It’s something that can only happen once in a lifetime–when your debut novel is published! After all the hopes and hard work,  and triumphs and disappointments, and unexpected bumps in the road–someone says yes, and then someone else says yes, and almost before you know it  (ha!) you get a jpeg of your cover and boxes of books and a book tour and–whoa. There you have it. You are a published author.

So we Career Authors delightedly welcome a brand new debut author: the determined and hard-working and extremely talented Christina Estes, whose OFF THE AIR came out this week from Minotaur Books. It’s the first in a mystery series featuring a television reporter in Phoenix. And today she has the fun of doing something only a published author can do– officially take us Behind The Pages of her book!


What’s the title of your book—and was that always the title?

I submitted the book as Off the Air and the publisher kept it.


Who’s the main character of your book—and was that always their name?

Jolene Garcia is my main character. She’s named after Dolly Parton’s famous song. It wasn’t her name until after I dug deeper into her backstory and family. Turned out, Jolene’s mother loved Dolly’s song.


At the start of the book, what’s the character’s goal?

Jolene’s goal is to be the lead reporter and get all the scoops involving the murder of a controversial radio talk show host.


What was the core idea for this novel—a plot point? a theme?—and where did it come from?

While writing, I kept thinking about our need for recognition. How we get it—or don’t get it—can have a powerful impact.

By being the first to report exclusive information or break a story, Jolene gets the acknowledgement she craves. Part of her desire for recognition comes from her upbringing, which she doesn’t yet realize or chooses not to accept.


At what point did you come up with the final version of the first line? What is it?

The first line came several years ago and never changed. I wanted to give readers a sense of place and time.

“When most people think of Larry Lemmon, they remember the guy who called for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border long before Donald Trump did.”


Did you know the ending of the book when you started?

I didn’t have a specific suspect or motive in mind, which turned out okay because there is no shortage of people with different motives.


What’s something in this book that you’ve never done before?

Publicly shared my feelings in the acknowledgements.


What part of your tour (or launch week) are you most excited about?

I’m most excited to share my love for Phoenix. While Off the Air is fiction, it features real neighborhoods and businesses. When I moved to Phoenix I never expected to stay past my three-year contract. That was more than twenty years ago. Phoenix is home.


Who in your #writingcommunity deserves a special shout-out for supporting you in writing this story? Why?

J.A. Jance and Hank Ryan for writing books that have entertained me for years and inspired me to write.

Kellye Garrett and Mia P. Manansala for reading an early draft and encouraging me to keep writing.

In addition to J.A., Hank, Kellye, and Mia, authors Linda Castillo and Lee Goldberg read an advance copy and kindly provided thoughtful blurbs.

Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen Bookstore, for not only championing my work, but countless other debut authors.


How do you want readers to feel when they close the book? 

I hope readers feel entertained, have a better understanding of local news, and want to read Jolene’s next adventure.


What did you learn from this book? About writing, or life, or the writing life?

I’ve learned a ton! The answer would vary depending on when asked, so here are five:

I’m proud of myself for not giving up.

Crime fiction writers are kind.

The debut journey is more emotional than I ever imagined it would be.

I love my main character, Jolene. I know she’s not a real person but I don’t care. I still love her.

I will never be 100% satisfied with a manuscript.


Emmy award-winning reporter Christina Estes received the Tony Hillerman Prize for Best First Mystery Set in the Southwest. Off the Air (from Minotaur Books)  is the first in a series featuring a local TV reporter. Having worked for several local TV stations, Christina now reports for the NPR member station in Phoenix.