Jenna Black

Read more about Jenna Black.

Interview By: Tamazon

Date: March 01, 2007

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Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?

I write paranormal romance for Tor and urban fantasy for Bantam Dell. My first novel, Watchers in the Night , came out in November 2006. Watchers is the first book in a paranormal romance series, and I've got two more books in that series coming out in 2007. In December of 2007, Bantam Dell will release The Devil Inside, the debut novel of my new urban fantasy series.

If you could be one of your characters - Who would you be? And why?

Honestly, I wouldn't want to be one of my characters. I'm a cruel, evil author, and I put them through so much! I tend to write about people who have what I call damaged souls-the events they have weathered throughout their lives have had profound effects on them, effects from which they have difficulty recovering. Of course, a big emphasis in my novels is in that recovery. Still, I'd rather jump all the way to the end to the part where the characters have recovered rather than going through the angst they have to battle along the way.

What's your favorite genre to read?

I love reading urban fantasy. I love the strong female lead characters, and I love the voice of the genre-so witty and sarcastic and full of attitude! Naturally, I also love paranormal romance. I tend to go on reading binges, where for a while I can't get enough of one particular genre-until I suddenly get hooked on another one. Right now, urban fantasy is definitely a binge for me. I still read and love the paranormal romances, but it's the urban fantasies I really crave.

What do you do on a typical writing day?

I start out by trudging up to my computer while guzzling coffee as I try to shake the sleep clouds from my head. (I'm not the best morning person in the world.) I usually read emails and look at some of my favorite Internet sites (like MySpace and Romance Divas) while I wait for my brain to be fully functional. Then I drag myself to a computer that has no Internet access and no games-nothing installed on it other than word processing software. And I write.

I tend to write in multiple short (45 minutes to an hour) spurts throughout the morning and early afternoon. Between spurts, I check email or do chores or work some miscellaneous hours for my day job-I have ten hours of flex time I have to work every week at the day job. I have to be done with all my writing tasks by 1:00 on weekdays, because I'm officially on the clock for the day job from 1-5 every day.

Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?

I've got two more books in my Guardians of the Night series coming up this year. Secrets in the Shadows (May 2007) is the story of Jules and Hannah, two secondary characters from Watchers . Jules finds out the man who betrayed him and turned him into a vampire is living in Baltimore (or "dead and kicking," as the back cover says) and sets out to get revenge. Hannah follows to try to keep him out of trouble, but neither one of them has a clue the deadly game they're about to be dragged into.

Shadows on the Soul (September 2007) is the story of Gabriel, a character you'll meet in Secrets . Gabriel is the ultimate bad boy, and redeeming him after some of the things he does in Secrets was a difficult-but very exciting and fun-challenge. I hope everyone will end up loving him as much as I do, despite his very prominent flaws.

The Devil Inside (December 2007) is the first book in my new urban fantasy series about Morgan Kingsley, a kick-ass exorcist who finds herself possessed by a demon who's embroiled in a war of succession. I think Bantam Dell did a great job of describing the book on the back cover, so I'll give you that rather than re-inventing the wheel:

Exorcism isn't a job, it's a calling-and a curse. Just ask Morgan Kingsley, a woman who has a stronger aura than any demon. Or so she thought. Now, in a pair of black leather pants and a kick-ass tattoo, Morgan is heading back to Philadelphia after a nasty little exorcism-and her life is about to be turned upside the demon that's gotten inside her...

Not just any demon. Six-foot-five-inches of dark, delicious temptation, this one is to die for-that is, if he doesn't get Morgan killed first. Because while some humans vilify demons and others idolize them, Morgan's demon is leading a war of succession no human has ever imagined. For a woman trying to live a life, and hold on to the almost-perfect man, being possessed by a gorgeous rebel demon will mean a wild ride of uninhibited thrills, shocking surprises, and pure, unadulterated terror.

Please tell us what you have planned next?

I'm currently working on the fourth book in the Guardians of the Night series (Drake's book), scheduled for May 2008. As soon as I finish that one, it'll be time to get to work on the next Morgan Kingsley book. I don't have release date for that one, but it'll be sometime in 2008.

Who is your perfect hero? And why?

I don't know that I can describe my "perfect" hero-I'm not really into perfect. But I can describe my favorite kind of hero. I love the deeply flawed hero with the heart of gold. I love to write about (and read about) people who've gotten to a point in their lives where they've given up their hopes of being happy, and then learn that all isn't lost after all. I think that touches on a primal fantasy that no matter how bad life gets, there's always hope that it will not just get better, but get good .

What kind of research do you do for your books? Do you enjoy the research process?

As little as possible. I hate research. I don't have the patience for it, because writers always have these totally off-the-wall questions. Usually, when I have something I need to research, it's not something I can just quickly look up. One example I've used when whining, er, that is, writing, about research is when Morgan, the heroine in my urban fantasy novel, had to use a Taser. Because the scene didn't end after she fired the Taser, I had to figure out just what you do with the darn thing after you've fired it-whether there's something you have to eject, whether you have to roll the wires back up and stuff them into something, that kind of thing. I looked all over the Internet and found tons of information about firing a Taser-but nothing about what happens afterward. It was one or two lines of my novel, but I didn't dare get it wrong. And not being a research junkie, I really would have rather spent that time writing.

Whenever I can possibly get away with it, I'll make things up rather than do research. Obviously, it's not always possible (see above), and I do the research when I need to. It's just not something I enjoy doing, or feel that I'm very good at doing.

Do deadlines help or hinder your muse?

Usually, they help me. I like having the concrete goal in mind, and the deadline pressure helps me keep my butt in the chair. What I've found with my current book, though, is if you have any kind of blockage, the deadline can feel like a ticking time bomb. When I couldn't figure out how to make my subplots converge in my current book, the realization that I had a tight deadline was always at the back of my mind, and it was sometimes hard not to panic. And of course, panic doesn't help creativity one bit. It does all seem to be working itself out now, so all's well that ends well. I still like having deadlines, still like having that driving force behind me.

What is the best and advice you have ever received?

The worst advice I ever received was to slavishly follow all publishers' guidelines for submissions. (Note the word "slavishly." I'm not saying to ignore guidelines.) For the 16 years I wasn't published, I dutifully submitted books one at a time, no simultaneous submissions. I can't tell you how many times I had to wait a year or more to get a response. And during that waiting time, I refused to submit the book to another publisher, because most publishers say they won't accept simultaneous submissions. It made for a painfully slow, agonizing, frustrating process. If I had it all to do over again, I'd probably go ahead and make simultaneous submissions despite the guidelines. I think it would have saved some of my sanity.

The best advice was for me to take responsibility for my own career. This meant always acting as though my career was under my control, even when sometimes it feels like I'm a victim in the winds of fate. This advice was crucial to my finally getting published. I had gotten to a point where I'd convinced myself I needed to get that lucky break to get my foot in the door. And that was a dismal prospect, because you can't control luck. Then I went to a workshop where the teachers were adamant in their belief that luck has nothing to do with it, that if you write well enough and long enough, you'll break in. It was a total change of attitude for me, and it changed the way I approached my career. When I began to believe that it was my own abilities, not the whims of luck, that would ultimately get me published, I started working much, much harder at my writing. I started treating it like a career, rather than a hobby. A year later, I had an agent. Two years later, I had my first contract. And within about 18 months of that, I had six books under contract. So it was by far the best advice I've ever received.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

My writing process seems to be different with each book. I used to always be a "pantser," plotting as I went. Then at the workshop where I got the wonderful advice to take control of my career, I had an assignment where I had to write a synopsis for a book I hadn't even started yet. I was extremely intimidated and didn't think I could do it. But I'm not one to back down from a challenge, so I gave it a try. It worked, and I found that having that synopsis made writing the book easier, because I didn't get stuck on plot points.

I wrote the next eight or ten books always doing the synopsis first. Then I started working on my urban fantasy novel, a book that I didn't have a contract for. I was just testing the waters to see if I could write an urban fantasy, because I so enjoyed reading them. I doubted my ability to write in first person-when I'd tried in the past, my voice always came out old-fashioned and ponderous, which was completely wrong for urban fantasy. So before I committed myself to the effort to write the whole novel, I thought I'd see if I could manage the hip, edgy, urban fantasy voice. I wrote the first chapter, and felt like I was getting it. I knew what was going to happen in the next chapter, so I decided to go ahead and write that instead of interrupting the flow to do a synopsis. And that's how the whole book went-I kept knowing what was going to happen in the next scene, so I never had to formally plot the book.

So now I never know whether I'm going to have a synopsis or not before I start writing the book. I take it on a case-by-case basis.

Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how does this help or hinder you?

I have belonged to critique groups on and off. I think that the right group can provide valuable feedback and really help the author gain perspective on her own work. My critique groups have been great, and have really helped me hone my craft. However, I'm a very fast writer, and that makes me a tough fit for critique groups. I don't want to monopolize anyone's time, but now that I have deadlines to meet, I can't wait for the critiques. So at this point, for the most part my agent and my editor are my critique group, which seems to be working out just fine for me.

Thank you for this opportunity!

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