Jen: Readers, help we resume our interviews with our weekend guest, Jennifer Rardin. Jennifer, please tell us about your newest release, Bite Marks, and where it’s available.
Jennifer: Bite Marks is the sixth adventure in the Jaz Parks series, during which CIA assassins Jaz and the vampire, Vayl, have been assigned to stop a sect of fanatical gnomes from destroying one of NASA’s three eyes to the universe. This particular space station is located in Australia, about half an hour south of the capital. I had a terrific time researching and writing about the area and came away from the novel more sure than ever that I must find a way to visit. Do they still throw stowaways overboard?
All the Jaz Parks novels are available at major chains, online, and with reputable digital distributors. The first three novels have been translated into French, German, and Hungarian, with Spanish, Russian, and Italian translations to come.
Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published: Tell us your call story.
Jennifer: I began writing at about 12, which would be sixth grade. Just silly poems that my friends liked. I was amazed. Not about what I’d come up with. But that other people might enjoy something that had come straight from my head. It still blows me away. I mean, you wouldn’t imagine what useless stuff gets stored up there. I actually know how many kids Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have! And to think the same gray matter conjures up stories that people make an effort to get in touch with me about, just so they can say how they embarrassed themselves by laughing out loud on the bus while they were reading. Spectacular!
As for my call story, I already knew at least three different publishing houses had been looking at my manuscript. So I can’t say I was surprised when my agent called. But when she said, “Jennifer, you need to sit down,” I felt genuinely chilled. We had a very reasonable conversation that I remember very little of, because my whole world had just tilted sideways. And the thing is? It’s still changing. Because I’m still learning this business, figuring out my role, trying to carve my place in an uber-competitive world. And at the same time understanding how blessed I am to be able to say that I’m married to the love of my life. My children are amazing. And my dream of becoming a published writer has come true. (And, believe it or not, that’s only the first half of the story! The second half is only now being written!)
Jen: Describe your writing in three words.
Jen: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?
Jennifer: I’ve tried it both ways, and discovered I work best when I have an outline. I write faster and experience fewer days where I wander around with my hair clutched in my hands yelling to random pieces of furniture, “I don’t know what happens next!”
Jen: How do you pick the character’s names?
Jennifer: Since Jaz and Vayl travel all over the globe, most of the characters they meet get names that are appropriate to the regions where they live. Regarding my major characters, some just popped into my head. Some required a little thought. For instance, I knew Vayl’s given name was Vasil, but I wanted to shorten it, make it both easy to remember and meaningful. So, after working out the best nicknames that would stick in my head, I decided on the final product and to pronounce it like the word “veil” as in “the truth is veiled.” Which made it work on a couple of levels. Hopefully that’s true for everybody in the crew.
Jen: Do you feel as if the characters live with you as your write? Do they haunt your dreams?
Jennifer: They’re usually pretty good about keeping their distance, although occasionally I’ll make some crack that is so quintessentially Jaz or Cole that I have to shake a mental finger at myself and remind myself to leave work in the office where it belongs.
I’ve never dreamed about them specifically, but I have had nightmares after writing particularly violent or gory scenes. Weird perk of the job, isn’t it?
Jen: Is there a genre that you’d like to write? Is there a genre you’ll probably stay away from and why?
Jennifer: I know you’re talking about books here, but what I’m seriously considering writing next is a musical comedy that I’ve been jotting notes on for the past couple of years. I’ve also begun thinking about a play, but the idea for it is fairly new, and the main theme is so heart-rending that I’d have to insert a ton of humor to help the audience get through it. So that will have to stew in my mind a while longer before I’m ready to tackle it.
As for what genre I’d avoid, I think all of them have their up-sides. Just the other day I was thinking that nobody had written a good western in some time, so maybe I should give it a whirl. Long story short—pretty much the only kind of writing you should be surprised to see from me is non-fiction. Because reality’s no fun.
Jen: What five authors or people, from the past or present, have been important to you as an author? What question or comment have you always wanted to say to them?
Jennifer: My freshman English teacher, Mr. Ron Powell, was the first person to recognize that I had real potential. And the first person to encourage me to try to publish my work. I’ve thanked him privately and all he said was, “You always had what it took—I just gave you some tools.” Typical teacher, yeah? So, I guess, what I’d say to him now is, that I’m still grateful. Ron, maybe you don’t know what it is to have so few people believe in you, I mean really get excited about something you can do, that when one person does it feels like a miracle. But I do. And I’ll never forget that you believed in me.
To Stephen King I would say, Your characters and plots have always fascinated me. Your worlds are amazing. Because of that , I once fulfilled a College Creative Writing homework assignment by bringing one of your books to class—and the other students did everything but sneer. Now instructors are teaching your books in College English classes. Ahh, sweet vindication!
Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare always appealed to and inspired me. Not because they wrote works that eventually became required reading in my classes. But because they either wrote about or for regular people. That was the way I could, and still can, connect with them. So to them I would ask at what point they stopped worrying about what everybody else thought of their work.
The single most important person to my work has been my husband. I would not be a published writer without his unfailing encouragement and support. He was the second person who believed in me (and only because he met me after Ron Powell did)! And he never stopped believing. He still continues to predict things for my career that make my jaw drop and my stomach ache. But then he promises to be around for all of it, so I should be fine. What do you say to a man like that? A million thanks, even an infinite number, are still not enough. But you have to try. So, Kirk, thank you. I love you. Thank you . . .
Jen: If Bite Marks was made into a movie, which actors would you choose to play the hero and heroine?
Jennifer: Lately I’ve given up on picking because my fans are never satisfied with my casting. It’s because we all have our own ideas of who these characters are, you know? But today I’m full of positive energy and glazed donuts, so I’ll give it a shot!
Vayl: Hugh Jackman
Jaz: Keira Knightley (with an American accent and bitchin’ red curls!)
Jen: Do you do anything special to celebrate a sale, new contract or release?
Jennifer: Usually we’ll at least go out to dinner. For the release of One More Bite my husband bought me a beautiful heart-shaped pendant. And I’ll be doing a book-signing tour for the release of Bite Marks, so that’ll feel like a month-long celebration!
Jen: Most people only dream of becoming a published writer. Now that you’ve accomplished that goal, is there anything else you dream of doing?
Jennifer: Absolutely. I still think I have one or two timeless stories in me. The kind you read, put down, pick up, and read again. Tell all your friends about. Feel your life has shifted slightly because of. And then twenty years later still think is one of the best books you’ve ever seen. As I said, I’d like to write a Broadway musical. A play. Maybe a couple of movies. And a whole line of YA novels. My professional writing life has only just begun, and I’m ecstatic to consider all the possibilities ahead!
Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Jennifer: Stephen King and his Gunslinger series. I also think The Stand is one of the classics of our time.
Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman are a force to be reckoned with in Fantasy. Three series’ of theirs I particularly love are War of Souls, Deathgate Cycle, and Legends.
Right now I’m reading two books. Watchmen by Alan Moore. Dave Gibbons is the Illustrator (My son and I have made a deal to buy the movie—I haven’t seen it yet—but he says I have to read the graphic novel first) and The Innocent Mage by Karen Miller.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Jennifer: Tying up loose ends. I need to finish Bitten in Two, the seventh book in the Jaz Parks series, and also Shadowstruck my first YA novel. Once those have moved on and I’m waiting to hear where each of them takes me next, it’ll be decision time. Musical comedy or urban fantasy? Hmm….
Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
Jennifer: I haunt several sites daily, and invite everyone to drop me a line since I’m pretty good about responding to posts. And I think Jazfans will agree we tend to have a lot of fun at my digital homes.
Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Jennifer: Yeah there is. You read about it all the time, but now I have to ask you straight out—do you believe in true love?
Jen: Readers, we have an autographed copy of Bite Marks up for grabs. To enter the contest, leave a comment or question for Jennifer. Then you must either leave your email address in your comment or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. The winner will be chosen on Thursday, November 19.