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Steven Wedel Interviews Jeanne Stein

Don’t you hate it when you read and really enjoy a book, then meet the author and she’s some horrible old witch you just want to douse with water so you can watch her melt?

Yeah? Well, that’ll never happen with Jeanne Stein. She’s got a feisty streak, but she’s absolutely one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet.

Her newest novel, LEGACY, came out September 1. Just prior to that, Jeanne took some time from her busy schedule to talk to Fangs, Fur and Fey about her new book and writing in general.


1. LEGACY is an urban fantasy novel, the fourth in the Anna Strong series. Why do you write urban fantasy? What drew you to this genre instead of, say, the western, mystery or erotica?


The best thing about UF is that the emphasis is on story and action. Not romance. Not sex (although there is definitely some of that.) And I get to play the “what if” game in our own universe. A world we all recognize but with definite tweaks.


2. Tell us about Anna Strong. Where did she come from, and what does it take to sustain a character over several novels?

I think I’ve always had Anna in the back of my head. To me, she’s smart, brave, strong and intensely loyal. I just didn’t have a venue that was right for her until now. Her journey from human to vampire and the adjustments she makes will sustain the character arc for as long as readers ask for more and Berkley will allow me to write the stories.  I hope it’s a long time.



3. Can you give us a little summary about Anna’s new adventure?


In Legacy, Anna is confronted by a woman claiming to be Avery’s widow. No matter how Anna tries to convince her that she wants no part of Avery’s fortune, it soon becomes clear that there is more at stake than money and more to the woman than meets the eye. The subplot involves Anna’s human nemesis, Gloria, and how Anna finds herself in the ridiculous position of trying to help her out of a jam.


4. Will there be more Anna Strong novels? If so, have you already written the next one, and when might we see it?


Yes, I’m happy to report, there will be more. The fifth book, working title Retribution, should be released in the spring of next year. I just accepted an offer for two more books, too. Not sure when the pub dates are for those yet.


5. What is the biggest challenge for you as a writer?


The biggest challenge has to be juggling promotion and writing. I’m naturally an introvert, my comfort zone is two feet in front of my computer screen. To force myself out in the world, to be on panels, to schmooze in the bar, to sell myself, is very difficult. I think I’m getting better, then something happens and I lose all confidence. I long for the days (if they actually ever existed) when all a writer had to do was write the books and the publishers took care of the rest.


6. If you could go back in time and give your younger self some advice about writing and publishing, what would you say?


Go for it sooner. You have no idea how jealous I am of the cadre of young writers who are starting their careers as twenty or thirty-something instead of…heh-heh….almost spilled it. Anyway, let’s just say I got a late start.


7. What or who were your early influences? How did that lead you to urban fantasy?


Ira Levin, Anne Rice, LKH. I’d say those were my earliest influences. Later, Charlaine Harris and Joss Whedon. They led me to UF by taking a different look at the world—our world—and expanding the idea of what vampires and werewolves and other creatures of the night could be.


8. What kind of reading experience are you hoping to create for your readers? What do you want them to come away from your books saying, thinking and feeling?


I’m trying to offer readers’ an afternoon’s entertainment. I want them to escape from their everyday life for a few hours and come away wanting more.  I don’t want them to have to think about anything except the story. And at the end, I want them to feel they’ve read a good story. I’m not trying to write the great American novel, nor do I aspire to penning “literature.” I look at my books as movies on paper. Entertainment. I hope the themes of good and evil and who and what are the real monsters in Anna’s world sets them apart a little. And I hope Anna’s continuing struggle to retain her humanity makes her sympathetic. I want them to like Anna as much as I do.


9. If you weren’t a writer, what would you be? Why?


I’ve already been a lot of things—but a better way to answer that question is to tell you what I’d be if I could start over. I’d be in law enforcement—a cop or a detective. I have that ingrained desire to make things right in the world. To protect those who are unable to protect themselves.


10. You’ve added that “best-seller” tag to your name already. Looking long term, what are your career goals now? What will you do to get there?


I’ve been a B & N National bestseller and a local bestseller in Denver and San Diego, but haven’t made one of the biggie lists yet—the NYT or USA—except as part of an anthology and that doesn’t really count. I hope someday to see my name on one of those lists—extended will do nicely. I’m not greedy.  As for getting there, I’ve been attending lots of conferences, posting on lots of blogs, joining some really great loops (like this one.) In reality, though, there really is only so much a writer can do to get there. Try to write a good book and hope the word spreads. Readers make bestsellers.


11. Do you have any plans for fiction that doesn’t involve Anna Strong? If so, what?


A fantasy writer friend of mine, Susan Smith, and I are shopping a World War I story in which angels and demons influence the conflict on earth. And I’m brainstorming a few ideas for another UF series. It seems the trend is to have more than one series going. It’s good for readers, but hard on writers!


12. What is the allure of the vampire? Is it immortality? Eternal life? Or is it just being attracted to the bad boy (or girl)? 


All of the above.


13. Would you become a vampire if given the chance? Why?


As I get (ahem) older, the appeal of living forever gets stronger. If I had a situation like Anna where I didn’t have to become a predator to survive, I’d give it serious consideration. The downside is seeing all the humans you love grow old and die. The upside is being a witness to history through the ages.


14. You strike me as a death metal kinda chick. (No, not really.) Do you listen to music while you write? What kind of music do you like?


What do you mean? Stillborn Ways is my favorite group.


Actually, I don’t listen to music while I write. I tend to want to burst into song and that’s distracting. I won’t tell you what my favorite music is—you’ll think I’m too old to write UF.



15. Who would you cast as the primary leads if you could make a movie about Anna? Why choose them?


I love this question. Okay—I see Anna as an Angela-Jolie-as-Lara-Croft kind of gal with shorter hair (not blonde, no matter what those covers show) and thinner lips. Or Kate- Beckinsale-as-Selene in Underworld. Christian Bale would do nicely as her new boyfriend and Luke Wilson a passable Daniel Frey. Big budget flick for sure.


16. What’s up with the kickboxing? How long have you been doing that, and how many people have you maimed?


I’ve been kickboxing for three years. And NO, I haven’t maimed anyone. I have great self-control…. And besides, they don’t let us practice on each other. We kick and punch the shit out of bags.  Come to think of it, though, most of the others DO get to practice on each other. What’s up with that?


17. Rumor has it that if you were a dude you’d most likely be hanging out in biker bars. Why would anyone say that about you?


I have NO idea. You’ve met me—I’m sweet, demure, retiring and very, very shy.


18. Jeanne, you recently visited my home state for Conestoga. During your visit, several farmers around Tulsa reported finding livestock drained of blood and the letter J carved on fence posts. The phenomena stopped when the convention was over. Do you know anything about that?

What? The police said they’d keep that quiet. It wasn’t me, I tell you. I saw nothing. I know nothing. I found that bloody ax in the alley behind the hotel.


That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.



19. What will you be doing to promote LEGACY?


Besides the six conferences I’ve gone to or will be going to in the next two months? Lots of signings in San Diego and Denver. Lots of blog posts. Lots of banging my head against the wall. Lots of animal sacrifices. Oh wait, scratch that last one. Remember that close call in Tulsa, Jeanne, remember Tulsa.



20. Last question: If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one book to read over and over again until you went insane, what would it be, and why?


Jeez, Steve, where did you come up with that one? Okay—I guess if I had to choose ONLY one it would be Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby. One of the earliest UF’s and still one of the best.





( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 4th, 2008 11:24 pm (UTC)
Jeanne!!! You're so funny. I'm halfway through Legacy and loving it! Can't wait to see you at RT.
Sep. 5th, 2008 12:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Renee-- the way time is going for me, we'll be at RT in a couple of weeks!

Love you, J.
Sep. 5th, 2008 12:14 am (UTC)
Many thanks to Carrie for posting this for me while I was at work, where LJ is blocked. And, of course, to Jeanne for answering my questions.
Sep. 5th, 2008 12:50 pm (UTC)
You work at a place that blocks LJ????
Shame on you, Steve-- shame.

This was one of the best set of interview questions I've ever gotten-- even the personal one about the animal mutilation thing....but I won't bring that up again.

Thank you Steve-- I owe you a drink the next time we run into each other...

Sep. 6th, 2008 05:40 pm (UTC)
I know, I know! Crazy school administrators seem to think kids in computer labs would go to social networks instead of doing their work. Can you imagine? What child would do that???

You certainly gave some of the most entertaining answers of anyone I've interviewed. I look forward to that drink!
Sep. 5th, 2008 01:33 am (UTC)
Congratulations on the next two books! Anybody who's influenced by Joss Whedon piques my interest. I'll go check it out. Thanks for the interview.
Sep. 5th, 2008 12:48 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading it. Whedon is all the wonderful writer things I'd like to be. BTW, at DragonCon, Jackie Kessler and I attended a packed house showing Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog with real people acting the parts up on the stage alongside the screen.

Can you say Rocky Horror?

It was great~!

Sep. 5th, 2008 04:26 am (UTC)
Congrats on your latest release, Jeanne, and the two more books deal! Great (and funny!) interview. It was great getting to know you at Conestoga. See you at RT in April!

Sep. 5th, 2008 12:46 pm (UTC)
We'll have some fun at RT, huh? Maybe I can hang around you and Dakota Cassidy and pick up a few tips about being gorgeous as well as funny and great promoters. I need the help.

Sep. 5th, 2008 12:28 pm (UTC)
Nice to see someone else admit to losing confidence in the whole self-promotion game just when you think you've gotten a handle on it. I think most of us would be J.D. Salinger if we could get away with it (of course, I think we'd all like to write something as monumental as Catcher in the Rye, too).
Sep. 5th, 2008 12:43 pm (UTC)
Ain't that the truth!!

Sep. 5th, 2008 03:51 pm (UTC)
Great interview. Congrats on the additional Anna Strong books, can't wait to read them! And Rosemary's Baby . . . I'm with ya on that one.
Sep. 5th, 2008 03:54 pm (UTC)
It really is one of the books I read at least once a year.

Sep. 11th, 2008 01:15 pm (UTC)
Not true
I know for a fact that Jeanne is very practiced at selling herself. Cheap. I have video.

Sep. 15th, 2008 03:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Not true
Oh, lord-- I didn't see this before. Don't we have a spam blocker on this site? If not, we should!!!!

Sep. 15th, 2008 02:25 pm (UTC)
Darn it that is another reason I wish I had went to dragoncon. Missed several new to me authors that were there.
Sep. 15th, 2008 03:11 pm (UTC)
There's always next year-- hopefully, I'll be invited back! It is a fabulous con!

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )


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