Note from Tez: This interview was conducted a while ago. In honour of Biting the Bullet‘s recent release – and in the spirit of weekend reading – enjoy it now.
Meet Jennifer Rardin, author of urban fantasy novels Once Bitten Twice Shy, Another One Bites the Dust, Biting the Bullet, Bitten to Death and One More Bite (Orbit: 8th October 2007, 12th December 2007, 11th February 2008, 12th August 2008 and 9th March 2009 respectively). Let’s learn…
Once Bitten, Twice Shy
I’m Jaz Parks. My boss is Vayl, born in Romania in 1744. Died there too, at the hand of his vampire wife, Liliana. But that’s ancient history. For the moment Vayl works for the C.I.A. doing what he does best – assassination. And I help. You could say I’m an Assistant Assassin. But then I’d have to kick your ass.
Our current assignment seemed easy. Get close to a Miami plastic surgeon named Assan, a charmer with ties to terrorism that run deeper than a buried body. Find out what he’s meeting with that can help him and his comrades bring America to her knees. And then close his beady little eyes forever. Why is it that nothing’s ever as easy as it seems?
Another One Bites the Dust
In their latest mission, Jaz and Vayl are sent to kill an ancient Chinese vamp who’s stolen a vital piece of biotechnology. The catch? They’re undercover as street performers…and Jaz has to bellydance.
Biting the Bullet
The Raptor, the CIA’s longtime nemesis, is back. Jaz Parks and her vampire boss Vayl are asked to join her brother David’s special ops team to take him down. But when her spirit guide tells her that she’s being led to the wrong man, and she starts asking the wrong questions, her life – and her job – are threatened. And the one person who can help her – her boss – is off on a wild goose chase. Add to the mix a pack of reavers bent on revenge along with a small army of desert monsters, and Biting the Bullet will take you so close to the edge of your seat you may want to leave a pillow on the floor just in case.
Bitten to Death
Jaz Parks and her vampire boss, Vayl, have already fought demons, vampires, and reavers. Now, juggling work and family takes on a new dimension as she tackles her latest challenge: nail the Raptor before he can reduce her to Jaz-bits, survive a head-on crash with Vayl’s violent past, and lever her twin’s military career back on track before a dishonorable discharge ruins his life. To top it off, she must also contend with her father’s issues. Is he losing his mind? Or is someone really trying to kill him – from beyond the grave?
One More Bite
Jaz and Vayl have been assigned to travel to Inverness to prevent an assassination that has the potential to upset the balance between the west coast vampire nests and allow another Raptor to emerge. In the power vacuum left by Edward “the Raptor” Samos’ death, a struggle for supremacy has begun between his former allies: The Coven of Inverness, the Valencian Weres and The Flock. The struggle takes on a new twist when Pete learns that the Valencians have hired an assassin to take out the Coven’s leader, a powerful witch named Floraidh Halsey. Jaz and Vayl must stalk a killer as wily and Gifted as themselves as they travel through the wild, stark beauty of the Highlands. Their travels also bring new heights to their romance, a new depth to their passion, and a bond they are both, at last, willing to seal.
Tez Miller: You come from a farming background so…what would happen if you used a cattle prod on a person? Would you need to register it as a weapon?
Jennifer Rardin: First let me apologise for misleading you. Though I live in an eighty-year-old farmhouse that description is just to help you visualise my white-sided, two-storey home with front and back porches. My (father’s) family hasn’t been farmers for generations. To tell you the truth, I kinda think they sucked at it.
In answer to your question, I imagine you’d either get a hilarious little tap-dance from the person being prodded. Or they’d fall down and wet their pants. Either way, quite effective. Not sure who you’d register the weapon with or how. Probably better off just pretending you own a ranch somewhere in Texas.
It’s okay; we all have family who suck at things ;-) Jaz Parks has an impressive list of special skills (martial arts, paranormal sensing). What are yours?
I can gain three pounds in a single day, and every time it rains my hair turns into raffia. I’m also an excellent hugger. Not of trees, so much. Mainly of people who need extra care. Oh yeah – I dream vividly every night, remember what happened the next morning, and sometimes they come true.
I can sympathise, me of the vivacious hair ;-) What’s a reaver?
In the world of my Jaz Parks books, a reaver is a low-level demon designed to instigate wars. Usually this is done by means of a contract killing, after which the victim’s soul is sucked into the reaver’s third eye and transferred to Hell.
Good times! Have you been to Inverness? Tell us about it.
Nope, I’ve never been to Europe. In fact, the only travelling I’ve done outside the United States was to four Caribbean islands during a cruise with my parents when I was twelve. (Absolutely unforgettable and highly recommended.)
That won’t stop me from writing about Inverness as if I’ve seen it with my own eyes, however. I’ll just have to do some major research to make it seem that way. That’s the beauty of having an active imagination. Once you’ve seen enough photos, read enough accounts, talked to enough natives – you really do feel you’ve been there. Take my word for it, the place is gorgeous – and crawling with ghosts.
Me jealous and want to visit Caribbean islands :-( Like presidency, do you have to be born in the U.S. to qualify for the CIA?
You don’t need to be born in the US, but you do have to be a U.S. citizen. Vayl is, though that has never been addressed in the books. I tend to leave out stuff that would bore the crap out of me if somebody mentioned it in passing. Which is maybe why my editor keeps saying, “You’ve got to tell us more about this world!”
I’m with your editor: how am I supposed to learn things if you don’t share your knowledge? You’re just holding it back so you can be smarter than the rest of us, aye? ;-) Does the CIA (in real life or in your fiction) do what’s best for the world at large, or only what’s best for America?
In my fiction, the business of the CIA is to preserve America’s national security. Any deadly threat to that is eliminated by Jaz and Vayl, or another member of their tiny department. However, I do envision a great deal of cooperation between the CIA and organisations like Interpol, MI5, ASIO, or the military force of an allied nation.
Ooh, you know about ASIO! Except they might be going by the name of ASIS now. Unless that’s something else entirely. And I don’t know the difference between MI5 and MI6. Me no smart. Do you watch American Dad!, and if not, why the hell not? ;-)
Yeah, I do. Not weekly, but probably two to three times a month. Most of the time I just end up shaking my head and saying, “What the hell?” My favourite character is the fish.
Ah, yes; we all love Klaus :-) Must be hard for him, going from an Olympic ski-jumper to a fish… Can you buy Alias DVDs for “research” and claim them as a “work expense”?
Probably not. However I did visit the American Museum of Natural History while I was in New York last August, and I claimed the cost of my ticket in as a work expense, because I used a lot of what I saw there as inspiration for some of the scenes in Bitten to Death. You never know what’s going to set off a little bottle rocket in your brain. My daughter’s boyfriend was just telling me this hilarious (true) story the other evening and I thought, I’ve got to fit some part of this into my next book. This is just too good to waste. It won’t be recognisable by the time it reaches publication, of course, but all you need is a spark to get you going and then you’re off. Oh yeah, and I’m about to rent Hot Fuzz again, because Jaz’s dad watches it during the book I’m currently writing and I need to get a few details right for the scene. So that big two bucks will go as a business expense. Wahoo!
Ha ha – take that, IRS! ;-) Your books have come out very quickly one after the other. How many had you written before you signed with Orbit, and when was that?
My agent called me about the big sale on August 22, 2006. I signed the contract in September, at which time I only had one Jaz Parks book complete. And they wanted the second one by December. But I’d already been warned, so I knuckled down, wrote pretty much every minute of the day for four months and got the second manuscript done in time. Same with the third, though I had a little more leeway with it. Now, writing my fifth book, I have still never worked under the typical nine-month schedule I understand most writers are given. The most time I’ve ever had on a manuscript was six months. I’m looking forward to having those three extra months with the next set of books, though. Because I’m sure it’ll make for better quality stories.
So what’s on your agenda after the fifth book in the series?
I’m not sure! I’ve developed a new series, the pitch for which my agent and I are tweaking right now. However, if the Jaz Parks books really take off in the next couple of months, I may do more of those. It’s kind of weird not knowing what I’m going to be working on after One More Bite is done May 1. All I know for certain is that I’ll be writing!
Are you an outliner or seat-of-the-pants writer?
A little of both. I’m a general outliner because Orbit needs to know those kinds of details for their catalogues. But when I get too specific with my plans, the story becomes boring. So I try to let it flow its own way as much as possible, given that it must stay within the parameters I’ve already set for it. It’s a little scary to write that way, because you come to a lot more moments where you say, “I don’t know what happens next. OMG, I’m stuck!” The key is not to panic. Get into character, think about the action and figure out all the possibilities. Then pick the most interesting one.
In which foreign countries/languages would you most like to be published?
I’d like to be published in Farsi. I’d love for Middle Eastern women to get hold of my books. To read about Jaz Parks, see what she’s survived, and realise what a strong, determined lady can do for herself when she decides she’s a worthy person who deserves to feel good about herself and her life. It’ll never happen. But I can dream, can’t I?
Now for a favourite hypothetical question: for which urban fantasy author(s) would you turn gay/straight?
Well, I’m trying to go there in my head, but it’s so not working. I just think men are the most fabulous creatures. How often have I said to my friend, “Look at that that sexy guy over there! I could just squeeze those buns for a week!” To which she replies, “That’s your husband!” As if I shouldn’t still be attracted to him after twenty-seven years. Nope, I’m afraid, unless my hubby starts writing urban fantasy and gets a sex change, no way can I provide an exciting answer to this question.
Copout ;-) But the only writer who’s properly answered this question so far is Jeanne C Stein – all hail Ms Jeanne! Thanks for stopping by, Ms Jen – always a pleasure.
Have a lovely day! :-)