Long Running Series Author
Recently, local author J.A. Devereaux sat down with Adult Services librarian Becca Skau to chat about being a local author in Jackson County. Devereaux is author of the Requisition For: A Thief series and expects to release Book 8 of the series in late Spring or early Summer of 2019. She has also embarked on a new series, Thief à la Femme, which has just released its second book, thief.con, this past September.
J.A. Devereaux has been a distance runner from the age of 15. She also had a singing ministry for 15 years and recorded three songs, but writing is her true passion now. She deeply enjoyed creating and executing the promotional videos on YouTube for her first book series. Learning to pick locks and pick out of handcuffs was some of her favorite research for her writing.
Your Requisition For: A Thief Series will have its 8th book out in the late Spring/early Summer of 2019. What do you want our readers to know about this series?
The Requisition For: A Thief series is a contemporary reboot of an old TV show that ran in the late 60s – “It Takes A Thief” – starring Robert Wagner as international jewel thief Alexander Mundy. Of course, my series has new characters not related to the original characters at all; it is more a reboot of a certain type or genre exemplified in that TV show. The premise for the storyline has not been used, that I know of, before nor since that TV show – until I came along and wrote this series. The premise of the show, and what I wanted to come out in my series as well, is the concept of getting a thief out of prison, not to catch other criminals, but to do what he does better than anyone else in the world: steal.
My thief, Gregg Hadyn (loosely based on the character of Alexander Mundy), has been “requisitioned” by the President of the United States and the director of a United States Intelligence Community agency (an agency of spies) to steal for our government. What does he steal? Anything. Everything. Whatever is needed to protect the security of our country. Though Gregg Hadyn was primarily a jewel thief before coming to work for the U.S. government, there isn’t anything he can’t steal. He is a smoking hot, genius thief, with a pronounced set of “morals.”
In addition, you just recently debuted Book 2 – thief.con – of your second series, Thief à la Femme. What should our readers know about that series?
I never thought I would write another series. Never needed to, never wanted to. I was all about the hot male thief working for the spies. The guy who was there, both because he has no choice, and at the same time, because he ultimately wants to be there. The Thief à la Femme series came about because of The Heist videos I put on YouTube as marketing trailers for the Requisition For: A Thief (“REQThief”) books, but they ended up appealing to a different crowd, a different type of reader. One of my Heist video fans actually asked me to write a book about a female thief. I think I surprised even myself when I started thinking about it.
Because I cannot condone or write about gun-toting robbers, shooting or threatening to rip off innocent people for their own gain, my thieves, both in the “REQThief” and Thief à la Femme (“Femme”) series, had to have a saving factor about them. First, they don’t carry guns, and besides that, they had to be basically good people who possessed the incredible training – literally trained from childhood – to be the best thieves in the world. For Gregg Hadyn, my “REQThief” hero, I needed to find a way to get him on the right side of the law, but I couldn’t bear the thought of him being caught, at least not in the commission of a theft. I wanted him to be better than that. So, I came up with Gregg’s Achilles heel, something which clouded his judgment a bit. That, I could live with. You’ll have to read “REQThief” Book 1 – A Diamond for the Taking to find out what Gregg’s Achilles heel is.
But I didn’t want to do anything similar to that with “Femme.” If I were to start a new series, it had to be totally different than what I had done with “REQThief.” So when I began to seriously contemplate maybe starting another series, or at the least writing one other book outside the “REQThief” series, I had to come up with another way to make my thief a good person, but without putting her on the right side of the law this time. She had to remain a thief.
So Thief à la Femme incorporates a totally different scenario. Rayla Rousseau, my heroine in the “Femme” series, in so many ways, has always been a good person much more so than even Gregg was before he became intertwined with the spies. The Thief à la Femme mantra is: Beautiful. Intelligent. Consummate Professional. She’s a thief… with a heart for justice.
I guess the thing I want readers of both of my series to know is that these stories aren’t about bad guys. Both series are about thieves who are not bad at all. And, if I’ve done my job as a writer and author, the reader should be pulling for them – even in love with them – by the end of the first few chapters of either series.
Before your two series, you published a single novel that we keep here in our Minter Van Orman collection – The Price of Notoriety. What are your thoughts looking back on your first novel?
Well, The Price of Notoriety is off the market. I published it in 2003 before I knew anything about how to write publishable prose. I consider it poorly written as it stands now. However, I plan to republish it as a prequel to the Requisition For: A Thief series at some point, since it is the story of Gregg Hadyn’s ancestors, the old west outlaws, Cayle and Skye Hadyn, and it documents how the Hadyn thieving legacy began. The Price of Notoriety no longer jives with the rest of the Requisition For: A Thief series the way it stands now, but perhaps remains a fun, good clean romance for anyone who might be looking for that type of story. I do have to say that The Price of Notoriety is a blatantly Christian story, which the Requisition For: A Thief and the Thief à la Femme series are not. Thus, the writing style is very different from what I do now.
Explain how you got into writing:
Before I deal with that question, I think it would be helpful to set the stage for you, and possibly answer one of the biggest questions that I get, personally, as a writer. That question is: Why do you write about thieves? What is the draw for you that keeps you writing stories about thieves as “good guys” to the exclusion of any other type of storyline?
I first fell in love with the concept of “the thief who isn’t really a bad guy” when I was an impressionable preteen through the TV show “It Takes A Thief” and then later a show with a similar concept – “Alias Smith and Jones” – a show about two outlaws trying for an amnesty.
Now, to answer your question, fast forward from the late sixties and my preteens to early 1986 and my early thirties. My husband and I had a little girl that was almost two, our first child, and I had been watching the syndicated reruns of “Alias Smith and Jones” – a show that had never had a proper ending. It was just pulled off the air after 2 ½ seasons – and so, while immersed in watching the reruns, I had this dream one night. It wasn’t the ending for the show or anything that spectacular, it was just a weird dream about the characters interacting with me.
That dream stayed with me for weeks as I continued to watch the TV show every day while my almost-two-year-old napped. A couple weeks later, that dream combined with the fact that the show never had a proper ending – those two lovable outlaws who “weren’t really bad guys,” caused me to begin writing their ending… because I had what I considered to be the perfect ending for them.
Ultimately, when I began thinking about possibly publishing my story, I changed the characters’ names, a lot of the storyline, and rewrote it to become The Price of Notoriety. That’s how I began writing and that’s how and why I continue to write storylines exclusively about “the thief who isn’t really a bad guy.”
What is one of the hardest things you had to learn as a writer? What do you wish you would have known ahead of time?
I think the hardest thing I had to learn was how to write in a way that publishers and editors were looking for in this day and age. I knew how to tell a story – that I was good at. Learning to write in a way that was expected by publishers/editors and effective now, in the twenty-first century, was the lesson I needed. When I finally contracted a professional editor, she taught me how to do that – how to write publishable prose for today’s market. I wish, more than anything, someone would have told me to contract a professional editor before I published my first book. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, is more important to a writer who is serious about publishing than having a good editor.
A second point I wish I had known was the impact a good cover has for the sale of a book, and I wish someone had told me it really is important to contract a professional cover design artist for the job. I published four books in the “REQThief” series before contracting my professional cover design artist. Once I saw the incredible, phenomenal difference, I went back and republished those first four books with the new covers, a move that cost me in both dollars and time, but was, nevertheless, well worth it. Having great looking covers designed by someone who knows the industry and knows what he/she is doing is right up there with having a superb professional editor.
What authors most influenced your writing?
I majored in English in college; got my BA in English. That meant I read a lot of classic literature. My favorite author back then was Charles Dickens, and at least in the beginning of my writing career, he influenced the way I wrote. I soon found out, publishing editors in the twenty-first century weren’t looking for Charles Dickens-type writers, though! His flowery prose went out sometime in the sixties.
My favorite author these days is J.K. Rowling – specifically for her Harry Potter series. I love Rowling for two reasons: Number one, the woman is a master storyteller, and number two, she can also really write well. That is not a combination you generally see. Usually an author is good at one and not so much at the other, but Rowling breaks the mold. She is a phenomenal storyteller and writer.
Nevertheless, I do not believe her writing style is anything like mine. I would have to say that the writing you are reading from me now was most influenced by my first professional editor, Patricia Woodside. She taught me everything I know and everything I apply in the writing of all my books. But the way I set up a scene, the way a story flows? That’s all me. I believe everyone has talents in life, and that is mine.
Top 5 Books you want every reader to check out from the library?
Well… I’d really like to see every reader who walks through the Jackson District Library doors check out Requisition For: A Thief Books 1 – 7 and Thief à la femme Books 1 & 2!
But if you mean, other than my books? Mmmm… I honestly cannot answer that. There are so many genres out there: mystery, action, adventure, crime, espionage, fantasy, science fiction, romance… Everyone has his or her own preference. I could not possibly tell someone, “Oh, you really need to read such and such,” which might be a fabulous science fiction novel, but it turns out he or she is a mystery or romance fan. I just do not believe one person can tell another person what he or she should read. If you are a newbie to the reading scene and you are unsure what genres appeal to you, try a little of everything. I guarantee before you are finished with the last genre, you’ll know what lights your fire!
You can check out J.A. Devereaux’s Requisition For: A Thief series and her Thief à la Femme series from Jackson District Library! Follow the links to place your copy on hold!