I’m really pleased to invite fantasy romance writer Jennifer Stevenson to the blog today, for a fun and fascinating interview. Let’s get right to it, shall we?
You write fantasy romance with crazy fun stories. What drew you to work in this particular romance sub-genre? What do you like about it?
I’ve always loved comedy. My favorite authors all write comedy—PG Wodehouse, Georgette Heyer, Carl Hiaasen, Daniel Pinkwater, Jennifer Crusie, Terry Pratchett. (Quite a few of them are Brits. Dunno what to make of that. I suppose it helps take me out of ths world!) Comedy makes me relax. The world isn’t so bad while you can laugh at it. Plus, stories about mean people wake me up screaming, which is hard on my husband. I read my favorites aloud to him, and he reads them to me.
As for the Hinky Chicago series, for twenty years I had this idea for a possessed brass bed. I wanted to write it for Harlequin Spice, if I could bang it into shape…a paranormal romance with a sex demon and the woman who gets hold of his bed.
But then I got one of those amazing opportunities nobody ever gets. The editor in chief of Del Rey books wrote me and said she had heard from a mutual friend, Nalo Hopkinson, that I had this wack idea about a brass bed, and had I sold it yet? I had not. I didn’t have much story, either. I had thirty pages of dark, angsty, broody fantasy focused on the hero, and thirty pages of fluffy funny romcom about the heroine. I sent ’em both. The editor picked fluffy.
What’s the premise for your Hinky Chicago series? Does it have two heroes?
To clarify, the series didn’t have a name at first. It’s usually called “The Brass Bed series,” after the first book. The other titles featured a velvet chair and a bearskin rug, but you really can’t hustle “The Furniture Series.”
So the books are now The Hinky Brass Bed, The Hinky Velvet Chair, The Hinky Bearskin Rug, The Hinky Genie Lamp, and A Hinky Taste of You. The Hinky Brass Bed came out September 3. The rest are launching weekly until October 1 at Book View Cafe.
So Jewel is a fraud cop with the Department of Consumer Services in a version of Chicago—and the world—where magic is invading cities and making messes. Pigeons smoke cigarettes (and set fires by dropping their lighted butts everywhere). Magical pink smog covers the highways at rush hour; people vanish, or grow tails, or have other weird things happen to them. Jewel’s job is to investigate “hinky stuff,” try to make the citizens of Chicago happier about it, and keep them from reporting it to the media. Other cities have collapsed because they overreacted to magic. But Chicago is da city dat woiks. Da mayor’s Hinky Policy, unspoken but fiercely enforced, is “Don’t ask, don’t tell, cope.”
Then Jewel is sent undercover to bust Clay, a fake sex therapist. Turns out, he’s not all that fake—his “treatment bed” is possessed by a sex demon, and she accidentally releases him from the bed.
The sex demon Randy was once an ordinary English lord. He was also bad in bed. His mistress complained. He pissed her off by claiming, “You women don’t enjoy sex anyway, you just use it to get money or marriage or children.” Turns out his mistress was a magician with a short temper. She turned him into a sex demon and bound him with a curse: “You don’t get out of this bed until you have satisfied a hundred women.”
Fast forward two hundred years. Jewel is the hundredth woman.
There’s a sting in the tail of the curse. The hundredth woman must love Randy, and he must love her, before the curse is resolved. Until then, if he freaks out or has a fight with her, he ends up zapping into the nearest bed. Or car seat. Or massage table. You should read the scene where he vanishes into the Home Furnishings department on the eighth and ninth floors of Marshall Field’s. Clay has to sneak them into the store after hours so Jewel can find the bed where Randy is imprisoned, lie on it, and give him an opportunity to…satisfy her. That was fun to write.
As for the two men in Jewel’s life—the editor wanted an open-ended fantasy series, not a one-off romance. I knew she was thinking about Laurell K. Hamilton and Janet Evanovich. Plus, the only way to keep the romantic side of the story moving was to throw in a second hero, right? Otherwise it sort of collapses into a happily-ever-after and boom, the story’s kinda over.
So Clay was added in. I’ve had lots of lovely conflict out of Clay’s introduction to this romantic triangle.
You’re someone who grew up close to nature, but your heroine is a savvy, urban fraud investigator? How did you come up with the idea for Jewel?
Cities are fascinating. I adore Chicago and I’m a bit of an infrastructure geek, so I love writing about how things work in cities.
But I kind of miss writing nature, actually. My first book was very nature-oriented (Trash Sex Magic, from Small Beer Press). I’ve been thinking lately about how to add nature to Jewel’s stories. Of course, she and Randy are always having sex in “demonspace” and he often provides her with nature-based settings for their carryings-on.
Jewel was hard for me. I needed a heroine who would drive this particular hero crazy. The usual virginal girlygirl wouldn’t do. (Do I ever do girlygirls? Or virgins? Actually, yes, sometimes.) If she were the kind of woman who had her first orgasm and fell in love with the guy, she’d be no use here, because the story would be over too soon. I needed somebody with a “lifestyle problem,” a girl whose little black book is a foot thick. She wants to tell Randy, “That was nice, now go home, I have a strict no-sleepover rule.” She’s allergic to relationships. She needs her space. For an alpha male with a compulsive woman-pleasing curse, this is ideal torment.
Of course, because Randy is liable to zap into a bed anytime they fight, they’re pretty much joined at the hip. Because she’s not mean enough to condemn him to eternal sex slavery in someone else’s bed. So Jewel suffers too.
This is how authors think.
What’s up next in your writing life?
Next I embark on rewrites for the last book in my Slacker Demons paranormal romance series. I thought of calling it Gods Just Wanna Have Fun, but my editor says no. Now I’m overhauling one of the two heroes and maybe one of the two heroines.
The slackers are five guys living in a man-lair in Chicago. They’re all hot, all sex demons, all working for different hells in different religions, all this close to losing their jobs. Because, while they’re good at meeting girls, they suck at the paperwork. The first one’s called It’s Raining Men.
In the last book I settle the hash of Baz AKA Ashurbanipal, a warrior-god who lost his job and is still mooching around the planet. He’s assigned to get the virtue of a hard-working young rock star who is willy-nilly turning into a love goddess. At the same time I’ve still got Veek AKA Vicomte Montmorency on my hands. Veek ran away from his stuffy French aristocratic family because they hated that his mother was black. Then he ran away from his mother’s voudou family because he pissed off a voudou god. He’s got to stop running now, and I’ve got just the heroine to make him stand and deliver something besides amazing sex demon sex. Sophie is another out-of-control heroine. I love those!
Find me on Facebook and let’s talk.
For my readers today, Jennifer is giving away a copy of The Hinky Brass Bed. Just tell us what’s your favorite comic novel, TV show, or movie for a chance to win!