Thursday, April 10, 2003

Janet Evanovich
Interviewed by Eve Tan Gee

Visions of Sugar Plums is my latest book and probably my favourite. I had fun writing it and I think people will have fun reading it and you just can't get any better than that. It's a Plum book but it features a new character (Diesel) that I've been holding in my head for a couple years now. Diesel is actually a superhero and I loved that I could take the existing world of Plum and drop this sort of super guy into it. The defining moment in the book for me is when Stephanie Plum admits that she'd like to think there really are super heroes on the planet. Isn't that a wish we all have? That a superhero will walk among us and save us from ourselves? I mean, where's Superman now? And wouldn't you like to know the guy who could fill Batman's codpiece?

There were two early influences on my work. The first would have to be Carl Barks. When I was a kid I read Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics and I developed a love for the adventure story. The second would have to be Robert B. Parker. When I made the decision to move from romance to crime I read all the Parker books and decided I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. He's such an incredible technician. He makes reading easy.

My early unpublished stuff was pretty far out there. My favourite was about a sort of porno fairy who lived in a fairy forest in Pennsylvania. Probably the world still isn't ready for that one.

Sadly, I do very little reading of other authors these days. I used to read when I flew but flying has become so obnoxious that I do it only under the threat of death or the promise of big money… so my reading time has been severely cut back. When I'm working on a book I find I need to go to bed with the book in my head. If I'm reading someone else I'm going to bed with the wrong book. And these days I'm ALWAYS writing a book. That said, I do find it hard to pass up a new Amanda Quick regency romance or a new Junie B. Jones. Yes, I was Junie B. Jones in a previous life.

I write very broad humour and I think humour can get tedious if it's relentless. So I feel it necessary to raise the stakes for the reader periodically. One of the ways to do this is to insert a violent scene. My rules are that the violence needs to be necessary and moves the story forward. I never kill cats or dogs. And all horrible violence takes place off stage. When it comes to sexuality I think writers need to do what's appropriate for their own voice. Some writers opt for frankness, some for discretion. I opt for funny. Okay, no comments about my sex life!

I don't think it's necessary for a book to make a political statement but all contemporary books reflect the author's view on a wide variety of social conditions. On a strictly personal level, I feel my first obligation to the reader is to entertain in a positive manner. Beyond that, I address issues such as family, women's rights, minorities, and violence if they arise as a natural component of the story.

I'm always working! I usually write seven days a week for a minimum of four hours a day -- sometimes I'm at the computer from five in the morning until ten at night, eating Cheez Doodles, drinking Coke, wishing I was someone else… Nora Roberts, maybe. I have an office at the end of my house with windows that look out over the Connecticut River valley. When I'm in the Cheez Doodle mode I close the blinds so I'm not distracted. I begin a book with a short outline which is actually a timeline of action. Then I follow my writing progress on a large white board, recording chapter by chapter, sort of like a movie story board.

I think my books make people happy and that's my principal appeal. I make people laugh. And I allow people to feel good about themselves. If Stephanie Plum can make it through the day, so can my reader. And I give people hope. My characters are incredibly average and yet they can be heroic if necessary. I keep my books relatively short and the structure is linear because a lot of people are busy these days and I don't want my reader to have to work hard to get through the story.
Music and films are all part of the mix that goes into my head. Everything I do and see and hear and smell ends up in the pot. I don't think a writer needs to stay abreast of the latest film, or the latest bestseller, or be a news junkie, but I do think a writer should live and suck in what's around him. I need quiet when I write so I don't use music to spur inspiration. But when I'm on the treadmill I need a LOT of music!

I write a series, so the characters are already there, waiting for a new plot, but the truth is, my books are character driven and the plot is simply necessary structure to tell the character story. That said, if I didn't have a half-way decent plot the whole thing would be damn boring.

I love New York and Chicago and Boston and London but my creative juices flow best in New Hampshire. If I'm going to get a book done I need a lot of quiet and no possibility to shop.

My relationships with my publishers and editors have all been excellent. No author, no matter how amazing, can achieve large scale success on his own. Only a publisher (and Oprah) can make an author a star.

I write for my reader. I have four unpublished books sitting in a dresser drawer. I wrote the books for myself, wasn't able to get them published, and found the whole experience to be flat. For me, writing is all about connecting, communicating, entertaining.

Reading will always be important. It's entertainment and it's communication and it allows the consumer to mentally participate. What we need to realise is that reading fits into a larger picture, competing with and complimenting film, television, internet and live entertainment. I love the super stores that combine books and music and coffee bars. And I love the small mystery stores that give the consumer a personal and maybe mystery mood experience. I think buying the book should be as much fun as reading the book.

There are times when I'm writing when I'm behind deadline and I really need to be left alone to get the job done. Just slide the Snickers bars under the door, thank you. When I'm not behind deadline I find I need lots of stuff coming into my head to compensate for what gets pulled out.

It seems to me religion is just another one of those life influences that goes into the pot. Childhood experiences, love affairs, dogs gone to heaven, visits to Disneyland and religion are all part of the creative glop that becomes a book.

I feel very comfortable to be a commodity that's packaged and sold by my publisher. Truth is, my books are product and my readers are consumers. Deal with it.

The book I'm writing now is number nine in the Plum series. It's late, of course! And that's about all I'm prepared to say!! Doncha love surprises?

Janet Evanovich lives in New Hampshire but grew up in New Jersey. She is the author of eight best-selling Stephanie Plum novels, including One For The Money, which won the CWA's John Creasey Award, Two For The Dough, which won the CWA Last Laugh Award and Three To Get Deadly, which was awarded the CWA Silver Dagger for 1997.

From Crime Time

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