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Introducing Janis Wilson

October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween – or, if you prefer, Scary Halloween. As a special treat, I’d like to introduce you to my friend Janis Wilson. Not that Janis is a scary person. Just look at that face. Have you ever seen a sweeter smile? She really is as nice as she looks. I have to tell you, though, she knows some pretty scary stuff. Read on.

Janis Wilson is a retired trial lawyer and expert in Jack the Ripper.  She was a delegate to the 2013 Jack the Ripper conference in Whitechapel, London.  Last year, she was a co-organizer of the American Ripper and true crime conference, RipperCon.  She will be a featured speaker at next year’s RipperCon.  Information is available at  Janis used her expertise to teach a course on the famous serial killer at Temple University in Philadelphia.  Her first novel, “Goulston Street,” answers many questions about this famous 130-year-old unsolved case.  Her protagonist, Lady Sarah Cartwright, will undertake another investigation in her work in progress.  Janis lives without incident in Baltimore with her husband and two rescue cats, who are her muses.  You may contact her at  

And now, from Janis:

A Marriage of Inconvenience 

We’ve all heard about what the daily routine of a working writer entails.  But have you ever considered the daily routine of the long-suffering spouse? Take the case of my poor husband.

What I do for a living follows him everywhere.  He was introduced to a woman the other day and they were making small talk.  She said, “What are you wife’s interests?”  Without hesitating, he fixed his gaze on her and said, “murder.”  The woman took a step back and asked, probably with a quivering voice, “what do you mean?”  “Murder,” he said.  “She writes about it. She lectures on it.  She watches it on TV.”  The woman either understood or pretended to, for she did not run away screaming for help.  Perhaps she is one of us who watch Investigation Discovery, on which I sometimes appear as a true crime commentator.

That wasn’t the only time my job has made my husband ill at ease.  I told him about a woman who, with murder on her mind, had ordered a book on how to make a silencer.  I thought that was a silly waste of money.  “All she had to do was tape a plastic bottle to the end of the gun to make a silencer.  Everybody knows that.”  My husband calmly drew in breath, exhaled, and said, as calmly as he could manage, “Honey, not everybody knows that.”  He relayed this exchange to a friend, who advised, “you’d better sleep with one eye open.”

Then there was the time he picked up the phone and spoke with a world-renowned pathologist, who gave his name and asked for me.  When my bewildered spouse gave me the message, he said, “you know, other husbands might find it alarming if their wives got a phone call from a pathologist.  But not me.  Not anymore.”

Not him, indeed.  And it extends beyond our day-to-day lives, too.  Because I write Victorian-era mysteries, I told him we needed to go to England on vacation.  My protagonist is an aristocrat, so we had to stay, not at a hotel, but at a castle.  It wasn’t just a working vacation for me, but for hubby, too.  I made him measure the length and width of every room in the castle so I could describe them credibly and cogently in my next novel.  He also was tasked with videotaping me walking from the castle to the nearby village while I gave running commentary I could later use in a book.  He was a model of sangfroid.

To his credit, he has not objected to these little intrusions. Rather, he has become an enabler. Maybe that is why he did not complain when we were walking with a young couple to a local restaurant.  The woman was a physician, so I took advantage of the opportunity to ask a question essential to my work in progress.  “I have a character who eviscerates women,” I said.  I asked her to describe what she would feel in a woman’s interior and whether she could describe the uterus for me in terms of size and feel.  My beloved sped up to walk with her husband and said, “I think we need to talk about sports.” “Yes, we really do,” the chap agreed. With a look of relief on his face. When my husband said later that this was not ordinary table conversation, I insisted anyone in my place would have done the same.

I am not certain, but I believe that soft sound that followed was his helpless weeping.

Thanks, Janis, for visiting Birth of a Novel and sharing something of your writing life with us.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 6, 2017 12:09 AM

    Hi Janis. What a delightful peek into your writing life, which is your everyday life. Your husband sounds like a keeper. My husband also has working vacations with me.

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