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Interview: January 30, 2009

January 30, 2009

Sisters Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush, who have written over 120 books between them, recently teamed up to pen the romantic suspense novel WICKED GAME. In this interview with's Amie Taylor, Bush discusses how they created the book's backstory and setting and recounts their first disastrous attempt at co-authorship almost 30 years ago, while Jackson credits her sister for giving her the initial push to start writing and muses on the difficulties of turning ideas into full-length novels. They also describe the positive aspects of working together and share details about their follow-up title to WICKED GAME, tentatively called WICKED LIES. To me, writing a book with a sister would have to be a blast. I know that I can really let my hair down and share things with my sisters that no one else would get. Did the two of you find this to be true? Did you have a lot fun writing together?

Nancy Bush: Actually this is our second attempt at writing together. Our very first writing effort was a book we wrote in 1981 titled STORMY SURRENDER. We wrote it with another friend and it was...well, rejected all over the place! But after 27 years of working independently --- although we edit each other's manuscripts --- we decided to give writing together another try. It was fun, and frustrating, and rewarding. We often say that if we put our heads together we'd write one really good book and one really awful one, as we have a tendency to complement each other's style. Luckily, we love WICKED GAME, so hopefully it's our really good book!

Lisa Jackson: Agreed, we did have fun with the book, the characters and the plot. It was intense, but turned out great.

BRC: How did you come up with the idea for WICKED GAME? Was this based on any of your personal experiences?

NB: We wrote a backstory for WICKED GAME that involved a detailed history about The Colony, the group of people alluded to throughout the story that some describe as a cult. This history is like a short story, revealing the Colony's ancestors from the time they first arrived at the Pacific coast in the mid-1800s. It's completely fictional, but Lisa and I have always liked the multi-generational family sagas where there are bound to be a few skeletons in the closet! WICKED GAME is the "jump-off" story for the Colony, but there are more in the works.

BRC: The setting of the Pacific Northwest really captivated me and made me want to take a vacation there ASAP. Do you have ties to that area, or is there a specific reason you chose it for your setting?

NB: Lisa and I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and we're still there! The coast was a major vacation spot for us, and we both go there as often as we can. It's a great place to write, and it was a natural choice for the setting.

LJ: With all the Oregon fog and rain, what better place for a creepy, paranormal book? We both agreed.

BRC: I noticed that the kids in WICKED GAME all attended a Catholic high school, yet the funerals were all non-denominational. Was there any reason that none of them seemed to embrace their Catholicism as adults or have funeral masses?

NB: Fictional St. Elizabeth's was a Catholic high school, but many of the students were sent there more because it was a private school than because it was Catholic. We felt our group of students --- now adults --- had been affected by their experiences at St. Lizzie's in a way that --- whether they were Catholic or not --- left them questioning many of their beliefs.

BRC: Most of us are not part of that in-crowd when we're in high school, which obviously has its pros and cons. Were either or both of you drawing on your own experiences of being popular in high school? If not, what was your high school experience?

NB: I would say both Lisa and I were a tier out of the "in-crowd"! Not quite in, not quite out. But those high school experiences...sheesh. They're indelibly etched in our brains! There generally was a group leader, who may or may not have been right for the job. And a toady. And a pretty girl. And an athlete. And a loner, etc.

BRC: Lisa, I know that you write everything from suspense novels to historical romance. Do you have a favorite genre, or does each one meet a specific need for you?

LJ: I really do love romantic suspense and mystery. I'm also a fan of some horror and gothic. I just can't read too much of the same thing. I like to mix it up, reading everything from nonfiction to some historical novels.

BRC: Lisa, I've read that Nancy was the one who really believed the two of you could write and got you both started down that path. Does your sister often like to say “I told you so”? What do you think you would have been doing if not writing?

LJ: If she said "I told you so," I'd have to bean her. Yes, Nancy was the one who really pushed for us to start writing. Though I was an English major in college and always had an eye on writing articles or books, I never really believed it would happen. Hmm. I don't know what I'd be doing today, probably looking toward retirement from an investment firm, except they probably would have already let me go with the current state of affairs!

BRC: Lisa, with over 70 books to your credit, do you ever worry about running out of ideas? What inspires you to convert a fleeting idea into a full-blown novel?

LJ: Luckily, I never seem to run out of ideas. I have more on file than I'll ever write. I know that sounds weird, but ideas aren't my problem; I see them everywhere in real life, just a bit of a story that I can turn on its ear. The bigger issue for me is the actual execution or writing of the story. That takes time and determination. As for turning a bit of an idea into a novel, it takes time and imagination. I play around with ideas, bounce them off Nancy and my editor until some seed of a plot begins to germinate.

BRC: Nancy, you seem to have written in a wide variety of areas, including television. Do you have a preference for a genre or type of writing?

NB: Mystery writing. Hands down. I love mysteries and suspense. I want to follow a puzzle of clues and see if I can figure out the ending. And I want to feel the danger. And...a brewing romance in the background. It's just the best!

BRC: Nancy, what kind of schedule do you adhere to when you're in the midst of a novel? Do you have certain things that you need before you can settle down and write, such as music, drinks or absolute quiet?

NB: When I have a deadline a looooonnnnggg way out, I tend to get up around 6:30 am, then head to my favorite coffee shop for an informal meeting with my friends who come in at the same time. If the weather's good, I'll sometimes make this a morning walk, and I hatch a lot of my best ideas on the trip. Then I'm back by 8 and at the computer working on business stuff. That may take me a couple of hours. Then in the afternoon, I'm working on my book. However, if my deadline is coming at me like a freight train, I'm working on the book at all hours of the day, snatching an hour here, taking a break, going back in for a couple more hours, surfacing for food, then back at it. I'm not exactly your life of the party when I'm in that mode, but I sure get a lot accomplished!

BRC: I think it would be great to have someone to be able to discuss your latest projects with or the business of writing in general. When the two of you get together, does the talk often turn to writing? Do you actually get around to discussing anything else?

NB: We've said it a million times: If we didn't have each other, we wouldn't be able to do this. We talk about books, business, our kids, our parents.... It all depends on what's most pressing. Management by crisis, that's us in a nutshell!

LJ: Agreed, agreed, agreed. Having someone to work with makes everything easier!

BRC: Do the two of you have plans to collaborate on a novel again in the near future? What individual projects are you currently working on?

NB: Lisa and I are contracted for a second book together, with the working title WICKED LIES. It takes up two years after the end of WICKED GAME and features some of the same characters. We're having a lot of fun developing that plot/synopsis! I have a solo thriller coming out in April, UNSEEN, which has ties to the Colony "cult," and I'm just completing the synopsis for a second solo thriller, which also follows the threads of the Colony's history and will be published in April 2010. The books are more like related stand-alones than sequels.

LJ: We're already working on this book and I can't wait. It's a fun, intriguing series to write.

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