Thursday, October 13, 2011

New York Times Bestselling Author Jeanne C. Stein

Interviewed by E.C. Stacy

This has been a long time coming.

I’ll be touting Jeanne’s writing and her accomplishments in the coming questions, but the way I’d like to kick this interview off is with sincere appreciation to which everyone who knows her will shout out an amen.

When a new writer sets out on this road to publication full of pitfalls, a good friend with some experience is about the best thing you can ask for. Jeanne C. Stein is to the budding author what Albus Dumbledore was to Harry Potter. I cannot begin to count all the scribblers she’s helped. A long time member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, she has been instrumental in so many programs that benefit the rookie, they’re mind-boggling. From workshops to the most recent scholarship endowment for the Gold conference, Jeanne has usually lent a helping hand in it somehow.

This is why we members of RMFW are so thrilled with her success. Oh, and the fact that she can tell a pretty amazing story too. And I just happen to be the one lucky enough to interview her!

CIR: When I read The Becoming, I thought it was racy in a tasteful suggestive manner—and I’m specifically thinking about the hot tub scene between Anna and Avery. Often times your titles are categorized as erotic romance. Considering how graphic an erotic romance can be today, do you find this label accurate?

JS: That happens to be Mario Acevedo’s favorite scene, too. Go figure. Now I admit, there is more sex in The Becoming than the books that follow. But if you read erotica, you know my books are mild by comparison. I enjoy writing a good sex scene. After all, Anna was a sexually aggressive woman before she became a vampire and the turning did nothing to alter that…well, nothing except adding a blood-sucking dimension.

CIR: Hexed an anthology which showcases your contribution Blood Debt debuted #32 on the New York Times Bestsellers list. This wasn’t your first time to be on the hot list. Your story The Witch and the Wicked helped boost another anthology Many Bloody Returns to the much coveted bestseller ranking. How is it different this time with Hexed?

JS: The big difference is that since Hexed was composed of four novellas, all four authors had our names on the cover and hence, on the list!!! I made several copies of that list, I’ll admit, and I’ll probably frame it at one time or another. It was a definite thrill, one I wish for every author.

CIR: I’ve attended multiple panels and events at which you spoke and just recently came across this revelation about you from in which you said, “The Becoming started as a straight mystery about a bounty hunting duo that I wrote in 2000 called Fair Game. In 2002, I met an editor for a small Colorado Press called ImaJinn Books. She was speaking at a local RWA meeting in Denver and mentioned she was looking for vampire books. Since I loved that genre, and I was with a friend who knew the original story and thought it would make a very good vampire story, I pitched it. The editor said she liked it and that I should send it to her. With that, I had to go home and write it.”

In previous installments of my Critique Conspiracies series, I point out that what I refer to as know-it-alls will tell an aspiring writer that they must be finished with a manuscript before pitching. Yet your success story is but another that proves that a lot of so-called rules are invalid. How long did it take you to write/rewrite what you had into The Becoming? What are your thoughts on pitching ideas rather than completed novels?

JS: That’s a tricky question. I had thought a lot about writing a vampire novel and the protagonist was already fully developed in my head and don’t forget, I had the plot so it didn’t take me very long to finish it. The problem comes when you pitch a story and it’s only one or two or three chapters done. I don’t recommend pitching a partial manuscript because if the editor or agent says they want to see it, they want to see it NOW. If you have to wait six months to a year to send it, chances are that editor or agent is going to forget all about you and your great idea. They attend lots of conferences, listen to countless pitches and have a slush pile big as Pikes Peak. You can’t give them a chance to forget you!!! Have that puppy in the mail the day after you pitch!

But that does bring up another “rule” we should mention. The one that says New York will never publish anything already put out by a small press. The Becoming was pub’d first by ImaJinn Books and Ace bought it anyway. Never say never because as we know, NOTHING is Chiseled in Rock!! (Couldn’t resist—sorry)

CIR: One of the stories you told that I found most inspirational was about getting an agent who pitched your mystery novel to publishers. That part, I’m sure, was elating. However, the agent couldn’t get a deal for it. What was the secret that helped you to hang in there?

JS: Stubbornness. Orneriness. The encouragement of a critique group who wouldn’t let me give up.

CIR: Was it the same agent who couldn’t sell the mystery who brokered The Becoming?

JS: No. I got a Dear Jeanne letter from that original agent. He sent the mystery to three of four editors then told me he was too busy to pursue the matter. Boo! Hiss!

CIR: I’m sure your fans are saddened to hear that the 9th novel of the Anna Strong series is to be the last. What made you decide to deem the 9th the grand finale?

JS: A combination of factors. I didn’t want the series to become stale. I’d like to try my hand at something else. My editor wants me to move on. The funny thing, though, is that she said, finish it but leave it “open ended.” I’ve lived with Anna for so long, I can’t imagine not writing about her. And with e-pubbing, who knows? There may be more than nine Anna stories.

CIR: Our blog editor asks that we always throw an oddball question to our guests. So, my apologies in advance and here goes nothing…what creature that’s not currently dominating the urban fantasy landscape would you like to see gain popularity?

JS: Well, funny you should ask—I’m developing a story now about a Siren. Stay tuned.

On sale now: Crossroads – Anna Strong # 7.


TamelaBuhrke said...

Jeanne is the best mentor! She is so supportive and encouraging... and she has devil ducks.

Anna Strong is my favorite kick-butt female vampire. I love that she can walk during the day.

Great interview E.C.!

Shannon said...

As generous and noble and Jeanne is, the best thing about her is that she's not TOO nice, if you know what I mean.

Mark Stevens said...

Agreed, Shannon. She's not flashy, she's just gets the job done. Which "she?" Both Anna and Jeanne Stein. Here's an essay question--compare and contrast Anna Strong and Jeanne Stein. I don't read this genre (too much) and I find Anna so compelling because she has such a strong point of view. Well...and the prose positively crackles, too. Great interview. I didn't know the first story started out as a mystery. That shows dedication -- and flexibility to listen to the market. Thanks to both CIR and JS.

Jeanne Stein said...

LOL I'm glad that you mentioned the devil ducks AFTER being supportive and encouraging!!

Thanks, Tamela!!


Jeanne Stein said...

Hey Shannon and Mark-- I try hard not to be TOO NICE. It ruins one's reputation as a bad ass. thanks for stopping by!


Shannon Lawrence said...

I definitely agree that Jeanne Stein is supportive. I met her once at Mountain of Authors in Colorado Springs and she took the time out to talk to me (a hopeful author) and give me valuable information.

Not to mention, her books rock!

Jeanne Stein said...

Thanks, Shannon!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Excellent interview, E.C. -- Thanks for sharing, Jeanne.

Jeanne Stein said...

You're welcome, Patricia!