Today on The Author Behind the Books, we’re upping our game with TWO authors, Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger. This dynamic husband and wife duo write separately and together as well as run the Youtube channel, CHATTING WITH AUTHORS. My reading list includes THE NAKED GROOM (by Will) and CREPES SUZETTE (by Janet). What great titles! I just finished my first book from the Skylar Drake series, which they write together. They look like a nice couple, kind of a sweet Bonnie and Clyde, but boy, are they ever tough on their character, Skylar Drake. Not since I read my last TOFF book have I seen a protagonist suffer so much! Here are their bios:
Published authors, Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger wrote individually until they teamed up and wrote the five book Skylar Drake Murder Mystery series. Janet has published seven mystery novels and Will has three in print, plus two short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder, crime and thriller stories.
For their new International Crime File series, they write as E.J. Williams. The first novel is titled STONE PUB: an Exercise in Deception, scheduled for release later this year.
This creative couple has been married for 49 years.
Let’s meet Janet and Will, as they each give their answer to my questions.
We writers love all our characters. Sometimes the most troublesome child can be a secret favorite. Is there one character you find especially troublesome, and are they your favorite? What makes you love them? Or do you wish they had never wriggled into your book?
Janet – In our 1950s Skylar Drake Murder Mystery series, DESERT ICE, I loved my character Dippy. He’s an crusty old guy that worked for the “syndicate” in years gone by. After several head injuries he had to retire but the mob boss supports him with a place to live and free meals at the night club in Las Vegas. He always gets things mixed up and declares, “I know lots of stuff… I just can’t remember them all at once.”
Will – In my first novel, NAKED GROOM, a character named “Dwayne” caused all sorts of havoc by dumping his dog on “Richard,” my protagonist. If it wasn’t for the dog much of the story would have been boring. It seems the dog, “Lardass,” was quite endearing to the women in Richard’s life.
Can you give us an example of a piece of research for a book that you especially enjoyed doing? Why was it so much fun?
Janet – I enjoy research. My favorite was researching SLICK DEAL. We spent 4 days on Catalina Island to find places for body dumps; we had 5 dead bodies we had to put somewhere. So we asked people who lived there, “Where would you dump a dead body?” Some people look at us and walked backward; others gave us cross streets and landmarks…like they had thought about it!
Will – In each story of our co-written Skylar Drake Mystery series, we start out in the Hollywood of 1955. Since neither Janet nor I grew up in southern California, we had a lot to learn. The history and legends we discovered by going to the places we were writing about were astounding. The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, The Egyptian Theater, the Hollywood Bowl, Musso & Frank’s restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard, The 1929 Sunset Tower Hotel (originally the Sunset Tower), the exclusive Hancock Park community in Los Angeles, and many more. Each place had its own story. That helped us take the reader to the time and place of our novel.
What is one trait or habit your character has that would drive you crazy in real life?
Janet – Skylar Drake, our gumshoe in the Skylar Drake Mystery series is a widower and now testing the waters in dating. He refuses to date ladies whose first name ends in “y”, i.e, Mary, Sandy, Amy, etc. Unfortunately, all his femme fatales names end in “y”. So trying to set him up with dates would be a nightmare in real life but is great for an author trying to create romantic tension.
Will – In my third stand-alone novel, THE FINAL CHECKPOINT, the Protagonist, Ben DeCastro is too much of a “people pleaser.” By never saying NO to anyone, he finds himself stretched too thin and tried to keep too many promises. I wouldn’t trust him any more than the other characters in the book.
Everyone loves to laugh. Can you share your favorite joke?
Janet – This is not so much a joke but an extraordinary funny thing that happened while writing our first novel, SLIVERS OF GLASS. We were in Santa Rosa and we were talking about our murder mysteries at a cousin’s wedding reception. We asked, “Where would you hid a dead body?” We had so many suggestions. Sitting next to me, one wife turned to another and said, “They seem so normal.” We still laugh about it 9 years later!
Will – Favorite Joke? Let’s see – there are so many. Here’s one of my favorites:
While cleaning out the attic one day after his father had passed, a man came across a ticket from the local shoe repair shop in his father’s belongings. The date stamped on the ticket showed that it was over twenty years old. He knew the odds were against them still being there, but he thought it was worth a try. He pocketed the ticket.
On the way home from work the next day, he stopped at the shoe repair shop, and with a straight face, handed the ticket to the old man behind the counter.
With a face just as straight, the man said, “Hmm. Just a minute. I’ll have to look for these.” He disappeared through a door at the back of the shop.
Two minutes later, the man called out, “Here they are!”
“No kidding?” The man called back. “That’s terrific! Who would have thought they’d still be here after all this time.”
The man reappeared and handed back the ticket. “They’ll be ready Thursday,” he said calmly.
I LOVE that kind of straight-faced humor. Now for a tough question.
Many books, especially cozies, have recipes. I, myself, have bought mysteries for the recipes! Do you have a favorite recipe that you can share with readers? Especially one that your character would love to make or eat. Extra points if it’s under five ingredients.
Janet – My Pier Mystery series, and women’s fiction books stirred quite an interest in foods from different areas of the country and overseas. So, I put together four cookbooks, one for each women’s fiction and one for the pier mysteries. You can check them out at: http://janetlynncookbooks.blogspot.com/
Seriously? You have cookbooks???…Okay. I’m back. I just picked up a copy of the PIER MURDER MYSTERIES COOKBOOK. Maybe I’ll show off some of the recipes I’ve cooked in future blogs. Okay, Will. Can you top that?
Will – In my second stand-alone novel, the romantic mystery, SOMETHING ‘S COOKING AT DOVE ACRES, the protagonist, young Maddie Van der Wald, is a definite “non-cook.” She makes her romantic interest a dessert by melting a chocolate candy bar in the microwave, then placing a scoop of vanilla ice cream on a small plate next to a Hostess Twinkie. She then pours the melted chocolate bar over the Twinkie and ice cream before topping it with a cherry.
Actually, that’s not bad. (She adds recipe to menu planner.)
What piece of advice would you give your character when everything seems hopeless? Advice you would give your best friend.
Janet – In the first book of our new 1960s thriller series, International Crime Files STONE PUB, our character Patrick Lyons feels he has lost everything. I would tell him that opportunities abound. When one door closes, another door always opens. And I have found the new door that opens is to wonderful things and new opportunities that I never expected.
Will – I would tell all my characters, “Walk it off.” NO, seriously, I would tell her that most things in life are temporary, and that this too shall pass. I would also tell my character that “God’s delay, is not God’s denial.”
One time, I slid on our icy driveway and under my date’s car as he waited to open the door. Do you have an embarrassing story you’d be willing to share?
Janet – My first book, SOUTH OF THE PIER, is a contemporary murder mystery series. I was stuck for 3 days and just couldn’t figure out how to get from A to C. I decided to take a break and go food shopping. As I was lifting a large plastic bottle of tomato juice I dropped it on my foot and yelled in pain (I was wearing open toe sandals). I immediately knew the changes I had to make, it was like a movie running through my head, I felt like I had a stroke. I held on to the shelf and people thought I was badly hurt. People came running to help me. I left my cart full of food and ran home. I worked on the book for 5 hours, my fingers couldn’t keep up with my brain…who knew I had brains cells in my big toe?!!
Will – On a trip to New Orleans to research Janet’s book, EAST OF THE PIER, Janet and I had just finished lunch at The Court of Two Sisters. Janet noticed she didn’t have her recently purchased New Orleans baseball cap. We back to the restaurant and searched all around and under the table where we’d eaten, grilled the staff, and retraced our steps afterward. It wasn’t until a half hour later we both noticed I was wearing it! How embarrassing.
I admit it. I snorted. I’ve done that with my glasses.
If you could hang out with one of your characters, which would you choose, and what would you do?
Janet – I would love to hang out with Wrigley Rose, my protagonist in CREPE SUZETTE. She is quirky and describes things in a hysterical manner. The head of the newspaper she works for is Boss Man, her mimesis is Nate the Snake, and their secretary is Looney Bin, etc. She would be a lot of fun to have lunch with.
Will – I think I’d like to hang out with Tex Mayfield. The uncle of Tracy Morton in STONE PUB, the first book of our upcoming 1962 series, The International Crime Files. Tex is a lot of fun and probably knows the best BBQ places. I’d hang out with him at Tracy’s in Bonita Beach and listen to all his adventures from his CIA days.
What is your favorite word or phrase that serves as a substitute for swearing?
Janet – Shatter Bomb for the word Shit. I love the way it makes my mouth feel when I say it.
Will – I don’t really filter my character’s language. There was a phrase in one of my stories where one of them says, “You son of a sailor!”
Out of the books you have written, which is your favorite, and why? You can see this is a difficult question because you’ve written a LOT of books between you.
Janet – The most fun book I wrote was my first women’s fiction, EGGNOG. In the book the protagonist, Elaine Cooper, 30 something, decides it was time to start dating. So she finds several men to date. Each of the 6 men have different personalizes, even down to the cars they drive, from motor cycles to Jags to Hummers. It was fun writing about my former single life, the men in it, and so happy not to be a single professional any more.
Will – Favorite? That’s like asking a parent which of their kids is their favorite. If I have to choose, I’d say my first book, THE NAKED GROOM a romantic comedy…but only because it was my first attempt and I enjoyed the process of discovery – both of myself as an author and watching the story unfold. The manuscript came about through NANOWRIMO.
I have to ask. You write books together and make Youtube videos together. Here’s the background on how CHATTING WITH AUTHORS BEGAN.
During the pandemic we missed our writing friends. So in August, 2020, when we realized the lock down would last much longer, we launched a new YouTube channel, “Chatting with Authors.” It is a casual interview programs via Zoom and we airing them on YouTube. The 30-minute pre-recorded show is posted with a new program every Friday. As of this week we have 35 interviews and more to come. Check it out here:
So, my question for you is, what is it like working with your spouse?
Janet – We agreed years ago that we would hang our egos at the door before we discussed anything that had to do with our books, speaking engagements, interviews and recording. After +5 books together we have done numerous events and interviews and we work well together. We respect each other’s ideas, opinions. and thoughts. After all the goal is to write a good book and have good interview. And yes…we are still married.
Will – Janet and I have been helping each other with our individual writing for more than a decade. We co-wrote the Skylar Drake Mystery series and now the International Crime Files series. As a visual artist by trade, I find creative collaboration exciting and inspiring. It’s even better if you are creating with someone you love and trust. Great things can happen.
And now I’m going to tell you where you can find all these great books and read more about these nice people.
Janet Elizabeth Lynn’s website: www.janetlynnauthor.com
Will Zeilinger’s website: www.willzeilingerauthor.com
Janet and Will’s next book is coming soon. Here’s the scoop.
Southern California, 1962:
Patrick Lyons receives a surprise visit from two Irish men, claiming to be his cousins, who inform him that he is the heir to the vast Lyonsmaine estate in Ireland.
Unaware of any Irish connection, he seeks the help of professional genealogist Tracy Morton to find out whether it’s a scam or not.
Among his late father’s belongings, he finds a gold medallion wrapped in a cryptic message. Patrick’s life suddenly goes sideways. He is attacked, abducted and near death.
Tracy reluctantly goes in search of the truth about Patrick’s inheritance.
To verify what she’s discovered about the Lyons clan, Tracy, her ex-husband, and her uncle travel to Ireland amid the unrest in the north. All sorts of Patrick’s relatives appear, while danger, intrigue, and death lurk at every turn. Each new lead turns into a fight for survival. This magical Emerald Isle seems cursed.