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So where do I start? The standard bio seems so, well, boring. I can’t even decide on a single author photo, so I’ve provided fourteen, roughly in chronological order from me at about 18 months, to me now. (South Park me and Simpsons me obviously never existed, but man, wouldn’t that be cool if they did?)

Let’s get the obligatory stuff out of the way. I’m the author of seven dark young adult novels.  I write from the underground about teens on the fringe because I believe the world is filled with good kids that get labeled bad because they don’t fit into the standard mold.

pandora3.jpgmayhemsink1a.jpgI’m married to horror writer Jeff Strand and we live in Tampa, Florida with our two cats Pandora and Mayhem.  (Pandora is the grumpy black one supervising my writing, and Mayhem is the tawny deaf one waiting for me to turn on the faucet.)

I love to road trip, and it’s even better if it’s to see a concert. I’m a huge music geek and I have over 28,000 songs in my music collection. I have two guitars, an Epiphone acoustic and an ebony Les Paul Junior. (You’ll never see me in a band, though; I play horribly.)

gdicons2.jpgI’m a scarily obsessive Green Day fan (favorite songs, The Grouch and Jesus of Suburbia) but I love good music of all genres. At the moment I’m really into psychobilly and pop-punk with a hardcore edge. Faves include bands like The Dollyrots, Prima Donna, The Van Orsdels, The Bouncing Souls, AFI, The Nekromantix, My Chemical Romance, The Groovie Ghoulies, Screeching Weasel, Bowling for Soup, and well, the list could go on and on. (Told you I was a music geek.)

I’ve written three time travel historicals for Sparknotes, a couple of historical horror novels, and now I’m working on the sequel to Death Divided, the contemporary YA horror novel I wrote with Sally Bosco.

That’s about it for the general background stuff.  If you’d like to learn more about me than you ever wanted to know, read on.

chrisandjanicelittle2.jpgchrisandjanicelittle2.jpgchrisandjanicelittle2.jpgI was born in Washington, Illinois, a suburb of Peoria. My father was a salesman and my mom was his support in everything he did. They were both always very busy, but luckily I had my big brother Chris. He’s fifteen years older than me, and introduced me to most of the things I liked growing up–comics, the Beatles, Star Wars, and most importantly, monsters.

acriweb3.jpgChris is the man responsible for my love of the dark side.  Every Saturday at midnight he would wake me up so we could watch the Acri Creature Feature together. (The host was like Elvira, if she had been a middle-aged home improvement salesman from Illinois named Chuck Acri. He’s pictured at the left.) When I started first grade at Germantown Hills Elementary, one of the first stories I ever wrote was about my stuffed animals turning into monsters.

Unfortunately, nobody else was writing scary stories, at least not for kids. When I learned to read, nothing really kept my interest. In second grade, I got a “C” in reading, and Mrs. Eirman wrote on my report card, “Does not read for own pleasure and enjoyment.”

dragonmagic.jpgMy fourth grade teacher Mrs. Herring changed all that.  She took me aside and handed me Dragon Magic by Andre Norton. She said, “Try this book.  I think you’ll like it.  It has dragons in it.”

She changed my life forever.

dragonflight.jpgdragonandthegeorge2.jpgI learned that there were books I liked to read that I didn’t have to read, and I turned into an instant bookworm.  I would read anything that had a dragon on the cover, and Andre Norton and Anne McCaffrey (Dragonflight) became two of my favorite authors. The first book I ever bought with my own money had a dragon on the cover. It was Gordon R. Dickon’s The Dragon and the George. (The only horror I got to read as a kid was Edgar Allan Poe, and I inhaled everything I could by him.)

metamorahigh.jpgI continued to like to read and write through the rest of elementary and middle school, but it wasn’t until 9th grade at Metamora Township High School that someone actually encouraged me to write. My 9th grade history teacher, Mrs. Kathy Wagner, had us write a five page play putting ourselve in a scene from history. I got so into the assignment that my five page play ended up being twenty pages, in REALLY small print. (It was called Timeless Devotions, and was about a teen who goes back in time to rescue a warlock during the Salem witch trials. The kernel of the story remains in Time For Witches, the new time travel historical coming out this fall.)

Mrs. Wagner took me aside and said, “This is great.  You really have a talent for writing.” It was the first time someone told me I had a talent for anything. She made me feel special and valuable, and made me love reading even more. (Once I hit high school I added adult horror to the fantasy I’d been reading. I discovered Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Shirley Jackson.)

swordofshannara2.jpgI started writing my first novel because of a guy. I’d developed a huge crush on Joe Mullins after we’d been assigned to work together on a tenth grade English project. He was a funny, smart-mouthed kid who played Dungeons and Dragons. Mostly we talked books. I was reading Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, and each day he’d quiz me on how far along I was in the story. Each night I’d read until the wee hours so I could impress him.

After we’d finished our assignment for class, we started writing a fantasy novel together. Joe said, “I’ll write the monsters and battles, and you can write all the sappy relationship stuff.” We got through two chapters before my parents moved to Daytona Beach, Florida. We vowed we’d continue to write alternating chapters and mail them to each other, but after I sent him my third chapter, I never heard from him again. (Loser!)

xanth.jpgI didn’t adjust well to life in Daytona Beach. I’d spent my first fifteen years in the same school district with the same friends. Suddenly, in the middle of my sophomore year, I was alone. I was a year ahead in most of my classes so the friends I made were all juniors or seniors. Two things got me through that very rough time–Piers Anthony’s Xanth series and marching band. (Yes, I was a band geek. I now play electric guitar (an ebony Les Paul Jr.) to attone for my previous nerdiness.)

Reading Piers Anthony’s novels made me feel better because he’d fashioned Xanth after Florida. It comforted me to pretend I’d moved to Xanth instead of a thousand miles away from my friends.

I’d loved marching band when I was in Illinois, and the year I left, the Marching Redbirds had been the fourth best band in the state.  When I moved to Spruce Creek High School in Port Orange, Florida (a city adjacent to Daytona Beach), band became my lifeline. The first friends I made (Miki Teston and Paulette Hampton) were in band. (Nerd alert: we all played clarinet.)

sprucecreek1.jpgAt Spruce Creek High, my tenth grade English teacher encouraged me to write, and to submit to the school literary magazine. She even arranged for me to work with a real writer once a week. I wrote my first marketable story, a first-person rant from a paranoid man slowly going insane called “Black is White”.

I still remember the giddy adrenaline rush I got when I finished the story. I was sitting straight up in my bed, writing long hand. When I penned the last words, my cheeks flushed and my whole face went numb. I knew I’d created something unique and special, something only I could make. It was the coolest feeling in the world, and I knew I wanted to feel that way over and over again.

Unfortunately, my eleventh grade American English teacher Mr. Allen wasn’t nearly as supportive. The first day of class we read “Silent Snow, Secret Snow” by Conrad Aiken. Mr. Allen asked me how I would interpret the story, so I told him I thought the character was slipping into an alternate reality. He disagreed, and I provided support for my opinion, and he ended the “discussion” with, “No. You’re wrong.” He turned his back on me and called on another student. “Next,” he said. How can an opinion be wrong? I spent the rest of the year second guessing myself and doubting my writing ability.

hs2.jpgMy senior year wasn’t much better. My AP English teacher didn’t think I had any great skill as a writer so she pretty much ignored me–until she found out that I was going to be the class salutitorian (second in a class of 450 students). Then I was suddenly one of her favorite students. (That’s my senior picture to the right, by the way.)

When I graduated from high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I was going to go to college, but I didn’t know what I’d study. I liked school, and was consistently good in all my classes, but no one subject stood out for me. My parents thought I should be a teacher, but in my heart, I wanted to write. (My parents thought that was a very bad idea. No money in writing.)

writersmarket.jpgIn August of 1986, right before I started college, I decided I was going to be a writer. Using Writer’s Market, I submitted my first story to a small press magazine. On that day I became a writer. (It took me four more years before I actually sold a story, but I mark that day as the begining of my career.)

I attended Daytona Beach Community College, finishing my first two years in a year by doubling up on my classes. (I was engaged to my first high school boyfriend who was now in the Navy and I wanted to get my Associate’s degree before I married him.) I had a fantastic experience at DBCC.  I wrote for my college newspaper, The Bagpiper and got paid for my writing for the very first time. I still have a copy of the check.

dbcc.jpgEven better, I enrolled in Quanta, an interdisciplinary honors program at DBCC. It changed the way I thought about education and learning, and helped me see connections in the world around me. It also ultimately led me to New College, but that’s jumping ahead a bit.

fswc.jpgBeing in Quanta also led me to my first ever writer’s conference, the Florida Suncoast Writer’s Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. See, the weirdest thing happened to me when I started college. After two years of being told I was an average writer, suddenly I was being told I was a really good writer. I was one of two students selected for scholarships to the conference, and I felt like a real writer.  I also learned that if I was going to make a living at this writing thing, I was going to have to learn as much as I could about the craft of writing–outside of school as well as in. I started reading books on writing and attending every conference and workshop I could find.

As I was finishing my Associate’s degree, I got married. Because my husband was in the Navy, we moved eight times in two years, which stalled my education a bit. When my husband got out of the Navy, we moved to Tampa and after four years of marriage got divorced. I’d been teaching pre-school, working in after school programs and such–pretty much the teacher my parents had thought I should be. I decided to go back to college to study psychology. (I already knew how to get published–write lots, edit lots, send your stuff off, and never give up–so I figured I’d get a degree in something that could be a backup career.)

newcollege2.jpgI enrolled at New College in Sarasota, at the time, the honors college of the Florida state university system. The Quanta program I’d loved so much at DBCC had been run by New College alumni, so I thought it would be a good fit for me.

I could go on for pages and pages about how my New College experience changed me. I remember a fourth year student telling me at orientation, “At New College, you’ll work hard, but you’ll play hard too.” He was right, on both accounts. I still try to live my life by that maxim.

I was used to being the smartest kid in the group, but New College was filled with kids smarter than me. I had to work harder than I ever had before, but every Saturday night the courtyard between the dorms transformed into a party of intense release–a Palm Court Party.

newcollegepalmcourtparty2.jpgNew College was an amazing experience, but after my first semester, I moved out of the dorms and started the grueling hour and a half commute from Tampa to Sarasota. New College didn’t have classes in the summer, so I took a temp job in Tampa working as a secretary in the computer security department of a large financial institution. By August, the company wanted to keep me on permanently and pay me more than I’d make when I graduated with my degree, so I transferred to the University of South Florida. I went to school full time nights so I could keep my scholarships and grants, and worked full time days to pay for everything else.

All through this, I was still writing, reading about writing, and attending workshops. I finished two absolutely awful, unpublishable novels, but I also wrote an assortment of short stories and started to see some of them get published.

jeff1.jpgI met my husband Jeff Strand at the 1995 World Horror Convention in Atlanta, a wonderful finge benefit of pursuing my writing education.  We were married two years later, and celebrated our ten year anniversary in June.

So how’d I get my first book published? A fledgling publisher had gone to my website and read sample chapters of another book I’d written. She asked to read the full manuscript, but the book was currently unavailable because an agent was shopping it elsewhere. I asked the publisher if she’d be interested in The Return, the book I’d written when I was auditioning to be a ghost writer for R.L. Stine. She said yes, read the book in two days and sent me a contract.

Unfortuantely the publisher folded about ten months after publishing my book. I moved to Hard Shell Word Factory who published my next two young adult novels, The Change and AltDeath.com, as well. A wonderful Barnes & Noble community relations manager recommended me to the senior editor at SparkNotes, resulting in Rave New World, my SAT Vocabulary novel, as well as three time travel historicals: A Time For Witches, Shades of Blue and Gray, and Reckless Revolution. (Check out all the books on the Novels page.)

There’s a bunch of stuff I probably should have added, like why I learned to play guitar and how I dye my hair blue, and how I got my amazing agent, but I’ve got novels to write, you know? It’s time I got back to them.

The bottom line is that I write because I can’t imagine a better job in the world than being able to learn about something new and then getting paid to write a book about it. To quote Jimmy Buffett, “Playing for a living. Can’t beat it with a stick.”

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 3, 2007 9:36 pm

    I love your new site!

  2. beckie moore permalink
    July 28, 2008 8:54 am

    Hi Janice,

    My friend Elaine spent the past week with you at Tampa Theater, she absolutely loved the program and the people. We visited your website and I laughed because I’m such a fan of witches and warlocks.. Stephen King and Anne Rice and I noticed you were from the Peoria area. I was born at St. Francis Hospital and I have family in Chillicothe, Sparland and Peoria. Anyway, Elaine just raved about her experience. I look forward to checking out some of your novels.

  3. kenny permalink
    May 12, 2009 8:29 am

    Hi! im a 17 yr old boy he who found ur books to be fun and interesting. im not big on reading but ur books were fun!!!! and now IM on shades of blue and gray!

  4. kenny permalink
    May 12, 2009 8:31 am

    OH and by the way im making sure to tell everybody about ur books!! lol

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