Join me today as we take a little journey with two amazing authors, both with deep ties to one of my favorite sub-genres, romantic suspense. Sometimes being a fly on the wall allows you to really see the magic happen!
The author of a string of New York Times bestsellers, Jayne Ann Krentz uses three different pen names for each of her three “worlds.” As Jayne Ann Krentz (her married name) she writes contemporary romantic-suspense. She uses Amanda Quick for her novels of historical romantic-suspense. Jayne Castle (her birth name) is reserved these days for her stories of futuristic/paranormal romantic-suspense.
“I am often asked why I use a variety of pen names,” she says. “The answer is that this way readers always know which of my three worlds they will be entering when they pick up one of my books.”
In addition to her fiction writing, she is the editor of, and a contributor to, a non-fiction essay collection, Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. Her commitment to her chosen genre has been strong from the very beginning of her career.
“The romance genre is the only genre where readers are guaranteed novels that place the heroine at the heart of the story,” Jayne says. “These are books that celebrate women’s heroic virtues and values: courage, honor, determination and a belief in the healing power of love.”
She earned a B.A. in History from the University of California at Santa Cruz and went on to obtain a Masters degree in Library Science from San Jose State University in California. Before she began writing full time she worked as a librarian in both academic and corporate libraries.
She is married and lives with her husband, Frank, in Seattle, Washington.
USA Today bestselling author Rachel Grant worked for over a decade as a professional archaeologist and mines her experiences for storylines and settings, which are as diverse as excavating a cemetery underneath an historic art museum in San Francisco; surveying an economically depressed coal mining town in Kentucky; and mapping a seventeenth century Spanish and Dutch fort on the island of Sint Maarten in the Netherlands Antilles.
In all her travels and adventures as an archaeologist, Rachel has found many sites and artifacts, but she’s only found one true treasure, her husband, David. They met while working together excavating a four-thousand-year-old site about to be destroyed by the expansion of a sewage treatment plant in Seattle. Despite their romantic first meeting, she has no intention of ever setting a story at a sewage treatment plant.
Rachel lives not far from Jayne in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and children.
Normally, I ask my Fly on the Wall authors to fill out a simple set of “rapid fire” questions. They are light-hearted and a little silly. I use the information to form a fun, quirky introduction to the piece. This time, Jayne and Rachel did such a remarkable and in-depth job with the “rapid fire” questions, I decided to just let their conversation speak for themselves! They gave me so much goodness, I didn’t want to deny you the fun with a curated blurb!
Rapid Fire Questions
Favorite thing to do on a Saturday morning?
Jayne Ann Krentz: Hi, Rachel, nice to meet you. I gotta tell you that I was going to answer this question by saying that on Saturday mornings I mostly look forward to a leisurely lunch and a glass of wine with my husband, Frank, at one of our favorite restaurants. Now, however, I’m thinking that sounds way too tame. Excavating an old cemetery or discovering cool artifacts sounds much more exciting — assuming there would be a glass of wine afterward, of course. Clearly, I need to broaden my horizons.
Rachel Grant: Hi Jayne, it is an honor and a pleasure to meet you! And LOL – for the record, I never want to go near an archaeological site on a Saturday unless I’m going for a walk on one of our amazing Pacific Northwest beaches that are riddled with shell midden sites. Come to think of it, that does sound like a great Saturday morning, complete with a picnic (with wine, of course!). Sadly, I’m more likely to grab my computer and write, mostly because the house is quiet while everyone else sleeps in, and I love my early morning coffee and getting lost in my own story. When the story isn’t coming together, I glare at the computer and waste time on Twitter.
Book you’d like to see made into a movie (not your own)?
JAK: No titles spring to mind because I see books and films as two different art forms with different demands, expectations, etc. Having said that I would absolutely LOVE to have one of my books made into a movie!
RG: So, cheating in my answer here and talking about my own book… A few years ago, I sold film rights for Body of Evidence to Nancy Cartwright (best known for being the voice of Bart Simpson)’s Spotted Cow Entertainment. I had an amazing lunch with Nancy and the other producers at her house. (I did *not* ask her to do the voice, I feel like I deserve a medal for playing it so cool!) It was really amazing, talking with this group of people who loved my book and sharing their vision of how it would be made into a movie someday. Sadly, SCE decided to move in a different direction after their first feature film released, so the rights have now reverted. But it was such a great experience and that lunch will go down in my memories as a thrill from start to finish. If nothing else, I can say Bart Simpson has heard of me.
And…to answer the actual question, nothing comes to mind for the same reason JAK says, but digging deep, I think some of Elizabeth Peters’ books would have made fun caper films. Not her Amelia Peabody books, but maybe the Vicki Bliss or Jacqueline Kirby ones.
JAK: I’m with you on the Elizabeth Peters books! I loved her stories. Every time I get out my umbrella I think of Amelia Peabody. And, given that this is Seattle, I think about Amelia a lot.
Song on repeat?
JAK: Hotel California (Eagles). Lots of plot material in that song.
RG: Currently, Hadestown (Original Broadway Cast Recording). I saw Hadestown this summer when I was in New York for Romance Writers of America’s National Conference, and it was AMAZING. My daughter and I can’t stop listening to it.
Best meal you’ve ever had?
JAK: The next one that includes a glass of wine. (I’m starting to see a theme in my responses to these questions).
RG: Ohh. I’m with Jayne! LOL. Okay, one special meal that comes to mind…years ago, I helped out a friend with childcare as she and her husband were busy launching a new restaurant in Seattle. Our kids were the same age, so it was easy for me to watch her son and daughter while she and her husband were in the city. I didn’t want to be paid because this was a friend helping a friend. My birthday came around, and my friend came up with a perfect solution to show her appreciation: my husband and I were treated to a birthday dinner at their other restaurant. Jayne might know of it – Restaurant Zoe in Belltown. The food at Restaurant Zoe was incredible, and it was so sweet how the staff made my husband and I feel like VIPs. Every course was amazing and I still think about the lamb. Also, Jayne will be happy to know the wine was very good…
What did you want to be when you were a child?
JAK: Wonder Woman.
RG: Okay, so I know you’ll think I’m cheating when I say Wonder Woman…but I even wrote a blog post about it for Kobo Writing Life that was published in 2018: https://kobowritinglife.com/2018/03/05/13860/ so I have proof!
JAK: Wonder Woman is a terrific role model for an author!
RG: She really is. And it was a special pleasure to get to share my lifelong love of Wonder Woman with my teenage daughter when the movie came out. I tear up every time I watch the No Man’s Land scene. I’ve waited my whole life to see that in a film!
I told you guys the conversation to too good to edit! Now, on with the show!
JAK: Sadly, I was not one of those little kids who knew she wanted to write from the time she was five. I have, however, always been a reader. I sort of stumbled into writing when it occurred to me that I wanted to tell stories my way. I was in my early twenties when that impulse became an addictive obsession. Once I started down that road I couldn’t stop.
RG: I was in high school taking creative writing when the bug bit me. I always planned to be an author, but my sophomore year in college I changed my major from English to anthropology because I decided I already knew how to write (gotta love the ego of youth!) and I wanted to study and work in an interesting field to give me something to write about later.
JAK: Professional success means getting my next book published because in this business you’re only as good as your last book. And, yes, that’s very different from personal success which pretty much comes down to the values they try to teach in kindergarten — kindness and good manners.
RG: This past spring, I hit USA Today for the first time, and this was a major milestone/life goal for me. My next goal would be to randomly see someone reading one of my books in the wild, but given that my books are not widely available in print, that will never happen. (But I imagine when I’m on the ferry or at the airport or other places with lots of people reading in public that someone might be reading me in ebook – is that weird?)
RG: JAK, given that your books are everywhere, I would imagine you’ve spotted readers in the wild many times. Do you remember the first time or have any special stories of meeting readers?
(BTW – I was camping at a Naval recreation facility this past weekend, and in the tiny rec room library I found one of your books! I love finding great people in tiny shared vacation libraries.)
JAK: Okay, this is really good news because I honestly can’t recall ever having seen someone reading one of my books on a plane or a cruise ship or anywhere else. Thank you so much for the first-hand report! You made my day!
I am so glad we were introduced for this interview because your books sound like exactly the kind of stories I love to read. Just ordered Tinderbox, the first book in your Flashpoint series. Can’t wait!
RG: This past spring I went to Barbara Vey’s Reader Appreciation Weekend. Actress and romantic suspense author Meg Tilly was the keynote, and she told the most WONDERFUL story about fangirling over you. It was such a special moment to see an Oscar-nominated actress speak of her love for the romance genre and you in particular. ❤️ I am so delighted to have this conversation with you and a little giddy at the idea you are interested in reading Tinderbox. I might do what Meg did and lie on my couch and scream “Jayne Ann Krentz!” at random intervals. I know this isn’t weird at all, because Oscar-nominated actresses do it too.
JAK: This is the story of my life: An Oscar-nominated actress mentions my name in front of an audience and I missed it. Hah! Seriously, I do enjoy Meg’s books and I’m excited to read Tinderbox.
Change is a’coming.
JAK: The biggest change was the arrival of ebooks and self-publishing. In the future I’d love to see the return of more neighborhood and shopping mall bookstores.
RG: Oh, Waldenbooks and B Dalton and all those mall bookstores were my LIFE when I was growing up. Later a larger store (not a chain) opened in a strip mall, and there I discovered Elizabeth Peters – and I blame her for my decision to study archaeology! I do miss browsing at the local chains. My local indie stores are not romance friendly for the most part so it’s very different now. My daughter didn’t get to grow up browsing the local stores like I did, but she got very involved at the local library, volunteering there for three years, and her first paid job was a library internship, which made my mother and author heart so proud.
That said, self-publishing has literally changed my life, and I have come to prefer ebooks, so I’m one of those people who is part of the problem. I love to hold my print books…and I so love the ability to carry an entire library on my phone. And I can make the font as big as I want…
Hard to think of what changes I’d like to see. For years I wanted a waterproof ereader, and I got that from Kobo in 2015. Reading in the tub is one of my favorite things.
JAK: In my experience the vast majority of the people who read and enjoy my books are absolutely terrific! I have always said that if you come back to my books again and again it’s probably because we have a lot in common when it comes to core values and a sense of humor — you know, the stuff that makes a good foundation for a friendship. As for negative reviews, the rule is I get twenty-four hours to be annoyed and then I have to mentally consign the review to the nearest garbage can.
RG: I love hearing from readers and try to keep my Facebook page active with fun scientific tidbits and information and not too heavy on the book promo. I don’t receive much direct negative feedback, so if I see a bad review, it’s because I was looking (big mistake!). In that instance, I try to read five positive reviews to replace the negative, but still, it can get in your head. When that happens, I remind myself that no book is beloved by everyone and try to focus on the next work.
JAK: I was trained as a librarian so getting certain kinds of real world facts correct is important to me. That said, I’m writing fiction and that means I’ve got a license to use my imagination. My job isn’t to stick to the real world. My job is to make my fictional world feel real. So, yes, I color outside the lines a lot. For example, there’s a strong paranormal vibe in The Vanishing and Burning Cove, California, the setting for my 1930’s era Amanda Quick books, is a fictional town.
RG: Everything Jayne said. It’s really important to me that my archaeology is accurate, my setting is accurate, and the legal drivers for the story are accurate, but there comes a point where it’s fiction which is for me, plausible speculation. If I’m going to invent an air/underwater unmanned spy drone (Poison Evidence) I’m going to look up the science behind it and what is in development now, to make sure it’s plausible. If I’m going to write about a Cold War plot to plant nuclear devices in US waters during the Seattle World’s Fair (Cold Evidence), I’m going to research the submarine and nuclear technology of the time and make sure that the Cuban Missile Crisis and close of the World’s Fair actually align (they did). And…I have readers who would be disappointed if I didn’t mention that the experimental infrasound weapon in my book Incriminating Evidence (published in 2015) looks a lot like the weapon used on the American Embassy in Cuba in 2017.
RG: JAK, have you ever set aside a work because the research was too daunting?
JAK: Hmm. I haven’t ever set aside a work because the research was overwhelming but I have not hesitated to call on various and assorted family members for expert assistance when I needed help. Luckily I’ve got a lot of relatives who have a wide variety of skill-sets.
JAK: How do you decide how much research to infuse into the story and where do you draw the line when it comes to adding details?
RG: Firestorm, set in DR Congo, involved a ton of research, from the colonial period through the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide and the resulting First and Second Congo Wars. There was so much I wanted to include, but in the end, I forced myself to choose the places my characters would visit so I could sprinkle in the history related to each location. This worked to limit my focus but also to provide an emotional connection between setting and characters and reader. A frequent comment I hear from readers is that they learned something while reading but it didn’t feel like a history lesson, and they went on to research the subject in depth, because I piqued their curiosity. This is pretty much the greatest compliment I can receive!
A few weeks ago, on Twitter, an author (@Mel_thegreat) posted a challenge for authors to compliment their own writing without caveats. I don’t know if readers can comprehend how hard it is for authors to compliment our own work! But it is. So. Hard. In the end, this is what I chose – “I am really good at weaving research information into the narrative in ways that educate and connects with readers without slowing pacing.”
So, I now present the same challenge to Jayne: Quoting Mel, “Say something nice about your writing without caveats.”
JAK: Hmm. You’re right. This is hard. Well, I think I’m good with dialogue. The thing is, I don’t really know where a story is going until my characters start talking to each other. Some authors “see” a story unfold as if it is a film. Me, I hear the story in my head.
JAK: The best advice I ever got was “It’s okay to say no”. As for my 13 year old self I’d love to tell her: “Good news! You can blow off algebra because you’re gonna be a writer”.
RG: Best advice: if you aren’t slightly uncomfortable asking for a particular salary in negotiations, you aren’t asking for enough money. For my 13 year old self: someday it will be cool to be awkward and nerdy, you are ahead of your time.
JAK: I’m not sure what writer’s block looks like or feels like. However, I do know what writer’s boredom looks and feels like. I tell a story first to myself and then hope that at least some readers will want to join me in the fantasy. If I get bored with my own story I’m in trouble. Time to figure out where I lost interest. My advice to writers who think they are suffering from writer’s block is to ask the other question — am I just frickin’ bored with my story? I’ll bet that’s where the answer lies.
RG: I might struggle with individual works, but it’s not writer’s block so much as a plotting fail. When I’m really struggling, I go back to where the story went off the rails and figure out how to get it back on track. I go for lots of long walks. I pester my husband and author friends and talk out the holes in the story. Sometimes the story gets shelved and I focus on other things, but I always go back later and rewrite/finish the book.
RG: JAK, given your different names/genres and prolific career, I’m curious, do you work on more than one book at a time? Are you Jayne in the morning and Amanda in the afternoons? Do you find it hard to switch between? Do deadlines still worry you (or did they ever)?
JAK: When I’m writing a new book the story consumes me. So, no, I don’t like to go back and forth between my various worlds. That said, sometimes I have to put aside a work-in-progress long enough to do some editing on another manuscript that is at a different stage in the publication process. But for me that kind of writing is different. It usually requires calm, logical thinking because odds are I’m trying to fix a problem. Writing the first draft of a new novel, however, feels more like herding cats. Organized chaos.
JAK: Thank you for asking! My next book is Close Up, written under my Amanda Quick name. It’s a novel in my Burning Cove series set in 1930s California. Think: Hollywood Glam, murder, and some great evening gowns. Also, The Vanishing is coming at the beginning of 2020.
RG: I actually have a special cover/blurb reveal to announce here! Winter Hawk: A Raptor Holiday Novella is expected to release the first week in December. (See the bottom of the article for cover/blurb!)
Now dear reader, here’s where the really fun part happens. Jayne and Rachel enjoyed their conversation so much, they expanded it to real life, and I have the photo to prove it! Don’t mind me, I’m just over here making introductions and connecting friends, it’s what I do!
JAK: Rachel, I’m excited that we are both in the Seattle area! Do you get into downtown? I would love to get together with you for coffee or a glass of wine. So much to talk about!
RG: Downtown Seattle is just an easy ferry ride away! I would love to get together for coffee or wine. (But let’s face it, we both mean wine, right?)
JAK: We’re authors. Of course “coffee” is code for wine. See you soon!
The Vanishing by Jayne Ann Krentz
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Forty years ago in the small town of Fogg Lake, “The Incident” occurred: an explosion in the cave system that released unknown gases, causing peculiar effects on its residents, such as strange visions and ominous voices. Not wanting the government to get involved, they chalked it up to the hallucinogenic effects of mushrooms. Little did they know these effects would linger through the generations…
Residents Catalina Lark and Olivia Dayton have been best friends for years and own an investigation firm together, using what they call the “other sight” to help with their business. When Olivia goes missing, Cat frantically begins the search for her alone when the town does nothing about it. When scientist Slate Trevelyan shows up, she has no choice but to accept his help even though there’s something about him she just can’t trust. The duo discovers someone is hunting the two witnesses of a murder in Fogg Lake fourteen years ago-the very one Cat and Olivia witnessed as teens, one they couldn’t prove happened. Cat and Slate’s search for Olivia takes them down a rabbit hole that is far more dangerous and mysterious than they ever expected, and with a killer in their midst, neither of them can foresee who will come out alive.
Winter Hawk: A Raptor Holiday Novella
Release Date: Early December 2019
Raptor operative Nate Sufentes isn’t thrilled to find himself back on the job on the first day of his winter vacation, but he can’t say no when his brother asks a favor. At least he’ll earn an easy Christmas bonus-after all, driving a fired military contractor home after she’s been escorted off base by military police can’t be that hard.
In a matter of minutes, Leah Ellis has lost everything, and now she’s stranded in the nation’s capital on the first night of Hanukkah without money, phone, or bed. All she has is a mysterious driver who might be after her technical knowledge of the US military’s drone operations.
The former Green Beret’s protective instincts-and skills-kick in when he discovers the brilliant AI engineer is being hunted. On the run, they escape the winter cold by generating their own heat, but will they find answers in time to stop a terror attack on Christmas Day?