She’s a cyclist, an adventure traveler and author of some doggone good mysteries.
Jill Yesko’s writing career has spanned more than two decades. She’s worked as a reporter, editor and freelance journalist for publications ranging from The Baltimore Sun to Shape magazine. Along the way, Jill’s written about everything from hiking the mud flats of northern Holland to profiling Olympic athletes and U.S. Senators. After a year-long, solo trip halfway around the world, Jill was featured as an “adventurous traveler” in O, the Oprah Magazine. Jill’s commentaries on caring for her father can be heard on NPR.
Prior to her career in journalism, Jill was a national-class cyclist, doctoral student in cultural geography and very briefly, a cartographer.
A New Jersey native, Jill now lives in her adopted hometown of Baltimore, Maryland with her basset hound. I sat down to talk with her about her Dog Park Mysteries, Dog Spelled Backwards: An Unholy Mystery and Murder in the Dog Park.
Chloe: As a decorator, I’m always interested in creative spaces. Tell me about your writing space. What about it inspires you? (Feel free to attach a picture.)
Jill: I sit at a glass-topped Ikea desk inscribed with the word “love” in many languages. My view is a pine tree in which squirrels demonstrate their gymnastic prowess. It’s great to look up from your computer and be reminded that yes, real life exists beyond the screensaver.
Chloe: What aspect of writing do you consider your super power and what do you consider your kryptonite?
Jill: Let’s start with kryptonite. Not only am I a terrible speller (that’s WITH spellcheck), I’m also a rotten grammarian. Guess I should have paid more attention in 7th grade language arts. As for my super power, I have a good ear for dialogue. Perhaps that’s the New Yorker in me!
Chloe: Your protagonist, PI Jane Ronson, is often described as misanthropic. Does that description ever get applied to you, fairly or unfairly?
Jill: I don’t get tagged as a misanthrope. Jane is a touch chick who doesn’t let people into her circle of trust. I’m an extrovert who’ll talk to anyone, but I’m also a Leo—so don’t cross me unless you want to hear me roar.
Chloe: You once took a solo trip around the world. What was the best part of that experience and what was the hardest?
Jill: Coming back to the U.S. after a year of traveling on my own without anyone second-guessing me or making any demands on me was difficulty. I had been living in Spain and was used to languid meals in the company of friends and family on a nightly basis. I arrived in Baltimore at Christmas to find everyone in a terrible mood and shoving fast food down their gullets! The best part of the trip was having the luxury of meeting people from all walks of life on their own terms. That took the form of staying in a Tibetan monastery in the Pyrenees, and participating in Carnival celebrations in Curacao. The world is a very welcoming place if you have a good attitude.
Chloe: If you could steal the muse of another writer, whose would you take?
Jill: Easy question: Lisbeth Salander.
Chloe: Tell us about your basset hound and how you came up with the idea of working dogs into your mysteries.
Jill: A tough chick private eye needs a tough dog as her sidekick. For Jane Ronson that’s Archie, her bull terrier with an attitude that she rescued from New York City’s mean streets. Archie is Jane’s doggie doppleganger (I donate a portion of my book sales to Blue Ridge Bull Terrier Rescue; www.brbtc.com). In real life I have basset hounds. Believe me, I wish I was tough enough to have a bull terrier.
Chloe: If your life had a soundtrack, what artists would be on it?
Jill: My musical tastes are stuck in the 1980s: Talking Heads, Elis Costello, Roxy Music, Robert Palmer.
Chloe: Do you know “whodunit” before you start your book, or do you have to follow the clues along with the rest of us?
Jill: Murder in the Dog Park isn’t so a whodunit as it is a whydunnit—and I’ve received some negative reviews because of that. That said, I re-wrote the ending of Dog Spelled Backwards to be an old-fashioned cliff hanger, to the delight of many. I don’t want to sacrifice character development for clever plot twists and turns. For me, characters are the most important part of any book.
Chloe: What were the first mystery series you fell in love with?
Jill: The Nancy Drew books, of course. I devoured them as a pre-teen. I also read The Hardy Boys. As an older teen I also enjoyed Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series and Arthur Conan Doyle.
Chloe: How do you market your books? What’s been your most effective tactic and what do you consider a necessary evil.
Jill: As a self-published author I market my books through a multitude of venues. While I am grateful for the wide reach of social media, keeping up Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and all of the other outlets I’m a part of is exhausting. It’s like feeding a hungry beast that’s never satiated. On the other hand, I love giving in-person readings and doing author book signings. It’s a great way to sell my books, especially if I can chat up readers about their dogs.
Chloe: Tell me about your writing process? Are you a daily writer or do you wait till inspiration strikes?
Jill: I write when my packed schedule permits. That generally means doing catch up writing on the weekends with paragraphs here and there pecked out at 6am on weekdays.
Chloe: Do you go to writers’ conferences or writers’ retreats? Why or why not?
Jill: My fantasy is to spend two weeks at Yaddo. A girl can dream, right?
Chloe: What other creative outlets do you have to cross train your brain?
Jill: I am learning how to shoot and edit video. My goal for 2015 is to start making short films. I recently adapted a chapter from Murder in the Dog Park as a one-act play. It was the most fun I’d had all year.
Chloe: What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome to establish yourself as a writer?
Jill: Not beating myself up for writing genre fiction. There is still a little voice in my head saying: “you should really write about something more important.” Then again, does the world really need another mediocre novel of ideas?
Chloe: What’s next for Jane and her bull terrier?
Jill: In my forthcoming book Sleeping Dogs Don’t Lie, Jane takes on her most ambitious project: bringing down a corrupt big city mayor while locking horns with a blonde bombshell FBI agent who she suspects is making the moves on her man.
Chloe: How can fans connect with you?
Jill: My website is www.murderinthedogpark.com. You can also visit my Murder in the Dog Park Facebook page as well as finding me on Goodreads and Twitter.
Murder in the Dog Park
Discovering the body of a brutally murdered boy in a rainy dog park is the worst possible way for private detective Jane Ronson to start her day. To solve the crime, Jane must use her computer hacking and street fighting skills—with a little help from a sexy cop and a bull terrier with a bad attitude.
Dog Spelled Backwards: An Unholy Mystery
Private investigator Jane Ronson suffers from oppositional defiant disorder—the uncontrollable urge to punch first and ask questions later. When a rabbi with a shady past offers a bag of cash to spy on a rival rabbi, Jane jumps at the chance. To succeed, Jane must infiltrate a black market kidney ring in Baltimore’s Orthodox Jewish community by impersonating one of its members. Between Russian gangsters and double crosses, Jane is No. 1 on everyone’s hit list. To get the bounty—and stay alive—Jane forms an alliance with a rabbi’s wife and confronts a dark family secret.