Jenna Black

This interview is particularly striking as the answers are detailed and honest. Totally stripped down, Jenna really gives readers a look into how Nikki Glass and her novels came into being. I’m honored to be privy to it. Plus, I get a tiny bit more about Anderson and Jamaal, both who I have a thing for…why do I always like the bad guys? Ah, well, at least Jenna shares my obsession. ;)

 

1. What inspired the world of Nikki Glass? Once the idea came to you, did you have to do a lot of research or did you already have a good knowledge base about the different gods and goddesses?

Nikki’s world was actually inspired by an old partial manuscript of mine, the only book I ever started but didn’t finish. In that partial, I’d made up my own mythology, rather than basing it on existing mythology, but the kernel of the idea was still to have immortals whose immortality could be stolen by their descendants. I thought that would make for immortals with a really interesting and different weakness, and it would allow for some really twisted family dynamics. I have a pretty decent knowledge of mythology, because it’s always been of interest to me. In general, I’m pretty comfortable with Greek/Roman mythology and Hindu mythology (the latter because my father was a collector of Indian art). Even so, I do have to research the various gods and goddess my characters are descended from, both to remind myself of the mythology, and to remind myself which parts of the mythology are actually familiar to the average reader. (Wikipedia is great for that.) Of course, I also really like to depart from the mythology and do my own thing with it, but it’s sort of like playing with grammar: you have to know the rules before you can break them.

2. What were the challenges of writing Dark Descendant

The biggest challenge for me was to make sure Nikki didn’t turn into Morgan Kingsley. I’d just written five novels in Morgan’s point of view, and she was a character whose head I could easily slip into. I wanted to make Nikki have fewer rough edges and be less abrasive, while not letting her be too perfect. It was hard at first, but as I got to know Nikki’s character better, it became easier. I still occasionally catch myself writing something snarky and think to myself “that’s something Morgan would say, but not Nikki.” The good news is, I catch myself.

The other challenge I faced in Dark Descendant was that when I started out, I wanted there to be a strong romance component. For one thing, I thought that was what my readers would expect of me, considering how romantic and/or sexy my previous adult books had been. The problem was that there was too much tension and distrust between Nikki and the potential men in her life for me to introduce a romance without making it totally forced. I finally had to decide to let the first book only have a hint of future romance to come, rather than actually introducing a romance. I’m confident it was the right decision for the book, but I was worried that when it was released my fans would be disappointed. Luckily, I think most of them can see the potential developing and are willing to wait patiently for it to grow.

3. What is your favorite part about Nikki Glass’ world? Who are your favorite characters?

The thing I like best about the world is that using gods and goddesses from all the different pantheons gives me so much freedom. If I need a character with a certain ability, I’m pretty much guaranteed that with a little research, I will find a divine ancestor for that character who could logically impart that ability. And, although it is often challenging to work with, I like the fact that Nikki’s hunting power is so nebulous and undefined. I like that she doesn’t know exactly how it works and that she’s always second-guessing herself.

As for favorite characters, those would have to be Jamaal and Anderson. There’s nothing I like better than a tortured alpha male, and they both fit the bill. Jamaal is so very dark that it’s sometimes hard to make him likable, and yet I’ve tried to make it clear that his darkness isn’t necessarily his fault. Unlike with a plain old human character, I can give Jamaal a supernatural reason for his behavior, something that truly isn’t under his control. His death magic will never allow him to be a traditional hero, but it’s been fun to have Nikki learn more about him and see beneath his facade.

Anderson’s mostly fun for lots of reasons my readers don’t know about yet. I know a lot more about him and about his backstory than I’ve revealed. I’ll reveal some of it in the third book, which I’m hard at work on right now, but I suspect I won’t reveal it all. Let’s just say I’ve given him a backstory that fits in well with some of the uglier stories in Greek mythology.

4. Moving into the second installment of the Nikki Glass series, did you encounter any difficulties or was it easier, having established the world in the first book?

There are always difficulties! Writing a book is hard, whether it’s the first book in a series or the fifth. Each book presents its own unique set of difficulties. I always struggle with plotting, and Deadly Descendant was no exception. The challenge is always to get your characters into situations where it’s seemingly impossible for them to prevail, and then make them prevail anyway. That’s hard for me, every single time. I have to get them into trouble without making them do anything that the reader will think is stupid, and then I have to get them out without convenient coincidences or the villains doing things the readers will think is stupid. When I start writing, I usually have an idea where I want the plot to go, but sometimes figuring out how to get it there can be a real struggle. And the more challenges that are occurring in my “real” life while I’m trying to write, the harder it all becomes.

5. Being a professional writer, what have you learned about writing and the publishing business that surprises you?

The thing that surprises me most is how little being a professional, full-time writer has helped my confidence. Once upon a time, I thought that when I became a published author, I’d feel validated, and that I would from then on believe in my own skills. What real life has taught me is that writing just doesn’t work that way. I have fourteen commercially published books now out on the shelves, and every time I sit down to write, I still have to battle the demons of self-doubt. I still hear that little internal editor in my head telling me everything I write sucks. I still work myself into a state of high anxiety when my books go out into the world, or even when I’m just sending a manuscript out to my editor or my agent. The only thing that’s really different is that I’m used to feeling that way, and I’m coming to accept it as just part of the process. It helps that I know so many other professional authors feel exactly the same way. Self-doubt is part of the equation, and the best thing a writer can do is learn to live with it.

6. If you could share one thing with your fans, what would it be?

Thank you so much! Knowing there are fans out there who read and enjoy my books is what makes it worth it for me to continue on in this crazy career, despite the emotional roller coaster it often puts me on. There’s nothing I enjoy more than hearing from fans who’ve enjoyed my books. When I was a kid, reading was my refuge from all the troubles of my childhood, and it has remained a constant love of mine and a constant source of escape and comfort. I love the thought that my books can do for others what others’ books have done for me over the years. Authors as a general rule receive a lot less positive feedback than a lot of people think, so it means a lot to me when my fans let me know they’ve enjoyed my books.

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Learn more about Jenna Black, Deadly Descendant and all the other wonderful novels Ms. Black puts out here at her site. You can also follow her Twitter here.

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