Interview with Jenn Bennett plus giveaway
Last year while peeking around the internet looking for upcoming books, a certain cover caught my eye. It was so pretty! It was a book by a debut author, something that tends to make me a little nervous, but the blurb convinced me to give the book a try. Closer to release date I noticed that none of my friends had read this book yet…and for some odd reason that made me nervous. I started to wonder what I got myself into when I agreed to read this book. But I cracked open the cover and got sucked in from page one. Wow…it was an amazing book. In fact, it ended up being my second most favorite read of 2011. I told everyone I knew to read this book – and those who listened loved it too. The book was Kindling the Moon and the incredibly talented author who penned this masterpiece was Jenn Bennett. Now, with the second book in the series, Summoning the Night, due to release in 5 days, I am super excited to welcome Jenn to the blog today to answer some questions about her books, her characters and her luck with the publishing world.
I can’t believe this but apparently there are some people out there who have yet to read an Arcadia Bell book and who are not familiar with the series. Could you explain to these soon-to-be-Cady-Bell readers what your series is about?
Thanks so much for having me on the fabulous YMKAC blog, Julie! Here’s a quickie Arcadia Bell for Dummies: Girl who grew up in occult society was conceived during weird ritual that gave her mucho magical power and the ability to see Earthbound demons walking around in human bodies. Girl’s parents get accused of nasty crimes against occult societies, so girl separates from them and goes underground. Ends up in California running a tiki bar that caters to Earthbounds. Falls for Earthbound. Crazy things happen. Occasional sexytimes. Urban fantasy/paranormal romance hybrid series.
Book two, Summoning the Night, releases on Tuesday! *tells Jenn to duck while I pop open the champagne* What can readers expect from this latest installment?
When we last left Cady, her world had been turned upside down. In SUMMONING, she is tapped by the leader of the Hellfire Club (a rich Earthbound cabal) to uncover who’s kidnapping teenagers of Hellfire members. Readers can expect to meet new characters, some of them not-so-nice, see Cady and Lon becoming more comfortable with each other, and watch Cady struggle with her newfound powers. If I had to distil this down to one overriding theme, I’d say this book was about Cady, Lon, and Jupe becoming a family unit—focused, in particular, on Cady and Jupe’s relationship. I’m extremely proud of this book. I worked hard on it, and I’m pleased with how it turned out.
When you finished writing Kindling the Moon, did you know where Summoning the Night would go or did the story unfold itself as you wrote it?
I had a general idea where I wanted to take the series over time (I know the final outcome of the series) but I wrote the two books a year apart. And they were vastly different writing experiences. KINDLING was my debut. I was a newbie. When it came time to write SUMMONING, I knew there were certain themes I wanted to develop. I’m a character-centered writer. So the relationships between my characters always shape the plot, which is malleable for me.
You came up with some pretty creepy-arsed demons and villains in Summoning the Night. Nightmare worthy really. The magic, the story…all of it is quite spooky. Do you ever creep yourself out when writing the spooky stuff?
It’s probably a little sick, but causing nightmares makes me happy. I’m a big fan of Spooky. My house is brimming with horror movies. And I’ve always been drawn to dark literature: Poe, Ambrose Bierce, M.R. James, Lovecraft. Urban fantasy is often a mix of fantasy, horror, sci-fi, detective mystery, romance, and action. It seems to me that a lot of UF series are dominated by action & fantasy. However, my books lean strongly toward horror/romance/mystery. That’s what I do well. That’s what I like to read.
One of the most remarkable characters in your series is Jupiter (Jupe). He’s 13 years old and completely endearing, most especially in book two. Where did the idea for his character come from? Adding a teenage son to your heroine’s love interest’s life was a pretty risky move since kids in books often distract. But Jupe actually adds to Lon and Cady’s relationship! And where on earth did the name Jupiter come from? I mean, why not Paul? Or Ben? Or Brian?
Jupe came out of my head fully formed, much like Athena from the head of Zeus! Ha! But seriously, Jupe almost writes himself. I imagined him in one afternoon. I don’t plan his dialogue or actions. They just . . . happen. When I came up with the series, I knew that Lon was going to be a strong, silent type, and I knew he was going to be much older than Cady. I wanted “Motormouth” Jupe to bridge the gap. He’s closer to Cady’s age, and he’s deliriously open and communicative. Lon’s total opposite. But in a weird way, I think Jupe is the expression of a part of Lon’s personality that he has trouble showing. I think we might be surprised by Lon’s secret side. But as far as the name Jupiter? It’s true that I have a thing for quirky names. But like Jupe says in KINDLING, he really was named after a poet: Jupiter Hammon, a slave who was the first published African-American poet.
When you first came up with the idea for this series, did you sit to write it right away or did it stew in your mind for a while and got some polish before you actually sat down to put it to paper er…computer screen?
This is going to make some people tear their hair out, but from the day I came up with the idea for the series to the day I started sending it out to literary agents: 7 weeks. It was a fast and furious experience. I guess I was inspired! I’ll blame that on Lon. The first scene I came up with was the smutty scene in Lon’s library, in which he performs the memory spell with Cady. I really wanted to write that. It was a good motivator.
Your books contain earth-bound demons and witches…but with a twist. Did you ever think to yourself “Okay Jenn. There are hundreds, no thousands of books with demons and witches. Yours must be different. Yours must be kick ass! Now think of an awesome twist. And…go!”?
Boy, do I wish it happened this way! It’s both a blessing and burden, but everything I do is a little . . . uh, different. I was the weird chick in high school. The one who dressed crazy and listened to odd music. I’ve always been attracted to all things outcast, underdog, and strange. Coming up with twisty, crazy book ideas is easy for me. Too easy. My problem is making it palpable for the general public. Last year I wrote a manuscript that included: a purple monkey who reads minds, Greek-style temples in the middle of cities, ancestor worship, killer mermaids with steel bones, eight-legged dogs, and Benjamin Franklin as a god. Oh, and did I mention that the heroine was bisexual? This was historical urban fantasy, by the way. My agent probably had a minor stroke. Looking back on it now, I know that something this crazy is completely unsellable to the general public. Taming the creative beast is sometimes difficult.
And once you were finished writing the first book, were you pretty confident that it would be picked up by a publisher?
I was hopeful. I knew I loved what I’d written. But I didn’t allow myself to believe it would be picked up. I’d only been writing for six months, and my first two manuscripts were rejected. Nicely rejected, mind you. Rejected with multi-page personal letters from literary agents who all said that they would gladly look at anything else I wrote in the future. But when I wrote KINDLING, I sent it off and immediately started writing another manuscript. For those who are trying to break into the business and are curious about my stats, here goes: from the day I wrote my very first word—I didn’t start writing until I was well into my thirties, by the way—until the day that Arcadia nabbed me a literary agent? One year, two months. Once Arcadia was pitched to New York, she got offers from more than one of the Big Six publishers and sold in just over six weeks. I don’t think this is typical. I know a lot of writers struggle for years to get published. But I like to believe that I spent a lifetime gaining experience and dreaming up stories inside my head. I’ve always been a professional daydreamer and a skilled liar.
I know we have talked about this but I think everyone who picks up one of your books will want to know how many books do you have planned for the series?
At least six to finish the big story, if I’m lucky. Beyond SUMMONING, I’m contracted for three additional releases, including a novella, which will take Cady through CROSSING THE ÆYTHER, book 4, in spring of 2014.
You are still writing book three in the series, Binding the Shadows *sends you ‘write faster’ vibes* All you told me was “spoiler: BIG THINGS HAPPEN” Okay. Now I’m not freaking out at all. Can you give us any more hints as to what is going to happen to Cady and company on their next adventure?
Ha! Just for you, Julie, I will spill some non-spoilery beans. First, I’ll say that if SUMMONING is the Cady & Jupe Show, then BINDING is the Cady & Lon Show. It’s heavier on the romance front. Right now it has more than one multi-page sex scene. I hope my publisher will let me keep this. Also, we get to meet Lon’s ex, Yvonne. Some old characters are returning, and there will be a MAJOR revelation about Cady’s birthright. I’m putting Cady through some pretty horrible events. Also, I can’t think about the last third of the book without crying my eyes out. SO THERE!
But before Binding the Shadows comes out, there will be a novella released! What can you tell us about that?
The Arcadia 2.5 novella is a special digital promotion, and it will release on Christmas Day, so gift it to yourself! It’s called LEASHING THE TEMPEST and will take place between the events of books 2 and 3. Here is what you need to know: Cady, Lon, Jupe, and Kar Yee on a boat. Every time I say that, I think of the Saturday Night Live digital short with T-Pain, “I’m On a Boat.” My story will not include T-Pain. But maybe it should. . . .
And Arcadia Bell is not the only series you are working on. You are currently writing a historical paranormal romance series that you are hoping will be as lucky as your Cady books and get picked up. Care to share a bit about your newest project.
I’m super, SUPER excited about this project. It takes place in the 1920s, which is a decade I’ve always been particularly drawn to. It’s got a burly Viking bootlegger and a spirit medium. Oh, and there are ZERO purple monkeys, so I think it’s safe for public consumption. It also contains lots of fairly explicit sex, which my beta readers seemed to especially enjoy. So keep your fingers crossed!
Okay, Flash Four time
Flash Four questions about books and writing ~
How long, from start to end, did it take you to write “Summoning the Night”?
Two and half months . . . the first time. Then I rewrote the last half. Twice. So total time spent? Ugh, I don’t want to think about that. I’d probably still be rewriting it if they didn’t take it away from me!
Did you see yourself being a writer as you were growing up?
I wanted to be a nurse until I discovered that the sight of blood sends me into full-fledged panic attacks. Then I wanted to be an Egyptologist. That stuck until college, when I decided to major in art (painting) and thought I might teach it at a university level (since I couldn’t fathom how to make a decent living off painting. This was pre-computer era, btw). Then I ended up managing bookstores, developing products in the Far East for souvenir and arts & crafts companies. And finally, I wrote a book and it suddenly felt like this is what I was born to do—sappy, but true.
In what room of your house do you write from?
I have an office at home with a writing desk that sits in front of a sunny window. It’s filled with books, a cushy reading chair, plotting boards, and two snoring pugs.
Do you tend to come up with the title for your book before you start writing it, while you’re writing it or when it’s all done?
When I’m writing. But they often don’t stick. KINDLING was originally called RUN DEVIL RUN.
Flash four questions about random things ~
Sweet or salty snacks?
Salty! Hello, Zapp’s Spicy Cajun Crawtators and Goldfish crackers.
What color is your toothbrush?
Your high school experience: good or bad?
Mixed. As I mentioned before, I was the weird chick.
What do you like on your pizza?
Mushrooms and olives. Unless I make it myself—which is pretty awesome, if I do say so myself—then I like the oh-so-snobby combination of caramelized onions and arugula.
Thank you SO much Jenn for taking the time to answer my questions. Not only are you a very talented writer but also a very patient person seeing how you never tell me off when I tweet-stalk you and email-stalk you. And seriously people READ THESE BOOKS!
You are absolutely welcome, and feel free to stalk me any ol’ day. It’s been a total pleasure spilling my guts in this interview!
Giveaway time! Jenn is offering a copy of Kindling the Moon OR Summoning the Night to one winner. Just leave a comment telling us which book you would like to win and you’re in! This giveaway is open Canada/U.S. and you must leave your comment by Tuesday April 24th 2012 11:59EST. A big Good Luck to all who enter and a big Thank You to Jenn for the prize!
You can read my gushing review of Kindling the Moon here and you can read my extra-gushing review of Summoning the Night here.