Last week, New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison tweeted her appreciation to The Airborne Toxic Event for inspiring her new short story: a ghostly Christmas tale called “The Omen Days.” We caught up with Ms. Ellison to hear more about the story and the influence Airborne had on her as she wrote it. Read the interview below, and then pick up “The Omen Days” for just $2.99.
For those who aren’t familiar with your work, tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing career thus far.
I’m a New York Times bestselling thriller author. I got my start ten years ago with a series set in Nashville, with a homicide lieutenant named Taylor Jackson. I have 2 series with 14 books published under my own name, 3 co-written with Catherine Coulter, and have just started writing my 19th novel. I write short stories as well, usually in the supernatural or horror genre. I am having an absolute blast living the creative life.
What can you tell us about your writing style, and the themes you tackle in your work?
Most of my work examines the psychological components of crime. I’m fascinated by the road not taken, how some people end up as criminals and some end up on the straight and narrow. A bad influence in school? Something darker? Are people driven to crime, to hurt others, by something inside? Is it nature, or nurture? Whether it’s from the point of view of a cop investigating a case, or the person affected by the crime, or even the villain perpetrating it, I am driven to understand and communicate what these characters are going through. Add in a fast pace and a lot of twists and turns, and that’s my signature style.
Without giving anything away of course, can you give us an overview of “The Omen Days?” What’s it all about?
The Omen Days is a Christmas ghost story. Without giving anything away, here’s the back cover copy:
Autumn disappeared from his life once. And he’s not going to let her do it again.
Zack Aukey hates Christmas—despises it, actually. December carries painful memories of his first love Autumn Cleary, who left him during the holiday season. But when Autumn mysteriously shows up in Nashville on Christmas night bearing gifts and apologies, Zack knows this is a holiday he won’t soon forget.
And then he sees the police report.
I think it goes in an unexpected direction, which is what I look for in a short story – ending someplace very unexpected. And anyone who’s a fan of TATE will recognize the situation.
You mentioned on Twitter that The Airborne Toxic Event helped inspire the story. Were there any songs in particular that inspired you? If so, which one(s)? How is TATE’s influence seen in the story?
I spent a year starting almost every flight I was on (and there were a lot) with “Sometime Around Midnight.” It’s such a visual song, telling such a great story. I couldn’t help imagining the characters, seeing a man with a broken heart stumbling into the dark, desperate to spend one last night with his lover; her callous treatment, making sure he saw her leave with someone else. We’ve all been in the situation where we’ve lost someone we love, but this captures it so viscerally that I couldn’t help myself. I had to build the rest of the story.
Of course, the actions in the song are only the beginning of THE OMEN DAYS, but I knew from the moment I heard it that I wanted to explore it in fiction. It’s been on almost all my book soundtracks, and I still listen to it all the time. I listened to it for a year before I figured out exactly how I wanted to tell the story.
Do you consider yourself a big Airborne fan? If so, how long have you followed the band and how did you discover them?
I love them. I think I probably discovered them on Sirius/XM’s Alt Nation. I discover most of my new bands there. I like their music, but I also like the stories the songs tell. They’re all short stories, in a way.
Have you seen the band live? If so, do you have any special concert memories?
I haven’t, and I want to, badly. Dear TATE: Come back to Nashville!
As you probably know, The Airborne Toxic Event drew their name from Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise. Have you read it, and if so, what did you think of it?
I haven’t, but I love that they are so tied to the literary world. All good lyricists are great readers, I think.
How can people follow you to keep up with your work?
My website is https://jtellison.com, and I’m on Facebook at JTEllison14, Twitter @thrillerchick and Instagram @jt_thrillerchick. I blog regularly and release a couple of books a year. If you’re interested in grabbing THE OMEN DAYS, here’s a link!
Thank you so much for having me!
New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison writes dark psychological thrillers starring Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson and medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, and pens the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. Cohost of the premier literary television show, A Word on Words, Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens.