14 January 2014

AUTHOR INTERVIEW, BOOK EXCERPT, & GIVEAWAY: Jayne Denker discusses Down on Love & what's next for Mars

Today we welcome one of my favorite authors to the blog, Jayne Denker. Thanks for taking a break from writing book two of the Mars series to sit down and chat about your work. Let's get started as I know you've got a full day planned. 
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Jayne, welcome to Fab Fantasy Fiction. I hope you had a great weekend and thank you for sharing your Tuesday with us. May I get you a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate? I was also baking a little this weekend and have some lemon squares. Would you like one? 

Thanks so much for having me! How did you know I’m a sucker for lemon squares? (See what I did there?) In any case, wave one of those in my general direction and I’ll answer any and all questions you might have—heck, I’d probably give you the nuke launch codes and tell you where to find Jimmy Hoffa too, if I could. 

(EVW) Jayne, you know that I absolutely loved DOWN ON LOVE. Not only was the heroine a blogger (who was making a living out of what was a hobby), but you set her hometown practically in my backyard. I felt like I was spying on folks as I read the book and started glancing anxiously as I walked down to Stewart's* (a local convenience store) to make sure my neighbors weren't tweeting what I was wearing or posting pics to Facebook. How did you come up with the town of Marsden? What areas inspired you?
(JD) Aw, thanks! I’m thrilled that you liked it! And it’s heartening to find out that another rural New York resident feels it’s an accurate depiction of the area. It’s a relief to find out I got it right! Marsden is actually cobbled together from a number of places: I grew up in Western New York, I went to college in the Catskills, I worked in the Southern Tier (near the Pennsylvania border), I lived in the Finger Lakes area, and now I live in a small village that’s a little to the west of the Finger Lakes. All my experiences, memories, and impressions of those places went into the creation of Marsden. But Marsden itself is completely fictional. I tossed in a little bit of Woodstock for the artist colony vibe, and Marsden’s Main Street is a mix of my college town’s Main Street, Saratoga Springs’ Broadway (land of many Stewart's!), and a touch of downtown Amherst, Mass. Other than that, everything is fabricated, from the locations to the characters to the events that occur. 

(EVW) When I asked if you had time to join me here this month and you said you were in the midst of writing a sequel, I think I did a little happy dance as the townsfolk of Marsden will return. Each of those characters resonated and I can't wait to see who you focus on next. Can you give us a hint … even a small hint … of what's in store? When might we begin looking for it? (Can you tell I can't wait?!) 
(JD) Yes’m, we are indeed going back to Mars! The next book is called PICTURE THIS (publishes in July), and it’s Celia’s story. I’d written DOWN ON LOVE as a standalone, but after it was done my editor asked if I’d consider making it a series, and if I’d tell Celia’s story next. That threw me a little, because I had never intended Celia—hero Casey’s high school girlfriend—to have a story beyond what was in DOWN ON LOVE. But I managed it. At the end of DOWN ON LOVE (bit of a spoiler?), Celia left Marsden for “the big city.” At the start of PICTURE THIS, she’s a photographer’s assistant in New York City, but her grandmother isn’t well, and her parents ask her to come back to help out for a while. She gets a ride home from a famous comedic actor who has agreed to host a local singing competition, but really, he’s simply smitten with Celia and would follow her anywhere. He claims he can handle Marsden. He’s of course quite wrong. 


(EVW) Now on a more serious note, I want to tip my hat to you for being incredibly inclusive in your character portrayal. Not only is George's sister happily partnered with another woman, but they've had a child together and her other high school friend is openly and proudly gay in this small community. Having grown up in this area, I know how accepting and wonderful folks are and you nailed it. Have you had any reader reaction to those characters? If so, could you share that with us? 

(JD) I haven’t had any reaction, and that’s absolutely wonderful. Nobody’s pointed it out and, even better, nobody’s given me any grief. I like to think that, just as interracial relationships and gay couples (and, in the case of George’s sister Sera and her wife, Jaz, both) are naturally integrated into the story without a great deal of fuss (which I do in all my novels), readers are taking them as a matter of course as well. I hope we’re reaching that point where neither issue stands out and is considered unusual.


(EVW) Once I finished DOWN ON LOVE, I quickly checked in with your publisher to see if there were any backlist books of yours that were available for review. To my great pleasure, your take on Hollywood UNSCRIPTED was sent to me. Could you explain how you got from Hollywood to the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York? Does this mirror your life at all?
(JD) I don’t like to get into a rut, writing the same story over and over again (which is pretty easy to do). So to challenge myself, I try to make each one of my (standalone) books as different from one another as possible. My first book, BY DESIGN, was set in a fictional midsize town in New York. When I was trying to come up with what to write next, I asked myself, What’s the exact opposite of that? And the answer was Hollywood, of course! In addition, I simply can’t write a story about a place I’ve never been to, because I want to be as accurate as possible—not just getting the look right, but the feel of the place as well. Fortunately, my brother and his family live in Southern California, and my mom, my son, and I visit them every year, so I know the area pretty well. Once UNSCRIPTED was put to bed, the question came up again: What’s the exact opposite of Hollywood? Small-town America. And off we went to Marsden for DOWN ON LOVE.

(EVW) What's a typical Jayne day? I know you have a family and combine caring for them with your writing. How do you juggle all of these things? 

(JD) I’m a stay-at-home-mom...which means my days are completely insane. I know it sounds like that kind of life should be nice and peaceful, but it’s most definitely not! Being a SAHM means you never clock out. Ever. So although I try to take advantage of the quiet once I’ve gotten my kid off to school, it’s more likely that I end up running a thousand errands, cooking, and cleaning. To make myself focus on writing, I’ll decamp to a local coffeehouse so I won’t be distracted by that sink full of dirty dishes or the floor that needs mopping or the bills that need to be paid. When my son comes home, there’s no peace—I have to help him with (er, drag him through) his homework, take him to karate, help out with Cub Scouts, and coach an Odyssey of the Mind team. Most of the time I end up writing between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., when there are absolutely no distractions. And up again at 7 a.m. to start all over again.


(EVW) Over the past year I've become more and more aware that writers - whether signed with publishers or independents - are doing more and more of their own outreach, especially through social media. As George, your protagonist in Down on Love, was a master at tapping into the blogosphere are you having to do the same? How do you handle your outreach in this digital age? Do you have a Street Team? How can fans help you? 
(JD) Oh, great googly moogly, I can lose hours of time on social media if I don’t police myself. But instead of pushing my books, I spend my time talking with my friends and just goofing around. I’ll be honest—I absolutely suck at self-promotion. I’m only on Twitter and Facebook—haven’t gotten to Instagram and Tumblr and Reddit—and I hate tooting my own horn. So you won’t find me tweeting and Facebook-posting “buy my book!” every hour on the hour—honestly, I find that practice really repellent. I try to self promote quietly and selectively, but this puts me at a distinct disadvantage, because I’m so far from a household name it’s laughable. Plus I’m digging myself out of a hole—when I started out, I had no network of fellow authors, let alone a fan base, to fall back on, so I was really, REALLY invisible. Heck, even the nearest RWA chapter is an hour’s drive away, so I never joined. Now, however, I’m more active in online groups, and my fellow authors at my agency, The Booker Albert Literary Agency, really support one another. Still, it’s a struggle to get noticed. So...help? Why, yes, I will always accept help!  I’d say just...talk about the books. If you liked one of my books, tell your friends. Leave a review. Recommend it in forums or any other online groups. I would be eternally grateful! Oh—and if anyone wants to boost my Twitter stats, I won’t say no. I have about 200 followers, which is totally pathetic for an author. Selling point: I make every effort to tweet only amusing stuff! 

(EVW) Who were some of your favorite authors growing up? Did they inspire you to write romance novels? In fact, what was your inspiration? 
(JW) Like so many authors, I was a voracious reader as a kid. I worked my way through all the classics in the Juvenile section of my local library. I was a Nancy Drew addict, I was sucked into the Cherry Ames series for a while, I knew all the Judy Blume books by heart. When I got older it was Lord of the Rings, Hitchhiker’s Guide, Narnia...and I must have read The Chronicles of Prydain series a hundred times if once. None of those is a direct line to writing romance, though, right? So I’d have to say that I got into writing romance from my love of TV. Sounds weird, but really, it makes sense—I was a sucker for any romance storyline (even on sitcoms), I watched all the nighttime soaps, and the Eighties was a huge decade for TV movies, which I ate up with a spoon. In fact, when I had an assignment in high school to write a short story, I asked the teacher if I could write a screenplay instead. (She said yes. I got an “A+”.) In fact, the source of my addiction to small towns is revealed in my list of favorite TV shows: Northern Exposure, Gilmore Girls, Hart of Dixie, Ballykissangel, Bunheads, etc. Pretty transparent, no? 

(EVW) Do you have any suggestions for prospective writers who feel they have that story to tell, but don’t quite know how to start? 
(JD) Hm. I’d say...just start! Don’t worry if it’s crap at first. Start and don’t stop. The more you write, the easier it gets—you develop a style, you get into a groove, you learn what works for you and what doesn’t. And don’t labor over every word, every nuance. Just get it down at first and worry about making it better later. If you need something to poke you with a stick to keep you going, write in a group (online or in person), where other readers are expecting, and likely demanding, your next chapter. I found that NaNoWriMo kept me on track—I wrote the first half of my first book during those 30 days, and there was no better way to keep moving forward than being forced to by the sight of that infernal bar graph shaming me if I’d fallen behind in my daily word count! When you’re not writing, read, read, read. Of course, after you’ve been writing a while, you have to get critiqued and start to improve, but if you do that too soon, it’s too easy to get discouraged and give up.


I'm so sorry you have to leave now, Jayne, as I have so many more questions to ask. I do hope you'll have some time once book two is out to pop back here! Have a great day and thanks again for dropping by!

Read Emsy's review of DOWN ON LOVE on TheBestReviews.com

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ENTER THE GIVEAWAY FOR EITHER 
A PRINT OR DIGITAL COPY OF 
DOWN ON LOVE BY JAYNE DENKER




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EXCERPT FROM
DOWN ON LOVE 
by JAYNE DENKER

“Get everything for dinner?”

“Yes, ma’am.” George plopped onto the step next to Sera, chucked Amelia under the chin, wiped up a random rope of drool dampening the baby’s face. While she was drying her hand on her shorts, George finally noticed the noises coming from inside the house. “What’s going on? Jaz made a miraculous recovery and suddenly took up home renovation?”

Sera struggled to her feet as Amelia wiggled to get out of her arms and into George’s. “Not quite. You can act all smug now—the kitchen sink went kablooey.”

“You mean just as I predicted days ago? Incredible! I’m psychic. I should pick lottery numbers.”

“Yes, please do.”

“You mean because now we have to pay the plumber?” George asked, following her inside.

“No—”

“Just please tell me you aren’t still using that awful guy Dad always called. What was his name? Oh yeah—Steve. Good ol’ Steverino the Wonder Plumber. He couldn’t tell his sewer snake from his trouser snake,” she declared, oblivious to the legs sticking out from under the sink that may very well have belonged to said Wonder Plumber.

“George!” Sera reprimanded her sister.

“What part of what I said is not true?” she shot back as she flung the grocery bags onto the counter. Then she gasped and scrambled as a can of beans rolled out of one of the bags. She made a valiant grab for it, but she never was good at fielding. She bobbled the can, and it went even farther than it would have on its own—straight into the worst possible spot for a metal can to hit a man.

George froze in horror as the accidental missile landed with an unholy thud. A mighty, muffled “Whuffff!” came from inside the cabinet, and the legs curled up and to the side, the can rolling away lazily into a puddle of water. A strangled voice squeaked, “Mother—”

“Baby nearby!” Sera snapped.

“—Russia!”

George started to rush to the man she feared she’d just castrated, but stopped short to mouth Mother Russia? at Sera. Her sister shrugged. George crouched down by the fetally positioned plumber. “Are you all right?”

Groan.

“What am I saying? Of course you’re not all right.”

Whimper.

“Can you move? Can you get up?”

“Gimme a minute,” he whispered, every syllable tight with pain.

George looked up at Sera. “Ice pack?”

Her sister reached into the freezer and tossed George a bag of frozen peas.

“I just bought these two days ago!” George protested.

“I think he needs them more than we do right about now!”

George held them out. “Uh . . . should I . . . ?”

“Put them in his hand!”

“His hand is otherwise occupied,” she hissed.

George held the bag of peas above the area in peril as she nervously turned it one way, then another, trying to figure out what to do with it. Then he moved his hand out from between his legs, and George grabbed the opportunity to push the bag onto the spot at the base of his zipper.

“Not—” Sera started to shout, but it was too late. His legs convulsed again.

“Stop . . . helping,” he choked out.

“Good grief, George, just step back!” Sera cried.

“Fine!” George jumped up and raked rigid fingers through her hair at her temples. “I’m sorry! I—”

Jaz appeared in the doorway with Amelia. “What is going on?” she demanded, as Sera relieved her of the newly calmed, but shirtless baby.

The plumber held up his free hand abruptly—George was grateful to see he wasn’t wielding a wrench or other object that could be used as a weapon—stopping everything in the room. The women waited, silently shooting each other accusing glares.

After a minute or two, there were signs of life. The plumber inched out of the cabinet, then got to his feet—gingerly, stiffly, and with his back still a bit hunched. He peered up at George with a feeble smile. “Nice way to say hi, Goose.”

George could feel the blood drain from her face. “Ho-ly s—”

Sera cleared her throat loudly.

“—Swiss cheese.”


It was Casey. Casey Bowen. In her house. Well, her old house. Whatever—not the point. He was here. Just like when they’d been in high school together, and he’d been part of Sera’s circle of friends. And he looked . . . the same, unfortunately. Unfortunately because the way he looked—from his dense, nearly black hair (still sticking up, as always, as if it had never made the acquaintance of a brush) to his bottle-green eyes to his height and slight-but-muscular breadth that had made him ideal for both the basketball and the soccer teams—always undid her.

And he had hardly changed one iota, except . . . there was more. More of him, but not in an “Oh wow, he really let himself go” way. No, just the opposite: more muscles, more eye twinkles, more . . . presence. Just more of everything that had made him irresistible to her years ago. It was as if he was magnified into someone even more . . . Casey-ish. And that made her forget how to speak. Just like back in high school.

Sera filled the sudden silence. “George, you remember Casey, right?”
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SPOTLIGHT ON DOWN ON LOVE

eKensington
$3.99
Publication Date: November 21, 2013
When it comes to love, she's a professional skeptic. Is it too late for a career change?
If there's one thing Georgiana Down is an expert in, it's bad relationships. That's what inspired her blog, Down on Love, where she gives snarky advice--usually along the lines of "dump him." In fact, George is abstaining from men all together. At least that's the plan--until she makes a trip back to her tiny hometown in the Catskills, where meddling is an art form. . .

George loves helping out with her new baby niece, but she's counting the days until she returns to Boston. Then she runs into Casey Bowen, her high school crush. The boy she once loved is now a handsome grown man--and suddenly George needs a little advice of her own. She's in the right place, because when she drunk posts on her blog, everyone in Marsden has something to say about George and Casey. It's like high school all over again--but maybe this time she'll get things right. . .

Add DOWN ON LOVE to your Goodreads shelf

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About Jayne


Jayne Denker lives in a small village in western New York with family, including a very sweet senior-citizen basement kitteh who loves nothing more than going outside, where she sits on the front walk and wonders why she begged to go outside. When she's not hard at work on another novel (or, rather, when she should be hard at work on another novel), Jayne can usually be found frittering away stupid amounts of time on Facebook and Twitter.

Find and Follow Jayne on Social Media
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EXTRAS


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ADD JAYNE DENKER'S 
CONTEMPORARY ROMANCES TO 
YOUR BOOKSHELF

Down on Love
eKensington
$3.99
Publication Date: November 21, 2013
When it comes to love, she's a professional skeptic. Is it too late for a career change?
If there's one thing Georgiana Down is an expert in, it's bad relationships. That's what inspired her blog, Down on Love, where she gives snarky advice--usually along the lines of "dump him." In fact, George is abstaining from men all together. At least that's the plan--until she makes a trip back to her tiny hometown in the Catskills, where meddling is an art form. . .

George loves helping out with her new baby niece, but she's counting the days until she returns to Boston. Then she runs into Casey Bowen, her high school crush. The boy she once loved is now a handsome grown man--and suddenly George needs a little advice of her own. She's in the right place, because when she drunk posts on her blog, everyone in Marsden has something to say about George and Casey. It's like high school all over again--but maybe this time she'll get things right. . .

Add DOWN ON LOVE to your Goodreads shelf


Unscripted
eKensington
$3.99
Publication Date: August 1, 2013
One of Hollywood’s hardest working women is about to discover there's a lot more drama behind the camera than in front of it...
Faith “Freakin’” Sinclair probably shouldn’t have called her boss a perv…or grabbed his “privates.” But as creator of the hit dramedy Modern Women, she’d had enough of his sexist insults. Now she’s untouchable in the industry—not in a good way. The only way to redeem herself is to convince Alex, the wildly popular, wildly demanding former star of her show, to come back. But there’s one obstacle in her way—one very handsome, broad-shouldered obstacle…

Professor Mason Mitchell is head of the theater department where Alex is studying “real” acting. The only way he’ll let Faith anywhere near Alex is if she agrees to co-teach a class. It’s an offer she can’t refuse—and as it turns out, the professor just might end up teaching Faith that there’s more to life than work—and that real-life love scenes are way more fun than fake ones….

"Irreverent, unpredictable, and just what I needed.”—FicWishes

Add UNSCRIPTED to your Goodreads Shelf


By Design
Publication Date: May 16, 2013
She's got loads of talent, a massive crush--and no confidence. Now she just needs a plan. . .
Interior designer Emmie Brewster is having one of those. . .decades. Her overbearing boss believes she's only qualified to make coffee. Her boyfriend treats her like a booty call. And her widowed father is dating again--more successfully than she is. Then Emmie lands a client who happens to be the hottest man she's ever encountered. Too bad Graham Cooper is already involved with the kind of woman Emmie longs to be. If only she had the courage. . .

Emmie's always been content to dream--about having her own business, her own Mr. Right--but something about Graham makes her want to take action. Maybe it's time she used her talent for creating beauty and order on herself. She has Graham's admiration--does she dare go for more? With a little encouragement from her friends, and a lot of newfound motivation, Emmie's ready to try. . .

Add BY DESIGN to your Goodreads shelf