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J.T. Ellison | How I Came To Write The Book

March 15, 2011

JT ELLISONSO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH“So tired of the straight line
And everywhere you turn
There’s vultures and thieves at your back
And the storm keeps on twisting
You keep on building the lies
That you make up for all that you lack.”

AngelSarah McLachlan

Such a sad song. But so inspiring, so uplifting. I have strange affinity for this song. According to sources, Sarah McLachlan wrote it in response to the heroin overdose of Jonathan Melvoin, from Smashing Pumpkins. He was only thirty-four, another life cut short by addiction. It’s a fitting eulogy for a friend. Oddly, Smashing Pumpkins song Disarm inspired my very first attempt at a novel, so I find the symmetry agreeable, to say the least.

As I was beginning to write SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH, I heard Angel. I must have hit repeat fifty times. I knew, immediately, that this was how my main character, Taylor Jackson, was feeling.

In a word, she’s miserable. And misery isn’t a normal state of being for Taylor.

The story was conceived after I heard the song, and those particular lyrics. The words just spoke to me, the tone of the song overwhelmed my senses, and I knew exactly how to begin. The book is set on the idea of a tone. A rather amorphous beginning, but it came together rather quickly.

Taylor starts the book in a very bad place. Over the course of the previous five books, I have put this woman through hell. She’s been forced to kill, forced to defend her reputation. She’s in a relationship with the first man she’s ever truly loved, and it scares her. Her city has in turns held her up and turned against her. Her father figure and second in command is missing, and she’s just killed again, this time a murder suspect who is still a child.

And the man who’s been haunting her every waking moment, haunting her dreams, playing a devious game of cat and mouse with her for over a year, is making his last move on the chess board.

She knows people are going to die. People always do around Taylor. Mostly bad people, but some innocents as well. And she’s just so tired of it. It’s not fair. And when the Pretender decides to start hurting the people she loves, watch out. She won’t stand for it.

But taking life isn’t why she became a cop. She wants to protect life. She’s vowed to save people. Yet she’s killed this kid, and her Pete Fitzgerald has gone missing, her fiancé has been keeping a major secret from her, and she’s feeling completely alone in the world. I knew she’d be in this incredibly somber, reflective place.

So I planned the book around that somber tone. It’s a serious book. It deals with serious issues, issues Taylor never thought she’d have to deal with. But this is her world now. It’s gotten messy, and she must get it cleaned up. And this time, she will stop at nothing—nothing—to make that happen.

Revenge is a tricky subject, especially for someone who has vowed to protect lives, not take them. It can’t be undertaken lightly. You must be willing to sacrifice everything, yourself most of all. It changes a person.

My morally upright white hat has suddenly become a vengeful angel.

So with the release of SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH, I invite you into Taylor’s world. And I leave you with this thought.

What would you do if everything you held dear was suddenly in jeopardy?

J.T. Ellison

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