"New Worlds Are Our Oyster."
I write paranormal romance for Tor and urban fantasy for Bantam Dell. My first novel, Watchers in the Night, came out from Tor in November 2006. I've got two more novels in that series coming out this year--Secrets in the Shadows, coming May 2007, and Shadows on the Soul, coming September 2007.
The Devil Inside, the first book in my new urban fantasy series, will be a December 2007 release. Visit me on the web at www.JennaBlack.com
An Interview with Jenna Black
PNR: Can you tell us a little about how you started writing; was it something you have always wanted to do?
Jenna B.: I wrote my first “book” when I was in fifth grade. It was an autobiography, complete with illustrations in crayon and a construction paper cover. So I guess you’d have to say it’s something I always wanted to do!
PNR: Could you tell us about your writing routine, how do you balance writing and personal time? What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
Jenna B.: Mornings are my writing time. I’m not really what you’d call a morning person—as you’d know if you talked to me before my first cup of coffee—but my mind seems to be a little less cluttered then. Because I’ve got my mornings pretty much blocked out as my official writing time, I don’t have to fight too hard to balance my writing and my personal time—unless I have a killer deadline that means I have to work in the afternoons and/or evenings. Then there’s no balance to it, because the deadline always wins.
My favorite thing to do when not writing is reading. (Big surprise!) I also enjoy playing golf (I’m very bad), ballroom dancing (I wasn’t too bad once upon a time), and working out. (Okay, I lied about that last one—I don’t really enjoy working out, but I keep trying to convince myself I do.)
PNR: What is the best part about being a writer? The most frustrating?
Jenna B.: The best part about being a writer for me is hearing from readers. I love knowing that people have read and enjoyed my books. I was especially moved when I got an email from a reader who was seriously ill and told me my books helped make the bad times better for her. Books have always been my escape during the worst times in my life, and one of the thoughts that kept me going while I was struggling to sell that first novel was the desire to provide that same kind of escape for others. Learning that I’d done so for at least one reader brought tears to my eyes.
The most frustrating part of being a writer is how many things about your career are not under your control. You can’t control the whims of the market, the editorial shifts in your publishing house, the closing of lines, the cover art, the marketing . . . You name it. (Some of those things you can control when you’re a mega star, but I’m not there yet!)
PNR: Which author(s) is your favorite? And who has most influenced you work?
Jenna B.: This is an impossible question to answer. I have so many favorites! But I must admit to being heavily influenced by urban fantasy authors, such as Laurell K. Hamilton, Kelley Armstrong, and Rachel Caine.
PNR: What do you consider to be the key elements of a great story?
Jenna B.: To me, the key elements are great characters and compelling conflict. Before getting hooked on Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, I’d found that with most series I read, I’d start to get tired of them after maybe five books. When I got eight or nine books into the Anita Blake series and was still as hooked as ever, I tried to analyze what it was about those books that made them different for me. What I decided is that the characters—both primary and secondary—were so fascinating and multi-dimensional that I still felt there was more to learn about them, and that the conflicts were so deep and emotional that I kept wanting to watch Anita grapple with them.
PNR: Being a newly published author, who or what has been the biggest influence on your work? Who or what has been your biggest support?
Jenna B.: The biggest influence on my work has come from Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith. They ran a fabulous, two-week workshop that I attended in 2003 and that completely turned my career around. It was because of them that I “discovered” romance, and that I learned to step out of my comfort zone to try new things. They inspired me to rededicate myself to my writing career, and to work harder than ever. I wish they still ran the workshop so I could recommend it to all writers on the cusp!
The greatest support has come from my local RWA chapter, the Heart of Carolina Romance writers. Having such an amazing group of people who gave me words of encouragement when I was in danger of succumbing to frustration was invaluable. And having them to share my excitement when I finally sold was just an amazing experience.
PNR: Congratulations on the release of SECRETS IN THE SHADOWS from Tor Books, readers and reviewers are excited about this second title in your Guardians of the Night Series; could you tell us where the idea came from and a little about your vision for the series?
Jenna B.: Strangely enough, the idea for SECRETS IN THE SHADOWS actually came from the title. I was brainstorming possible titles for future books in the series, trying to make them similar to WATCHERS IN THE NIGHT. I wrote down all kinds of ideas, some of them good, some of them terrible. But when I wrote down SECRETS IN THE SHADOWS, it seemed to resonate with me. I had always known that one of my characters from WATCHERS (Eli, the founder of the Guardians of the Night) had a lot of secrets. He’s very much a mysterious figure in the first book. I realized that having the Guardians learn some of his darker secrets would be a good basis for a book, and so I set out trying to figure out how to set that investigation into motion. That led me to add even more secrets to Eli’s past, and the story just progressed from there. I’m convinced my subconscious was talking to me when that title popped into my mind.
As for the series, right now it’s up to four books. In the next book, SHADOWS ON THE SOUL, I expanded my world quite a bit, exploring the culture of vampires in the Old World, who are considerably older than our American vamps. You’ll be seeing a lot of conflict between the Old World and the New World vampires as the series progresses, and you’ll understand a lot more about what makes Eli tick.
PNR: For readers who are not familiar with your Guardians of the Night Series, could you give us an overview?
Jenna B.: The premise of the series is that killing is an addiction for vampires. If a fledgling vampire never kills, he or she can survive on animal blood. However, the addiction is more powerful than any known to mankind, and even a single kill has the potential to leave a vampire helplessly addicted. The Guardians of the Night are a group of vampires who survive on animal blood and whose mission is to destroy Killers.
The Guardians are at a disadvantage, however, because with the kill comes superior power, both psychic and physical. The Guardians live forever on the edge, out-powered by the Killers and always teetering on the brink of temptation.
PNR: Can you tell us about the challenges you face in world building and making it work with the ideas you have in mind for the progression of your characters and the series? Do you write your characters to fit the world you have created or vice versa?
Jenna B.: I’m a very character-oriented writer, so everything in my world stems from the characters. I tend to like working with darker characters, those who see the world in shades of gray and are always in danger of succumbing to their darker natures. That’s how I came up with the idea of the blood addiction. I wanted to write a romance where my vampires can be the good guys, but where the reader knows that very little separates them from the bad guys. And as the series progressed, my heroes became darker, to the point that the hero of SHADOWS ON THE SOUL is a Killer—with a heart of gold, naturally.
PNR: Do you feel your writing is character driven or plot driven? How do you balance these two elements?
Jenna B.: My plots are driven by my characters. I have lessons that my characters need to learn over the course of each book, and I use the plot to teach them these lessons. I don’t see it as much of a balancing act—it’s not like I have to choose between plot development and character development. The two are inextricably woven together in my mind.
PNR: Could you tell us a little about how you develop your characters? Who has been your favorite character to write? The most challenging?
Jenna B.: My favorite character to write (in my paranormal romances) was Hannah, the heroine of SECRETS IN THE SHADOWS. She’s a real firecracker, always ready with snappy comeback—the kind I could never think of myself on the spur of the moment. In WATCHERS IN THE NIGHT, she comes off as if she’s oozing with self-confidence, the kind of woman who’s so strong and cocky she doesn’t need anyone. In SECRETS, I got to delve beneath the façade she shows the world and find her hidden vulnerabilities.
The most challenging by far was Gabriel, the hero of SHADOWS ON THE SOUL. He is a bad, bad boy in SECRETS, and the idea of trying to redeem him into a romantic hero was daunting, to say the least. I pretty much loved him from the start, but I didn’t know if my readers were going to, so as I wrote his story, I was constantly battling my own self-doubt. He is definitely not your traditional romance hero, but that was what made writing SHADOWS so rewarding.
PNR: How would you describe the sensuality level of your books; do you find it challenging to write the love/sex scenes?
Jenna B.: My books are pretty hot, though not erotic-romance-hot. When I wrote my very first romance and had to tackle my very first graphic sex scene, I must admit it was quite a struggle. I really had to push myself to get it written, and it took far longer than it should have to write those pages. Since then, however, I haven’t had too much of a problem. Once I got past my early inhibitions, it became a natural part of telling the story. The sex scenes in my stories reveal a great deal about my characters, and thus they are yet another plot device to let me explore my favorite aspect of writing, characterization.
PNR: Why do you feel the vampire is such a popular character in books, movies and television?
Jenna B.: One of the aspects of vampires that I myself find appealing is the allure of their dark sides. Vampires at their worst are apex predators, preying on human beings, taking the lives of others in order to preserve their own lives. They are creatures who live in a state of absolute selfishness, and—even better—they have a paranormal “excuse” for why they live that way. It becomes not a character flaw, but a necessity of life. Who hasn’t at some time or other wished she could just shrug off the responsibilities of life and do exactly what she wants to do without regard to anyone else’s needs? I think reading about vampires can be a bit of a vicarious thrill.
PNR: Paranormal romance is experiencing an incredible surge in popularity, what do you feel accounts for the sudden interest in the genre? What is it about the paranormal genre that captures your imagination?
Jenna B.: I started out writing science fiction and fantasy, so for me paranormal romance has been a natural progression. I love the freedom of paranormal romance, of being able to create my own worlds to fit my needs. I read mostly for the pure joy of escapism, and paranormal romances take me that much further out of the real world and into something more exciting.
As to what has made paranormal romances so popular with the world at large, I honestly don’t know. It’s not like the genre appeared out of nowhere, so I don’t know why it suddenly took off now. I’ve heard some people attribute it to the popularity of TV series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. That seems as good an explanation as any. (Though one could then wonder why those shows suddenly took off . . .)
PNR: What is your favorite genre to write? Is there any style or genre of book that you would like to try but haven’t yet?
Jenna B.: My favorite genre to write at the moment is urban fantasy. I first tried writing it because I loved reading it so much, but I was very skeptical of my ability to write in first person. When I’d tried in the past, my voice had always come out sounding like it came out of the nineteenth century. I decided to give urban fantasy a try anyway, and somehow, magically, it clicked for me. The tone and voice came easily to me, and so far, it’s just been a pleasure to write.
WATCHERS IN THE NIGHT, my first commercially published novel, was actually the 18th novel I’d completed during my 16-year quest for publication. I tried just about every subgenre of romance, fantasy, and science fiction there is, trying to find my niche. (And often, as with the urban fantasy, just to see if I could do it.) So no, I don’t think there is a genre I’d like to try that I haven’t yet.
PNR: Could you tell us about your current projects, what can readers expect to see in the coming months? A sneak peek at your new Morgan Kingsley series perhaps?
Jenna B.: SHADOWS ON THE SOUL, the third book in my Guardians of the Night series, will be out on August 28th. (My birthday! What a neat present!) And THE DEVIL INSIDE, the first book in my new urban fantasy series will come out on November 27th. I’ll have another book in each series out in 2008, though I don’t have firm dates for those releases yet.
My new urban fantasy series is about Morgan Kingsley, an exorcist with an attitude who finds out she’s possessed by the king of the demons. Worse, he’s embroiled in a war of succession led by his brothers, who want him dead. Morgan has to find a way to protect the demon king, who turns out to be the only advocate for human rights within the demon community. And meanwhile, she has to find a way to keep herself alive as the world as she knows it unravels around her.
You can read chapter one of THE DEVIL INSIDE on the Books page of my website. (www.JennaBlack.com/books.htm)
PNR: Thank you Jenna, for taking time out to talk to us. Where can readers find out what’s new and how can they contact you?
Jenna B.: Readers can find out all about my upcoming releases at www.JennaBlack.com. I also have a MySpace page at www.MySpace.com/JennaBlackBooks. You can contact me through either of these sites, or you can email me at JennaBlackBooks@aol.com.
Play the Vampire Hunters Game
Guardians of the Night
August 28, 2007
Guardians of the Night: Book 3
The baddest of the bad boys…
Gabriel is a five hundred year old vampire with the soul of a Killer. He has defeated his mother in a battle for the territory of Baltimore, and vowed to take vengeance upon his father, the Master of Philadelphia, for a centuries-old betrayal.
Jezebel, Gabriel's new fledgling, is a soul as scarred as his own, yet Gabriel finds that the ice around his heart slowly melts when she is near. But one of Gabriel's ancient enemies has targeted her--and if Gabriel wants to save her, he will have to abandon his plans for revenge and join forces with his father.
The question is not whether or not Gabriel can redeem himself from his past, but whether he can ever forgive himself…
May 1, 2007
Guardians of the Night: Book 2
They hunt in every major city, hidden by the crowds, shielded by disbelief. They are Killers, and their prey is human.
Not all vampires are Killers. The Guardians of the Night sacrifice the superior physical and psychic strength that comes with feeding on humans to protect them. But the Guardians walk a thin line, for even a single kill could leave them helplessly addicted to murder.
Jules Gerard has vowed that he will never become a Killer. But when he discovers that the man who turned him into a vampire is dead and kicking in Baltimore, the allure of extra power is tempting.
Standing in his way is a human, spitfire Hannah Moore, who has followed him to Baltimore to help him confront his past. Hannah doesn't seem to realize how dangerous vampires can be--and despite his façade of disdain, Jules has a real soft spot for the petite P.I.
Jules is going to have to choose: vengeance or love? Damnation or redemption?
October 1, 2006
Guardians of the Night: Book 1
When detective-turned-P.I. Carolyn Mathers was left at the altar, she never once thought her fiancé had been turned into a vampire. Two years later, Gray reappears, bringing murder, mystery, and an unbelievable tale of Guardians, blood-thirsty Killers, and his own transformation with him.
And he's been accused of murder.
A first-rate P.I., Carolyn is determined to help. Gray won't allow what he is now to taint her -- but Carolyn vows to never let him go again.
But will helping Gray mean becoming a creature of the night?
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