Jennie Spallone lives a life of crime.
Crime writing, that is.
A mystery writer, Spallone’s latest novel, Window of Guilt, will be available through Amazon.com at the end of October. Set in Lac La Belle, Wis., the novel focuses on the wife of an insurance adjuster who discovers a body outside her summer home.
According to Spallone, the novel is about much more than just a body.
“The main character’s husband feels guilt for what he’s had to do in his own job,” Spallone said. “He doesn’t tell his wife what’s going on, and their relationship erodes. The guilt over what’s happened tears away at their marriage.”
Spallone also recently read Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar by Alan Morinis, and sees parallels between Morinis' book and Window of Guilt.
“In Everyday Holiness, Morinis writes that if you do something wrong and you feel guilty about it, the degree of your guilt is the important aspect. If you wallow in guilt, then guilt becomes self-serving. This happens to one of my characters in Window of Guilt,” she said. "There needs to be moderation in all things."
Spallone draws on her extensive and varied background when writing her novels. She has been a teacher in Northbrook, a freelance journalist, and is currently a Realtor with in Buffalo Grove.
She describes her writing process as impromptu, and will contemplate ideas for a story while walking her three dogs or commuting home from work.
“In my stories, it’s the amateur sleuth who helps the detective,” she said.
Spallone’s books undergo countless revisions, and she uses extensive research to ensure the details in her books are accurate.
For her first novel, Deadly Choices, Spallone shadowed two female paramedics on Chicago’s West Side for 24 hours.
“I needed to see what their lives were like and what it was like to be a paramedic. I saw everything first-hand,” Spallone, who grew up in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, said. “If you’re writing, you want to do everything first-hand so you can get it right.”
“When I’m writing a novel, I read what I’ve written so far every day,” she said. “I also try to get my ideas out on paper. If a writer gets too judgmental with what they’ve written, then they can get writer’s block.” Spallone said she tries to sit down for at least two hours per day, three to four days per week.
Spallone emphasized the importance of revising a book prior to publication. For Window of Guilt, she hired a developmental editor to spot plot holes and redundancies in her manuscript. She also brought parts of her novel to the Writer’s Workshop program at for constructive criticism.
“Lots of new authors fear putting themselves out there with their book,” Spallone said of using workshops for parts of a book. “While your manuscript is your baby, it is not you. You need to analyze the criticism you receive, and chances are, the people who review your book have a point.”
She also stressed that writers must learn and hone their craft. “Attend classes and learn how you can create tension and develop characters,” she said.
In addition, Spallone is a member of several societies for mystery writers, including Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. She is also a member of the Off Campus Writers’ Workshop.
Spallone said that she is also responsible for marketing her book. “When Deadly Choices was released, I marketed it like crazy,” she said. “I told people all the time about the book.”
Deadly Choices won third place for mystery fiction at the Public Safety Writers Association in Las Vegas.
While Spallone is preparing for the publication of Window of Guilt, she is also working on another novel centered on a former tabloid reporter who investigates the murders of Realtors around the country. "I enjoy writing," she said. "But it can be such a busy time for me, too."