Q&A: Janice Cantore
A former Long Beach, Calif., police officer of twenty-two years, Janice Cantore worked a variety of assignments, including patrol, administration, juvenile investigations, and training. A few years ago, Janice retired to a house in the mountains of Southern California, where she writes suspense novels designed to keep readers engrossed and leave them inspired. Her latest suspense title is Accused (Tyndale House), the first volume in her Pacific Coast Justice series.
Q: What were your goals in writing Accused?
When I started writing Accused, I was writing it for my aunt Elinor to read. At the time, she was not a Christian, so the challenge was writing a Christian-themed novel she would like, one that might show her the need for her salvation. Unfortunately, she passed away from cancer before it was finished. But she did come to know the Lord at the end. I still want to write Christian-themed novels non-Christians will enjoy. I also want to tell good stories that will communicate biblical truths without being preachy. As a police officer, I saw so much hopelessness. I often escaped to good fiction and knew that good fiction with themes of hope and truth was what I wanted to write.
Q: What elements of your new Pacific Coast
Justice series are driven by your real-life
experiences as a police officer?
I worked graveyard patrol for a good portion of the time I was in the field, so I decided that would be Carly's world. The idea behind the juvenile accused of murder germinated from a rather gruesome crime committed by a minor when I was in juvenile. As I thought about the boy being detained for murder, I played the what-if game—"What if he was innocent in spite of all the evidence?"—and decided that would make a good story. But it's never just work—life happens, so I gave Carly a frustrating backstory of divorce and controversy, things I saw at work but thankfully never experienced personally.
Q: When you were on
the job, how often did you
think, "Wow, this would
make a great idea for a
What usually impacted me at work was the tragic. I prayed for people often but was seldom privy to how the story ended. Amazingly, when I did find out what happened, if God was involved, it was always an inspirational finish. I've blogged about a traffic accident I handled where a nine-month-old boy was killed after his mother fell asleep at the wheel. About a year later, I read an interview with the woman where she talked about how her faith carried her through that tragedy and made her marriage stronger. While the incident itself sounds horrible, what grew from the tragedy was inspiring. I tend to be pessimistic on first pass, but Christ makes you optimistic. And what God can work in the face of the worst fills people with hope and inspiration. So from work I saw the tragic, but the story is in what God can do in any situation. Hope from tragedy always uplifts people. The first time I actually sat down to write about something was after the Rodney King riots. We worked twelve-hour days for seven days straight, and I was working the day things exploded. I tried to write about it but couldn't translate the feelings to the page. I decided that what happened word for word isn't necessarily entertaining. The best story contains elements of truth and elements of a vivid imagination.
Q: When did you first know you wanted
to become a writer—and what did you do
I used to write horse stories when I was a child and had spiral-bound notebooks filled with those stories. I always wanted to write but was told often that I would never make a living as an author. I took creative writing in college, but the teacher didn't like anything I wrote, so I didn't think I would ever be able to call myself a writer. When I learned that writing is like anything else that is important—you have to work on it to be good at it—I decided it was something I wanted to work on. Accused as it is in print now came from more drafts than I can count because it was the first novel I started. I applied lessons I learned from writers, conferences, from books, and I'm fortunate that God put in my path accomplished writer Lauraine Snelling, who became a mentor and friend. She edited the early drafts for me, and I've learned a great deal from her over the years. I know now that the learning never stops. No one I know of writes a perfect-never-has-to-be-edited first draft, and writing can always be improved.
Q: What are the most challenging aspects of incorporating
your faith into your story?
Not being preachy. I would like my books to appeal to a wide audience. I think preachy turns a large segment off. My aunt Elinor would have stopped reading "preachy" even if it was my book.
Q: What do you most hope readers get from reading your
Encouragement, a feeling of hope, and being uplifted. The Good News of our Savior. I truly believe that with Christ there is always hope, no matter the darkness of the situation. I want my stories to communicate that truth in an enjoyable and exciting way.
Q: Why do you think storytelling is such a powerful way to
Everyone relates to a good story. People who have moved me through their writing—Francine Rivers, Randy Alcorn, Terri Blackstock—they write page-turners that communicate faith in real-life situations. When you put one of their books down, you are sorry you've finished—and you have something important and special to think about. Storytelling takes people to new and interesting worlds. The truth doesn't change, but sometimes people can see it better if it's coming from a different setting.