What’s In A Name

People who have seen me out on the stump may have heard this story before because it’s the one I tell when people ask me if J.A. Jance is my “real” name or my “pen” name.  The answer to that question is actually yes times two.

My maiden name growing up in Bisbee was Judith Ann Busk/ aka Judy.  That was fairly straight forward until my younger brother, Jim, married someone named Judy and brought her home to Bisbee to live.  Suddenly there was the “old” Judy Busk, the tall blonde one, and the “new” Judy Busk who was tall but dark haired.  That confusion went away when Jim and his Judy divorced and she married someone else.

But of course, by then, I had married as well.  My first husband’s name was Jerry Janc—Jerry Joseph Teale Janc.  His last name was supposed to be pronounced Jance like Dance but it was mostly mispronounced Jank like Tank.  In 1983, after my first husband’s death, the kids and I went to court in King County and bought a vowel to put on the end of our name so people would say it correctly.  So I went from being Judith Ann Janc to Judith Ann Jance.  By the way, buying that vowel cost me $400 in 1983.

Later on that same year, when I submitted the manuscript for Until Proven Guilty (UPG) to my agent, the title page read:  Until Proven Guilty by Judith A. Jance. My agent, who hailed from New York City, knew a little about the ins and outs of publishing.  Since UPG and the other Beaumont books are all written in the first person through a male point of view, my agent redid the title page before sending the manuscript off to potential publishers, revising it to read:  Until Proven Guilty by J.A. Jance.

Weeks later, John Douglas, called her and said, “The guy who wrote Until Proven Guilty is a good writer.”

“What would you say if I told you the guy who wrote Until Proven Guilty is a woman?” my agent asked.

To which John replied, “I’d say she was a hell of a good writer,” and he followed up that statement by offering me a two book contract, and that’s how John Douglas became my initial editor at Avon Books.

A few months down the road, John called to report that marketing had gotten ahold of the manuscript.  Worried that “male readers won’t accept a police procedural written by someone named Judy,” they wanted to use my initials instead, and that’s how Judith Ann Jance became J.A. Jance.  The irony here is that for the past thirty-plus years, my next door neighbor on the shelves of bookstore and libraries has been P.D. James.  Baroness Phyllis Dorothy James, who passed away in 2014, had to resort to using her initials for the same reason in the mid-fifties, thirty years earlier than I did.

And why am I reporting all this ancient history now?  Because today, I’ve just spent the last six hours of my writing life autographing tip-in sheets for Field of Bones.  Tip-in sheets are extra pages that can be autographed first and then bound into the books at the time they are printed so the books come from the printer pre-signed.  I’m sure this amounts to a special order for some retailer or other, and if it’s going to sell books, I’m going to do it. But I can tell you that every time I signed my name, all fifteen hundred times, I was incredibly grateful to be able to scrawl J.A. Jance rather than Judith Ann Jance.  Lot’s fewer letters there, and when it comes to signing autographs, having a short name helps.

The week before Until Proven Guilty was published in 1985, I met Bill Schilb at a widowed retreat, and the two of us hit it off.  A few months later, when he asked me to marry him, I told him, “Sure, but I just paid four-hundred bucks for this name and I’m not changing it.”

And now, with those tip-in sheets boxed up and off to UPS, I’m headed back to Ali #14.  Can’t give you a name so far.  The new baby still doesn’t have one.