Today I am absolutely delighted to welcome author Jo Perry to my blog. I recently read Dead Is Better and Dead Is Best which are the first two books in the Charlie and Rose Investigate series. I loved both books and think it’s a great series. You can see my review for Dead Is Better by clicking here and my review for Dead Is Best by clicking here.
Jo Perry was born in and has always lived in Los Angeles. She attended college and graduate school in Santa Barbara where she earned a Ph.D. in English. She’s written and produced episodic television, wrote poetry, reviews and articles. She has two grown children, one in medical school the other studying to become a chaplain. Her husband is novelist Thomas Perry. They have two cats and two dogs–all of them rescues.
Hi Jo and many thanks for joining me on my blog today. The Charlie & Rose Investigate series, where did the idea come from?
Hi to you, Sarah. It’s a pleasure to be with you today.
As for the source of Charlie and Rose, I wish I knew what it was. When I began the first book, Dead Is Better, I heard Charlie’s voice in my head, had a strong feeling for Rose and an intuition of where the plot would go. I had been thinking about death, about cruelty, had found a dog who changed me, and then after a long period of subconscious percolating, I felt compelled to write and the novel took shape.
You start each chapter with a quote about death, where did you find all the quotes and how long did you spend choosing and finding them?
There are two reasons for the quotations that open each chapter: First, to enlarge the mediation on death beyond Charlie. Second, they give the reader a break from Charlie’s voice and his point of view. A first-person narrative can become claustrophobic and I don’t want that. As for finding them, often they find me or I do searches and save the ones I think are pertinent, clever, wise, sardonic, or provocative or are from writers I admire. If anyone has a favourite death quote, I would love to know about it.
Rose, even though playing a smaller roll than Charlie, certainly is the star of the books for me. You are obviously a dog lover. Is she based on any dog in particular?
Rose is the Every Dog–loving, patient, wise and good, and processed of specific canine talents, sympathies and sensitivities. But there would be no Rose if I hadn’t found a dog abandoned in a parking lot in 2008–or perhaps I should say, if that dog hadn’t found me. That dog changed my life. Her name is Lucy and she is not a setter like Rose. But Lucy taught me everything important that I have learned about dogs. Then we took in a dog that had been abandoned behind our house and she is our second dog–Lola. I am grateful for our dogs everyday–I experience the world differently because of them and more richly. If there hadn’t been a Lucy there would be no Rose, no Charlie.
Your husband is a novelist also, do you both have separate writing spaces?
We write in the same room at separate desks. One cat sleeps on my desk, another on his. You get the picture. I listen to Glenn Gould on earphones while typing at my computer. He writes longhand. the silence between us is companionable and full of understanding.
Would you ever team up with your husband to write a novel?
We have been married a long time and worked as writing partners in television before our oldest child was born. Although we “get” each other’s work and he is my first and most important reader, we write completely different stuff. So no–although I loved writing with him–I cannot imagine writing a novel with him. That said, my husband’s novels always surprise me–his range, his clever plots and the clarity of his prose. Maybe someday we could write alternate voices chapter by chapter or something like that.
What does the rest of your family make of you being an author and have they always been supportive?
I think that one’s children always see their parent as a parent first and as whatever else that parent happens to also be as less than that.
And that is the way it should be.
But I have always written poetry, articles, etc, so I don’t suppose that writing a novel came as a shock.
But I don’t know if they expected Charlie and Rose. Still they have been very nice about the books.
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given?
I don’t know who said it but “writing is thinking.” So that means that one must pretty much write word to word rather than phrase to phrase. Stringing ready-made phrases together is not thinking. And thinking is often painful and hard. Implied also is that writing is the working out of something, the discovery of something only intuited in the beginning. The solving of a problem. That’s the pain and that’s the pleasure. One has to go blindly– at least some of the time– or at least that’s how it works for me.
Who are some of your favourite authors and books?
I read a lot of non fiction. But I’ve been trying to read all of the Fahrenheit Press books, I am falling farther and farther behind–but enjoy the process. So far I’ve loved and admired Derek Farrell’s DEATH OF A DIVA; Grant Sutherland’s WEST OF THE CITY, James Craig’s A SLOW DEATH; Paddy Magrane’s DISORDER, and now Lauren Henderson’s FREEZE MY MARGARITA. They are all different– from cozy to noir to financial thriller, psychological thriller, etc– but they are all kickass, baddass and full of energy, wit, subversiveness and freshness.
For non Fahrenheit, thrillers/crime fiction/mystery, I also am a huge fan of Lisa Brackmann and Timothy Hallinan as well as my husband, Thomas Perry. Some all-time favorite non fiction authors/books: Cat Warren’s WHAT THE DOG KNOWS about training a dog to be a cadaver dog; MORTALITY by Christopher Hitchens, Barbara Ehrenreich’s NICKEL AND DIMED; THROUGH THE LANGUAGE GLASS by Guy Deutcher about language and color and what Homer’s “wine dark sea” is really about; and the stunning BRILLIANT by Jane Brox–a history of artificial illumination which changed the way I read literature and think about light and night. And Skloot’s THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS.
I was lucky to have two truly great writers as teachers: the critic Marvin Mudrick and the poet Alan Stephens. Their books are important and important to me personally.
What do like to do for fun and to relax?
Read. I like a good martini with three olives–stirred or shaken–who really cares? Travel cities. Never camping. If there’s no gift shop, I’m not going. I enjoy taking the dogs to the dog park. Hanging out with our kids.
Oh I sound so dull that I am embarrassed.
And I enjoy those true crime shows on TV and odd documentaries. I liked the one about the man who buys a smoker and finds a human foot in it –“Finders Keepers,” and one called “Autism In Love.”
I’m sorry that I can’t tell you that I amuse myself by sword-swallowing, holding seances or bungee jumping. But here’s one true, odd thing: I am a good shot.
Finally, what are you currently working on at the moment and can you tell us a bit about it?
I am working on the third in the Charlie and Rose series, DEAD IS GOOD. In this book Charlie and Rose return to the living world when the only woman he really loved is in mortal danger. He has to face how he felt about her in life and his feelings now that he’s dead. Rose is involved, too, of course and has a period of estrangement from Charlie.
You can find out more about the author and her books at the following: