Jennifer Rardin is the author of the Jaz Parks series, and she made this interview really fun. Jennifer burst onto the urban fantasy scene last October with the release of her debut, Once Bitten, Twice Shy. Since then, Orbit Books has released two other novels on a two-month schedule. The fourth novel in the Jaz Parks series, Bitten to Death, comes out in August.
Longtime readers of this blog knows that I don't read vampire novels, but I plan on making an exception for this one because it sounds like so much fun.
The books follow legendary CIA assassins, Vayl the vampire and his assistant Jaz, as they move through their missions. Which, of course, involve killing nasty, power-hungry creatures who’d just as soon bite your head off as look at you. Then they’d probably suck out your soul and pronounce it claw-lickin’ good because, you know, they’re usually raging maniacs with scary supah powers.
So, how does a novelist go about having her first three novels published every two months? Did you have all three books written when you sold the first one? Or are you undead, allowing you to write around the clock?
Har! I often think what a lousy vampire I’d make with my passion for open spaces (shut me in a casket for the day, are you nuts?) and my love of sunlight. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I probably worshiped Ra at some point along my journey.
But with the deadlines imposed on me by the publishing schedule you mentioned, I spent plenty of days inside looking out, wishing I could go play when instead I had to work. Pretty much nonstop. Because I only had the first book, Once Bitten, Twice Shy, finished when my agent sold it and two more as yet untitled (and unplotted!) novels to my editor at Orbit. Yeah, so lots of evenings and weekends, a very intense workload I have only now, with the completion of book five of the series, been able to drop. My next books will be written on a much saner, nine-month timeline.
However, we didn’t tackle such a big project without good reason. New, unknown writers like me have a tough time selling books when they only come out on an annual basis. This way, readers could almost immediately grab the first three in the series and hopefully figure out, sooner rather than later, that this Rardin chick had a way with words.
Tell us about one of your favorite scenes in any Jaz Parks novel.
I love the camel-tipping scene in Biting the Bullet. Since I live in the Midwest, I’m always hearing the farm boys laughing about taking one of their buddies cow-tipping. So I thought, Hey, why not put a Middle Eastern spin on this puppy and see if it’s as funny on paper as it sounds in my head? I’m not sure how readers are reacting. They’ll tell me that the books make them laugh out loud, but will rarely say why. Anyway, I sure enjoyed it.
How about a scene that gave you some trouble?
I struggled with the dream sequences in Another One Bites the Dust. I wanted them to read so much like Jaz experienced them that the reader felt as if he or she was riding along inside Jaz’s head. Except the reader has to know the action isn’t quite real. Although the scene still has to feel immediate and intense. Do you see the line I kept trying to walk? Pretty tough. I haven’t had any complaints so far, so I hope that means I succeeded.
I understand you achieved Full Time Writer status. Please tell us a bit about your writing routine.
I get up around 6:30 a.m., start the dishes and see my family off before getting ready for work. I dress up most days, just as if I was going into an office setting. I find it helps get me focused on the job ahead. When it’s cold outside I spend the morning writing in my office, usually listening to my IPod as I work. When it’s warm I spend the day on the back porch. I break for lunch since my hubby comes home. After he leaves I do some laundry and get back to the biz. I usually stop at three p.m. and pick it up again after supper, especially if I have a deadline looming. This doesn’t leave huge gaps of time for cleaning house or reading or gardening, so occasionally I’ll take a couple of hours off to catch up on whatever I’ve had to let lapse (because it’s just gotten to the point where it’s driving me crazy!). I try not to write on the weekends when I can help it, because my poor, long-suffering family does like to see me now and then. But lately those hours have also filled with me at the laptop. I also write every night (including Christmas and birthdays!) before I go to bed.
How many Jaz Parks books do you envision? Or have you planned that far ahead?
Let’s put it this way—I don’t know how it ends. And their work is such that I can see it going on for quite a while longer. As long as an editor is interested and my characters have issues they need to work out, I’ll probably be willing to write about them. But I do have several other projects I’d like to pursue, so this definitely is not the only series I intend to write.
We should probably use fix-er-up in the present tense, since at the ripe old age of seventy-eight, my home always needs tending. But she’s got a ton of character about her, which I adore. High ceilings. Wide arched doorways. Front and back porches. A sense that she’s survived a lot in her time and intends to continue on that path for the foreseeable future. Which is one of my favorite traits in anyone (or anything) I decide to spend quality time with.
How cool do your teenagers think you are because you write such cool novels? Or is the very word “cool” considered uncool these days?
Well, I’ve heard them say “cool,” so I think the word’s okay, but they’ve never used it in reference to me. They know me too well, I suppose, and if you asked them to describe me, would more likely choose a word like “geek.” (Though they would say it with a loving smile.) I think they’re proud of me, not because of what I write, but because I stuck with my dream until I finally got good enough at writing to make it a reality.
Was ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY the first novel you wrote? Or do you have any unpublished novels languishing in a closet, somewhere?
ONCE BITTEN was my fourth novel. The other three are sitting in the attic, and will probably remain there because they’re just not good enough to revisit. I do believe they needed to be written. You can’t perfect this craft if you don’t practice it.
I’m pretty juiced about the fourth book in the Jaz Parks series, Bitten to Death, which will release in the US on August 12. It takes place in Patras, Greece, in the Vampere Trust where Vayl lived for over a century before emigrating to America. The mission is exciting, because Jaz and Vayl finally have a real chance to take down their nemesis, Edward ‘The Raptor’ Samos.
Also, I always enjoy meeting new people, so feel free to look me up. You can find me at: www.jenniferrardin.com, www.myspace.com/jenniferrardin and www.facebook.com/pages/Jennifer