Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Exchange with Jeremy Siemens on To Those Who Killed Me

In my last post I reviewed To Those Who Killed Me by J.T. (Jeremy) Siemens. After writing the review I exchanged emails with Jeremy. They form this post. My thanks to Jeremy for his prompt and candid reply. 



 After reading a book I like writing to an author with further thoughts on a book and a few questions for the author.

 I completed the book this weekend and posted a review last night. A link to the post is below.

 Fair or not in the reading world titles and book covers matter. I thought the title and cover were perfect.

 I would be interested in knowing how the title, To Those who Killed Me, was chosen. It has inherent drama and leads the reader to wonder who the “those” are from the first page.

 As to the cover I assume it is Sloane. If it is not I will have once again learned the risks of assumption. If it is Sloane the silhouette captures her better than any portrait or photo. The cover reflects her complex personality. It would draw me on any bookshelf.

 As set out in my review I loved the pace of the book but the violence level became so extreme as the end neared. I would like to read more of Sloane but hope the violence quotient was diminished. She has the intelligence and personality to solve cases by lower body counts. Brains rather than bodies appeal to me as a reader.

Sloane is a worthy addition to the hard boiled detectives who work the streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. 

Even before reading the blurbs upon the cover I was thinking of fellow Vancouver writers, Sam Wiebe and A.J. Devlin.

I wish Jed “Hammerhead” Ounstead, Dave Wakeland and Sloane would form a detective agency. They would be a dynamite trio.

Sloane is an unusual name. Before I read the book I wondered if she was based on the Sloane Rangers of England. Could a work of noir feature a sleuth with the posh sensibilities and distinct attire of a Sloane Ranger? After reading the first chapter I knew there was zero connection unless Sloane Donovan was intended to be the very antithesis of a Sloane Ranger. I would be interested in the source of her name.

 I have reservations about the codicil to a will in To Those Who Killed Me and will be putting up a post on codicils in crime fiction.

You have a talent for driving the narrative.

If you are able to reply I would like to post your response.

Best of luck with Sloane’s next ride.

Bill Selnes 


Hi Bill,

 First of all, thank you so much for your great and insightful review. I will be posting links to it on social media today or tomorrow. 

 Now to answer your questions.

The title. For much of the manuscript's life, it went by Better the Devil You Know. Titles are hard, and it wasn't until umpeen rejections that my good pal A.J. Devlin suggested changing the title to To Those Who Killed Me, which is obviously the first line in Geri's suicide note. At first I wasn't crazy about the idea. Truthfully, I never am when someone else suggests a significant change to my work. But an hour later, as I was driving, I had a sudden flash, like, "Yes, that is the title now." And I went home and changed it and didn't look back.

The woman on the cover is most certainly Sloane. Michel Vrana is the amazing designer who should get full credit for the cover, but I'm happy to say that I had some input as well. Because Sloane's physicality is so intrinsic to the book, I wanted an image of her running through an alley to convey that.

Pacing for me is key. I come from a screenwriting background, and I believe that every scene has to propel the story forward. I also believe that for a crime novel to be effective, it ought to be exciting, and for that to happen, it has to move. In writing a character like Sloane, who struggles with her mental health, I wanted the story to build faster and faster, to a near frenetic pace, where it almost becomes a race to solve the crime before she unravels completely.

The violence. Believe it or not, the violence got toned down a fair bit compared to earlier drafts. I never wanted it to be gratuitous, but I feel that when a character is going up against brutal and ruthless adversaries--true stone killers--that there is a high probability they will be involved in very extreme, life or death situations. Sloane's condition also makes her reckless at times, and she puts herself in harm's way more than any normal person would. It's also possible that I was channeling some of the Nordic authors who I love so much, who tend to write darker and more brutal scenes than their North American counterparts. That said, book 2 (CALL OF THE VOID) is a little less violent, a little less brutal, but perhaps even more unsettling.

I think the trio of Hammerhead Jed, Dave Wakeland, and Sloane Donovan would either make for an indominable force or would turn out to be the stuff of comic books (which is not necessarily a bad thing). I am friends with both those authors and am a huge fan of what they have done with their respective series'. Tonally I think my work is a bit more similar to Sam's, and A.J.'s is a bit more slapstick, but God only knows what would happen if you threw the three characters into a story. It's fun to think about anyhow, and A.J. and I have tossed the idea around a few times.

The name Sloane. Originally it was Sloan. I just thought it was a great, strong sounding name. No idea where it came from, I just liked it. A few early readers said it sounded masculine, so I tried it with an e on the end, and I liked that even better. I'm forever jotting down names I think sound unique, and my memory is terrible. I may well have seen or read something about the Sloane Rangers, but if I did I can't remember. Blame it on taking too many punches during my aborted boxing career. 

Thanks once again, Bill! 


J.T. Siemens

p.s. Feel free to publish my answers and edit as necessary.



  1. What an interesting exchange! Thanks to both of you. I always appreciate it when a book's cover, title, and content are related to each other. The book feels more cohesive that way. And as for violence, that's an interesting question. As a rule, I'm not much of a one for a lot of violence in what I read. But there are some characters who are brutal; portraying them without violence wouldn't fit the story.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. "Cohesive" is an apt word for To Those Who Killed Me. The cover will draw book buyers.

  2. Thanks for the comments, and for the questions you posed, Bill. That is the first time I've been asked some of those questions, and I was forced to do a little self reflection as to why I wrote things a certain way. Very helpful for my growth as a writer.

    1. Jeremy: Thanks for the comment. I find self reflection useful. I try to avoid brooding. You are off to a good start in your writing career with your first novel.