Saturday 5 May 2012

Have a pint with Jill Edmondson

Today, we’re interviewing Jill Edmondson, a well-known Toronto wit and author of the Sasha Jackson mystery series. Usually I would ask readers to imagine themselves having a chat with Jill in a cozy coffee house. Pull up a chair…plunk the latte on the table.

Nah, that doesn’t work. Not for my pal Jill. Nope – I’m thinking The Roof Lounge bar at the top of the Hyatt. Too posh, Jill? Okay, let’s go to The Pilot Tavern for a pint of wheat beer and lots of laughter.


1. I fell over laughing when I read the first phone sex scene in Bride and Groom. Tell me about your research for that.

Years ago – 1990? – while channel surfing, I came across an episode of Phil Donohue. He was interviewing phone sex workers. It turns out that these sultry voiced vixens were bored, suburban housewives. They basically said that they did the phone sex job while in their bathrobes, baking cookies or whatever. What a disconnect! I filed it away until I could figure out how to use it.

2. How is Sasha like you? How would you like to be more like her?

Sasha and I are about 99% alike. We have the same philosophies, outlooks and attitudes. The food she consumes, the places she hangs out, the clothes she wears – that’s all me.

But, I have never done a break and enter (although it is on my bucket list!) I’m also not a slender hot blond who sings and plays the drums. Singing is a lost cause, but maybe one day I’ll learn drumming. I just like to hit things.

3. Those bar scenes are hilarious. I’m thinking of the S&M bar from The Lies Have It, in particular. Did you get some of your material for this novel ‘on the job?’

The first 30 pages of The Lies Have It are all pretty much true (but I changed the names of people).

I was a post-secondary student for about 13 years (not quite consecutively). While pursuing whatever diploma or degree or certificate, I worked at various bar jobs. Truth is really stranger than fiction! The people I’ve met, the things I’ve seen were often head-shakingly hilarious. I once got tipped a condom covered cucumber by an indie film producer. I’ve served famous people who acted like total dickheads. I’ve waited on many blind dates and Valentine’s Day break ups. I’ve seen a guy eat Fettucini Alfredo with his hands. At one bar, I would receive either flowers or a Teddy Bear every week from some creepy regular who had a crush on me.

Many of my bar and life experiences end up in my writing, in some way shape or form.

4. Lots of great sexual tension in your novels. Not everyone can write that. How do you ‘warm’ up for writing those scenes?

I buy myself a dozen roses, and eat raw oysters. Then I put on something silky and write by soft candlelight while listening to Barry White’s Greatest Hits.

5. You have three novels in the Sasha Jackson series out now. What was the hardest scene to write, and why?

No scene in particular is hard to write. For me the difficulty is the HOW.

I can easily come up with a murder victim, I can easily create a few suspects. Motive is not a problem (revenge, greed, lust, etc. are all pretty basic). So, I know from the get-go whodunit and why. I also know at the outset what the method or weapon is. In other words, I know before I start that it was Colonel Mustard, in the Library, with the Revolver.

The difficulty for me is in playing fair with the reader. By that I mean that an author has to pepper in enough clues so the reader has a chance of figuring it out, but doing so without making the culprit obvious is damn hard.

6. You did some interesting papers and some interesting research for your MA. Tell us about your nerdy, academic side.

Dead Light District came about 100% as a result of a paper I did for my Master’s. The course was “Equality in Context” and the essay was on Human Rights in the Sex Trade. I came across so much interesting albeit heartbreaking information on that world. I knew I couldn’t just ignore the stuff that didn’t make it into the essay. So, I turned a lot of the left over research into a novel. It only took five months to write Dead Light District.

I also did a neat paper on the evolution of women in the hard boiled tradition. Here’s a link to it; it’s one of my pieces of writing that I am really proud of.:

7. I love first person novels. Why do you write first person, and have you ever written third person?

Writing in first person comes easily. I have never tried to write in third person. I may give it a whirl at some point, though, as it does open up some doors for a writer, especially a mystery writer. We’ll see...

8. Do you ever write straight?

Nah… I sniff some glue and suck back a 40 oz bottle of Single Malt before I start.

9. What’s next for Sasha? What’s next for Jill?

Well, Sasha # 4 and #5 are in progress.

#4 will be called Frisky Business. It’s about 1/3 or 1/2 done or so. Book #5 is underway as well (and it will be very easy to write… when I get #4 done).

But but but!!! I really like nonfiction (it’s all I ever read) and I have a few nonfiction things in the works. I may try to finish one of them before knuckling down with the Sasha books again.

One of the nonfiction books is a bio of a guitar God, one is about money, and the third is Canadiana. No idea which I’ll finish first.

10. What is your writing routine?

I do not have one! I understand that many writers feel they must do a certain number of words a day, or that they must write every day from X o’clock until Y o’clock. If I did it that way, I’d hate it and would never do it. I write when I feel like it, when I have time, when I’m not distracted by other things. I can go for months without writing a damn thing.

I take a laptop with me on vacation and do the final edits of whatever I’m working on. I finished Dead Light District in Panama and The Lies Have It was completed in Italy. Basically, writing is an excuse to go on vacation ;-)


  1. Some good question and great answers. A meeting of like minds, you might say!

  2. Great interview and funny answers! I follow @JillEdmonson on Twitter; now I've gotta go read her books. Thanks for this Melodie! :0)