Friday, April 25, 2008

Star Light, Star Bright...Interstellar Interview with Jenna Black

Jenna Black wears dual writing hats as the mastermind behind two hit series—Guardians of the Night for TOR & Morgan Kingsley for Bantam. Her novels have not only gotten sensational praise from peers in her genres, but also garnered her some high-ranking awards including a PEARL and finals in the Daphne du Maurier contest twice.

To what does she owe her sensational writing? Her dare to be an “experience junkie”. She got her BA in Physical Anthropology and French from Duke and has since gone on to travel all seven continents, become a life master in Bridge, sing in a barbershop chorus and…ballroom dance.


I was lucky enough to know her before Miriam Kriss and TOR came knocking. In fact, she was one of the first people who befriended me my first day at Heart of Carolina Romance Writers. I still remember that day like it was yesterday. She came into the coffee shop, after her pitch session with the editor who’d been our presenter, and said she feared she hadn’t done well. Of course, I struck up conversation with, “What do you write?” She said paranormals. At that moment, it was grand to be in like company with another kindred soul who was fighting to be published. Over the past few years I’ve been honored to watch her star start its climb to greatness. Though she’s still as modest and quiet as ever, her writing has finally gotten to speak for itself and set readers' hearts aflame.

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I know that you’d been writing for a long time before Tor plucked up WATCHERS IN THE NIGHT. What gave you the strength to hold on to your dream?

I had indeed. WATCHERS IN THE NIGHT was my 18th completed novel over the course of a 16+ year quest for publication. To tell you the truth, I’m amazed myself that I was able to keep fighting for that long. Nothing was going to make me stop writing, but that didn’t mean I had to keep trying to get published. And yet, I did.

I put a lot of thought into why I kept going, and I think I’ve figured it out. I come from a fairly dysfunctional family, and when I was growing up, my greatest refuge from the insanity was reading. Books took me away from all the difficulties of my life and gave me some much-needed peace. I think a lot of the reason I kept writing—and trying to publish—for so long was the desire to do for other readers what authors had done for me. I wanted to be the one to take them away from it all, if just for a little while.



In your career, is there a moment that made your long fight to be published worth every hardship?

Absolutely! As I said, one of the things that kept me going was the hope that someday, my books could provide readers with an escape, just like other books had done for me. The highlight of my career (so far) was the time I received a message on MySpace from one of my readers. She was gravely ill, and in praising my books she told me, “You help make very bad days oh so much better.” I don’t know when I’ve ever been so moved by anything in my life. I think I went through an entire box of Kleenex!


When you sold the Guardians series, did you have any inkling of Morgan Kingsley’s impending “birth”?

None at all. At that time, I was just starting to read and fall in love with urban fantasies. THE DEVIL INSIDE was almost a whim—a desire to try to write a book in the “new” genre I’d discovered and loved so much. I’d never been very successful writing in first person before, so I was kind of expecting not to do so well with this. However, despite my self-doubt, once I started writing the book, there was no stopping. I was surprisingly comfortable writing in first person, and I was so obsessed with that book that I wrote it in less than two months.


I know that you often go to conferences, including RT which is taking place this month. Has there ever been an event you’ll never forget? Will you don any costumes this year?

I’d have to say the event I’ll never forget is last year’s RT. Not only was it my first time going to RT, it was also my first time attending a conference as a published author. The conference itself was an absolute blast, and finding out that I had fans—who weren’t even related to me!—was almost surreal. I’m really looking forward to RT this year (which I suppose I will have returned from by the time this interview goes up), but I have no plans to don any costumes. Somehow, that seems like a little too much work—especially when I think about packing them!

Do you have a favorite/dreadful reader moment you’d like to share?

I did have a pretty funny reader moment happen when I was doing a book signing once. I was sitting right up front, with a pile of books in front of me and a nice big poster beside me. A couple of women came into the store, and one of them looked at the display and said to her friend, “That looks like just your kind of thing.”

Her friend looked at the poster and the books and said, “Oh, I’ve read her. I don’t like her.” Yes, out loud, right in front of me. But the funny thing is the other woman kept saying how much my books looked like something her friend would enjoy. Frowning, her friend asked me if mine was the book about . . . I don’t remember what exactly it was she asked, except that it bore no resemblance to my books. The best part is that when I told her this wasn’t the book she was thinking of, she ended up buying the book!

If you could write anything other that what you’re writing, what would it be?

I’ve been writing so long, I’ve tried writing practically everything in genres I enjoy reading. Paranormal romances and urban fantasies are by far my favorite right now, so I don’t think at this point in my career I have much interest in writing anything else. (Unless you count the YA urban fantasy I’ve been thinking about as a different genre.) Of course, just because this is what I want to right now doesn’t mean I won’t get hooked on something else in the future.

Since your first sale do you think you’ve changed as a person and/or a writer?

I don’t think I’ve changed much, though I do feel like my writing has gotten stronger. I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps it’s just the input from my editors, or perhaps it’s the fact that I’m now writing continuing series. Before I sold, I’d written books that were meant to be first books in series, but I was never willing to write the next book until I’d sold the first. I think the series format brings out the best in me and that my series are getting stronger as I go.

I sure do wish selling that first (and second, and third, etc.) book had given me a little more self-confidence. However, I still feel nervous and uncertain about each book as I’m writing it, and I still get nervous when each one is released.


And of course I have to ask, which of your characters (especially those heroes) do you adore the most?

It’s got to be Gabriel, the hero of SHADOWS ON THE SOUL. I’m a sucker for wounded heroes, and he’s the most wounded of all. He’s also the most alpha-male hero I’ve written, and while that’s a characteristic I would find highly annoying in a real person, in a fictional character, it’s got lots of sex appeal. Not to mention that I enjoy playing with morally ambiguous characters—good guys who have a bad streak and bad guys who have a good streak. Gabriel’s got a very wide bad streak, and I had a blast trying to turn this quasi-villain into a hero.


Lastly, what lies ahead for you and your cast in the future?

On April 29, HUNGERS OF THE HEARTS, the fourth book of the Guardians of the Night series will hit the shelves. At this point, I’m not sure whether there will be any more books in that series or not.

There will be two more Morgan Kingsley books released this year: THE DEVIL YOU KNOW in August, and THE DEVIL’S DUE in December. I’m currently working on the fourth book of that series, and there will be at least one more after that. I’m certainly keeping busy!

If you'd like to know more about Jenna's novels, check out her awesome website full of fun book trailers, games and hot guys!




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10 comments:

Lynda K. Scott said...

Great interview! I'll admit I haven't yet had the chance to read one of Jenna's books (though I've heard her name many times). I'm going to have to head on over to my favorite bookstore and get one...or two :D

Skylar Masey said...

Lynda~

I will admit I've had WATCHERS since it hit stands, but it was still languishing in my TBR pile. Since Jenna was my guinea pig...er, interviewee today, I finally had cause to drop what I was doing and read the #*#* book!

All I can say is fabulous! It's got hot spiciness, a mystery, vamps, and plenty of hutzpa. As soon as I got up thia am, I went hunting for SECRETS, risking being late for work. Lol. Unfortunately it's MIA, but I know I have it somewhere in my 500 books! The hunt will most certainly continue after 5.

Sherri L. said...

Great Interview! I enjoyed all in the Guardian series. Especially Gabriel! He too was my favorite.
Oh NO, there may be no more of my Guardians?! What a loss :P
But I am pleased to see so many more expected in the Morgan Kingsley series. I did enjoy her story! But, I am so sad that I may be losing my Guardian vampires *sigh*

Thanks for the interview, Skylar. And a BIG thanks to Jenna Black for sharing her story with all of us!

Jenna Black said...

Lynda--get as many as you like. I won't mind a bit. LOL

Skylar--thanks for the interview, and I'm glad you enjoyed the book!

Sherri--don't panic yet. LOL There may still be more Guardian books--I just don't know at this time.

Skylar Masey said...

Now that I've gotten to know the guys (and gals) I'll be sad if TOR deadends the series.

But that's the publishing business for you. Grrr.

Jenna Black said...

I'm trying to figure out how to say this in the vaguest possible manner while still getting the point across. Let's just say that if the series does not continue at Tor, it will not be because Tor "deadended" the series. Until the final decisions are made, I can't be terribly specific in my explanation, if you know what I mean.

Sherri L. said...

Yea!!! I won't cry yet. All is not yet lost with my Guardian vampires. LOL

Thanks, Jenna!

Skylar Masey said...

Woot! I found my copy of SECRETS and SHADOWS. Yeah! I'd hoped to get a copy of HUNGERS, but of course my local B&N didn't break the rules this time!

BTW, Jenna I saw that I never got your to sign SECRETS, so I'll have to get your J. Hancock sometime :0)

Lynda K. Scott said...

Jenna, I'm heading to the bookstore tomorrow. If the first book I get is as good as I suspect it will be, you'll probably hear my husband growling that 'do you really need more books? to which the answer is invariably Yes! LOL

Anyway, I can't wait to try them :D

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Jenna, congratulations on all your success and continuing success. I can really relate to writing as an escape. My family had it's dysfunctional side also, but I mainly read tons of books as an escape from 'society' so to speak.