Friday, July 19, 2013

Interview With Author Jen J. Danna by Jacqueline Seewald

As a scientist specializing in infectious diseases, Jen J. Danna works as part of a dynamic research group at a cutting-edge Canadian university. Her true passion, however, is indulging her love of the mysterious through her writing. Together with her partner Ann Vanderlaan, she crafts suspenseful crime fiction with a realistic scientific edge. Her Skeleton Keys blog at has been listed by ITSGOV and as one of the top forensic blogs on the web. Jen lives near Toronto, Ontario with her husband and two daughters, and is a member of the Crime Writers of Canada. You can reach her at

First, Jen, congrats on the great review your novel received from Kirkus.

Question: What is the title and genre of your novel?  Why did you select them?

Answer: DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT is a forensic mystery.
The title is a line from the poem "Across the Lines", written by Ethel Lynn Eliot Beers in 1865. Composed during the American Civil War, the poem tells of a Union soldier, fallen on the battlefield and on the brink of death, who fears being buried in an unmarked grave without a headstone to tell the world of his passing. It was a perfect fit for the main theme of the novel:

Dead? and here — where yonder banner
Flaunts its scanty group of stars,
And that rebel emblem binds me
Close within those bloody bars.
Dead? without a stone to tell it,
Nor a flower above my breast!
Dead? where none will whisper softly,
"Here a brave man lies at rest!"

Question:   What inspired this novel? How did it come about?

Answer: Both my partner and I are scientists (lucky Ann, she’s retired!) so our combined scientific backgrounds play heavily into the direction of our writing. I’ve always thought forensic anthropology is fascinating—how the study of decomposed or skeletal remains can tell the story of a victim’s death when they can no longer speak for themselves. So when we started writing crime fiction, it was natural for us to incorporate a strong and realistic science angle into our storytelling.

Question:  Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and/or hero of your novel?

Answer:  The Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries series features dual protagonists.  Leigh Abbott is a murder cop with the Massachusetts State Police. As the only woman in the unit, she is on the fringe of her own department and is constantly fighting to fit in. Her partner is Dr. Matt Lowell, a forensic anthropologist at Boston University. Matt’s years as a Marine medic in Afghanistan still haunt him, but are directly responsible for pushing him into his current career in science. Together, Matt and Leigh solve the hardest mysteries—those with so little evidence that only the sharpest eye and the strongest intuition can solve them.

Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?

Answer:  My partner and I have written the second full length novel in this series (A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH) which will release in May 2014, and a novella to bridge the two books (NO ONE SEES ME ‘TILL I FALL) in the fall of 2013.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  We’ve just starting outlining the third book in the series and hope to have it drafted by early fall for 2015 publication.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: I used to write just for fun as a pre-teen, but then gave it up in high school when I got involved in a number of extra-curricular activities. Then came university, marriage, kids, and I didn’t think about writing again for almost 25 years. But then about 6 years ago the bug bit again. I’d been in the same job for about 16 years and my kids were older and suddenly I had time to dabble again. Shortly thereafter I met Ann. We wrote 5 practice novels together before we decided to take a stab at traditional publishing. DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT is the product of that attempt.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?

Answer: Be persistent. If it's something you really want to do, give it your all. I always thought that it was better to try and fail than to lack the courage to try and then look back in 20 years and wonder 'what if...?'. Failure was preferable to regret.

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel?

Answer: DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT is available now through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Chapters and independent booksellers. For those who would like to preview the first three chapters of the novel, it is available here on my website: DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT, CHAPTERS 1 - 3

Readers, now is the time to comment, welcome Jen, and ask any questions you might have regarding her work.


Jen J. Danna said...

Jacqueline, thanks for hosting me today on your blog. It was great fun!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

My pleasure, Jen. I hope many readers and fellow authors drop by and leave comments for you.

Maggie Toussaint said...

sounds like a fabulous read to me. Nice to meet you, Jen.

Jan Christensen said...

Loved this interview. I so enjoy reading about how others started writing, what they're writing about, anything like that. Jen, your series sounds fascinating. Good luck with that. And your quote is a keeper: "Failure was preferable to regret." Smart pick for an interview, Jacqueline.

Jen J. Danna said...

Maggie, thanks so much for stopping by. It's nice to meet you too! :)

Jan, thanks for your comments. You really have to be persistent in this business, but it's so easy to get discouraged. But good things come to those who hang in there!

Gail Farrelly said...

Terrific interview for beginning, as well as established, writers. Jen, your work sounds wonderful. Lots of luck with it.

Jen J. Danna said...

Gail, thanks so much for stopping by and for the good wishes!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Jacqueline, thanks for introducing us to Jen and Dead, Without a Stone to Tell It. Sounds like one more good read I need to add to my TBR list.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Thanks for dropping by Pat. I enjoy reading the interviews on your blog as well.