I am very pleased to welcome author Jenna Black here to Dark Faerie Tales to talk about her writing and her forthcoming urban fantasy novel Dark Descendant. The book will hit shelves on April 26, 2011. You can read an excerpt here.
Jenna Black is your typical writer. Which means she’s an “experience junkie.” She got her BA in physical anthropology and French from Duke University.
Once upon a time, she dreamed she would be the next Jane Goodall, camping in the bush making fabulous discoveries about primate behavior. Then, during her senior year at Duke, she did some actual research in the field and made this shocking discovery: primates spend something like 80% of their time doing such exciting things as sleeping and eating.
Concluding that this discovery was her life’s work in the field of primatology, she then moved on to such varied pastimes as grooming dogs and writing technical documentation. She writes paranormal romance for Tor and urban fantasy for Bantam Dell.
Keeping My Story Straight
by Jenna Black
Dark Descendant, the first book in my new urban fantasy series, hits the shelves on April 26th, and it marks my third series in a row told from the heroine’s first-person point of view. When I was first writing the Morgan Kingsley series, it was my only first-person series, and I found that when I sat down to write in first person, my brain automatically put itself in Morgan Kingsley mode. Which was great, since I was still writing the Guardians of the Night series at that time, in third person, so having a nice trigger to help me get into Morgan’s point of view smoothly was a helpful crutch.
Fast forward to today, when both the Morgan Kingsley series and the Guardians of the Night series are behind me, and I’m simultaneously working on two other series with first-person heroines. Suddenly, when I sit down to a novel and start writing “I,” it’s no longer as easy to get my brain to acknowledge which “I” I am.
I first encountered this situation when I started writing the Faeriewalker books, but because Dana is a teenager whose voice is distinctly different from Morgan’s, I didn’t have too much of a struggle. Nikki, the heroine of the Descendant series, has been more difficult, because like Morgan, she is an adult. I don’t ever feel like Dana’s voice is trying to sneak in, but Morgan occasionally still wants to come out and play.
I’ve built in a few easy triggers to help me keep myself in Nikki’s head when I write the Descendant books (I’m working on the second one as we speak). One of them is that Nikki’s language is “cleaner” than Morgan’s. This was a stylistic decision on my part because I was afraid if Nikki started throwing around a bunch of four-letter words, my brain would go on autopilot and start making her sound just like Morgan. I have, after all, written five books and a short story in Morgan’s point of view, so it would be really easy for her to become my creative default.
The other decision I made strictly for the purpose of trying to keep my characters’ voices straight in my mind was to give Nikki less of a hard edge than Morgan. Which is actually kind of a challenge when writing urban fantasy. The typical urban fantasy heroine is a kick-ass-and-take-names kind of gal—which certainly applies to Morgan—but I wanted to make Nikki different, without making her into a wimp or a Mary Sue. What I ended up with was a character who kicks ass, takes names, and then apologizes for any distress she might have caused.
It’s been a lot of fun getting to know Nikki. Unlike with Morgan, I don’t yet always know how Nikki will react to any given situation, so plotting her books takes a little more thinking and second-guessing. Sometimes I have to mentally try out a couple of possible reactions and see which one “feels” right for her, which is not something I’ve struggled with in the past with Dana or Morgan. I suppose this is a natural consequence of having yet another character running around in my head. And especially of having another “I” running around in my head. It’s the writer’s version of multiple personality disorder.
I’m now about three-quarters of the way through the second Descendant book, and I am becoming more accustomed to thinking like Nikki. I am, however, very grateful to have a husband who serves as a first reader and who will help stamp out any Morganisms that might have snuck into the manuscript when I wasn’t looking. Hopefully, by the time that book hits the shelves (and no, I don’t yet know when that will be), Nikki will be one-hundred percent herself. And if little hints of Morgan sneak in here and there under everyone’s noses . . . Well, sometimes we all have to channel our inner tough chick with attitude, right?
Synopsis (Product Description):
Nikki Glass can track down any man. But when her latest client turns out to be a true descendant of Hades, Nikki now discovers she can’t die. . . . Crazy as it sounds, Nikki’s manhunting skills are literally god-given. She’s a living, breathing descendant of Artemis who has stepped right into a trap set by the children of the gods. Nikki’s new “friends” include a descendant of Eros, who uses sex as a weapon; a descendant of Loki, whose tricks are no laughing matter; and a half-mad descendant of Kali who thinks she’s a spy. But most powerful of all are the Olympians, a rival clan of immortals seeking to destroy all Descendants who refuse to bow down to them. In the eternal battle of good god/bad god, Nikki would make a divine weapon. But if they think she’ll surrender without a fight, the gods must be crazy. . . .
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