Today's interview is with Jennifer Rardin, author of the kickass awesome Jaz Parks series which tells the adventures of, big shock, Jaz Parks, a vampire hunter turned CIA assassin turned assassin-assistant. The series is currently six books long and book seven is still, gasp, almost a year away. I'm pretty sure that at moment the series should be closing, or at least pausing, at book eight. Anywhos, enough of my babbling - that's not why you're here, so let's get on with the show, shall we?
(1) So, I guess I may as well start with the basics: how exactly did Jennifer Rardin break into the publishing world?
It wasn’t easy. Those ninja outfits cost a lot, and they still don’t get you past the building guard unless you move r-e-a-l-l-y slow. Then you have to bribe the mailboy to let him ride in the bottom of his cart, and he only likes Mars Bars, which aren’t that easy to track down in the middle of Manhattan. So.
I decided to take the more traditional route. Which means that I wrote a book (in the space of about two years) that I originally called Club Undead. Then I wrote a kickass letter to several agents letting them know how smart (and profitable) it would be for them to represent me. A year later one of them agreed. At which point she pitched it to several editors, a couple of whom showed interest within about three months. I yelled, “Let the bidding begin, baby!” Fourteen months later Once Bitten, Twice Shy hit the shelves . . . and here we are!
(2) Your series deals with Jaz Parks – vampire hunter turned CIA assassin turned CIA assassin assistant – who is not exactly human. What inspirations led you to develop your mythology?
I adore urban fantasy. Before I filled my time with writing, I spent many long hours reading story after story after . . . well, you get the drift. And I discovered a lot of gaps in the genre that I felt should be filled. Immediately. By me.
That’s not to say that I’m the Diva of Organization. I had a lot of terrific ideas going in. But in no way did I have Jaz and Vayl’s world completely mapped out. And I did that on purpose. I don’t think authors do themselves, or their readers, a service when they insist on pigeon-holing every detail of this new world they’ve created from the get-go. They fall so deeply in love with their universe that they can’t help but describe it, in excruciating detail (which we call information dumps) which make me snore like a fat old Santa. I’m not saying I haven’t dumped a few times. But, damn, I try to avoid those suckers like fly-covered trash cans. Not attractive, you know? Plus they slow the story down soooooo much! And I want mine to be page-turners.
(3) Jaz has very strong ties to her family – having even done missions with her brother and father – which is a rather rare characteristic among heroes, many of whom tend to either be working from Lone Ranger status or else practicing a friends as family philosophy. What made you decide to go this route?
This is one of those missing elements I mentioned above. I noticed very few heroes in the UF that I was reading spent time with their families, if they even had any surviving relatives to begin with. And that bugged me. Regular people like me (and, I figured, my future readers) have to juggle work with family all the time. So why not the heroine of my book? I thought it would be fascinating, and occasionally hilarious, to see how Jaz worked some of those conflicts out.
(4) Now, Vayl. How would you describe your hero?
Vayl will always be a little bit of a mystery to me. Part of this is, frankly, because he’s a guy. And that’s okay. Guys are fabulously charming and wonderful, but in some ways I just don’t get them. However, I love mysteries, so I love Vayl.
I see him as a deeply passionate, conflicted creature who controls his cravings masterfully. Except when it comes to Jaz.
(5) The relationship between Jaz and Vayl has had its rocky moments but somehow comes out seeming a lot more real because of it. Has it been hard setting the development of their relationship?
It was only hard with the first book, which makes sense, I guess, since that’s when you’re first feeling out a relationship. Once I figured out where they were going, it became so much fun there were days I couldn’t believe people were paying me to do it.
(6) For someone who isn’t the boss, Jaz seems to really excel at dealing with the conflicting personalities of her team, keeping them all working while still helping them out with personal issues. It’s rather inspiring. How exactly did you come up with your characters?’ Are any of them based on real people?
It’s hard to say exactly where my characters are born. Each contains facets of people I know. But they are their own creatures. Some grew in my mind over years. Some appeared out of necessity and only became individuals because they, and the story, demanded it. I like them because they’re all so quirky you just wanna hug them. Until they pull some bonehead move that makes you want to shake the crap out of them. You know. Like real people.
(7) Your next publication, Bitten in Two, won’t be coming out until late 2010 which is a scary long break especially in a series that has previously been having two releases a year. What’s up with that?
My understanding is that Bitten in Two will release in January 2011 because Orbit is planning a rather special buildup to the release starting in October 2010. That’s all I can say about that at the moment.
(8) On that note, there’s been some mention of short stories being posted on your site during the interlude to alleviate some of the angst. What can you tell us about these shorts? What are these Minion Chronicles seen on your site?
Yeah, I know you guys have never had to wait so long between Jaz adventures before, and I feel your pain. So I’m doing my best to make this year of waiting one that’s as full of fun and entertainment for you via my website and my facebook fan page as I’m able.
So I’ve begun the year by writing a brand new interactive short story called The Minion Chronicles: Paul and Brady Get Hoodoo with the Voodoo. Every Monday I post a mini-chapter, after which I offer readers three choices for the following week’s plot twist. The majority vote gets the twist.
Later in the year (given time) I’d like to write at least one more Granny May story and one more Jaz & Vayl mini-adventure for my fans to enjoy as well.
(9) The Jaz books take place all over the world and in some instances feature various native traditions coming to life – what sort of research is done per book? Any particular texts you rely on? Could you break down your research process?
Generally speaking, as soon as I know where Jaz and Vayl’s mission will take place, I try to get as familiar with that city and country as possible. So, for instance, with Bite Marks (which took place near Canberra, Australia) I did a great deal of Internet research on the area. This included reading personal travelogues, looking at thousands of pictures, studying the history and folklore of the country, learning about the plant and animal life, etc. Details I always need to know (that you might not expect I’d have to research) include what time the sun rises and sets, the time difference between my chosen country and the US, the day and night-time temperatures, the currency, what side of the road people drive on, and what kinds of vehicles people typically drive.
For Bite Marks I also lassoed two Australian women into helping me make sure details of the book were correct. (You’ll see their names in the acknowledgements.) I sent them dozens of questions during the writing of the book and they answered them faithfully, thank goodness! I also requested some information about kangaroo habits from some rangers who worked in the area about which I was writing, and they were kind enough to reply very quickly with helpful information as well.
This kind of research starts out pretty heavy at the beginning of the writing, continues throughout the first draft, picks up again a great deal during the first rewrite, and then slacks off quite a bit until, by the time I’m working on the copyedit, I hardly do anymore research at all.
(10) You’ve mentioned that the eighth book in the series is written as a possible ending for the series with the potential to continue further left open. So, what’s coming next once the door has closed on Jaz? And how about yourself – where do you see yourself five years from now?
I’ve just finished a YA urban fantasy called Shadowstruck which my agent is currently marketing. I’m hoping it will be picked up soon, because it’s actually the first in a two- or three-book series, which would mean I’d have at least one more book to write to finish that story arc. Which is way cool and something I’m eager to continue.
I’m also prepared to write an amazing new urban fantasy series which, while quite unlike the Jaz Parks books, is still designed to make you laugh, gasp, and stay up until four a.m. just so you can see what happens next! Hopefully I’ll be able to begin writing that early this summer.
My habit is to write my main (paying) project during the day, and then to work on my sideline project at night. Now that Shadowstruck is finished, I’ve begun writing a musical comedy for the stage. Broadway, here I come!
Five years from now? Hmmm. I’ll be staring down the big 50. At least one of my kids will be out of college. I definitely plan to be writing, hopefully better stuff than ever. On a laptop that walks—and talks—and makes pizza. That would be awesome.
(11) Finally, some random questions about you:
a. What are your hobbies aside from writing? Probably my second passion after writing is gardening. I also enjoy travel so much that if you said, “Hey, Jen, do you wanna go to the store with me?” I’d be out the door immediately. Yeah, I don’t have to go far. I just like to go. Hiking is a major pleasure, as is saying things that make my hubby’s eyebrows shoot right up into his hairline. Which isn’t easy, because he has one of those military cuts. But I keep trying!
b. Could you please describe your dream day? First of all, this day must last for forty-eight hours. Don’t know how you’re going to swing it, but there it is. So I get to sleep until noon, and yet still have tons of time to . . . write 3,500 words. . .run two miles . . . shower for forty-five minutes . . . have a delicious lunch with my girlfriends . . . spend the afternoon planting flowers . . . spend the evening playing cards with my kids . . . hop in the car and travel somewhere new and exciting with hubby.
c. If you found a genie, what would be your three wishes? Health, happiness, and long life for my children and their children. (That sounds like one, but I think it probably counts as three, or possibly four, but I’m assuming this is a generous genie.)
And there you have it. Be sure to keep an eye tuned to Jennifer's site to look out for what's new and for the 411 on Bitten in Two, Jaz Parks book 7, due out next year! And thanks, Jennifer, for hopping by!