L.J. Sellers writes the bestselling Detective Jackson mystery/thriller series, a Readers Favorite award winner, as well as provocative standalone thrillers. Her novels have been highly praised by Mystery Scene, Crimespree, and RT Reviews, and her Jackson books are Kindle bestsellers as well as top-ranked novels.
L.J., who resides in Eugene, Oregon where her novels are set, is also an award-winning journalist who earned the Grand Neal. When not plotting murders, she enjoys standup comedy, cycling, social networking, and attending mystery conferences. She’s also been known to jump out of airplanes.
I was born in Santa Rosa, California—the third of six kids—but I’ve spent most of my life in Oregon. I grew up in Cave Junction, a small town in Southern Oregon. The day I turned 18, I packed my WV bug and moved to Eugene. Five years later, I graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism.
I’ve always loved to write. I was one of those nerdy kids in school who liked to write reports—about Peru, ocean life, pollution, whatever—I loved researching and writing about everything. I also wrote some fiction as a kid and some short stories in college, but never took it seriously then.
After graduating, I moved to Phoenix (needed a dose of sunshine). The country was in recession then too, and I knew people in Eugene with journalism degrees who were flipping burgers, so I had to leave here to find work in my field. My first career position was with Arizona Senior World, and I loved it. My favorite assignments were the people profiles—old people doing amazing things. (I hope to be one of those people in 40 years or so). I’ve also written several profiles for Oregon Quarterly as a freelancer.
My stay in Phoenix was fairly short. I got married and had a baby (neither was my idea), then felt compelled to move back to Eugene where my family was. (They had followed me to Eugene.) My first husband is long gone (hallelujah!), but the boy is still with me here in Eugene.
I married a second time to a man with two small boys (siblings for my son!), and we raised our kids together. (We’ll celebrate our 24th anniversary this year.) I never thought I wanted to be a parent, but I always had a houseful of kids and what a joy it was. When my kids were young I waited tables part time and freelanced for local papers part time, so I could be home with them.
One day, I was reading a particularly bad novel and tossed it to the floor, thinking I could write a better story than that. I had never considered writing fiction until that moment, but I felt challenged to see if I could actually do it. On August 7, 1989, I sat down to write my first novel. I used a Commodore computer, and it only took about three months. The story was called Personal Justice, and it was about a woman who tracks down the pedophile who murders her child (Jeffrey Dahmer was in the news then.)
It wasn’t a great story (because it lacked complexity) but I discovered I loved writing novels. You could say I got hooked. I immediately started another. When I finished it, I sent the first three chapters to an agent, Al Zuckerman, president of Writers House. (What audacity!) Three months later he called me and said he couldn’t sell that story but that I had talent and that I should send him an outline of what I was working on then. I was so excited! I remember running outside to tell my husband, shouting “Al Zuckerman just called and said I was a talented writer.” (He eventually represented me…)
Which is why I never gave up submitting my work, even though it took nearly 20 years to break through. (Lots of agents, novels, screenplays, close calls, and bad publisher experiences along the way.)
Meanwhile, I landed an editorial job at Pharmaceutical Executive magazine, where I learned more about drugs than I ever thought I would. It was a great job, and I learned to be an editor (as well as a writer). After seven years, they closed the Eugene office. While I looked for a new job, I wrote The Sex Club, the first in the Detective Jackson series. I feel very passionately about the subject matter, so it was a story I had to write, even knowing that it might never be published. At the time, I wasn’t sure if the Jackson character would end up being a series, but I made him likable, so I could bring him back if needed.
Then I spent two and a half years with an educational publisher. During that time, my job used up all my mental energy, and I didn’t write any new fiction. I discovered that I’m not completely happy if I’m not writing a new story.
I was laid off again in March of 2008, one of the early casualties of the recession, and decided to make the most of the situation. I expanded my freelancing efforts (which I’d been doing on the side all along) and committed to putting novel writing first. In the last four years, I’ve written five Detective Jackson stories and a new standalone thriller. I’ve also self-published all nine novels and a nonfiction book. In October 2010, I quit freelancing to write full-time. What a joy it has been!
Update: In May 2012, Thomas & Mercer (Amazon) offered me an 11-book contract, which I happily signed.