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Interview with Janet Shawgo: 2022 Winter Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up


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Janet’s Bio: After thirty-six years of being a high-risk labor and delivery nurse, over twenty years of it as a travel nurse, I have retired to the sun and sand of Galveston Island. During my time in the medical field, I carried the rank of Sergeant in a multi-city crime unit, investigating homicides and questionable deaths. It might be why I enjoy killing people in my mystery-thriller novels.

I began writing in 2009, while still working full time as a travel nurse. I’ve published five full novels, Look for Me Series, historical fiction, Archidamus and Legacy of Lies—mystery/thriller. 

An overall category Grand Prize Winner for Chatelaine in Chanticleer Book Awards added to Find me Again, in my historical series. I’ve received multiple awards for those five novels. I have a romantic comedy, novella—You Just Can’t, that will leave you crying with laughter and is one of my highest-rated works. It’s for the Best—is my newest mystery novella, that is being acknowledged in contests. I’ve been fortunate to be published in three anthologies, and a book of poems.

If you haven't read Janet's Story, "The Holiday Slayer," do that and then come back to learn about her writing.


-----interview with Sue Bradford Edwards-----

 

WOW: I love creepy holiday tales!  What was the inspiration for “The Holiday Slayer”?

Janet: The theme for the contest was winter so I kept thinking what can I do with this fairy tale, “Snow White”? Can I fix it so it blends with a winter story?  I picked the fairy tale I wanted.  I wanted to do something different so turning the child’s story into an adult story made it likable for me. 
The original draft was a longer story, so I had to go back and cut 300 words.  I had to find the bland, and I cut out a section that just didn’t fit.

 

WOW: Rewriting is a vital writing tool. How did “The Holiday Slayer” change during the rewrite process?

Janet: There were no major changes in that I had the main character, the killer, and the ending. It all stayed the same it was just removing a few words.

The story was a little over a thousand words.  I just had to be careful to cut out the parts that wouldn’t take away from the whole story so that it continued to flow.  I didn’t want to lose what was happening in the story.

 

WOW: Your story has such a delightful twist in the ending!  What advice do you have for readers who are trying to craft story endings to surprise their readers?

 

Janet: The main thing is to take something normal, a normal ending, and then twist it.  Did you ever think that the main character in my story was going to be the killer?  You need to do it just enough so that the reader doesn’t see it coming.  The reader is reading along, trying to get to the end.  While they read, they are thinking, “Is this person who they say they are?” Then give it a twist.  Make them alien, the murderer, something else.  Just make it a surprise.

There’s a way to do it.  Sometimes I do it I the middle of the book. Sometimes I do it at the end.  It’s not an easy thing to do.  I think it is just my weirdness.  I‘m always thinking, “How can I change this?  How can I make it different?”

Kids come up with these kinds of ideas.  Kids have magical thinking.  Sometimes I listen to my sister’s grandkids talk and it is so interesting. They come up with so many ideas.  As we grow up, we get talked out of things, ways of thinking, that keep our creative juices bubbling up.  We can lose that.

 

WOW: From true crime to police procedurals, crime writing is big.  What advice do you have for readers who are interested in writing about criminal activities?

Janet: I just saw Robert Dugoni listed at the Writer’sPolice Academy. Events like this are amazing. 

For me, I’m writing trying to remember how things worked when I was a police investigator.  So much has changed! If you don’t have the experience, check your local colleges and find classes to take.  The various department have community officers that you can go to and interview.  Even their homicide investigators are happy to answer your questions.  They can also give you information on what books to read.

Speaking one to one with someone who has worked in that area is so important. Whether you are writing about a patrol officer or investigator, it makes a huge difference in how your book is going to read. 

Also, check in your neighborhood.  You might find someone with the experience you need.  Ask a lot of questions. Even if what they do isn’t a major part of the book, it is important. If you just make sure that what you are talking about matches up with what goes on in daily practices, people will know you’ve done your homework. You’d be surprised what you can learn in an hour from someone who does what you’re researching.  They’ll tell you, “Don’t forget this.” They know what people get wrong.

I’ve read about medical examiners and what they do.  You want to get the details correct.  The one thing that you find is that things take much longer than it shows on tv when you send things to the FBI or whatever.  They have a backlog.  It is all about staffing.  That’s part of why serial killers can do so many killings.  They move from state to state, and it complicates things, and it takes so long to get the information back.  But so many writers have the investigator receive results in an hour.

 

WOW: From poetry to mysteries and even romantic comedy, can you tell readers something about your current project?

Janet:  I have a historical paranormal mystery thriller called The Bishop’s Palace set in the 1890s.  The ARCs are out now.  I just need to make the final changes.

I also have a mystery thriller work in progress about a set of twins who kill one twin’s husband.  It could be considered the perfect murder.

I’m working on a mystery thriller set in the future here in Galveston.  It is called In the Shadow of the Pier. 

I’m also querying a paranormal comedy called The Backdoor Retreat.  I haven’t had much luck.  I’ve had some really kind rejections.  They ask to see the next project I’m ready to query. But I haven’t had any takers.  I think it may not the right time for this project.  I have some more queries to hear back on, and then I may put it on the back burner and bring it out at another time.  It is a comedy with the possibility of being a series. 

Then I do flash fiction in the middle of it all.  I use flash fiction to clear my palette.  It is a lot of fun to do.  Flash and novellas, I love to do comedy.  I didn’t think I could write comedy, but I did one story and got a lot of reviews, more than anything else I’ve written. 

WOW:  Your range of work is a testament to trying your hand at different things to find your talents.  I hope our readers will connect with you online: 
www.jkshawgo.com
Instagram: @author_janetshawgo
Twitter: @jkshawgo_author

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