Wednesday, April 16, 2014

An Interview With Janet Evanovich

I knew Janet Evanovich needed no introduction when I mentioned this interview to my sister, the magazine reader, and she knew of Janet’s work. I’ve read all of Janet’s fiction. But I hadn’t read her one nonfiction book, How I Write. On page one, Janet spoke directly to me. “Rules For Successful Writing: Don’t fall into the trap of rewriting chapter one until it’s perfected.” I’ve committed that error too many times because first chapters give me the hot shivers. With Janet’s permission, I’ll give that up. Thanks for the interview, Janet, and Welcome to Writers Who Kill.                                                E. B. Davis

I loved the direction of Stephanie’s love life and career in Takedown Twenty, and I’m crossing my fingers there is a reason that Ranger sticks by her. Will you give our readers any hints about Top Secret Twenty-One (due for release June 2014)?

For national security reasons, my lips are sealed.

Presenting a tried and dried concept to agents and publishers may be safe for new writers, but if
they have an "out of the box" concept it won't attract agents and publishers without a successful sales record. How can new writers break through this contradiction of the "different but safe" traditional publishing sales model?

It's a tough fight for first time authors no matter what they write. I think the best way to get an agent's attention is by starting with a "hook" or snappy language or something to grab the reader's attention immediately. In present tense, state precisely and succinctly what the book is about. (Think in terms of how a TV show is explained in TV Guide.) For example: Out-of-work lingerie-buyer Stephanie Plum blackmails her cousin into hiring her into the unlikely position of bounty hunter. In a sentence or two, describe why you are "the one" to write this book. For example, you worked as a homicide detective for fifteen years in Los Angeles or you are a forensic medical specialist. All of this should be done with as much brevity as possible. And by no means should you tell anyone your book is out of the box because that’s an automatic rejection!

When you write, instead of reading, you watch TV or movies. Are these visual arts part of your market research to keep current and discover what is popular and selling?

Since I write about 12 hours a day, seven days a week, I find that watching a little TV is relaxing. I suppose, by osmosis, some of that gets imprinted on my brain, but I don't think I use what I see on the big or small screens to influence the books.

I gather that you create your characters first and the plot second. But your characters follow the plot, which you create before writing. Do you ever write pantser style? Has it ever changed your plots?

I don't really fly by the seat of my pants when I write. I pretty much know where I'm going. The beauty of a long running series is that you know the characters. In the beginning, I had to develop them, but now most of my effort goes toward plotting before I begin to write. Once I have a plot, I very seldom have to chuck it all and start fresh.

You've recommended joining writers' groups, such as SinC, to beginners. How many writers' groups do you belong to, and how much do you get involved with the groups?

Since I spend so much time writing these days, I'm not currently involved with any group. When I was starting out I belonged to RWA and Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers.

Why do you co-author books?

I like the energy. It's fun to collaborate with a pro. I really like writing with Lee Goldberg. He's hilarious.

What inspires you to write?

I love it. While some writers may cringe at the thought of that blank computer screen, I can't wait to fill it.

With all the changes in the market, would you recommend self-publishing to new authors?

Boy, that's a tough one. The self-publishing route is difficult because chain bookstores won't stock your books -- in most cases, they are not returnable. I know of a number of self-published authors with boxes of books in their garages that they can't unload. Thanks to e-publishing, that paradigm is shifting a bit. Booksellers like Amazon are now publishing e-books submitted directly by the author.

How I Write was published in 2006. Is there anything you would revise -- other than submission requirements -- due to changes in the industry?

Other than taking the slight shift toward e-publishing into consideration, I don't think there would be that much more to add.

I've read two of your graphic novels. Were they experiments?

I started out in life as an artist and am still a fan of comic books. My daughter, Alex, and I were given an opportunity to write for a terrific graphic novel company -- Dark Horse Comics -- and we jumped at the chance. It was fun, but it was a big collaborative effort that took over a year from concept to finished product. For now, I'm happy to just to write in the conventional way.

How would you describe your writing style?

Humorous romantic adventure.

Were you involved in writing the script for the movie of One For The Money? Were you satisfied that the film depicted your book? Are anymore movies being made from your series?

Like 99% of authors whose books get made into movies, I had no input. I liked the film. At present, I've not heard if the producers plan to make another.

When I search Amazon using your name, the first few titles are yours, but then other author's books appear. Does this bother you as much as it does me?

It's the way they market books. It really doesn't bother me.

Do you prefer beach or mountains, Janet?

Beach. I get altitude sickness.

On February 25th, the second novel in the Fox and O’Hare series was released. Janet co-writes the series with Lee Goldberg (of Monk fame). I read the short story introducing the series and the first novel. I won’t spoil it for you, but the humor and main character dynamics that Janet and Lee devised make the series a must-read for mystery lovers.

Knowing that Janet wrote and received rejection slips for ten years before her first book was published consoles me. Thanks for the inspiration and the interview, Janet, and have a flute of champagne for me at the Turtle Club!


  1. Thanks for the interview. Once again we see persistence pays off.

  2. Thanks for the interview! I think we all admire Janet's success. And are a tad jealous!

  3. Thanks for sharing this terrific interview. Janet paved the way for so many of us by proving there is a huge audience who enjoys humorous romantic mysteries. Although no one can beat her lines! Some of Stephanie Plum's scenes are LOL to the 10th degree. Janet came to Sacramento to speak and she is as funny in person as she is on paper. And so gracious to all of her fans!

  4. Great interview, Elaine, and cheers to Janet for what I'm sure is a rare interview for an online blog. In her Stephanie Plum books, Janet invented a new genre, and readers fell in love with both the character and the writer who created her. Any writer who works as hard as Janet does deserves her success.

  5. Terrific interview, Elaine, and kudos for securing it. Much praise goes to Janet for doing an interview for an online group blog.

    Janet has worked hard for her success, and it's all paid off for her because the public loves her characters and wit.

  6. Great interview, Elaine, and thank you for agreeing to it, Janet. I truly admire the success you've made of your writing and all the hard work that went into it. May you continue down this road of success for many more years.

  7. Thanks so much to E.B. Davis and Janet Evanovich for such a terrific interview!

  8. So glad you came to visit us, Janet!

  9. Janet, thanks for the dependably irresistible Stephanie Plum series. Interesting answers to good questions.

  10. Great interview, E.B., and thank you for visiting, Janet. The Fox and O'Hare series sounds fun.

  11. I appreciated Janet's answers to my questions. Her quick response was most unexpected. Thanks, Janet!

  12. Janet and E.B.,

    Great interview! I'm another big fan. I introduced my husband to Stephanie Plum some years ago and now we share the novels. To quote my husband: "TAKE DOWN TWENTY is the best yet." Most series get stale, but this one doesn't. The humor is great. I think new writers can learn a lot reading and analyzing technique in these novels, including the great narrative hooks. I want Kevin the giraffe as a pet! Right now, I have THE CHASE sitting on my nightstand waiting to be read.

  13. Thank you, Janet, for the interview and all for the wonderful books.
    So, what's next for Grandma Mazur?

  14. Thanks, E.B. for persuading the terrific Janet to do this interview. It was fun to read.

  15. So glad to see this fun interview. I love Janet's works!

  16. Janet--thanks so much for the interview. I've enjoyed reading all of your books. You've accomplished your objective of making the reader feel better after having read your books. I think your sales are an indication that's true. It's what we need. I wish we all felt better about ourselves. Keep on fighting the good fight, and keep writing for us.

  17. It's great to see an interview with Janet Evanovich! A treat to hear from one my perennial favorites. Her writing style is so easy breezy, and that comes through here too. Thank you!

  18. Thanks for the interview...inspiring and proving that stick-to-itiveness pays off. And congrats to Elaine for snagging Janet!

  19. E.B. I had my head down so I missed your interview with Janet Evanovich. Kudos to you and thank you, Janet for granting E.B. top secret clearance to run this! As someone who is dreadfully unhappy with chapter one, your advice speaks to me. Thanks!

  20. Thank you E.B. and Janet for such a treat! "How I Write" has been on my bookshelf since it was published. I'm looking back at my notes in it, smiling at how they helped me -- and knowing they'll help me again!

  21. Congratulations on your interview with Janet Evanovich, Elaine. You always ask excellent questions in your interviews. Whether Janet agreed to the interview because she knew that or not, she surely knows it now. I listened to How I Write as book on tape. She narrates some of that book herself. It's a joy to hear her advice in her own voice. Thanks.