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Interview with Janice Cantore

Janice Cantore's experiences as a police officer in Long Beach, California were the catalyst that caused her to begin hammering out words on paper, primarily as a way to process what she encountered. Now retired from the force, she focuses her efforts on writing riveting suspense novels laced with authentic police action and featuring characters that grapple with real-life faith issues. Her third novel, Avenged, will be released by Tyndale in April.

Although you didn't begin writing novels until after you retired from the police force, you published a number of articles while you were still in uniform. I read an article that said being at the Rodney King riots was a catalyst that spurred you to write. How did that impact you and cause you to pick up your (proverbial) pen?

The riots impacted me in so many ways. I was working day patrol and on duty when they started and it was surreal. The day began normally, I handled routine calls and there was no indication that anything was wrong. It wasn’t until after school got out that everything exploded. The next hours and days were like nothing I’d ever experienced. When I was released to go home the first day after about 16 hours on duty, I could see Los Angeles burning as I drove up the freeway. I remember that I wanted to be able to write about it, to somehow convey in writing what I experienced. I tried essays, short stories but nothing came close to describing that week and a half. But after things settled down, I knew I wanted to keep writing. I also recognized I needed to learn my craft; everything I wrote sounded like a police report. Books by Francine Rivers and Randy Alcorn helped me decide what I wanted to write. My goals evolved over time. I had an aunt who was not a believer but she was an avid fiction reader. I wanted my first book to be something she would read and hear the gospel, but not in a preachy way. Suspense is my favorite genre to read so that is what I decided to write.

It would seem to me that police officers would tend to be extroverts, while many-if not most-authors are introverts. The working environments are certainly vastly different! Which environment is a more natural fit for you? How have you adjusted to the difference?
I am and always have been an introvert. It used to bother my father because he was the opposite and he worried about me. When I became a police officer I learned that it was easy to take on a different persona while in uniform because people looked at you differently; there’s no hiding a black and white and the fact that you are a person with a gun on your hip. But writing is a more natural fit. I’m most comfortable on the computer in my room telling a story with the word processor. I love to read and now my goal is to write books that grip readers like I have been gripped by my favorite authors. A good book is like a great friend coming over for a visit. You relish the time together and you never want the visit to end.

Last year was quite a year for you. The first two books of the Pacific Coast Justice series were published by Tyndale House, but I imagine the joy of those milestones was overshadowed by the passing of both of your parents within just a few months of each other. Please accept my condolences on your loss. I understand you moved back home and were their caregiver for four years. How did you manage to carve out time to write in the midst of that season of life? What advice do you have for would-be authors who say they never have time to write?
Writing at times was a great escape during that difficult time; it was something to concentrate on, to distract me. And my mom was my biggest fan. Abducted came out right before she went home to heaven and it was the last book she read. Avenged is dedicated to my folks. I also had a contract to fulfill with Tyndale. They were never pushy and very understanding, but it was so important for me to honor that because they put a lot of faith in me.

As far as carving out time to write, I like to borrow from mystery writer Elizabeth George, it takes bum glue: you have to sit your bum in the chair and glue it there.

What is your writing routine? (Are you an early bird? Night owl? Does it have to be quiet or do you have music or the TV on?) What is your biggest challenge when writing?
I generally am best in the morning, after my devotions, with a cup of coffee. But I have learned to work whenever I have the time. I’m definitely not a night owl as I’m up as soon as there is enough light to walk my dogs so I’m in bed early. I like music; sometimes I’ll get out my laptop while I’m watching something on TV and sometimes I’m listening to a Christian station that plays different teachers. I like having background noise.

Your bio says that faith was "indispensable" to your job as a police officer. How does faith impact your writing, both the process and the content?
As I said before, I wanted to write something my aunt would read - a fictional story that had elements of the gospel message but didn’t preach and wouldn’t turn her off. I also want my books to appeal to non-believers as well as believers but with my world view. Faith is always a big part of the story and of the lives of the characters. Carly, the main character in the Pacific Coast Justice Series struggles with elements of faith like any person would. In fact, some of her struggles paralleled my own.

Besides the fame and fortune that comes with being a published author (ahem!), what has been a special moment of your writing career? What has surprised you?
It was extremely special to be able to give my mom my published novels and have her read and enjoy them. What has surprised me is how difficult it is to promote and get out there and get people to buy your work.

What is on the horizon for you? Are there more novels coming now that this trilogy is about to wrap up?
Avenged is the third and last book in the Pacific Coast Justice series. I have two more books with Tyndale. Critical Pursuit is in the editing process now. Beyond that I have what I think is a great idea for another 3 book series, but we’ll have to see about that!

What do you miss the most about police work now that you're retired? And what do you miss the least?
I miss the people, the camaraderie. What I miss the least is the graveyard shift and dealing with really bad people on a regular basis.

What books would we find on your nightstand?
I have something by Candace Calvert, Terri Blackstock, Michael Connelly, and Tess Gerritson.

Pretend you have a 3-day weekend that you can spend anywhere, doing anything, and eating anything; travel time, money, and calories are inconsequential, and there are no deadlines looming. Where would we find you and what would you be doing?
A couple things occurred to me when I read “time travel”. My mom and I took trips together all the time. What I wouldn’t give for one more ski trip with my mom. We’d go to Mammoth, or Park City Utah (her favorite) and just have a fun time on the slopes.

Without the time machine, I’d have to settle for pasta, pizza and ice cream! I’d either be by the ocean or a high mountain lake at a place with some awesome Zip lines. When I was tired of Zip lining I’d settle down with a lot of good reading material or take long walks with my dogs.

Any parting words that you would like to share?
Thank you for the interview. I truly enjoy writing and am gratified when someone likes my work. I pray for a long, productive career.

Thank you so much for your time!

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