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A Sense of Place

From the White House to Tennessee, This Bestselling Author Will Always Have a Home Here

J.T. Ellison never planned to become a novelist.

The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and Emmy winner is a Colorado native. However, her life changed trajectories when her family relocated to Washington, DC, where she attended Langley High School. “It was right next to CIA headquarters, the biggest culture shock you can imagine.” More changes came when she took a semester off after her first year of college and moved home. Her mother gave her an ultimatum. “If you’re going to be here,” she said, “you’re going to work with me.” 

At the White House. 

“I went from stuffing envelopes to working with senior staff on the first Bush campaign.” After that, she transferred to Randolph Macon Women’s College and later interned in Cabinet Affairs. “Phenomenally cool. I set up the room for the Cabinet meetings and communicated between the President’s office and the Cabinet. Presidential politics is very intoxicating.”  

She received her master's degree in political management from George Washington University and worked for a few years in D.C. Shortly after she and her husband moved to Tennessee, she required major back surgery, and her recovery allowed time for reading. That brought the most significant change of all. 

“I read Tami Hoag, Michael Connelly, and all these amazing crime fiction writers.” A librarian was instrumental in her next step, suggesting John Sanford’s books. “I was three deep into his Prey series, and I was like, this is it. This is my thing.”

The idea for her debut novel, ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS, came as she drove down I-40 on her way to physical therapy. “My main character came out fully formed. Taylor is half cop, half rockstar, and I wanted to tie her to Nashville.   

“I want people to read my books and think, ‘I want to go to that town!’ Every book I write has a local connection. If we hadn’t moved here, I wouldn’t be the writer that I am. This place made me, and I want to give back to it as much as I can.” 

In 2015, Nashville Public Television asked J.T. to cohost A Word on Words, inspired by A Word on Words with John Seigenthaler, the literary program created by NPT that ran for forty years. “Being asked to carry on the literacy legacy of John Seigenthaler is one of the greatest honors of my life.” 

J.T. has interviewed local bestsellers Ariel Lawhon and Ruta Sepetys, as well as Tayari Jones and Delia Owens, and finds a couple of authors especially memorable. “Going to jail with Margaret Atwood was definitely a highlight. Interviewing John Grisham was an amazing moment. How often do we meet our literary heroes?”

In addition to the Lt. Taylor Jackson series, she wrote the Dr. Samantha Owens series and five stand-alone novels. Hand-picked by Catherine Coulter to co-write the A Brit in the FBI series, she also publishes under the pseudonym of Joss Walker, co-writing the Jayne Thorne, CIA Librarian series with Alisha Klapheke and R.L. Perez.  

With 25 books in print and four more in the pipeline, J.T. isn’t slowing down anytime soon.  Her next release, IT’S ONE OF US, releases on February 28, 2023. 

It’s set in Nashville.