An Interview With Jan Brogan by Nancy Gardner

  Welcome SinCNE sister, Jan Brogan.

Nancy: Jan, a number of reviewers have cited the appeal of your amateur sleuth, Boston journalist Hallie Ahern. What advice can you give to aspiring mystery writers about creating a compelling protagonist?

Jan: The best advice I can give is to create a protagonist with whom you feel comfortable. For me, such a character has flaws. He or she struggles internally, with conscience, with weakness, with compulsion.  In the case of Hallie, she prevails despite a sullied journalistic reputation and a gambling addiction.

Nancy: You have built quite a writing resume, both as a journalist and a mystery writer. You’ve been a reporter for the former Daily Transcript, the Waltham News Tribune, the Worcester Telegram, the Providence Journal, and, currently, you’re a health correspondent for the Boston Globe. You’ve also published four mystery novels. Journalism and fiction seem so different. What writing skills did you have to learn, or unlearn, in order to switch between writing newspaper articles and writing mystery novels?

Jan: I began my writing career as a journalist. In journalism, the emphasis is on objectivity. When I began to write fiction, I had to unlearn the journalist’s objective mindset. Instead, I had to learn to delve into the character’s state of mind, noting just the details that would reflect that state, and, most importantly, seeing everything through his or her eyes.

Nancy: You blog a lot at about creativity and the problems of email addiction on the writing life. I’ve enjoyed reading a number of your health articles at the Globe – some on similar topics. Have any of them had an impact on your work strategies?

Jan: Medical research into the workings of the brain fascinates me. So I feel very privileged to have a gig where I get to interview and write about some of the finest brain scientists in the world. And yes, I’m hopeful that some of the research has helped me improve my own creative process. For instance, I recently wrote an article about what science is learning regarding the toll distraction can take on the ability to concentrate. It made me realize that when I was checking my email so frequently, I was actually physically depleting my brain of the glucose it needed for sustained concentration. I decided to do what people who diet do, instead of keeping a log of how much I eat during the day, I started keeping a log tracking how often I checked my email. It’s really cutting back the bad habit. (See Jan’s article on distraction at:

Nancy: What are you working on at the moment?

Jan: I’m working on an historical novel about the wives of 19th century whale ship captains who went to sea with their husbands.

Nancy: How did you get interested in whaling wives?

Jan: I’ve been interested for along time, just put off the book. My husband and I used to own a sailboat. We often  sailed out of Westport, Mass. That’s when I became interested in the history of whaling and what it must have been like for whaling wives who somehow found the strength to endure years-long, dangerous journeys to remote lands, such as Japan or Chile or even the Arctic–just to be with their husbands. In many cases they delivered and raised children onboard what were, essentially, floating slaughterhouses.

Nancy: Thanks for sharing your insights, Jan. Also, congratulations on the release of your first mystery, Final Copy, as an e-book. I understand it won you some terrific reviews and was named one of the best new mysteries of 2001 by The Drood Review. Readers can learn more at!


About Nancy Gardner

Nancy Gardner’s short stories have been published in magazines, anthologies and online. Currently she’s working on a mystery set in Salem Massachusetts and featuring a present-day Salem witch who uses her ability to walk into the dreams of others to learn their secrets and solve crime.
This entry was posted in Craft, Members, SinCNE, Uncategorized, Writers. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to An Interview With Jan Brogan by Nancy Gardner

  1. Great interview, Nancy! Jan, this summer I spent some time in Salem at the Peabody Essex Museum and got fascinated by whaling. What a great topic for a book, even for those of us not obsessed with Moby Dick 😉

  2. Jan Brogan says:

    Thanks Hallie! To anyone trying to figure it out…. Hallie is referring to my blogging about how I’m secretly in love (not so secret anymore since I never shut up about it) with Herman Melville after swooning over a rather late-in-the-day reading of Moby Dick (a serious deficit in my high school education and college lit classes).

    And thanks Nancy for taking such an interest and sharing my other obsession – science about the brain!

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