IndieView with J.L. Doucette, author of Unknown Assailant

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I write for discerning readers who are interested more in the internal world of characters and their motivations and who enjoy literary fiction more than plot-dominated stories.

J.L. Doucette – 23 November 2021

The Back Flap

Dr. Pepper Hunt and Detective Beau Antelope team up again to investigate a tragic murder/suicide in a prominent ranch family in the small town of Farson, Wyoming. As they explore events leading up to the night of the disturbing crime they are drawn into the dark heart of a troubled family touched by a legacy of trauma.

About the book

What is the book about?

 Unknown Assailant is a psychological mystery which opens with the violent deaths of a  husband and wife, an apparent murder/suicide, on a ranch in rural Wyoming. The novel     explores themes of betrayal, trauma, and unresolved grief within three generations of a family. Alongside these heavy themes, several unlikely love stories are entangled in the mystery.

When did you start writing the book?

In 2015 I completed a 50K Nanowrimo first draft and left it to complete other work. The first two books in the Dr. Pepper Hunt Mystery Series were published by She Writes Press in 2017      and 2019. It wasn’t until November, 2019, that I began revising the earlier work and adding to the first draft, completing the manuscript in March, 2021. I used this same process for the first two books in the series as well.

How long did it take you to write it?

Total time elapsed from the time I wrote the first word until I typed The End was 5 years and     4 months. But there was a long period of time, 4 years, when I let the manuscript sit and wrote and published the first two books in the Dr. Pepper Hunt Mystery Series—Last Seen (2017) and On a Quiet Street (2019). So actual writing time was 1 year and 4 months.

Where did you get the idea from?

As with all of my books, the idea for the story starts years before the actual writing and arises from learning about an actual event through the news or other sources. I become intrigued with the circumstances and start to explore various storylines that could emerge. I began thinking about the characters in Unknown Assailant over 20 years ago when I first moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

For me the beginning and ending parts of the book are always the easiest to write because it’s    clear to me what the purpose and goals of these sections are. It’s the middle where I struggle when the plot begins to seem unwieldy and some of the characters are not yet as full as they need to be. It’s a challenge to stick with it when the work feels hard or boring and I don’t yet see the way out. Eventually, I’m able to get to a deeper understanding of the characters and they lead the way.

What came easily?

Writing the characters is always fun for me in part because they write themselves. I’ve been a       psychologist for over 30 years so I’ve spent most of my time listening to people tell their stories. I don’t do any research when I’m creating characters. It’s more like they show up and  I put them on the page.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

The characters the reader meets on the page are fictional, though parts of them mannerisms, patterns of speech, the way they see the world, some physical characteristics may be influenced by real people I’ve observed, but I think that’s true for most fictional characters.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

My first influence was Jonathan Kellerman, a psychologist, whose best-selling series features Dr. Alex Delaware, a psychologist who works with a homicide detective to solve murder cases. I followed his example in creating a main character, Dr. Pepper Hunt, whose expertise in forensic psychology makes her a valuable consultant to a small-town sheriff’s department.

I’m a great fan of Tana French who writes the Dublin Murder Series. Her characters are fascinating and satisfyingly complex. I also admire the fullness of the language, the precise  details in description.

Do you have a target reader?

That’s something I’m still in the process of getting clear on. In general, from the social media analytics I’ve seen and the turnout at book events, my readers seem to be more female than male, ranging in age from mid-twenties to fifties predominantly. I write for discerning readers who are interested more in the internal world of characters and their motivations and who enjoy literary fiction more than plot-dominated stories.

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

I use the Nanowrimo process which involves free-writing the first draft with no attention to editorial correctness, just get the story down first and rewrite and revise as many times as needed. I tend to write first thing in the morning before anything else can interfere.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

Nothing that would be recognizable as a real outline. I can’t seem to corral my thoughts into that kind of organization. I think a lot about the story as I go through the day and it kind of pulls itself together by the time I sit down to write. I might think about and jot down what I want to happen in a chapter, but that is as far as it goes.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

I save editing for when I have a manuscript with a story arc that is complete. That might be after 2, 3 or 4 working drafts.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

I love music and might listen before writing, but when I’m writing I need silence.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

Over the course of a year I queried 100 agents. Some I never heard back from, some rejected the idea outright, many asked to see 10, or 25, or 50 pages, a chapter, three chapters, a few the whole manuscript.

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

I learned about some indie and hybrid publishers who accepted manuscripts directly. I received offers from two and decided to go with She Writes Press because I was impressed with Brooke Warner’s vision and the quality of her team and especially the support provided to and among the authors.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?

She Writes Press book covers are designed by Julie Metz with input from the author. I couldn’t be happier with the cover designs.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

I have a marketing plan which is evolving as I learn more about the industry and the process. There are so many great resources for authors to learn how to do it. Joanna Penn, Tim Grahl,  Mark Dawson, David Gaughan to name a few I have learned from. I am also working with my publicist BookSparks.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

Utilize all the support and information available and offered by other indie authors. I continue to be amazed and grateful to indie authors who offer their tips and success stories freely.

Although it a highly competitive field with 8 million books for sale on Amazon, the world of indie authors is a welcoming one.

End of Interview:

Get your copy of Unknown Assailant from Amazon US or Amazon UK.




The post IndieView with J.L. Doucette, author of Unknown Assailant first appeared on The IndieView.

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