A Curse for the Gossip Mongers

Being in the public eye means you’re the topic of a certain amount of speculation. Fortunately I’m not nearly famous enough to be stalked by paparazzi or to be profiled in the National Inquirer, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a certain amount of ugly gossip out there.

Bill and I met in June of 1985, six months after his first wife died and two and a half years after my first husband’s death. Twenty some years into our marriage, a former employee at a bank branch we utilized back then told a good friend of ours that she didn’t read J.A. Jance books because, when Bill’s wife was dying, I’d come along to be his “side dish.” Excuse me? With a dying wife and three young adult children, the man was working two jobs, trying to keep the bills paid, health insurance in force, and food on the table. When the hell would he have had either the time or the energy for a “side dish?” In addition, Bill is a man of his word, an old fashioned straight-shooter, who wouldn’t have broken his wedding vows (either time!) no matter how many opportunities might have presented themselves. At the same time, I was a single mother with two little kids and a full time job selling life insurance who was spending nights, weekends, and the early morning hours trying to launch a career as a writer. It’s not easy to be a bar hopping, husband stealing side dish when you’re in bed and asleep at 8:30 at night, the moment the kids are in bed. So there’s that.

Then there’s the still persistent rumor that I don’t really write my books at all. This one surfaced soon after Until Proven Guilty, the first Beaumont book was published. Because the book is written in the first person through a male cop’s point of view, some readers swore up and down that a retired Seattle cop “writes these books.” As insulting as that may be, it’s also a backhanded compliment of sorts. My publisher had insisted I use my initials as a pen name because they didn’t think male readers would accept a police procedural written by someone named Judith Ann. (Obviously they never noticed that my next door neighbor on shelves in bookstores and libraries, was PD James—short of Phyllis Dorothy—who was forced to use her initials for the same reason two full decades earlier than I did!) But the truth is, back then, the publisher’s marketing people were probably right. In other words, using my initials was a ploy to conceal my … wait is the term “my sex” these days or is it “my gender?”) I forget what current approved terminology applies, but I’m sure you get the picture. In order to make sure the ploy of using JA only worked, there was no author photo or author bio on my early book covers. So the fact that someone assumed the author to be a retired Seattle cop writing under a pseudonym made sense.

I expected that once my photo started appearing on my books, that the Seattle cop rumor would go away. Nope! It’s still around. Now it goes like this. “A retired Seattle cop writes these books, and she’s just a front for him.” And you know what? As long as people are reading and enjoying my books, I don’t care what they think. They could call me a one-eyed, one-eared flying purple people eater, and it wouldn’t be any skin off my nose. (Boy, the songs we know really do date us!)

But this week a new rumor popped up, one that, as my mother would have said, really “garred my greet.” By the way, I just tried googling that phrase and came up empty, but when Evie Busk said those words, there could be no doubt about what was happening. It meant she wasn’t happy, and when Evie wasn’t happy, nobody was happy.” And I’m not happy right now, either.

This newly surfaced rumor would have you believe that I have a ghost writer. Grrr! This is one hundred percent false, and if you don’t believe me, all you have to do is look at my computer keyboard. Bill was rehabbing one of my old computers this week to pass along to someone else. “Of course the letters are worn off all the keys,” he said, “especially the J.” I remember a hunt-and-peck son, recently home from college, who was trying to use my computer to create a resumé. “How can you use this?” he demanded. “All the letters are missing.” I don’t believe a properly installed ghost writer would be wearing the letters off my keyboards.

I know writing teams who can create books together with one person doing the plotting and the outline and the other person filling in the actual scenes and dialogue. That is SO not me! A few years ago I co-wrote a novella for Thrillerfest’s fund raiser book project, Matchup. For me it was an incredibly challenging assignment. I’m no good on committees. I flunked out of PTA very early on, because fire-fights over Roberts Rules of Order drove me nuts. And during my years in the life insurance business, agency meetings sent me over the edge. At the end of each meeting, there was invariably one guy—I can see him now, clear as day—who would ask an amazingly dim question proving to everyone in the room that he hadn’t been listening to a word that was said. I always wanted to wring his scrawny neck. So with that kind of bad vibe group-grope history, is it any wonder that I’m self-employed and working alone in my family room?

Yes, I’m aware that there are ghost writers out there. I could name names, but I won’t. In some cases, the families of deceased writers have licensed someone to carry on someone’s literary legacy in hopes of carrying on his or her literary income as well. One young adult writer, V.C. Andrews, who died in the mid-eighties, continued to have books published decades after her death. I’m not privy to what went on there. Perhaps she had drawers full of written but unpublished manuscripts, or perhaps the subsequent books were written by someone else on her behalf. And I know there are living authors whose names pop up month after month with new books who clearly acknowledge that they utilize the services of co-writers. God love them, but that’s just not me.

I do not use co-writers or ghost writers. I publish two books a year and fifty-two blogs. All of them are written by me, on my keyboard, with my own ten fingers. I answer each and every one of the e-mails sent to me—again with my own fingers. I don’t have someone sorting the e-mails for me. No, I read them all myself and respond myself. There are times when dealing with particularly snarky e-mails—e-mals as I like to call them—that I end up having to grit my teeth while typing my reply, but reply I do.

For years one of my favorite poems has been Robert Graves’s, A Traveler’s Curse After Misdirection. I just now googled it and have discovered that I’ve been misquoting it for decades. I’m going to give you my somewhat shortened version:

With every step he takes
A bone should break,
And may it not, for variations sake
Now and arm and now a leg
But each and every time his neck.

So the next time someone tells you with a perfectly straight face that J.A. Jance has a ghost writer working for her, please do me a favor. You don’t need to break the guy’s neck, but do clean his clock, and let him know that he doesn’t have the foggiest idea what he’s talking about.

50 thoughts on “A Curse for the Gossip Mongers

  1. Love you all the more for taking the time to stand up for yourself! People who have to undermine/discredit others to make themselves look knowledgeable (or whatever other reason) only make themselves look like a fool.

    Signed, A Loyal Fan

  2. Anyone who has attended your book signings can HEAR that you the speaker are truly you, the author.
    Would one who has a ghost writer subject herself to the rigors of a book tour?

  3. I think the rumor may stem from a misunderstanding. When looking at your books on Amazon, the audiobooks list the title followed by you as the author and the name of the narrator. If a person isn’t paying attention and doesn’t realize they’re in the audiobook section, it actually looks like the book has two authors. I’m saying this because it happened to me once and I did a double take before realizing my mistake.

  4. First of all, I am shocked and disgusted at the unethical behavior of the ex-bank employee. Hopefully “ex” because of being fired for this type of thing.

    That seems different from the written by a police officer and ghost writer rumors, which fall into a quasi complimentary area – no one could write this spot on, or this much, without help. Is the retired police officer assisted by a woman who is an Arizona sheriff and someone with a parallel background to Ali Reynolds? I don’t think these theories hold up, and they certainly don’t recognize the whole concept of creativity in writing. Also your writing voice is so distinctive that it would be pretty darn hard to copy.


  5. I’m so glad to see your blog. Usually it is posted a little after 9 AM here in CT, but it wasn’t today. I kept checking back and at last it was here.

    I love the term “side dish”, but understand how upsetting that was. People are mean and I think it is mostly envy or is it jealousy? I’m not sure. But rest assured that we know you are a real writer and love you for it.

  6. Thank you Judith Ann! I never thought any such thing, have always loved your books, and by the time I discovered them, your picture was on the book. And of course I have heard you speak several times, in Green Valley and once in Sisters….which was the first time…you are an excellent writer, an excellent speaker and I look forward to hearing you every time I can. Stand in line for advance tickets even!

    The recent “recovery” of the teenager in Wisconsin so reminded me of one of your recent Sheriff Brady books, maybe the last one? Scary people out there!


  7. Hi..I am a fan of yours for over 20 years and I love your books. I’m a single mom and had 2 children. My family came first. I was always criticized for doing too much for them. I know a grandmother with 3 grandchildren. I feel very blessed. People like that you have be strong and not listen too. You have too because that’s important. Your family. The hell with jealous and evil people. Good work frames a loyal fan and god bless. Linda Owaski from Tucson.

  8. It’s a sad world out there when someone tries to discredit someone else because of jealousy or whatever if anyone has ever attended one of your Book reading evenings would know that you write every single word as you speak every single word silly people they just don’t have enough to do in their lives but to hurt other people I’m recording this as I’ve had I surgery so excuse any mistakes as I cannot see them to correct them I should probably not even write this but your books are what’s keeping me going thank you very much have a lovely week see you next week Jan

  9. I’ve been lucky enough to meet you (and see Bill) twice and you are the nicest people around! I love all your books and save the blogs. Those ‘rumors’ are the most vicious and cruel I’ve ever heard, and believe me if I ever hear anyone mentioning them I’ll set them straight and at 4’10” punch them right in the nose (LOL).

  10. Never fear, I’ve got your back. I am loyal and true to you and your art. I don’t know what is wrong with people these days…perhaps it has always been this way, but if someone can find something negative to slam someone else they seem to enjoy it. I’m sorry you have ever had to endure such vile slander, but I, for one, have never doubted you for a moment.
    I’ll clean a clock or two if it ever comes about. I may not know you personally, but I do care about you.
    Thanks for being who you are, and thank Bill, too 🙂

  11. Thank you for standing up for yourself. It would never have occurred to me that someone else writes your books, though I’m astonished at your energy and output; I’d sure never be able to do all that good writing. Luckily for those of us who are readers, not writers, many good authors do, and we enjoy their books.

    I confess that had wondered over the years about Margaret Truman and Elliot Roosevelt and whether they really wrote their mystery series. Any “celebrity” who becomes an author makes me suspicious of who’s actually doing the writing. I just recently read that for Truman’s mysteries, she did have a ghost writer, but not for her history books about her parents. Also that Roosevelt had a ghost writer–as a librarian for 30 years who read a lot and saw lots of reviews while choosing the new books, I just found it unlikely that he was writing them himself. When he died and the books kept coming out with a note on the book cover from the publisher that he’d had many manuscripts written before he died, I was even more suspicious. And when reading about Truman’s ghostwriter, it said his were also written by someone else. Which may or may not be true, of course and I’ll never know.

    I’m just glad that YOU are the original and true author and that we can continue to enjoy your good books. I definitely enjoyed Field of Bones this fall when my library got it in, and I look forward to what happens to Sheriff Brady next. (My husband and I like Beaumont, too, but I like Brady best).

    Thanks again for writing, and good luck to you and to Bill with your health challenges. We are sending you good thoughts from Missouri.

  12. I have stopped reading a famous author precisely due to the fact that he uses co-writers. He seems to value quantity, not quality. Love your blogs, but then again, I’m biased.

  13. Omg. Your loyal fans know better. This Jrzy girl & your former book signer events coordinator for a former bookstore, will set them straight.

  14. I never once doubted that you do your own writing. I’ve read everything (I think) that you’ve written, and look forward to each new book. You’ve been a favorite suthors for a lot of years (I won’t say how many), and will continue to read your works. Looking forward to your return to the North Seattle area (Lake Forest PArk) for a book signing. I always enjoy our short chats. Keep up the good writing. ):

  15. Poppycock! I thankfully have never heard those rumors. I would set someone straight. Some people do not want to know the truth, having heard the other snipe first. And I remember Sheb Woolly’s Flying Purple Eater song. Loved it. Now I have that ear worm for the day. :~)

  16. When people are jealous of someone like you who is so talented and yet has feet on the ground will say anything. Write on and pay no attention to them!!!

  17. I am so glad you are standing up for yourself. I have not heard rumors concerning you and if I do they will most definitely be set straight.
    I have never understood people who need to spread rumors and/or tear others down. It is vicious, rude and a form of bullying in a way. I know there will be a special place for those people in the end.
    Thanks for the two books a year, every year and the 52 blogs. They keep me going and always wanting more.

  18. I for one will happily snap a few bones in your honor. I wait impatiently for all your books. It is like visiting with old friends to sit down and gulp down what Beau, Ali and Joanna are doing. I have been reading since God made dirt and I have to say, you are rated right up there at the top of the list. Give em hell girl.

  19. I’ve never even thought that you were not the author of your books and think those who said you were not are jealous as people stated. I love your books and wait patiently for each one to come out and I appreciate that you stood up for yourself.
    I also enjoy your blogs.

  20. My roommate tells me what happens in her office, conversations and behavior, unbelievable. Those people would not last two days anywhere I’ve ever worked. I prefer to work by myself then there is no doubt what got done or who did it, good or bad. We believe you!

  21. You are one of the best of the best police genre writers. Keep writing as long as you can. You are very respected. I’m sorry you even feel that it was needed to defend yourself from rumors.

  22. You always make me laugh and sometimes cry with your honesty and humor. Flying Purple People Eater is going to make me smile for a week!! I even listened to it on YouTube! What a memory! Thanks from a very appreciative fan!

  23. Looking forward when you have a book signing at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park! You are an amazing author! I have every one of your Beaumont books! Thank you for your blogs! I look forward reading them every week!

  24. Did this person confuse an earlier posting about all the editing that goes into a manuscript before it’s published with someone else is actually doing the writing? I wonder JA how it feels to have your work edited by someone? I understand proof reading, but do the editors make real changes to the story? What if you as the creator disagree with the change?

    I wonder if this same person will next claim you’re lip syncing during your book signings!

  25. I get that celebrities who are published may not be writers but have a story that will sell, but I can’t see what anyone gets out of claiming that a writer whose books are consistent and reasonably paced is not the writer. The early belief that you had to have lived the experience is a compliment but it down’t make sense that they believe that a man writing as a man would claim to be a woman. As far as the bank employee, I agree that I hope he is an ex-employee! This claim is the one that upsets me; it is a personal attack against your basic beliefs. You and you current husband are known for being a person of great standards. The millions of us who respect you will not listen to the nonsense but I appreciate your addressing the issue anyway.

  26. Who cares what those idiots think. The biggest problem with your books, is that I can’t stop reading until I complete the book.
    I agree with everything Jeanie Jackson wrote.
    The best thing about using our library, in Sun City West, to check out your books, is the short wait times. The retired finish books quickly. In Kitsap county the wait time sometimes is 6 to 8 weeks.

  27. Thank you for suggesting another author PD James. I needed a new mystery, and now I’m off to England, reading a new e book.

  28. People with no talent or success will belittle those who succeed. This is especially true of strong women. Keep your spirit up and keep fighting the gossip mongers. You are an example to us all. My experience is that almost every successful woman has people wanting to diminish her success.

  29. I love to talk to people. In this day and age pleasant conversation with strangers is a forgotten pastime. I was in my cardiologist’s office a couple days ago, and there were about 12 or 14 others there in the waiting room, all hunched over. I asked how many were using an e-reader, and about 8 or 9 were. One lady had an actual paperback. It was Rattlesnake Crossing. I asked if any others if they read JA Jance, and 4 more said yes. Then the conversation took off from there. Needless to say, the time went quickly before I was called in. Keep up the good work!

    • That made me smile. So glad you’re continuing to spread the word, Loren. Our son-in-law brought lefse from Poulsbo this Christmas, and it made me think of you.

  30. Wow, that is such an off the wall rumor that while I see how it could be infuriating to you…I can’t fathom how any reader of yours would ponder it even for a moment!
    It’s like being accustomed to eating at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant and a rumor mentioning he uses Chicken McNuggets.
    People, Puh-leez.

    • Stoppping at a cafe in the Seattle area, a family saw lefse tacos on the menu with a not that if you have to ask what it is, don’t even think of ordering this.

    • Stoppping at a cafe in the Seattle area, a family saw lefse tacos on the menu with a not that if you have to ask what it is, don’t even think of ordering this.

  31. My wife, a librarian at ASU(Go Devils!) introduced me to the joy of reading at the tender age of 45 and your “Hand of Evil” novel was my first book. I love your writing! I am now reading the first Ali Reynolds, “Edge of Evil” and look forward to reading the others. I want to say thank you for sharing your stories! Write on!

  32. Those of you who think that JA Jance does not write her own books is wrong. I am her personal trainer and I have personally seen her write for the past 2 1/2 years. Judy and her husband Bill are the most amazing people I have ever known. Yes there are authors out there who really dont write their own stories but Judy is not one of them. So those of you who spread those rumors get on the floor and give me 100 pushups.

  33. Those of you who think that JA Jance does not write her own books is wrong. I am her personal trainer and I have personally seen her write for the past 2 1/2 years. Judy and her husband Bill are the most amazing people I have ever known. Yes there are authors out there who really dont write their own stories but Judy is not one of them. So those of you who spread those rumors get on the floor and give me 100 pushups.

  34. This is insane! Anyone who has read your books would know that it is you. They are consistent from the first book to the last! A ghost writer cannot do that! Great job standing up for yourself, even though you should not have had to!

  35. You get um girl. We are behind you 100%. Love all your books, but my love is JP Beaumont , we even named our parakeet JP Beaumont. Keep writing and we will keep reading. God Bless.

  36. J. A., I don’t care if you are a man, a woman, have a ghost writer, a writing partner or are a crossed eyed donkey, please, keep writing your wonderful books. We all love your books, even if they keep us up late at night. I always look forward to the next one.
    Your faithful reader,

  37. Never for a minute did I think you didn’t write your own stories. Actually I make it a point not to read the several authors that have two names listed on the cover beause of the reason you listed. These authors usually have at least one book published each month. I don’t believe one person can churn out that many quality stories each year. I will wait for the two per year of yours.

  38. I’m so messed up with even sometimes I start going back today to reread your day after day! I just broke on my right side arm a few days ago. I’m so thoughtful you at least keep you smart all these years. Thank you and Bill. Sure wish I could remember mine on a lot. I do still take time to read a lot of yours.

  39. It is the petty who defile our integrity for a spot in our light, only to have found themselves cast in a darker shadow. VMS

    Two favorite sayings come to mind regarding the gossip mongers: “Be still and know that I am God” and “This too shall pass”. You know who you are, they do not. Have faith in us who love your books and appreciate your talent and hospitality!

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