Monday, 13 August 2012

Interview with Jenna Bennett + Giveaway

Today I'm very happy to welcome to Ex Libris my first guest of those authors whose novels were recently released in Entangled Publishing's new Covet imprint, Jenna Bennett, who was kind enough to sit down with me and talk about Greek Gods, love, cookies and Tall, Dark and Divine men. Please give her a warm welcome, and you could even win a copy of her novel! :-)

Stella: Hi Jenna, welcome to Ex Libris! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Jenna: Thanks, Stella; it’s a pleasure to be here!

Flag of Norway
I was born and raised in Norway, and moved to New York City in my late teens. I met my future husband there, and we got married and moved to Nashville, Tennessee. We’re still together and we have two handsome boys. I started writing in the late 1990s – in English; before that, it was all Norwegian – but between changing diapers and practicing real estate, I didn’t actually complete a manuscript until 2006. I got my first book contract in 2007 and my first book was released in 2008.

Stella: You write under two pennames Jenna Bennett and Jennie Bentley and you have 4 series going on besides being a mom and wife, how do you do it? Do you have a master chart and colour coded schedule? Let us in on the behind the scenes organizations required to manage your real life and all the stories that you dream up.

Jenna: LOL! There’s no organization, behind the scenes or elsewhere. I tear my hair out a lot and I’m battling a serious case of stress hives right now. I do it because I have to, in order to tell the stories I want to tell. Like Byron said, if I don’t get this stuff out, the voices in my head drive me crazy.

More seriously, though, the trick is to do one thing at a time and focus 100% on it. When I’m writing, I’m writing. I’m not on the phone, not checking email, not tweeting. When I’m with the family, I’m with the family 100%. We talk about my writing sometimes – my husband and kids are great about helping me brainstorm, especially the mysteries (although the romances make them feel a bit squicky; boys, you know) – but I’m not someone who’ll take a notepad to my kid’s ballgame and sit there writing longhand. When I’m focused on the kids, they get my sole, undivided attention.

Stella: Your latest release Tall, Dark and Divine was one of the few selected titles to debut Entangled Publishing’s new imprint: the Covet line, congratulations! Can you tell readers what they can expect of Tall, Dark and Divine?

Jenna: Thank you! Tall, Dark and Divine is basically a romantic comedy, or at least a laugh-out-loud contemporary romance with a paranormal twist. It’s more contemporary than paranormal, really – it’s all real world; in this case the neighborhood of Astoria in the borough of Queens, NYC, where I lived during my own years in New York – and there’s very little paranormal stuff going on, other than that the old Greek gods are hanging around running matchmaking services and bars and P.I. firms. It’s short and sweet with a few medium to hot love scenes, a happy ending, and – again – a lot of humor.

Stella: Tall, Dark and Divine has a quite unique premise as the hero of your paranormal romance is not just a Greek God, but Eros himself! Do you remember what inspired the story, was there any moment/event/film/song that sparked the idea or how did it all start?

Jenna: Actually, yes. It isn’t always easy to pinpoint exactly what sparked an idea, since they come from everywhere and often spend considerable time in the backbrain before they congeal into something halfway usable, but in this case I can tell you exactly what happened. I was reading Gena Showalter’s Lords of the Underworld series and loving it, but thinking that it was a bit dark, maybe. I don’t generally do dark, either in my reading or my writing. When I veer off in that direction, it’s only for a short period of time. I much prefer light and happy. So I began toying with the idea of a light paranormal series about Greek gods – because I’ve always loved Greek gods – and Eros the matchmaker was the first thing that came to mind.

Eros and Psyche
Stella: Did you do any Greek mythology research for Tall, Dark and Divine? What is your favourite Greek myth/character and why?

Jenna: I studied Greek mythology in school, so a lot of the basics were still there, but yes, I did do some brushing up to be sure I knew what I was talking about. I love the story of Eros and Psyche, actually, and how he accidentally scratched himself with one of his own arrows, which caused him to fall in love with her. Of course, those golden arrows and how they work play a big part in Tall, Dark and Divine.

Stella: The heroine of Tall, Dark and Divine is a baker. Is that a hobby you share with Annie? As I’m a big baker myself, I can’t help but ask can you share with us one of your favourite recipes?

Jenna: I much prefer baking to cooking. I make good scones, or so I’ve been told. They’re pretty simple to make, too.

Mix together

3 cups of self-rising flour (or 3 cups of regular flour w/3 tsp of baking powder)
½ cup of sugar
½ pound of butter (1 stick) coarsely chopped into pieces
1 cup or so of raisins (more or less, depending on how fond you are of raisins)
1 cup or so of milk – enough to make dough stick together but not become sticky

Roll dough out on a floured surface and cut into circles with a cookie cutter or triangles by forming dough into a circle first. Put on a greased cookie sheet and brush with egg. Bake for 20-25 minutes in a 350° oven until the bottoms are brown and sound hollow when tapped.

Stella: If you could have your dream cast who would play the characters in Tall, Dark and Divine?

Jenna: That is SUCH a hard question, because the characters in my head don’t really look like anyone real. Or if they do, I don’t know who. Annie has short, light brown hair and big blue eyes and she’s just a bit plump, while Eros has black curly hair and dark eyes and is REALLY good looking—he’s a Greek god, after all. I’m happy to take suggestions.
Stella: And now let’s have Couple Therapy:

Gilles Marini as Eros
If Eros and Annie had to introduce each other what 3 words would they use to describe the other?

Jenna: Depends on who they were introducing each other to, doesn’t it? Eros would probably describe Annie as sweet, pretty, and kind, but he’s more likely to introduce her as the love of his life. While Annie would call Eros handsome, or gorgeous, or wealthy, or brilliant, or the Greek God of love. Or just a Greek God ;-)

Stella: What is the quality that they like the most in the other and the one that drives them up the wall?

Jenna: Eros likes Annie’s sweet nature, I think. Her kindness and compassion. It drives him nuts that she thinks she’s fat and can’t see how pretty she is. Annie, meanwhile, also appreciates Eros’s kindness – he takes on a stray dog she gets attached to, named after George Hamilton, because she can’t take the dog home herself. For most of the book, she deplores the fact that he’s trying to fix her up with someone else, and that his stubbornness won’t allow him to see that they’re perfect for each other.

Stella: What was their first thought when meeting the other?

Annie: “Whoa. Greek god at twelve o’clock.” (Except not really, because she didn’t know that about him then; she just thought he was gorgeous.)

Eros: “She’s perfect for Harry Mitchell.”

Stella: Was there a specific moment they realized “wow, I just love that person!”?

Jenna: Eros was a bit slow; he didn’t realize it until it was too late and he’d fixed her up with someone else. Annie knew sooner; probably when he asked her to dinner after all the gratuitous sex they’d had, because it showed her that he actually wanted to spend time with her out of bed too. I don’t think she articulates it at that point, but that’s probably when she knew.

Street art in Paris
Stella: Can you tell us any behind the scenes secret related to Tall, Dark and Divine? (either to the writing process, or some tidbit about the characters, a scene that didn’t end up in the final version, etc.)

Jenna: LOL! We were on a pretty strict deadline for the release, and I’m not used to writing books as short as this – all my mysteries have been 90,000 words, while this was only 56,000 after the first draft. So about a week before the release my editor told me I had to rewrite the last few chapters because they felt too rushed; I was trying to pack too much action into too few words.

The release date was a Friday. On the Sunday before, I was frantically rewriting the last quarter of the book. I cut 7,000 words off the back end and wrote them back in, differently, over the course of the weekend, and ended up delivering the book – 60,000 words now – with two minutes to spare until deadline. 11:58 pm Sunday night. Everything that’s there now was there originally, but I added quite a few scenes and words very late in the game. I think the book is better for it, though, although I was going pretty crazy at the time.

Stella: What shall we expect from you, what is next on your schedule? Will there be more Bagging a Greek God novels?

Jenna: I would like to write more Greek God novels. I have tentative plans for Tall, Dark and Delicious (Adonis), Tall, Dark and Dangerous – or maybe Deadly – (Alastor), Tall, Dark and Demanding (Dion), and of course Tall, Dark and Dull (Harry). Don’t know if I can stretch Harry to a full length book, though; his story may end up being a novella or novelette.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a bunch of other good things coming. September 4th marks the release of the 6th book in my Do It Yourself home renovation mystery series from Penguin. In October, there’s supposed to be a contemporary category romance coming from Entangled Publishing, called Friends With Benefits, and November 13th, I’ll have the first book in a four-book science fiction romance series starting. It’s called Fortune’s Hero, and I’m crazy in love with Quinn, the main character. Of course I fall in love with all my heroes – it’s hard to write about them otherwise – but Quinn’s pretty special. After that, we’ll see about more TD&D books, and also some other things. And of course the other three Fortune books.

Stella: Can you share with us some little secret trivia, something that not many people know about you?

Jenna: People tend to be pretty surprised when they realize I’m not an American and that English isn’t my first language, but I’ve already told you that.

A Swedish stripper I sat next to on a place once offered to father my first child. I said no. Or rather I didn’t, because I was too innocent – read: stupid – to realize what he meant. So there you have it: I’m dense. Also, I’m married to royalty. The Gallaghers were kings of Ireland once, for a day or two.

Basically, I’m boring. No deep, dark secrets, no special abilities. I live in my head a lot. That’s pretty much it.

Now I’ve got one for you: if you could bag a Greek god – or shag a Greek god – which god would you pick and why?

Book #1 in the Bagging a Greek God series

Eros, the Greek god of love, swore off the useless emotion after his ex ran off with some Viking godling. He's lost all interest in his matchmaking business, Made in Heaven, until he spots the sweet baker who works across the street. Before she stirs his sullen heart, he'll match her and get back to his ambrosia-laced wine in no time.

Lonely baker Annie Landon has given up on finding Mr. Right. What she needs is Mr. Right Here, Right Now, and this so-called “Greek God” she’s heard is on the rebound sounds exactly like the perfect kind of distraction. But picking up the bitter, workaholic is easier said than done…especially when he seems unreasonably determined to match her with someone else.

Can a woman looking for love—and the matchmaking god who wants her to find it with someone else—have a shot at a happy ending? May the best god—or mortal—win.

Buy at Amazon - B&N


Entangled Publishing has generously offered an ebook copy of Tall, Dark and Divine by Jenna Bennett to a lucky commenter!

All you need to do is leave a comment answering Jenna's question: if you could bag a Greek god – or shag a Greek god – which god would you pick and why?

Giveaway is open worldwide and ends on 24 August 2012!

Good luck!

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