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Column: Why Writing a Gritty San Diego Thriller Made Writers LJ Sellers and Teresa Burrell Criminally Happy

Between the two of them, writers LJ Sellers and Teresa Burrell have written over 40 thrillers, all filled with troubled people doing disturbing things. Killers armed with knives. Adolescents abused for revenge. Homicidal sex offenders. Maybe homicidal parents.

Over the course of those 40+ books, San Diego-based Burrell and Eugene, Oregon-based Sellers turned out to be labeled purveyors of murder, chaos, and dessert. But when it came to having the most fun along the way, book number one was the charm.

This book is the recently published “No Consent”, which marks Sellers and Burrell’s debut as an editorial team. With each of them writing alternate chapters featuring characters who reflect their own areas of expertise, “No Consent” was also the start of a beautifully effective partnership.

Written in just two lightning months, “No Consent” tells the stories of overworked San Diego Assistant District Attorney T. Clara “Hitch” Hitchens and petty criminal Nate Conner. The writers enjoyed their fictional duo so much that future “Conner & Hitch” thrillers are in the works.

“By the time we finished the book, I was really happy with the way the two characters were interacting,” said former lawyer Burrell, who wrote the chapters led by the fictional Hitchens.

“It was so much fun,” said mystery expert Sellers, who wrote the chapters starring Conner. “When two creative minds worked together, the story ended up taking a different direction. We had so many ideas that we couldn’t even use them all.

During “No Consent,” Hitchens’ challenges include exposing a corrupt district attorney who could also be his boss, and defending an unfriendly victim in a lawsuit too hot to handle. Meanwhile, Conner tries to get right to the point while dealing with a missing sister, a thug pressing him for money he doesn’t have, and the possibility that he has been the victim of a prison snitch.

What happens when Hitch and Conner’s lives collide? Let’s just say mutually beneficial adventures ensue. Much like what happened when Burrell and Sellers met 13 years ago, except no one was hurt.

It was 2008, and Sellers and Burrell were two of the many hopeful writers in attendance at Bouchercon, an annual convention for mystery lovers. A potential editor took them to dinner, where they hit it off right away, and not just because they both ordered medium rare prime rib and salads with blue cheese dressing.

“I liked LJ on the spot because she was funny,” Burrell said from his Clairemont home. “She was ambitious and eager to secure a contract. We had a lot in common. “

The deal with the publisher didn’t end well for either, but the friendship was a big success.

“She was ambitious and driven, and she was doing whatever she could to get to where she wanted to be, and I admired that,” Eugene Sellers said.

“Because we had the same editor and it ended up being a disaster, we had this joint injury. That kind of help. We just had a lot of fun together.

Over the next decade, Burrell and Sellers recovered from their initial publishing traumas to find second-chapter careers as prolific writers.

After years of devoting herself to fiction while juggling journalism and editing jobs, Sellers became a full-time novelist in 2010. Since then, she has been in tears, writing 15 books for her “Detective Jackson Mystery” series. ; three books featuring FBI agent Jamie Dallas; and three books from his new “Extractor” series featuring former CIA agent Roxanne MacFarlane. She’s also made time for a handful of standalone thrillers.

Burrell was a teacher, then a lawyer. His time representing young people in juvenile courts was the inspiration for the series “The Advocate”, which has 12 books to date. His “Tuper Mystery” series currently has three installments, and Burrell (now semi-retired) has also written three children’s books.

Besides their superhuman ability to write several books a year, Sellers and Burrell share a love for strong female protagonists; problem-oriented cases (“No Consent” features a lawsuit inspired by the controversial sexually explicit videos from the OnlyFans website); and characters who represent almost all walks of life.

The co-authors also share a determination to see justice done in their books, as real life doesn’t always turn out that way.

“We explore why something happened and we do justice. Readers love it, ”Sellers said. “The good guys, win, justice is served, and there is an explanation and a resolution. Things can turn out well, even if they start out badly.

And while they bring a little fairness to their books, Teresa Burrell and LJ Sellers want to empathize with their readers. They may specialize in mysteries, but humanity does not have to be one of them.

“Thinking back to when I was a kid, we didn’t have any books in our house. But we had books in the library, and I remember meeting all these different people through these books. We want to deliver the same to our readers, ”Burrell said.

“Social awareness is the bottom line. I think we all live in our own little worlds, and we only see the small area around us. But people who read mysteries can still learn things if we put them in a book. “

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Margarita W. Wilson

The author Margarita W. Wilson