Monday, January 18, 2010
Q&A with Jennifer Estep & Contest for SPIDER'S BITE
"A fun and fascinating urban fantasy world of vampires, giants, elementals, and other dangerous creatures.... I was definitely impressed. This dark, urban fantasy series has a promising start."
"Wickedly deadly humor, a fabulous world of paranormal creatures, and magic all collide in this fantastic book!"
When I found out that my editor is also Jennifer Estep's editor, I was ecstatic and invited Jennifer to come to Vampire Wire and talk about Spider's Bite, the debut novel in the Elemental Assassin series. (Of course, I was able to wrangle some copies for a contest - so read to the botton of the post for contest info.)
Jennifer is best-known for her hilarious superhero/uber villian books, the Bigtime series, Karma Girl, Hot Mama, and Jinx, that the Romantic Times called "sexy, sizzling and kick-ass fun." Jennifer doesn't complete abandon her whimsy with her new novel, but she does take a grittier route.
Publisher's Weekly gave Spider's Bite a rave and said:
"In the corrupt Southern metropolis of Ashland, weather witches mingle with vampires, giants, and dwarves. A mysterious client hires assassin Gin Blanco, known as the Spider, to murder a whistle-blowing financial officer named Gordon Giles. Then the client attempts a double cross and brutally kills Gin’s mentor. Now Gin, a stone elemental with a hard-boiled attitude, a closely guarded heart, and a penchant for throwing knives, has to join forces with one of the few honest cops in Ashland, sexy detective Donovan Caine, who hates her for killing his partner... gritty violence and steamy sex, but urban fantasy fans will love it."
The review didn't even mention Gin's fabulous day job working at a barbecue, and it still sounds terrific. But let's have Jennifer tell you about the book and the series.
MARTA: Welcome to Vampire Wire, Jennifer, and congratulations on the launch of your new Elemental Assassin series! Would you please tell us a little about the series and Spider’s Bite?
JENNIFER: Hi, Marta! Thanks for having me. Of course.
The Elemental Assassin books are set in the fictional southern metropolis of Ashland, where Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina meet in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. The books focus on Gin Blanco, an assassin codenamed the Spider who runs a barbecue restaurant called the Pork Pit in her spare time. Gin is also an elemental or person who can control one of the four elements – Air, Fire, Ice, and Stone. Gin has the rare gift of being able to control two elements, Ice and Stone in her case. Besides elementals like Gin, Ashland is also home to giants, dwarves, and vampires.
In Spider’s Bite, the first book in the series, Gin is double-crossed during a hit and framed for a murder she didn’t commit. After her handler/foster father is brutally murdered, Gin vows to find out who set her up and why. Along the way, she teams up with a sexy detective to help her get to the bottom of things. Too bad the detective hates Gin for killing his corrupt partner. Only one thing is certain – if Gin has her way, someone’s going to die …
MARTA: Your Bigtime series had a different heroine in every book, and the Elemental Assassin series will feature Gin Blanco, aka The Spider, in each novel. Do you ever feel like a popular bachelorette who broke many hearts before suddenly and shockingly committing to one partner? Why the change?
JENNIFER: Well, my Bigtime books are paranormal romances, and since every one of those stories ends with the heroine getting her happily ever after, it was only natural to feature a new heroine in the next book.
But the Elemental Assassin series is dark, gritty urban fantasy. It’s the kind of genre that usually focuses on one character throughout a series (like Harry Dresden in Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files). Besides, Gin Blanco is such an interesting, morally gray character and there’s so much pain in her past that I felt that she could star in a series of books. Gin will eventually get her happily ever after just like the heroines in my Bigtime novels do – it will just take her a while to get there.
As for the bachelorette part, heh. I’ll let you know once readers start chiming in and e-mailing me about Spider’s Bite – and whether or not they like my switch to urban fantasy.
MARTA: This series sounds like a turn to grittier urban fantasy for you. Was it a challenge to create a heroine who’s an assassin? Did you have to place Gin in any sort of philosophical or theological framework to justify her actions?
JENNIFER: The Elemental Assassin series is much, much grittier than my Bigtime books, although I like to think that both series have a lot of the same elements in common – strong, kick-butt heroines, a cool magic world, and some nifty fight scenes.
It was a bit of a challenge to create an assassin heroine, to make her someone who kills people for money and still likable and someone people can relate to at the same time. It’s a fine line to walk between making your heroine a bad-ass or, well, just an ass.
As Gin puts it, the people she kills “have it coming anyway.” And she does have a set of rules that she follows. She doesn’t kill kids or pets, and she doesn’t frame people for the murders that she commits. It may not be most people’s code of justice, but it works for Gin.
MARTA: Your Elemental series is set in the fictional Southern town of Ashland. I love writing with a strong regional flavor. What are your favorite quirky traits about Ashland, its inhabitants, and Gin’s barbecue joint, the Pork Pit?
JENNIFER: I’m a Southern girl myself, and I think there’s something really dark and gothic about the South that lends itself to the urban fantasy genre. I like to play with names, and it was really fun for me to create and name the places in Ashland, keeping my Southern vibe in mind. I especially like the name for my nightclub – Northern Aggression.
I also love the fact that in Ashland, people will call you sugar to your face and then stab you in the back a minute later. Knowing who to trust really keeps Gin on her toes.
Ah, the Pork Pit. I don’t think there’s anything more Southern than great barbecue, so having a barbecue joint in the books seemed like a natural thing. Plus, it gives Gin an excuse to have lots of knives lying around.
MARTA: The concept of elementals, creatures with powers of fire, water, stone, and air, is featured in classic comic books. Are you a comic book fan and, if so, why should more adults read comics?
JENNIFER: I do like comic books – I wish I had time to read more of them (and just more time to read in general). And I’m a fan of superheroes in all mediums, especially stuff like the old "Wonder Woman" TV show with Lynda Carter; "Batman" with Adam West; "Batman Begins" with Christan Bale; the Spider-Man movies … I could go on. I just think there’s something so cool about having superpowers and using them to do good things.
Comics truly are an art form, but a lot of folks look down their noses at them, just like they do genre books, like fantasy and romance. But you know what? Some of the best writing today is done in genre fiction. Ditto for comics, graphic novels, etc. People who refuse to try them because they think that they’re for kids are really missing out on some great stories and cool art.
MARTA: You’ve got lots of strong female characters in this series. Do you think the popularity of the kick-ass heroine says something about what women are thinking now?
JENNIFER: I think that so many women do it all today – work full-time jobs, take care of their kids, help out elderly parents, etc. – that they want to read about heroines who are just as strong and capable as they are. I know I hate reading books where the heroine is just wimpy, whiny, or too stupid to live.
Urban fantasy is a great genre for strong female characters because the stakes are so high. Urban fantasy heroines have to save their families, themselves, and even the world. They totally kick butt and look fabulous doing it. Overall, I think that’s a really positive message – that women can do whatever they set their minds to.
MARTA: Answer quick, without thinking! Name your favorite kind of barbecue, your favorite funny book, your favorite scary movie, your favorite Southern writer, and your favorite underappreciated superhero.
JENNIFER: Definitely eastern Tennessee barbecue; What’s the Worst that Could Happen? by Donald E. Westlake; Mark Twain; and Green Arrow.
I have to say that I don’t do scary movies. I’m much more of an action-flick girl! "Casino Royale" would be one of my faves in that genre.
MARTA: What’s next for Gin and the Elemental Assassins series?
JENNIFER: I have two more books coming out in the series this year. Web of Lies will be out in June, while Venom will hit shelves in October. I’ll also be posting a series of free Elemental Assassin short stories on my Web site to whet readers’ appetites for the books. The first short story, "Spider’s Bargain," is up on the Excerpts page of my Web site now. It’s a bit of a prequel to Spider’s Bite.
Also, I just signed with my publisher for books 4 and 5 in the series. I’m super excited about the sale because the books will let me wrap up the first main story arc with Gin and her nemesis. Of course, I want to write more Gin books beyond these five, but that depends on sales, like everything else.
MARTA: Obligatory inane question. If you had to write a book about any elderly relatives and give them paranormal powers, what would the book be called and what would be their powers? Would they be a force for evil or a force for making you dress more sensibly and write thank-you notes?
JENNIFER: Hmm … well, I kind of did this already with the Bigtime series. I have a couple of elderly superheroes, like Granny Cane, who carries a cane and goes around wailing on muggers with it.
But if I had to right a new book, I’d call it The Protectors, and they would definitely be a force for annoying good. Their superpowers would include automatically knowing things like whether or not someone is speeding, crossing the street without looking, running with scissors, etc. My grandma is always telling me to be careful, but I love her for her concern. It’s nice to know that people care about you.
MARTA: Where can readers find out more about you and your books? Where do you hang out online?
JENNIFER: Folks can visit my Web site to get info on all my books, release dates, excerpts, etc. Folks can also check out my blog there and sign up for my monthly e-newsletter.
People can follow me on Facebook or e-mail me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MARTA: Thanks so much for visiting Vampire Wire, Jennifer, and I hope this new series is a great success!
JENNIFER: Me too! Thanks for having me on Vampire Wire.
Read Chapter One of Spider's Bite.
Find out about Jennifer's book signings and request a free bookmark.
Download and read the prequel, "Spider's Bargain," at Simon & Schuster.
CONTEST INFO: If you'd like to win one of TWO COPIES of Spider's Bite, just leave a comment for Jennifer, or tell us what your day job would be if you were secretly a paid assassin living among supernatural creatures. (I would work at the DMV because that would fuel my fury toward mankind.)
The contest runs through Wednesday, January 27, and is restricted to the US and Canada. Winners will be chosen by random draw.
GRATUITOUS VIDEO OF THE DAY
These are in honor of Jennifer and her faves.
If you're gonna get all exercised about a man's nekkid backside, do not watch this.
Batman shakes a mean cape! This is pretty much the most awesome thing I've ever seen on YouTube! It needs multiple exclamation marks!!! and EXTRA CAPITALIZATION!!
Posted by Marta at 7:42 AM