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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Interview with Jennifer Estep (Interview by Mihir Wanchoo)

Fantasy Book Critic was lucky to sit down with Jennifer Estep in an email interview. Jennifer Estep is the author of the UF series Elemental Assassin and Big Time. Most recently her book Venom was released which is the third book in the Elemental Assassin series.

A big thank you goes out to Jennifer Estep for taking the time to sit down with Fantasy Book Critic.


Welcome to Fantasybookcritic, could you please give us an introduction about yourself, how you first got published and what set you on to the path of a wordsmith!

Thanks for having me here! I started writing my first book back in college. Eventually, I sold the seventh book that I wrote – Karma Girl – in 2006. That book was published in 2007, and I've been writing and publishing ever since. Venom, my October release, is the third book in my Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series and my sixth published book overall.

I've always loved books and reading, and my mom used to take me to the library every Saturday so I could pick out some books for the week. That's really why I fell in love with books. One day, I just thought it would be cool to write my own book with my own characters and tell the story that I wanted to – so I sat down and started my first novel. I haven't stopped writing since then.

Earlier in the year you recently had a very interesting post about Epic fantasy and the over epicness of it. Could you expound upon that for the readers as to why overtly long epics turn you off to some extent?

As much as I love epic fantasy books, sometimes I think that they could be a little less epic – or shorter in other words. I enjoy all the world building that goes along with epic fantasy, but I don't think that authors need to describe things to death. Sometimes, I think that authors focus on the world building instead of moving the story forward. For me as a reader, paragraph after paragraph of descriptions really slows down the pace of a book and kills my enjoyment of the story.

I'd rather read a good fight scene than pages and pages about what someone's hairstyle really means. Some of my favorite epic fantasy authors right now are Alex Bledsoe and Scott Lynch. I think both of them write a good balance of action and world building.

You have an interesting take on the whole elemental power scenario, curiously you have chosen Air, Fire, Ice and Stone as the 4 choices, this is just me but did you select stone instead of Earth as it would facilitate Gin's career or are there other reasons?

I decided on Stone because I wanted something that was the exact opposite of Air, just like Fire is the exact opposite of Ice. Plus, I thought that by using Stone and these other elements that I could come up with some really cool powers for Gin, as well as the bad guys that she faces. For example, with her Stone magic, Gin can make her own skin as hard as marble. With her Ice power, she can create small shapes, like Ice cubes, crystals, and the occasional set of lockpicks. Those come in handy in Gin's line of work. ;-)

Also, there are folks who can use offshoots of the four main elements. For example, metal is an offshoot of Stone magic, while electricity is an offshoot of Air magic. I think that adds a little more variety to my world and the powers that I can have my villains use.

You have said that you are a big fan of the James Bond series by Ian Fleming, so what are your thoughts on the book franchise reboot which is to be done next year with Jeffrey Deaver heralding the first book?

I do love the James Bond series – both the books and the movies. It seems like both the books and the movies get a reboot every few years, and I'm okay with that. I just like reading the new books and watching the new movies. Like any long-running series, there are high points in the Bond series (the movie Casino Royale) and low points (the movie A View to a Kill).

I haven't read many of Deaver's other books, but I'm interested to see what he does with the character. I just hope it's a good, action-packed story that stays true to Fleming's original books with a few modern updates.

Could you explain about how the genesis of the Elemental Assassin series occurred? How long have you been working on it, and how much has it evolved from its original idea (if any)?

I've always loved reading about assassin characters, especially in fantasy books. But after a while, I noticed that there were a lot of whiny, angsty assassins out there – characters who would go on and on and on about how evil and conflicted they were. It always seemed to me like there was a simple solution to that problem – quit being an assassin!

With Gin, I wanted to create the assassin that I wanted to read about – someone who was strong and tough and still a little vulnerable underneath her cold exterior. Also, someone who is okay with all the violent, bloody things that she has to do in order to survive. Someone who realizes that maybe she's not the best person around, but that there are worse folks out there – and good people who need the help of her deadly skills.

Originally, I tried to write the book as an epic fantasy, but I'm just not that great at writing a medieval-type of world. So after a couple of tries, I decided to write the story as an urban fantasy, and that's when the story really started working for me. I worked on Spider's Bite on and off for a couple of years before I settled on the urban fantasy angle and created the world that is featured in the books today.

You have some short stories on your site with regards to your Elemental Assassin books, how do you decide upon which character to focus upon & any thoughts on putting them up as a short story collection for your readers in the future? Also could you tell us about the specific order they have to be read in with the series?

The stories are just fun extras that I do for readers so they have something to read and look forward to in between the books. I try to focus on a different character every time just so readers get to see Gin's world from different points of view. So far, I've written short stories from Gin, Fletcher, and Finn's point of view. Next up, I think that I'll do a couple of stories from Jo-Jo Deveraux's point of view.

The stories don't necessarily have to be read in order, but it helps. I would recommend the following reading order:

Read Spider's Bite (1st book), then read Spider's Bargain (short story).

Read Web of Lies (2nd book), then read Web of Death and Web of Deceit (short stories.)

Read Poison and Wasted (short stories), then read Venom (3rd book) when it comes out on Sept. 28.

Most writers have a muse and some don't, what has been the case for you? Also what is your daily writing schedule like? Do you write best in the morning or evening? Or do you have any specific routines like a certain Dan Brown who gets up at 4:30 & performs shirsasan[a yoga posture] before writing

I have a full-time day job, so I do my writing at night and on the weekends. I don't really have a particular time of day that I like to write, although I do seem to get the most work done on Sundays when it's quiet and I have several hours that I can devote to whatever project I'm currently working on.

I don't know that I have a muse. I just sit down and write until I have a very rough draft. Then, I go back, read through it, and see if my story/characters hang together. If they do, that's when I really dig in and start making everything come together and flow.

On your blog, you seem to have a review count going on as currently you have just crossed 1000, what's the story behind this numbering?

A long time ago, I read somewhere that people can only read an average of 3,000 books in a lifetime, which I think is really sad – 3,000 doesn't seem like that many books to me. So, back in high school, I started keeping a list of all the books that I read just to see if I could beat the 3,000 mark. I just crossed the 1,000 mark, and I review all of the books that I read on my blog. So that's where the numbers come from. I wish I had more time to read!

You Elemental Assassin books have had great covers by Tony Mauro, now usually UF covers aren't something to brag about as usually they portray stereotypical pictures of females with minimalistic clothing or of people who have no connection to the story. What do you feel when you see your covers.

Tony has done an awesome, awesome job with the Elemental Assassin covers – they really capture the dark, gritty spirit of Gin, Ashland, and the books, as well as tie into with the plot of the story. I couldn't be happier with the covers, and I'm always eager to see what Tony will come up with next.

You are contracted for five books but will this mean the end of the Elemental assassin series or do you have plans to write more beyond book 5?

I would love to continue the series beyond book 5. In fact, I have an idea for book 6 that I think would be really cool. But whether or not the series continues will depend on sales, like everything else does. So if you like the books, I hope you'll recommend them to your friends.

You also spoken upon "Touch of Frost" the YA book on your blog. From your description this book seems to be something which I would love to read. Is there any new news to share about it at this time?

Actually, I do. I've sold a young adult urban fantasy series called Mythos Academy. The first book is called Touch of Frost and will be out in August 2011. The books focus on Gwen Frost, a Gypsy girl who has the gift of psychometry, or the ability to know an object's history just by touching it. After a serious freak-out with her magic, Gwen finds herself shipped off to Mythos Academy, a school for the descendents of ancient warriors like Spartans, Valkyries, and more.

The Mythos Academy books won't be quite as dark and gritty as the Elemental Assassin series, since they are young adult books, but I think folks who enjoy the Elemental Assassin series will find plenty to like in the Mythos books – namely a strong, sassy heroine, cool magic/world building, and a sexy Spartan guy.

What are the types of books you like to read, similarly who are your literary heroes and lastly Who do you feel is an underrated writer that deserves more attention and why?

I read pretty widely – romance, fantasy, young adult, spy thrillers, action-adventure books, westerns. Science fiction, literary fiction, and non-fiction are really the only genres that I don't care for. I love books with a little bit of everything in them – action, adventure, danger, and romance. That's one of the reasons why I love the James Bond books by Ian Fleming so much – because the books feature all those elements, plus a larger-than-life hero.

Some of my other favorite authors include Robin McKinley, David Eddings, Donald Westlake/Richard Stark, Robert Parker, Kristin Cashore, Suzanne Collins … I could go on all day!

Hmm. That's a toughie. There are so many great writers out there. But if I had to pick just one, I'd say Donald Westlake. He wrote a great series of comic crime caper novels focusing on John Dortmunder, a thief who has the worst luck in the world and a zany crew to go along with it. I just love those books.

What can we expect from the EA series in terms of books 4 & 5, also what other books are you writing/publishing next.

Gin Blanco will be back for two more books. Tangled Threads (book 4) comes out in May 2011, and book 5 will be out in October 2011. In Tangled Threads, an assassin named Elektra LaFleur comes to town to kill Gin. I had a lot of fun writing a character like Elektra who's just as strong, smart, and cunning as Gin is. Elektra is definitely one of my favorite villains that I've written.

Also, the first book in my Mythos Academy young adult series will debut next year. Touch of Frost will be out in August 2011.

I'm also mulling over ideas for a third series – maybe another urban fantasy or paranormal romance series. We'll see what I come up with. ;-)

Writers often have a different connection to their creations; readers agree or sometimes disagree with the path authors choose. You had very patiently pointed it out when we spoke about Spider's Bite and the scene which I noticed (in the latter third of the book). Why do you think this occurs and have you experienced such a situation within your reading?

It's just part of being an author and a reader – everyone is going to have a different reaction to a book and its characters. I've read books where I didn't think that the characters would (or should) do the things that they did. But it was the author's book, and she wrote it the way that she wanted to. I have no problem with that. She writes her books the way that she wants to, and I write mine the way that I want to. We all listen to our characters' voices or muse or whatever you want to call it and interpret it in different ways.

Also, you never know what experiences your readers have had or what their reading tastes are. There are certain kinds of plots/characters that some readers love – but other readers hate those same kinds of plots/characters. Both the author and the reader bring their own likes and dislikes to every book. Sometimes, the two mesh – and sometimes they don't. I really enjoy talking with other authors and readers about books that we've read and what we all do or don't like in them. I think that's a good way to learn about the craft of writing and what resonates with people. Plus, it's just fun.

I don't expect everyone to love every single thing that I write – I certainly don't love every book that I read. Different strokes for different folks, and all that. I say live and let live. We all like some books and authors better than others. Variety and having our own likes and dislikes is what makes life and books interesting.

You have also previously written the Paranormal Romance BIG TIME series. Could you tell us more about it and do correct me but I think I may have noticed a small connection in between your BT & EA series as in one of your short stories I noticed Finn mention "Fiona Fine Menswear" which I believe is a reference to "Hot Mama" So is there any more connections to the 2 series or just something you would like your readers to have fun with?

The Bigtime books feature sexy superheroes, evil ubervillains, and smart, sassy gals looking for love. Titles in the series are Karma Girl(2007), Hot Mama (2007), and Jinx (2008). Basically, the Bigtime books are campy, comic book spoofs, sort of like the old Wonder Woman show with Lynda Carter or Batman with Adam West. The books are paranormal romances, and they are quite a bit lighter in tone than my Elemental Assassin series.

In every Elemental Assassin book, I have a small reference to someone or something from the Bigtime books. For example, as you mentioned, in Spider's Bite, someone is wearing a Fiona Fine suit – Fiona happens to be the fashion designer heroine of Hot Mama. In Web of Lies, someone reads a news story by Carmen Cole, the journalist heroine of Karma Girl. These are just a fun little reference that I like to throw in for fans of my Bigtime series.

In closing, is there anything else you'd like to say about writing or your upcoming books.

I just want to say thanks again for taking the time to feature me on the blog. I hope everyone has as much fun reading my books as I do writing them. Also, if anyone is interested, they can read my blog and follow me on these various sites:



Facebook fan page



Happy reading, everyone! ;-)


Vickie said...

I have KARMA GIRL on Mt Git'r'Read...I will get to it one day. I look forward to reading all of your series.

Jennifer Estep said...

Vickie -- Cool. I hope you enjoy the book when you get to it.

Bastard said...

Nice interview. Still need to read the rest of Elemental Assassin. Really enjoyed the first book, I have the rest on my shelf.

Probably next month I'll manage to continue the series.

That YA series mentioned looks interesting, though I'm not a fan of psychometry. But I'll keep an eye on it.

Jennifer Estep said...

B -- Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the interivew and are looking forward to the next two books.

That's okay. Different strokes for different folks and all that ...

The Reader said...

@ B.

Thanks, the books get better and especially Venom[3rd book] is clearly the best amongst the three released so far.

I'm looking forward to the YA series as it somehow reminds me of the Jake Ransom series(a bit) and partly HP as well. Lets see I'll try to ask for a review copy next year.


Jennifer Estep said...

Mihir -- Thanks for the nice words about Venom. I appreciate them.

I've never heard of that series. I'll have to check it out.


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