Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I Think I Did Pretty Well...

...considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of paper.

--Steve Martin

Aha, so the big question this week. What do I write?


Like Claire, I’m all over the board when it comes to what I write. In fact, it would almost be easier to tick off the genres I haven’t tried at this point. Two come to mind – sci-fi and western. I’m not ruling those two out, mind you, it’s just that I haven’t given them a shot at this particular point in time. In other words, don’t be surprised if I someday write a western set in space. It could happen. Trust me.

But at last tally, I’ve tried my hand at historical, mystery/suspense, fantasy, romance (sort of), literary fiction (again, sort of), and YA. And when I say YA, I mean all kinds of YA. Current topics range from ghosts, to werewolves, to arson, to sexual abuse, to plain ole’ fashioned super heroes. I like to toy around with lots of different stories.

Why so diverse?

Well, to be quite honest, for me genre classification comes secondary to telling a story. I simply don’t give it much thought in the initial stages of dreaming up/starting a project. What comes first is an idea – some little seed that slowly takes shape in my mind. In the beginning, it may just be a small scene, a kernel, if you will, that I don’t really know how to classify. Then, as the story starts to mature, I’m eventually able to say…Okay, this is going to be a fantasy. Or maybe an urban fantasy that’s got a strong “whodunit” mystery thread to it. But at first, it’s just a story.

Some may argue I’m totally schizo because of this. Some might say it’s a sign of my immaturity as a writer. Both could be right. I certainly wouldn’t argue against either idea. But the truth is, I love to tell stories – all kinds of stories. And I don’t want to paint myself into a corner by saying I write This One Genre And Nothing Else. Where’s the fun in that?

So, what do I have to show for all of this?

As of this moment, I have two completed novels. One is an adult mystery/suspense. The other is a young adult paranormal.

I wish I had some cool story like Claire’s to share, but I don’t. The truth of the matter is that I wrote my adult novel – FAKING IT – because people kept urging me to write a book about my experiences as an undercover drug investigator—literally. A non-fiction memoir of sorts. Well, that all sounds fine and dandy, but trust me, it would’ve been BORING. That stuff you see on TV? FICTION, people. FICTION.

I had this nightmarish image of people pounding on my door, demanding their money back once they learned what UC work really entailed. I.e. a lot of waiting around…followed by more waiting around…followed by a whole truckload of paperwork. Talk about a snooze fest.

But, I had to admit there was some merit behind the idea. Not many people know what it’s like to go undercover—the constant lying involved, the ever-present fear of being made, the hobnobbing with drug dealers you would cross the street to get away from in your normal, everyday life. It’s a job made for fiction, and I had a whole mess of experiences to write about.

I started with the idea I would write a romantic suspense. (Is that even the correct term?) Why? Because I thought it would be easy! (Insert a hearty chuckle here) It was HORRIBLE. Yes, an all caps kind of horrible. I quickly scraped the idea and gave up. Only it kept nagging at me.

(During this period, I was neck-deep in the Evanovich books. Loved the voice. Loved the humor. I finally said… I CAN DO THAT!!! I can tell a funny undercover story. This will be a cinch!)


Well, it was better….And I was having a great time throwing my characters into the most outrageous situations I could imagine. My execution wasn’t always the greatest, but eventually I said to myself:

Jen…What the heck?! You ARE funny. (This is something some co-workers of mine would dispute. They tell me all the time that I am not funny. Not even a little bit. Granted, most of them speak very little English. I’m convinced my humor doesn’t translate into Spanish.) And FI as its known today was born.

I’ve got one “completed” book (which is in the middle of being hacked to death in the revision process), and a good third of the sequel. I also have ideas for many, many other books –including a prequel. I write this series because I love my main character, Madison – and I love the two men in her life – Drew and Gabe. I could be quite happy to write about them for many years to come.

That said, they don’t satisfy me completely. My other love is Young Adult. All types of young adult. I love the complexity of emotions involved, the immediacy, the awkwardness of being inside a teenager’s head….the limitless potential for the type of stories I can tell.

I’ll be honest, I started BY THE PALE MOONLIGHT when I heard an agent say she was looking for stories about werewolves. It was really my first attempt to “write to the market” which we all know is a ridiculous idea. Granted, I didn’t know that at the time, but regardless – I wouldn’t have continued with it if I hadn’t fallen head over heels in love with my characters and their story. So, in the end, I’m SO glad I took that leap—no matter how idiotic the notion.

BY THE PALE MOONLIGHT is a paranormal “whodunit” with werewolves. It’s the kind of story I would’ve loved as a teen. It’s the kind of story I still love. It’s the kind of story that was started LONG before I had even heard of TWILIGHT. (Just want to make that clear!) Bah on Team Jacob. It’s Team TY, I tell ya.

It’s light in parts, dark in others. It opened the door to exploring many other young adult books. More about those another time.

Many people ask which I like best – Adult or young adult?

Well, it’s impossible for me to choose. They both have their challenges, they both push me in different ways.

So my answer has to be: Why choose? Can’t I have both? (grin)

So yeah, that's what I write. For now, it's all pure enjoyment. Someday, I hope to get paid. (very big grin)

Some excerpts to follow. Thanks for listening to my babble.

So tell me, what's the weirdest story you ever tried to write? Mine would be my epic Gabaldonesque Scottish Time Travel that is collecting dust under my bed. (g) You?


  1. Lol! You think *my* story is cool, compared to your crazy adventures? You're totally not giving yourself enough credit :)

    And I can't believe your coworkers don't think you're funny- you make me laugh out loud more than almost anyone I know.

  2. I have to second that, Claire - Jen is one of the funniest people I've ever met!

  3. I would never have guessed that you started BTPM simply cos you were trying to write for the market - it's so exciting and so well-paced that, you know, you make it look easy :-)
    It's interesting that you mention immediacy in relation to YA. I have no idea why every story I've written since my two failed romance novels have been YA - that's what seems to flow from my pen. Maybe it *is* cos of the immediacy. Somehow, writing an adult novel feels more constrained (as if I'd never read adult fantasy or anything!). And I suck at adult dialogue :-) The closest I've come was that short story about Charles and Oliver (was that already two summers ago? Sheesh!).
    As for the weirdest story... those romances came pretty close, based as they were on the supposed secret love between Per and Marie of Roxette! But the one that takes the cake is probably the novel I started at the age of 15-16 involving the handcuffed copy and convict travelling to prison across the California desert... Come to think of it, I think that's where I got the idea that I can't write adult dialogue!

  4. Great post, Jen. I loved hearing about FI and BTPM came into being. But the part about that little seed growing into a story really resonated with me. We're more alike than I realized when it comes to the process. :)

  5. Thanks, Claire... well, I do think it's the Spanish thing. They just don't GET me. (g) The worst part is now I'm _trying_ too hard. I want it too much. Crave their approval. (rolls eyes at self) lol

    And yeah...I have some crazy stories. But I also spent a loooooot of time waiting, and waiting...and doing paperwork. Not all fun and games. Didn't even get to carry a gun. (a HUGE misconception) And NOT once did someone pull a gun on me. Erm, not that I'm complaining! LOL

  6. Thanks, Tara! (vbg) You survived several days in the same room with me, so I take that as a HUGE compliment. :)

  7. Deniz -- Well, BTPM started as an attempt to write to the market--not sure it stayed that way for long. (g) I got reaaaaally excited about the idea after a few minutes of brainstorming. If I remember correctly, I was supposed to be cleaning house and kept stopping to scribble down notes, bits of dialogue, etc. And I wrote the first few scenes SO quickly...and linearly, which as we all know doesn't happen very often for me. (g)

    The thing is, I never gave much thought to werewolves in general...but once I did, I realized why they're such popular fodder for books and movies. SO much drama built in...the inability to control themselves...the idea they might hurt someone they care about and not be able to stop themselves...just the basic powerless position they're in every month. LOVE IT.

    As for YA...definitely the immediacy and raw emotion. Heck, I remember what it was like to be a teenager. EVERYTHING was a big deal. Add to that hormones, and the occasional paranormal event/life drama...and man, you've got good conflict. Plus I think the issues you deal with at that age are just more...interesting. None of this will I get married BS...none of this how will I pay my bills, etc. It's all about relationships and the immediate problem of TODAY.

    Plus writing about teenagers is just...cool. :) Kinda like writing Maddy, only a lot less hassle. (g)

    *giggle* about the romances. Don't we all have one of those?

  8. Kristen--the early stage of a book is one of my favorite times. I like watching some random scene develop into a story. As a chunk writer, I think this all gets magnified because I honestly don't know what the heck I'm going to write sometimes. I just know I have a basic "premise" and set out from there. Kinda like starting a very LONG journey with only partial directions. Nothing is set in stone and you can wander at will. :)

  9. I know _exactly_ what you mean. :) Chunk writers unite! LOL.

  10. "the early stage of a book is one of my favorite times. I like watching some random scene develop into a story. As a chunk writer, I think this all gets magnified because I honestly don't know what the heck I'm going to write sometimes. I just know I have a basic "premise" and set out from there. Kinda like starting a very LONG journey with only partial directions. Nothing is set in stone and you can wander at will. :)"
    I second that! I love that feeling when random scenes keep coming at you and slowly falling into place...