Liliana Hart, New York Times bestselling author of the J.J. Graves Mysteries, discusses the series and her writing process.
Down and Dirty is the fourth book in my J.J. Graves mystery series, set in the fictional town of Bloody Mary, Virginia. It’s both the easiest series I have to write and the hardest. That’s a contradictory statement, right? When J.J. Graves appeared in my head—an ER doctor turned mortician and coroner—she came with a whole lot of baggage. I didn’t always understand where she was coming from, but I found out very quickly that J.J. and I had more in common than just our looks.
The core of J.J. Graves morphed into the darker side of my personality—the side only those closest to me get to see. J.J. is sarcastic and smart, she’s got real world problems—like debt and a family she’s not quite sure she fits in with—and she wants to find love and be loved in return. I wanted to make her relatable and give her issues—whether her own issues or those of the people closest to her—that don’t always make people comfortable, but have to be dealt with nonetheless.
So when I say it’s both the easiest and hardest series to write, it’s because putting her on the page comes as naturally as breathing, but tackling some of those issues isn’t always easy for me or her either one.
One of my favorite parts of writing this series is the research I get to do. I’ve observed an autopsy, gotten to embalm someone, done numerous ride-alongs with different police departments, shot various guns, listened to countless hours of cop stories, and I’ve met the real Jack Lawson in person (Jack is the Sheriff and J.J.’s love interest in the series). I’ve observed the personalities of cops and how they interact with each other and civilians, and I’ve taken what I’ve learned and written them as true to life as I possibly can.
I never know what the next story in this series will be, who the killer is, or what’s going to happen to throw a wrench into the life J.J. is trying to build. I like to be as surprised as my readers when I’m writing. But I do know it’s a joy to sit down at the keyboard every morning with J.J. and Jack. It’s also pure torture.