The other day, I reviewed the debut novel of the talented Jennifer Rardin.
Below is an informal interview with the Indiana-born author (a fellow Hoosier!):
Angela/SciFiChick: Tell us a little about Once Bitten, Twice Shy.
Jennifer Rardin: The story takes place in Miami, where CIA assassins Jaz Parks and her boss, the vampire Vayl, have arrived on New YearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Eve. Their mission is to take out a plastic surgeon with terrorist ties named Assan. But first they have to figure out who his new, powerful partners are. The plot thickens like good, spicy sausage gravy as you race through the book. You also need to know that Jaz is struggling with major issues from her past that are affecting her in fairly bizarre and sometimes frightening ways.
Angela: Tell us a bit about yourself and your experience in writing.
Rardin: What does it say about you when, by the time youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re eighteen youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve already read every book you really care to from your local library? Um, get a life, girl! Yeah, there for a while IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d be reading four books at once, living out separate fantasies, all of them heroic and utterly fascinating. I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t resist a good story. Not the soap opera kind. Nope, never was hooked on those. The kind where decisions matter, good can triumph over evil and mundane crap like taking out the trash can transform into adventure when you find a demon munching on your garbage.
Angela: Modern vampire novels are popular and widespread right now. WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s different about the Jaz Parks series that sets it apart from the others?
Rardin: You know, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why I hesitated even to write it. I told my husband, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Vampire fictionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been done. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all been done.Ã¢â‚¬Â And he said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Not by you.Ã¢â‚¬Â So what is it that I do? Action. Adventure. Humor. Romance. Horror. Gore. The books are packed, and I mean brimming, with all of it. Look for it and youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll find everything from social commentary to pure fun. My editor says itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the fastest read sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s experienced in a long time. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve had people whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve never touched vampire fiction tell me they loved it. So maybe what sets it apart is its ability to touch a broad spectrum of readers. And thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a delightful idea to me. Because, I gotta tell you, it sucks writing for no one. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been doing that for years. Now, finally, I get to write for you guys. Wahoo!
Angela: Describe your vampires. (Are they of the traditional Bram Stoker variety?)
Rardin: In many ways, yes, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re traditional. They Ã¢â‚¬Å“dieÃ¢â‚¬Â during the day. (Though I use that term loosely. We do, after all, call them the undead. So I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t believe they go all the way down.) They can be killed in the sun, with a stake through the heart or by beheading, but can heal most other wounds. Crosses wielded by the faithful can burn them along with holy water, and they avoid holy ground. The great majority of them are evil. However, some, like Vayl, have managed to save at least a part of their souls. These are the ones who are trying to blend, to live in a human dominated society that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t care to share property lines, much less civil rights or voting privileges.
Some of the laws of physics compel me to break tradition. So my vamps can see themselves in mirrors. When theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re up and moving around, their bodies work just as ours do, even if they are powered differently. So they can eat, drink, and make love. They canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fly or turn themselves into bats. Though theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re super quick and strong, they canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t bend time. And they each have a core power unique to themselves which is called a cantrantia.
Angela: Who are some of your favorite authors? What books do you love?
Rardin: Fave authors: Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Ursula K. LeGuin, Keri Arthur, Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, Larry Niven, Patricia Briggs
Fave books: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin, The Twins Trilogy by Weis & Hickman, The Gunslinger Series by Stephen King, the first few Anita Blake Vampire Hunter books by Laurell K. Hamilton. Right now IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m reading Devices and Desires by K.J. Parker and enjoying it.
Angela: What inspires you?
Rardin: Great stories, whether I see them in real life, in books, in movies. Music of all kinds played loudly and with passion. Bold colors mixed just so, whether itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in flowers, or quilts, or paintings. Most of all, my family. Nothing can move you, change you, lift you, like the true love of those you hold in your heart. (I know, gag! It never sounds as amazing as it feels. Which is why weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve all been pining for another Shakespeare since the original kicked it!)
Angela: What do you do when youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not writing? In your spare time?
Rardin: Since my lovely and talented agent, Laurie McLean, sold the books, spare time is now at a premium. So I use it mostly to maintain my gardens and try to finish that quilt I promised my son two years ago. I also run daily with my daughter and attempt to cook at least one decent meal every evening. Sometimes I even succeed! Love the travel as well. Just got back from my first trip to New York and, WOW! Had a blast! But, and this is a promise to you Big Apple natives, I will never, ever attempt to drive there.
Angela: Another One Bites the Dust will be releasing in December. What can we look forward to in this sequel?
Rardin: According to my readers itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s better than the first one, so hopefully thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s something to anticipate. Plotwise, our heroes have been assigned to take out a Chinese vampire named Chien-Lung, whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s stolen a vital piece of biotechnology from a military base. The setting is the Corpus Christi Winter Festival, wherein our crew is set up to be part of the entertainment. So, yeah, humor will abound as you discover some of JazÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hidden talents. But I think youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll find yourselves grateful for the light side as you accompany Jaz through a very dark time, during which she begins to act out her violent dreams.
Angela: How many Jaz Parks novels do you hope to write?
Rardin: At the moment we have five planned. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m just finishing the first draft of the fourth, Bitten to Death, this week. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll begin writing the fifth, One More Bite, early in November. That book could be seen as the series end, but if readers really love the first three and just canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t stand the thought of ending it with five, we could easily change our minds and continue. I do, however, have a new urban fantasy series in the works that IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d like to begin writing next year. If that pans out, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d anticipate at least slowing down on the Jaz Parks releases.
Angela: Thanks for your time! Is there anything else youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d like to add?
Rardin: I just want to thank everyone who decides to get in on the Jaz Parks adventure. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s already been such a fantastic ride! And if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to drop me a line. You can contact me through my website at www.jenniferrardin.com.