too-sexy smile – the one who spend many sizzling nights in his bed – and he hasn’t forgiven her for leaving him behind when she quit the Bureau. But he’s not about to let her go solo on this one, not after last time. Working the case sparks the fiery attraction they’ve tried to deny for too long and unleashes a passion they can’t control – one that could blind them to the most dangerous mistakes of the past …

Okay, Guys, Here is an opportunity to learn a lot about writing, about author Jamie Denton and her book The Matchmaker which will come out, very appropriately, on Halloween. Not that it’s a Halloween book, but it’s a thriller. To be exact, it’s a Romantic Suspense, but it’s heavy on the suspense…I didn’t even realize it was RS until well into the book.

And it’s not just because Jamie’s written oodles of books in the last thirteen years or so that I characterize her as the Writing Queen, it’s the way she does it…one draft then it’s out the door. Yeah, that’s amazing.  I wish I could have just a little of that kind of mind!  Read on!

Jamie, The Matchmaker is a departure for you as a writer. Talk a little bit about why you decided to write an edgy thriller. JAMIE, IF THRILLER IS THE WRONG LABEL, PLEASE CORRECT ME) instead of a straight romance.

Of all the books I’ve written for Harlequin, several of them do have a more suspense type of plot, although nothing as intense as what I’ve done in THE MATCHMAKER. But, I’ve always wanted to write more of a straight romantic suspense, and writing for Brava has allowed me the privilege of following that dream. Moving into romantic suspense was more of a natural progression for me as a writer.

You’ve created a creepy, dark serial killer in this book…without giving away the important stuff, how did you come up with the killer’s MO, his background, and motivations–basically, how’d you write such a grisly fellow?

Writing Parker was the easy part. I just didn’t allow myself hold back on his character. Sometimes he creeped even me out! When creating a villain, I generally start with the crime itself, then work backward and try to determine what kind of twisted individual it would take to do that kind of thing. In the case of THE MATCHMAKER, my husband and I were watching CNN one afternoon when the news of the crematory scandal in Georgia broke. My hubby turned to me and said, “What a cool way for one of your characters to hide a body.” That was it for me. The idea for THE MATCHMAKER was born.

You created memorable characters in your strong though tortured heroine, Greer, and the lusty, take charge Ash…what were some of the qualities you intended to imbue in them and what were some that just appeared in them as you wrote?

Forgive the pun, but my characters tend to rise from the ashes . As I mentioned previously, I tend to write backwards and the same is true of my hero and heroine. Occasionally a hero or heroine will “appear” before me fully developed, but that doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. My job would certainly be a whole lot easier, that’s for sure.

For the most part, I usually have to do lots of digging into characters’ psyche to figure out who these story people are, and if they’ve got what it takes to accomplish what needs to be done within the framework of the story I’ve chosen to tell. If they don’t have whatever that elusive “it” is, then why becomes the truly important question.

This is what intrigued me so much about Greer. She obviously felt she didn’t have what it takes to take on The Matchmaker, and for me, that was the challenge. Why didn’t she feel she was incapable of going after this guy, especially when she had the training to do so? So when we learn she’s walked away from a career as a profiler, I took it a few steps further, and the reader eventually learns everything she walked away from, and then why.

You manipulated several story-lines with Greer, Ash, and the killer’s being the most significant…talk about how you plotted out the intricate details of each of their lives.

This is a tough question. I think the most simplistic answer is dominoes. You know how you line up the dominoes, then knock over the first one and all the others follow? Each movement of the previous domino affects the next one. Yeah. Kinda like that.

Or maybe building blocks would be a more appropriate metaphor. Each block being representative of who the complete character is.

You’ve said before that you write your books one chapter at a time, in order, and when you’re done, you’re done. Did that process come naturally for you–the way you wrote your first one thirteen or so years ago–or has your process evolved?

Actually, I’ve been writing this way for so long, I don’t know that I’ve ever done it any other way. This doesn’t mean that I don’t go back do some occasionally tweaking, particularly when it comes to writing a romantic suspense. There are several threads that need to be pulled through on a story, and sometimes those get dropped. If I have dropped a thread, I need to determine why? Was it not important to begin with? In that case, it’s a simple matter of eliminating that thread. However if it was important, and I believe if it’s there, it is important some how. Regardless of however minor it may seem, then it needs to be pulled through so the fabric of the story is strong and doesn’t contain any holes.

That said, however, my process does change from book to book, and I’ve never really been able to figure out why this happens, but I’ve learned to go with the flow and not fight it. Some books I outline in great detail, so much so that by the time I’m done I have the shell of a book and all that’s required of me then is to layer the story. Other books start with an opening line and I just write from there, never working from an outline and the story just goes where it needs to go. Others I’ll outline some, or write tons of dialogue then go back and layer and polish until it’s right where I need it to be.

No one way is easier than the other, either, nor does one particular method of tackling a story provide me with more magic dust than the other to make it all happen. Some of those books that I’ve gone to great lengths to detail are more difficult to write than the ones that just happen from that first opening line. Other times, the ones that just happen are the more difficult because I have no idea where the story is going, but I couldn’t write an outline for that particular book to save my characters’ lives. I just don’t know what’s going to happen until it happens. I never know how the process is going to work for a particular book until I sit down and actually begin writing.

You made a clear cut decision to quit working to write when your first book was picked up in 1994. What made you decide to do that, to take such a big risk (knowing the prevailing advice in the business is don’t quit your day job)?

Actually, I didn’t quit working until sometime after I’d sold my second book. I was teaching paralegal students at a local university in addition to taking my own college courses at the time, working toward a degree in History. To say things were getting a little out of hand is an understatement.

Hello, my name is Jamie and I suffer from overachiever syndrome.

I’d just signed my first multi-book contract with Harlequin Temptation, so it was probably my third or fourth book by that time. When it came time to renew my teaching contract with the university, I declined. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, and one I warred with for quite some time, but in the end, it came down to maintaining at least the semblance of living a sane life. I was making good money teaching, but when I realized I was actually making more money writing, it was time to let go of something.

What’s your favorite part of the writing process?

The end.

I’m not being flip. I promise. For me, one of the best parts writing is the sense of accomplishment and fulfillment I receive every time I finish a book. Plus it means my office will get cleaned and the bathroom will no longer resemble a science project.

Knowing how difficult it is to succeed at the level you have, what is the most important thing for novice and frustrated writers to remember?

To never give up the dream. I suffered a horrendous bout of second book syndrome. I couldn’t sell water to a dying man in the desert during that period. And there were times I was certain I’d never sell another book. But someone said something to me that constantly nagged at me. “If I stopped now, I’d never know if the next book was the one that would eventually break the curse.” Whenever I wondered if the publishing window was closed to me forever, I remember those words and it kept me going.

So don’t give up on the dream. Study your craft. Work hard to find your voice as a writer and perfect your story telling abilities. If you stop, you never know if that next story is the one that will finally sell.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on my next romantic suspense for Brava, tentatively titled PRIME SUSPECT, the story of a woman falsely accused of a brutal murder. This book should be available sometime in 2007.

In addition, I also have an as yet untitled Harlequin Blaze scheduled for release November ’07, which is part of a mini-series with friends and fellow Blaze authors Lori Wilde, Carrie Alexander and Isabel Sharpe. This one promises to be lots of fun, and whole lot lighter in tone than what I’ve been doing recently, followed, of course, by another romantic suspense for Brava.

8 thoughts on “Jamie Denton: Interview with a Writing Queen

  1. “If I stopped now, I’d never know if the next book was the one that would eventually break the curse.”

    Wow, what a great piece of advice. The book sounds great! Good luck, Jamie.

  2. This is my type of read. A death, nutso killer, and maybe a romance…everything I need to escape my day. Great interview, Kathie!

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