"Where urban fantasy and James Bond meet...a fast paced and fun read which shouldn’t fail to delight fantasy fans."
"A fast paced paranormal adventure that travels to the castles of Scotland and leaves readers with a whole new outlook on ghostly possibilities."
"Fun, hilarious, exciting, and scary all at once."
I'm really happy to have Jennifer Rardin here at Vampire Wire to talk about her urban fantasy series, the Jaz Parks novels, and let us in on the dish about her upcoming release, Bite Marks.
Bite Marks is the sixth in the series and takes her Australia. Really, what's not to like about a horde of gnomes, the CIA, possession by a demon, and job performance anxiety?
Jennifer is very kindly kicking in prizes for two contest winners: a spanking new, autographed copy of Bite Marks, and a copy of Once Bitten, Twice Shy, her first novel. Read to the end of the post to learn how to enter the contest.
MARTA: Please tell us about your upcoming release in the Jaz Parks series, Bite Marks.
JENNIFER: I can still remember one of my English professors saying, “If you can’t reduce your plot to a single sentence, your story isn’t ready to tell.” So here’s my shot—Bite Marks is about two CIA assassins who are sent to Australia to kill a guy before he can destroy the space program.
Naw, I still don’t like that rule. Because you don’t get the flavor, do you? How can you have any idea that one of our heroes is a vampire still haunted by his past, while the other often spends her down-time cooking up wild schemes that could result in her dad living out the rest of his days in an igloo on the peak of Mount McKinley? Or that, throughout the course of their partnership, they’ve managed to collect a crew of oddballs that include a demon-hunted psychic, a paranoid genius, and an easy-going sniper who still sends Christmas cards to most of his ex-girlfriends? There’s even a dog named Jack, but we don’t like to talk about him when he’s not in the room. It hurts his feelings.
MARTA: Can you believe you’re already on the sixth book in your series? How do you see Jaz’s development from the first in the series until now?
JENNIFER: I looked down at the calendar today. It said that this was the second anniversary of the release of Once Bitten, Twice Shy, and I still felt like celebrating that first book. So, yeah, it’s hard to get my arms around the idea of having so many novels on the market in such a short period of time. I’m happy we planned it that way, though, because it’s given Jazfans a chance to jump right into the series without having to wait forever between installments.
As for our girl, she’s become somewhat more stable as she’s dealt with the worst of her grief and guilt and allowed herself to smile again. However, we’ve gotta remember we’re dealing with a woman whose job is to eliminate enemies of the United States. As she’s said herself, you have to be somewhat bent to succeed at her job.
MARTA: You grew up in the Midwest reading fables and fantasy and went on to get a degree in English. Can you name a few books that opened worlds for you?
JENNIFER: The first books that felt magical to me and gave me a sense of the unlimited potential of story were The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein.
MARTA: Since you began your series with Once Bitten, Twice Shy, Urban Fantasy has exploded. What’s the appeal of a kick-ass heroine battling the supernatural? Please feel free to wax poetic about our current socio-political climate (or not).
JENNIFER: I recently asked my fans a similar question, because I’m doing a talk at the end of the month about urban fantasy for a group of Illinois librarians and I wanted a readerly point of view. Most of them mentioned that they’re tired of whiny heroines who just stand around with their thumbs up their asses while their dashing yet adorable love interest (with the dimpled chin, no less) jumps in to save the day. I agree. We admire people who rescue themselves and then pull the people around them out of the muck as well. Even more so in stories, where we’re looking for someone we can both identify with and admire. As for the supernatural element—for me (and I believe for many readers) it’s all about escape.
Life is hard. And it often sucks. When I open a book, I’ve already dealt with a veritable parade of crapola for the past twelve hours. So I want something that transports me from my cares from the moment I begin reading until the second I close the cover. Which is why Urban Fantasy is such a great fit for a growing number of readers. You find that lovely escape, but you still get such an instant connection with the characters (because their world is so similar to yours) that you drop right into the story as effortlessly as falling into bed. (Okay, I suppose you could insist that urban fantasy’s monsters are nothing like ours. But my response would be that we have the same sorts of predators in our world. They’re just packaged differently.)
MARTA: What do you enjoy most about first-person narrative, and what are some challenges?
JENNIFER: I like the voice. If your character is unique enough, which I think Jaz is, readers can hear the inflection, sarcasm, drawl, humor, almost without me pointing them in that direction. In no other form does one character’s voice come through so strongly, and I love having that sense of speaking straight from Jaz’s mouth into the reader’s ear.
I think one of the greatest challenges of first-person is a full-on fight scene involving multiple characters. Because if Jaz is busy kicking ass, she’s not observing what everyone else in the room (or graveyard, or mountain trail—as the case may be) is doing. Sometimes the characters you need to see aren’t even in the same location. Then I really need to figure out how she knows what’s going on with them. Can she hear them? Is she recounting their story as told to her later? Tough decisions that always need a practical eye to make sure the reader doesn’t put down the book and say, “I don’t buy that for a second.”
MARTA: So how do you do research for Jaz’s international adventures while living in a farmhouse?
JENNIFER: Even living in the black hole of middle-of-nowhere Illinois we do get high speed Internet. So I spend a great deal of time reading about the locations Jaz and Vayl visit and studying hundreds (maybe even thousands) of pictures of the place. Believe it or not, the CIA usually has a webpage devoted to the places I’ve picked for Jaz’s missions, and it covers the basics thoroughly. I read travelogues and guide books. I usually make one or two direct contacts with knowledgeable people who live in the area who are willing to answer questions like the one I asked my bookseller friend from Edinburgh, for One More Bite, which was, “If I was going to watch TV in a bed and breakfast just outside of Inverness, how likely would I be to come across a movie like Hot Fuzz?”
MARTA: How many books do you plan to have in the series? Are you working on any other projects?
JENNIFER: Right now I’m contracted to write eight books in the series. I’ve just finished the seventh, Bitten in Two, and am planning on beginning the eighth November 1. After that I’d like to start a new series for Orbit, which will also fall into the urban fantasy category. But the details are still Top Secret. In the meantime, I’m finishing up my YA book, Shadowstruck, which I hope to send to my agent by the end of the week.
MARTA: Are you surprised at the range of your readership? Can you share one reader comment or reaction that thrilled you?
JENNIFER: I didn’t realize Jaz would appeal to such a wide age range (I’ve had e-mails from preteens and grandparents) or that so many readers around the world would find her such fun. I love it that people are enjoying the Jaz stories, but probably the one e-mail that touched me the most was from a lady who’d just lost her mother. She wanted to thank me for writing something that helped get her through the day. Knowing I gave somebody who was grieving just a little lift? That’s huge.
MARTA: Okay, you know that I think your book covers rock. Do you want to give a shout-out to your designer? [You can read an article about the design of these covers here.]
JENNIFER: I do. My designer for the first five books did a tremendous job and I must thank him from the bottom of my heart for providing me with such beautiful, sleek covers. He’s no longer with Orbit, but Lauren Panepinto has taken his place and I think you’ll agree her cover for Bite Marks should totally be accompanied by a heavy metal riff every time it opens!
MARTA: Here’s the requisite inane question: If you could rewrite a great classic in first person with a paranormal theme, what would it be and give us a few sample sentences.
JENNIFER: See, here again is where my English professors would probably rap my knuckles with a ruler if they could, because I didn’t find a whole lot to cherish in the classics beyond Shakespeare and Chaucer. So, since Hamlet’s already got a bitchin’ ghost, I’ll go for Romeo and Juliet’s balcony scene:
Romeo: “Juliet! Throw down a ladder or something! It’s coming!”
Juliet: “I’m tying the sheets together as fast as I can! What were you thinking anyway? The Capulet isn’t supposed to wake for another fifty years!”
Romeo: “Now you tell me? Before you were all like, 'Oh, Romeo, let’s take a walk by the cemetery. It’s so dark and romantic. I’ll show you a monument that’s been marking the burial site of a cool old family legend. And while we’re there maybe we can make out.' Now you’re all—”
Juliet: “I never said that about making out! You’re such a douche!”
Romeo: “Me? I was just . . . aaaaahhhhh!”
(He doesn’t die just now. I’m telling you this because you look a little worried.)—Now those lines came from a classic. Can you name it?
MARTA: The aaaahhhh! part? Uhm, I'm pretty sure it's from Sense and Sensibility when Marianne falls down. Anything else you’d like to share with readers?
JENNIFER: It’s my turn to do Thanksgiving this year, and I just discovered my kid doesn’t care for celery, so if any of you have a great stuffing recipe that doesn’t include the green, pass it on will ya? Here’s where you can find me. (And yeah, I’m a chatter, so we’ll definitely talk books while you’re there too!)
MARTA: Thanks for visiting, Jennifer, and sharing your book news and the whole celery issue, which is also a problem with my spawn. (Just skip the celery. No one really cares about it. I make stuffing with cornbread, walnuts, onion, and that's about it.)
To can learn more about Jennifer and her books at:
- Jennifer's website, where you can read excerpts of all of her novels on the books page.
- Reluctant Adults Blog
TO ENTER THE CONTEST: I'm always forgetting names of characters, but I remember Jaz Parks because it's such a cool name. If you'd like to win an autographed copy of Bite Marks or Once Bitten, Twice Shy, leave a comment for Jennifer or the favorite name of a character in a book or movie. (Mine is Snake Plissken from "Escape from New York." I love that name.) Will we ever forget Buffy Summers?
Mention on the comment which book you'd like to win. (Bite Marks is for fans of the series, and Once Bitten, Twice Shy is for those who haven't yet started the series.)
The contest is open worldwide and will run through the evening of October 28. Winners will be chosen at random.