Sunday, April 29, 2018

Murder, He Wrote....ROCCO interviews Jon Land!

Merow, my guest this week is the author who has taken over the "Murder She Wrote" franchise! Jon Land!

Jon Land is the USA Today bestselling author of 43 books, including eight titles in the critically acclaimed Caitlin Strong series: Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, Strong at the Break, Strong Vengeance, Strong Rain Falling (winner of the 2014 International Book Award and 2013 USA Best Book Award for Mystery-Suspense), Strong Darkness (winner of the 2014 USA Books Best Book Award and the 2015 International Book Award for Thriller, and Strong Light of Day which won the 2016 International Book Award for Best Thriller-Adventure, the 2015 Books and Author Award for Best Mystery Thriller, and the 2016 Beverly Hills Book Award for Best Mystery. Strong Cold Dead became the fourth title in the series in a row to win the International Book Award in 2017 and about which Booklist said, “Thrillers don’t get any better than this,” in a starred review. It was followed by Strong to the Bone, winner of the 2017 American Book Fest Best Book Award for Mystery Suspense ahead of its December ’17 publication.

 Land has also teamed with multiple New York Times bestselling author Heather Graham on a new sci-fi series, the first of which, The Rising, was published by Forge in January of 2017. Jon’s award-wining nonfiction titles include Betrayal (2011), winner of the 2011 International Book Award in True Crime and Takedown (2016) which won both 2016’s USA Best Books Award and the International Book Award in True Crime.  His latest nonfiction title, No Surrender, was published by Post Hill Press on July 4.  And Jon has recently taken over the MURDER, SHE WROTE book series based on the fabulously successful television show; his first effort writing as “Jessica Fletcher,” A Date With Murder, was published in May of 2018. He is a 1979 graduate of Brown University, lives in Providence, Rhode Island and can be reached at or on Twitter @jondland.

Hello and welcome Jon! Would you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thanks for having me, ROCCO!  Lots of ways to answer that one, but I’m going to keep it simple. I’m somebody who is blessed to be able make a career out of doing what I love to do. That’s one of the greatest gifts a person can be given and I never stop appreciating that fact.

Tell us about your latest venture, taking over the Murder She Wrote series.  How did that come about? 
It’s the classic case of one man’s misfortune becoming another man’s gain. The great Don Bain had written the first 46 books in the Murder, She Wrote series. But he had fallen ill and was no longer able to continue, then subsequently passed away. Since we share the same agent in Bob Diforio, Bob thought I would be a great choice to replace Don. He called me just after Don fell ill, and it took me all of five seconds to say, yes, I’d most definitely be interested. Opportunities like this just don’t come up very often.

Tell us a little about the newest book, A Date With Murder. What sort of trouble does Jessica get into this time?
She comes to realize that an online dating service is somehow implicated in at least two, and maybe more, murders and sets out to find the people behind the curtain. Along the way, she sets herself up as bait, wanting the villains to target her so she can catch them. How’s that for getting into trouble? Ha-ha!

What was it like working with Donald Bain?
Unfortunately, Don had already gotten ill by the time I stepped in, so I wasn’t able to engage him much about the story. I had some pages that he had written with his grandson Zach, who became a crucial collaborator for me, and that was enough for me to run with and to help me find Jessica’s voice.

Tell us about some of your other series.
The other one I think would be of most interest to MURDER, SHE WROTE fans is my Caitlin Strong series. Picture a younger Jessica Fletcher packing a pistol and wearing a Texas Ranger badge—a modern day gunfighter, in other words. There are 9 books in the STRONG series now and I think they’ve continued to improve. While they’re thrillers more than mysteries, what I’d love to see is fans of what I’ve done with MURDER, SHE WROTE gravitate to my Caitlin Strong books as well. From my own experience as a reader, if I like a writer I tend to enjoy all their series, no matter how disparate they might be.

What do you do when you are not writing?
I’m a gym rat, I watch a lot of television, movies, and, of course, I read. And since writing is such a solitary avocation, I’m fortunate enough to be involved with a lot of volunteer efforts at my alma mater, Brown University, that get me out of the house and around people, whether it be through my association with Brown football, the Greek System, my own fraternity, or the library on which I serve on the board. I’m just as passionate about those efforts as I am about my writing, in a different way, of course!

Is there an author or book that influenced you or your writing in any way growing up or as an adult?
That’s a great question and, more than anything, it was falling in love with reading in general, and thrillers in particular, that made me want to become a writer. This happened late, while I was an undergraduate at Brown. That’s where I devoured the work of Robert Ludlum, Stephen King, Clive Cussler and David Morrell. For me, being a writer meant I could give to others the joy of reading a great story those authors had given to me. I learned to write by writing. I learned what a story is and how best to tell one by reading those writers.

Are you reading anything interesting at the moment? If so, what is it?
I’ve been saving Lee Child’s latest, THE MIDNIGHT MILE, and now I’m absolutely loving it as I’ve loved all the Jack Reacher books. I look at my Caitlin Strong character as kind of a female Jack Reacher, so you might say other writers I enjoy continue to influence me to this day. And that’s the thing about being a writer: you never stop learning how to do what you do better.

Do you think you may ever go into another genre?  If so, which one?
That’s a great question and, in point of fact, I already have, given that I also write nonfiction which is something else entirely. I’ve also written a science fiction series, just one so far called THE RISING, with the great Heather Graham. So the best way to respond to that question, I think, is to say that no matter what you’re writing or the genre you’re writing in, the thing you must always ask yourself is what’s going to keep the reader turning the pages? What’s going to make them care about the characters and root for them? It doesn’t matter what you write, so long as you can answer those questions. And the way I do it is pretty much the same no matter what I’m writing.

What is the hardest part of writing in your opinion?
No doubt about it: making a living! But, seriously, sometimes the fact that is a business forces you to work with people you might not agree with on a for-hire basis, in which their opinion supersedes mine. I can’t tell you how much I hate that but it comes with the job, with needing to put food on the table and pay the mortgage. When I start to ponder such things, I always come back to the great line in the GODFATHER II, Hyman Roth to Michael Coreleone: “Michael, this is the business we have chosen.”

Where do you see yourself at in five years—writing wise?
No doubt about it: making a better living! But, seriously again, I’m writing around four books a year now. That’s a tough pace to keep and I’d hope, a few years down the road, I can back off at least a bit. Write more on my terms than the terms dictated by the realities of life. The industry has changed so much and it’s becoming harder and harder to sell enough copies of one book to survive. So I’d love to be able to do that five years ago, but I don’t know if I can say I see myself realistically getting there at this point.

What is the easiest part of writing in your opinion?
The process itself. I’m never happier than when I’m knocking out pages and watching the word count of a book climb. Those magical moments when things fall into place. I don’t outline; I write by the seat of my pants and let my instincts and characters take me to where I need to go. And when I get there in any given scene or moment, it’s like winning the mental lottery. There’s no greater feeling and when I’m writing I get to experience it every day.

Is there a genre that you love to read, and would like to write, but just cannot?
Sure, erotica.  Ha-ha, no, just kidding! You gotta write what you know, right? So this clearly isn’t for me!!! But this is really a great question so this answer may seem like a copout.  I’m a professional. I can write anything if I know the characters and can find their respective voices, just as I found Jessica Fletcher’s in A DATE WITH MURDER. It’s all about opportunity. So if the question is, Can I do it? The answer is always, yes, regardless of what “it” is.

Do you have any upcoming appearances that you would like to share with us?
I have a couple of local events coming out, that’s all.

If you were in the witness protection program, what would you choose as a career?
Now that makes me think. A teacher maybe? The truth is, like Stephen King once said about writing, “You scratch where it itches.” So no matter whatever else I tried to do, I think the itch would come back and I’d have to scratch it.

Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
I mentioned the fact earlier that I share the same agent as Don Bain in Bob Diforio. We met at the ThrillerFest Conference in New York way back in 2007 and just hit it off. We just always seemed to be in the same place to the point where I’d see him and yell out, “Bob!” which he’d answer with “Jon!” He represented several writers I knew and respected. We remained friends and then maybe three or four years later, I had a nonfiction book I thought would be perfect for him to represent. I’d only had one agent prior to that, Toni Mendez, and she remained my agent until the day she died at 93. So Bob and I came out of the gate together flying and haven’t slowed down since. Bob is a hands-on, no-stone-unturned agent in the sense that in addition to opportunities like MURDER, SHE WROTE, he’s also placed the digital and audio rights to my voluminous back list and has continued to pound the pavement to find me more work. Surviving as a writer today means either working really hard, being a really big name, or both. Sometimes this is a business akin to Alice in Wonderland where you have to run faster and faster just to stay in the same place. Thanks to Bob Diforio I’ve actually been able to get ahead a bit. He’s old school, having come up through Sales and ran the NAL imprint for years, so he gets the business and has proven himself incredibly adept at negotiating all the sea changes and seismic shifts that have so altered the publishing landscape.

What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
Well, I’ve turned in my second MURDER, SHE WROTE title, MANUSCRIPT FOR MURDER, which I love and will be published in November. My next Caitlin Strong book, STRONG AS STEEL, is in the final stages as well en route to its April 2019 publication. And I’ve got a few nonfiction books at varying stages. The amazing thing about this business, though, is that if you asked me the same question tomorrow or the next day, you might get an entirely different answer.

Where can we learn more about you and your books?, if I did a better job of keeping my Website updated.  If you want to find out more about me and my books, read them. Give them a shot. People should read me for what I write, not really who I am.

Random Quickies!
1.     Pepsi or Coke? PEPSI
2.     Cats or dogs? DOGS (We wont hold that against you Jon! Merow!)
3.     Favorite movie? JAWS
4.     Favorite book to movie? THE GODFATHER
5.     Hardback/Paperback or eReader? HARDCOVER OR PAPERBACK
6.     Favorite color? BLUE

7.     If you could live anywhere in the world it would be: WHERE I LIVE RIGHT NOW!

Thank you for a wonderful interview, Jon!  Murder She Wrote fans will be anxiously awaiting your debut novel!  (PS: It's fabulous! Dont miss my review of A Date With Murder in next week's blog!)


Jon will give away a signed copy of A DATE WITH MURDER to one lucky commenter!

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:

* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link:
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link:!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. US entries only, please!  Contest closes midnight, May 5!  Good luck!!!


  1. Very interesting interview. I haven't read this series. Thank-you for the chance.

  2. I really liked this interview and loved the ans that were given! I really look forward to your blog when it comes into the email. I follow,I don't tweet,I friended I mentioned and I don't have a blog. peggy clayton

  3. I'd love to win a copy of Jon's new Murder, She Wrote book. Please enter my name in the draw.
    I follow by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com and on twitter: @carlrscott.
    We are friends on Facebook (Carl Scott), and I tweeted a link to this post:
    Thanks again, have a great week!

  4. I love Jessica Fletcher. Would love to read jon's Murder She Wrote book. Glad the series is continuing.
    Rocco, I follow your blog and on Twitter, we are friends on Facebook, shared on Twitter and Facebook.

  5. I love Murder, She Wrote, both the TV show and the books. I had no idea Jon Land would be taking over the writing but it sounds like a great idea. I am especially looking forward to a little of his "thriller-style" in the books.
    I follow your blog as Sally Schmidt ( and we are friends on Facebook.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. I love this show, but I've never read any of the books. It's time for me to start.
    Jana Leah - turtle6422(at)gmail(dot)com
    Following your blog
    Following on Twitter
    Tweeted about the contest
    Friends on Facebook
    Mentioned the contest on Facebook

  8. I have yet to read this series, although I enjoy the TV version. Thanks for the chance, ROCCO! Marla Bradeen:

  9. I heard that the series would be continuing so I'm glad to hear about the new book and author.

    Five points. I did all but the last one.

    1 - I followed your blog by e-mail.
    2 - I follow you on Twitter (@michellefidler1).
    3 - Tweeted about the contest.
    4 - Friended you on Facebook.
    5 - Mentioned the contest on Facebook.

    Michelle Fidler