Interview with Jenna Petersen

Jen: Please help me in welcoming Jenna Petersen to Romancing the Book. Jenna, will you share a short bio with us?
Jenna: Jenna Petersen knew she wanted to be a writer at a very young age and had a very specific image of what that meant. In her mind, she would live in Los Angeles (why not New York… who knows?), attend book signings, drive a very expensive car and date endlessly (and apparently, unsuccessfully). There was little actual writing involved in the fantasy.

Instead, she got a degree in Psychology from the University of Washington, married her high school sweetheart and moved to Central Illinois. There was much actual writing involved in the reality and she learned a lot in the years she waited to hear she sold a book.

Jenna runs a website for aspiring authors called The Passionate Pen, which has become a popular resource in the romance writing community. She also writes zombie comedy under the pseudonym Jesse Petersen.

Jen: Tell us about The Unclaimed Duchess and where it’s available.
Jenna: The Unclaimed Duchess is the second in my The Billingham Bastards series which started last year with What the Duke Desires. In this book my hero, Rhys, discovers he isn’t who he thinks he is and his reaction is to turn tail and run, abandoning his new bride, Anne. But Anne has spent a lifetime loving him and this is the last straw. Instead of letting him go, she chases after him, determined not to end the marriage she has desired her whole life. But even as the two grow closer, Rhys’s secret inches closer to being revealed… and that could destroy everything the couple has built.

An excerpt can be read at

Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Jenna: I started writing when I was still in elementary school, but I never thought I could seriously pursue it as a career. I figured I needed a “back up”, so I got a degree from University of Washington in Psychology. I intended to continue on and get my masters, but my husband finally pointed out that I was much happier when writing. So we decided I should give it a go.

Four years later, my literary agent called me and told me we’d sold two books to Avon (Scandalous and From London With Love). So it was a dream come true, for sure!

Jen: Describe your writing in three words.
Jenna: Dark, sensual, emotional.

Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
Jenna: I write five days a week with a specific page goal in mind each day and I write until those pages are done whether that takes me an hour or the whole day. Then I spend the rest of my day working on promotional things, business stuff, etc. There is so much involved in being an author. Between the actual writing and the rest, I’m pretty much always at work.

Jen: Have you noticed your writer’s voice has changed over the years due to your experience? If so, how?
Jenna: I don’t think my voice really has changed, but I think my technique has changed. I am much more comfortable with myself as writer and I think my work has improved. But voice is so germane, I’m not sure if it can change that much. I’ve always written dark, sensual stories and I still do.

Jen: What is it about the romance genre that appeals to you?
Jenna: I think I love the hopefulness of romance. The hero and heroine may go through the worst things imaginable, but in the end they overcome those heartbreaks and find a way to be happy together. That is just about the best thing ever.

Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Jenna: I’ve written in the Regency period for my entire career, so as far as the base of Regency I think I’m pretty comfortable, so when I do research it’s usually about some specific question I have. Would X know Y in this period? Did Z exist? That sort of thing. I also do general Regency research reading between books and that often inspires a plot twist or turn.

Jen: Do you feel as if the characters live with you as you write? Do they haunt your dreams?
Jenna: No, I definitely think about my story as I’m writing and sometimes get inspiration in the middle of the night, but I don’t feel like the characters overpower me or haunt me.

Jen: If you could travel back in time for one year, what time and place would you choose? And if you could only take 3 things with you, what would they be?
Jenna: I’d probably pick the Regency since that’s when I write and London. But man, I wouldn’t want to stay. Hygiene!! Plumbing!!! No internet!!! I’d bring toilet paper for sure. Probably shampoo/conditioner. A camera to capture my memories (though I wouldn’t want to scar anyone for life, so I’d have to hide it).

Jen: If The Unclaimed Duchess was made into a movie, which actors would you choose to play the hero and heroine?
Jenna: I always pictured Jude Law as Rhys and Natalie Portman as Anne. In fact, I have a picture of them from an event together that I sometimes looked at.

Jen: What has been your highlight of your career to this point?
Jenna: My first sale was definitely a highlight. Same with first release. And the recent zombie sale was very cool since it happened so fast.

Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Jenna: I’ve had lots of lovely fan mail over the years. People who have told me my books meant something to them and that’s a very good thing.

Jen: What’s next for you?
Jenna: Well, my final book in The Billingham Bastards series will be out next fall. It’s titled A SCOUNDREL’S SURRENDER and involves characters from my earlier books.

And I’ve also written three zombie comedies that are fantasies. The first, Married with Zombies, is out right now under my Jesse Petersen name. The second, Flip this Zombie will be out in January 2011. So I’m very busy right now.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
Jenna: and also at (which is my site for writers) and now at, which is my site for my zombie comedies.

Jen: Readers, Jenna is giving a copy of What the Duke Desires, the first book in The Billingham Bastards series, to a lucky commenter. To enter the contest, you first need to leave a comment or question for Jenna. Then to complete your entry, you must either leave your email address in your comment or send a message to The winner will be chosen on Sunday, September 19.