Why the two names? Janis Susan May and Janis Patterson

Why do you use two names for your books, Janis Susan May and Janis Patterson, why not keep to one name?

Sometimes I wonder that, too! Actually, it’s a matter of branding. I started writing many years ago and Janis Susan May was my real name, so I used it. At the time I wrote only romance – and incidentally am one of the original 40 or so women who began Romance Writers of America. As time passed I branched out from writing romances and wrote a couple of short horror novels, also under the Janis Susan May name. It didn’t bother me, because romance and horror are such different genres and the covers alone would indicate to a reader what kind of book they were.

I had always wanted to write mysteries, so after I married (adding Patterson to my name) I decided I would write them as Janis Patterson. This was a conscious decision to create a decidedly different persona. It would help the reader, because if they pick up a Janis Susan May book they know they are getting either a romance or a horror, and the cover should make it obvious which. However, sometimes romance and mystery covers aren’t so sharply delineated as to genre, ergo Janis Patterson. I chose Janis Patterson for three reasons – (1) it is my legal married name, (2) it honors my wonderful husband, and (3) with any luck at all it will get me shelved next to James Patterson. (grin).

Do Janis Susan May and Janis Patterson have different personalities in your mind? Who do you like best?

Interesting question. I never thought of that. To me my writing personas are so totally divorced from the real me that there really isn’t a correlation in my mind. As I think of it though, Janis Susan May was my name for so many years it is loaded with the emotional weight of my childhood and family history and young womanhood, of all the experiences I had when I was single. I married quite late, when most of my contemporaries were becoming grandmothers, so the Janis Patterson name carries a sense of change, of unbelievable happiness, of a wholly new and different life.

As for different personalities, I don’t need different names for that. I have always been reality-challenged, and as a former actress have been known to change my behavior the way most women change a dress – which is sometimes disconcerting to my staid and very grounded husband! As for the differentiation between Janis Susan May and Janis Patterson, though, I don’t see them as being two entities, but just two different facets on a whole.

Your marriage sounds so romantic, have you ever thought of writing a book about it? Would you write as Janis Susan May or Janis Patterson?

Yes, I am indeed blessed with a  very romantic marriage. How many women are proposed to in the moonlit gardens of the Mena Hotel across the street from the Egyptian pyramids? It was truly a romance-novel moment. And not the last – he took me to Paris to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. Every day has its moments of romance.

As for writing a book about our love story, I don’t think so. First of all, it’s private and special and I don’t want to expose all of it to the big wide world. Secondly, when I write about my life, no one believes it! For example, in the 80s (long before I met my husband) I was working on a film crew making a documentary in Israel. I had some adventures there that curled even my hair! (And I didn’t go searching for them, honest! They just happened!) Anyway, when I got home I wrote a novel about some of it, fictionalizing it only a little and giving the two protagonists a happy ending, which I didn’t have then – and thank goodness I didn’t, or I might not have the sublimely happy life I have now! I sent the book to my then agent and waited for the call that said the book was going to auction and I would soon be rich and famous.

It didn’t come. In those days all we had was regular and very costly long distance, which I couldn’t afford, so I waited. And waited. And waited. I was on the verge of writing a letter when my agent called on a different matter. I asked if she had received the book and what she thought of it, or if she hadn’t should I send another copy. She laughed and said everyone in the office had loved it, that it was the best parody of the then-popular romantic adventure stories they had ever seen.

Parody? Parody?? I promptly told her that it was not a parody, it was almost a documentary, but I had left out some of the more spectacular things, and then proceeded to tell her what they were. She was silent so long I thought we had been disconnected (thank goodness this was on her nickel), but she finally said that she believed me because she had known me for years, but no one else would.

Years later I used a few of the milder incidents in an otherwise totally fictional story called THE JERUSALEM CONNECTION, which is selling rather well. And no, I don’t tell anyone which incidents they are!

So you see, I can’t answer your question. I don’t write about my life, so it doesn’t make any difference which of my names would write it. And truthfully, I’d rather live my life than write about it… Remember, fiction has rules – real life doesn’t!

…always a good story!

…committing crime with style!