Monday, July 11, 2011

Nancy Lynn Jarvis: Realtor Turned Serial Killer

Nancy Lynn Jarvis has been a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor for twenty years. She owns a real estate company with her husband, Craig.

After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager of Shakespeare/Santa Cruz.
Nancy's work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years. Writing is her newest adventure.
She invites you to take a peek into the real estate world through the stories that form the backdrop of her Regan McHenry mysteries. Details and ideas come from Nancy's own experiences.
If you're one of her clients or colleagues, read carefully - you may find characters in her books who seem familiar. You may know the people who inspired them - you may even see yourself in print.

Nancy's Guest post.

My husband and I owned a small real estate company which we wound down beginning in 2008 because it was costing us more to be in business than we were netting. Our plan was to declare ourselves retired and travel, but while we were fine for day to day expenses, our investments weren’t generating enough income to let us do what we planned, and we found ourselves stuck at home.

I had way too much time on my hands. I got bored. It was clear I needed a new career, so at age 60, I decided to start killing people.

Everyone who has earned a living as a Realtor says they could tell you stories. I took my twenty-plus years of real estate experiences, used them for background, and began writing a mystery with a Realtor protagonist. Ironically I get comments from people who tell me, while the murders are believable; they’re sure I made up the real estate parts of the books — are they ever wrong.

Writing my first book, “The Death Contingency” quite literally began as a time filling game, a mental exercise like playing Sudoku. I had a beginning and an ending in mind for the book and absolutely no idea how to connect the two. It took a great deal of fumbling and learning for both me as a writer and for Regan McHenry, the amateur sleuth protagonist, to solve the mystery. It was fun, though — more fun than anything I had ever done before — so much fun that I immediately started on a second book, “Backyard Bones.”

But writing, you’ll remember, was a game for me; I never intended to do anything with what I wrote. That changed when our friend Charlotte Bridges, a woman who always wanted to see her name in print, was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor.

Possibly because my husband and I had a long history of being small business owners and weren’t daunted by the idea of doing so, we set up a micro publishing company, dedicated “The Death Contingency” to her and got a copy to her so she could have her wish fulfilled before she died. Our first run was 100 books, about ninety more than I thought we would ever need. The books sold out in a day and we ordered more.

My writing-as-a-game has become a book series: “The Widow’s Walk League,” the fourth book in the series has just been released. This newly discovered passion is something I will do as I age, in retirement, and as long as it's fun and I sell books.

Writing hasn't produced an income anything like being a Realtor in the good times and I don't expect this adventure will ever make us rich, but we are making money and I wake up every morning excited about what the day may bring. I've had adventures I would never have had otherwise and met people from all over the world I would never have known without promoting the books.

Promoting is something else I’ve discovered can be done largely for free. I've managed to get an article in Realtor Magazine which goes to every Realtor in the country, get a mention in Costco's Connection Magazine which goes to most Costco members, and get interviewed for CNN/Money which then made it to and, all for free.

Social media such as Goodreads, LinkedIn, Library Thing, Eons , and Facebook have all been helpful. Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries have their own page on Facebook

We still use print-on-demand so we never have storage issues and no wasted books (I’m a tree hugger who doesn’t want to cut down trees needlessly.) We've learned to take advantage of Amazon for book distribution and for e-books (which outsell tree books.) We let readers sample opening chapters at our website and sell books from there, too.

The actual writing of a book is a kick. So is doing psychological profiles of the characters and researching how to dispatch victims before I begin writing — I dare you to ask me about death by hypothermia, ligature strangulations, accidental mummification, Albanian mobster hits, and how to make a person bleed out in minutes from a stab wound.

Getting a story I want to tell on paper is entertaining, but so is cover designing, getting publicity, and talking at book signings. The fact that I enjoy speaking at book signings and on the radio is a real surprise to me because when I don’t have a book in my hand to promote, I’d rather die than open my mouth in public.

Several older writers have approached us about publishing their books. We just reserved the URL ; it might be fun to help them get started.

1 comment:

  1. Barbara,
    Thanks for having me as your guest this week. I, too, would like to hear what your readers have to say.


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