Interview : Jennifer Rardin

Jennifer Rardin was the author of Jaz Parks series. She passed away on September 20th, 2010 and it’s a huge loss for all her fans.

When her first book was released in France in fall 2008, I was lucky to be able to interview her. Here is the retranscription.

Francesca : Why did you choose to write a vampire story ? Are you fond of vampires ?

Jennifer Rardin : I’ve always been fascinated by vampires. What’s not to love ? Eternal youth and beauty. Mega-strength combined with grace and phenomenal speed. The ability to make people do anything you want – like wear a tutu into the bank and sing “I’m a Little Teapot” to the security guard. (I would have some major laughs if I was a vamp.) But I digress.

I wrote Once Bitten, Twice Shy at the encouragement of my husband. We were discussing what direction I might take for my next project, and he knew how much I loved vampire stories, so he suggested I write one. My first response was pretty much, “Um, fun for me. Not so much for my potential readers. Because, you know, all the good vamp fiction’s already been done.” To which he replied, “Not by you.” I thought, “The man has a point !” So I decided to give it a go.

Francesca : Would you like vampires to be able to live with humans on earth, as they do in your books ?

Jennifer Rardin : Absolutely not. Only rarely are the vamps in my books “civilized.” Most of the time they’re the kind of monstrous, blood-sucking predators you really enjoy in your fiction, but would never wish on your worst enemy in reality. We’ve got enough human monsters roaming the earth without adding vamps to the mix. Although Vayl would be fun to have around. Okay, maybe fun is the wrong word. Deliriously exciting ? Yeah, that’s closer.

Francesca : What kind of literature do you like ? What are your favorite authors and your favorite books ?

Jennifer Rardin : I grew up reading fairy tales and god-myths. I discovered the Narnia series in fifth grade and the magic of Tolkien in eighth. With that kind of background, I guess it makes sense that I prefer Fantasy and Sci-Fi, followed by Bourne Supremacy style thrillers. My favorite authors are Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy, Ursula K. LeGuin and the Weis & Hickman duo. Books I read over and over again include The Stand, Steven King’s Gunslinger series, The Left Hand of Darkness, State of Fear, and the Legends series by Weis and Hickman.

Francesca : Urban fantasy (or bit-lit) arrived in France a few years ago, thanks in particular to Bragelonne and Milady (who publish your books). Is the phenomenon more important in the USA ?

Jennifer Rardin : I’m not sure more important is the right word. Maybe more widely accepted ? Movies like Blade and Underworld, and authors like Laurell K. Hamilton and Kim Harrison, have helped bring the genre off the back shelves and into the front of the store. Now, with the Twilight series enjoying such popularity, and Charlaine K. Harris’s characters starring in their own HBO series, it’s clear that people are eager for more great stories that weave human lives with those of the creatures we’ve been scaring each other with for hundreds of years.

Francesca : Jasmine is a very modern woman, brave, funny and sexy. Why did you choose to tell the story from her point of view ? Is it because you were inspired by yourself to build this character ?

Jennifer Rardin : I began writing the series from a third-person point-of-view. This is easier in a lot of ways, because you can show more action and various character perspectives. But about halfway through the first draft I realized the story was falling flat. Luckily I knew how to fix it.

Every time I picked up the novel, I would hear Jaz’s voice in my head – sassy, witty, pained but refusing to buckle – so I finally thought, “This is who should be telling the story. It’s going to be harder to write, but I really think it’s the way to go.”

Regarding inspiration, I think Jaz had been developing in my head over a period of several years, because I can see facets of her in earlier writings. She is less me than the girl I’d have aspired to be twenty years ago if I’d been brasher, braver, tougher, and much less inclined to worry about consequences.

Francesca : The relationship between Jaz and Vayl is unusual, with professionalism, respect, trust and friendship. Will they have a love story ? Will we know more details about Vayl’s past life and his feelings for Jaz ?

Jennifer Rardin : I’m glad you picked up on the uniqueness of their relationship. I wanted it to be different from the usual give and take you see between protagonists, something believable and yet new.

I’d say we have great potential for a love story between Jaz and Vayl, provided they can both deal with the personal issues that stand in the way of a lasting relationship.

I do reveal bits and pieces of Vayl’s past as the series progresses, but especially in book four (Bitten to Death). Obviously it’s tough to get his perspective on anything given that the books are from Jaz’s point of view, but you will understand his slant on the world and Jaz more clearly with each new book.

Francesca : We don’t have yet the good fortune to read your second book, Another One Bites the Dust, in France. Can you tell us more about this novel ?

Jennifer Rardin : Another One Bites the Dust takes place in Corpus Christie, Texas during a fictional festival, at which our heroes are pretending to be part of the entertainment (sometimes with hilarious results). Their assignment is to take out an ancient Chinese vampire who’s stolen a piece of technology vital to US interests. Of course the plan expands as we move along. New monsters appear, needing to be conquered. Old issues raise their ugly heads, demanding to be dealt with. And, um, romance ? I’d say temperatures are definitely set to rise.

Francesca : You have signed with American publisher Orbit for three more books in the series. Congratulations ! Do you already know how to finish this series or do you plan an even longer series ?

Jennifer Rardin : Thank you ! I’m absolutely thrilled. Orbit is a phenomenal publisher and I’m blessed to be affiliated with them.

I don’t know how the series ends. I understand someday it must, but at this point I see myself continuing with it as long as a publisher shows interest and readers want to share adventures with Jaz and Vayl.

Francesca : How do you organize yourself with your family when you are writing ?

Jennifer Rardin : I’m fortunate to have an incredibly supportive family. Maybe this is what happens when they watch you struggle to make your dream come true year after year after year . . . and then the call finally comes !

So when I need to work nights (in the case of a looming deadline, or extra projects such as this one) they’re great about giving me the time I need to get the job done. However, family has always been my first priority. So I try to get the majority of my writing accomplished while my husband (a teacher) is at work and my son (who’s sixteen) is at school. When my daughter’s home from college, I drop everything so we can hang out. This means my work day runs from about nine-thirty a.m. to three p.m. and then from nine p.m. to about 11:30 p.m. (because I always write at bedtime. I used to read – but now I use that time for my novels). I do write at night on weekends, but I leave the day completely free for family fun.

Francesca : The covers of your books are very pretty. Is it you who imagined them ?

Jennifer Rardin : I’d love to take credit, but no, I had nothing to do with the covers. Orbit just happens to have an art department full of creative geniuses. And I mean that sincerely. I’ve loved every cover, and thank goodness they’re so wonderful, because they make such a difference in whether or not readers pick up a book or leave it on the shelf. I’d love to say I posed for them but, uh, no ! (That thump you just heard was my entire family falling on the floor, laughing. Ah, well, they keep me grounded !)

Francesca : You communicate a lot with your fans towards your different websites. Are their opinions very important for you ?

Jennifer Rardin : I get a huge kick out of chatting with fans and try to respond to everyone who contacts me. After all, what’s a writer without a reader ? As I see it, she’s an artist without purpose. So I deeply appreciate people who spend time with my stories, and then take more time to let me know how they felt. Because time is such a valuable commodity these days, isn’t it ?

Yes, fans’ opinions mean a great deal to me and I do listen to everything they say. I may not always agree, and I certainly don’t always follow their suggestions, but I value their feedback. They’re the reason I’m in this business, so when they tell me I’ve written something that made their day a little easier to bear, I feel like I’ve done my job.

Jennifer, we’ll miss you.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa
    Nov 14, 2010 @ 20:05:26

    I remember of this interview, it’s this that gave to me the desire of reading her books. And I don’t regret it ! I was so sad when I hear of her death, fortunately she pu an end to the series before dying but it remains a big loss… 😦 And I was astonished to learn that the french editor didn’t want to continue to publish the books in France ! What a pity… Hope he’ll return on his decision (I admit that I don’t want to read in english for now – I don’t have enough time !).

    Reply

    • Francesca
      Nov 15, 2010 @ 14:41:22

      Well, the third book was not very good, I didn’t finish it. 😦 But Milady said that the series will continue in French next year, there will be 8 books in the series.

      Reply

      • Lisa
        Nov 15, 2010 @ 19:04:16

        Yeah, the following books have to be more captivating because I was a bit disappointed by the last one…

        Reply

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