This Blog Intentionally Blank welcomes author Jana Denardo, for this week’s #Writer Wednesday session. Welcome, Jana.
This Blog Blank: So we may as well get the good stuff out first. Can you tell us about your latest work? What was your inspiration for writing the story?
Jana Denardo: My latest work is entitled The Darkest Midnight in December, which is an erotic novella set in the 1930’s Pittsburgh, PA. It centers on four young men, two pairs of lovers, Temple and Li, and Caleb and Agni. They’ve been sent out to a town to track down a demon that has been making children and couples disappear. It’s only a few days before Christmas and they aren’t sure they’ll live to see the holiday.
It’s the prequel to Snowbound which was printed last year in Dreamspinner Press’s anthology Necking. Another short story sequel to this will be in print in October from the same publishing house. I’m hoping they’ll be interested in this novella.
TBB: When I fall in love with a book, invariably it’s when I can get lost in the descriptions – when it becomes real – sound, image, etc. Other people I know skip the descriptions and go straight to the dialogue. As writers, we are fortunate in being able to get lost in worlds we create. What causes you to get lost when you are writing a book?
JD: Usually when I get snappy dialogue going between the characters. I love writing dialogue. Once their voices start coming through loud and clear I can bang out the rough drafts of my scenes very quickly. I used to love description, too, but I ended up on the bad side of someone in a writers’ group who loved to rip my description apart. This person believed in a Hemmingway, minimalistic style for everything, and I’m still building my confidence in my descriptions.
TBB: There are “character” writers and “plot” writers (among other types). Which are you?
JD: Honestly, I’m about a fifty-fifty mix of both. I usually get the characters in my head first and then I work on the plot. It’s not uncommon for me to have a huge cast of characters and I end up walking them through multiple subplots. One of the compliments I hear most often is my ability to handle the large cast.
TBB: I hear writers all the time say that they “write for themselves.” Whom do you write for? Why?
JD: While I do write things that make me happy and that would be things I’d want to read, I guess I write because I don’t know how not to write. I’ve been doing this since I was ten years old. I get crabby if I don’t get to write a little every night. I write for the characters in my head. I write for my friends since mostly, they’re my first readers and we all have interests in common. Even if they didn’t know me, they would be my readers since I write in their genres.
TBB: Being a photographer as well as a writer, I take a lot of inspiration from photographs. What do you use to generate your story ideas, to make it “real” to you?
JD: Pictures, very much so. I’ve taken a lot of challenges based on the idea of using a photograph or a piece of art as inspiration in a story. I’m not good, for example, at interior decorating, so I scan hundreds of pictures looking for a house or apartment that fits the story in question. I often do that with faces as well. I like this nose, that hairdo, what happens if I put them together in my mind?
I also get inspired by music and it’s not uncommon for me to put together a sound track for certain characters or stories. But a lot of the ideas come from dreams or from people watching. It’s amazing what you’ll overhear or see, just some random thing that sparks a character or a scene.
TBB: Name something you wish you’d written. Why?
JD: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Unusual Children by Ransom Riggs. Like I mentioned above, I love using photos for inspiration. I love old photos. The idea of weaving a magic realism story around them is just wonderful.
TBB: What do you like most about your writing? What do you want people to take from it?
JD: I like my characters and their dialogue the best. I love the situations I put them in. Mostly, I write a lot of rough times that end up in a happy ending. As for what they can take from it, I hope they’re entertained. I hope they fall in love with the characters. I write erotica, heterosexual, homosexual and polyamorous relationships and I’d like people to see that love knows no bounds and we should be free to love as we chose.
TBB: What made you decide to write your first book?
JD: My first attempt at a book was when I was very young, spurred on by a girlhood crush on Han Solo. My first attempt at a non-fan related book was in high school, carrying over into my first year of college, and was brought on by a love of Japanese anime and Science Fiction. I had two teachers really encouraging me.
My first attempt at a book as an adult came from my love of vampires and I wanted to do something different with them. I was living in South Dakota and hanging out in Deadwood at the time while I worked partially on Pine Ridge Reservation so I had this great backdrop to try something different with vampires and werewolves. I am still actively trying to market that book, which is not erotica.
TBB: I imagine, that like a lot of writers, you’ve been reading most of your life. What changes have you seen in fiction that move you, or anger you?
JD: The wider acceptance of urban fantasy makes me very happy. There’s so much now, I barely know where to start, and I love finding a new mystery series so I’m always on the look out.
That anger me? The slide in editing for one. I’ve been very upset to have books that haven’t even been spellchecked. I can forgive a missing comma, but not words that are literally spelled wrong.
On a more fundamental level, I’m a little irritated by a lot of the young adult urban fantasy that is mostly a romance and worse, is an abusive relationship prettied up by a sexy vampire lover or the hot shape-shifter. I think it’s a dangerous thing to show controlling love-interests in a positive light.
TBB: What part of writing do you like the most? The least?
JD: Working out the character details, doing the research and working on the dialogue, those are all my favorite parts. My least favorite, hands down, is editing. What I wouldn’t give to be perfect the first time out.
TBB: Who is your favorite character, and why? (Yours, or someone else’s.)
JD: Aragorn, Han Solo and Mr Spock, three of my favorite characters since childhood. The first two were good guys with that tinge of darkness, and it appealed to me from an early age. Spock was just so smart and people accepted him for it, something I didn’t achieve in my own early schooling where being smart equaled being bully bait.
Of my own characters, Maddelena, the vampire in the aforementioned non-erotica. She’s a strong, independent woman and one of the best women I think I’ve ever written. In erotica, Temple Chevalier has fast become one of my favorites. He was meant to be a secondary character but he refused to be in the background.
TBB: What do you want potential readers to know about your writing?
JD: That I have a lot of fun writing and hope they have as much fun reading it. Also, that while it is erotica, there is more than rumpty-pumpty to my stories. I think their real strength is in the characters and in the plots they get dropped into. The sex is an integral part, but it is not the whole.
TBB: How can they find your work?