Interview with Janet Evanovich Gets a Bit “Twisted” in Book Twenty-Six
Interview by Suspense Magazine
We are very excited to bring you a wonderful interview we had with #1 NYT bestselling author Janet Evanovich. She talked with us for about thirty minutes, and you can listen to the entire interview on Suspense Radio. Simply subscribe on ITunes and/or Spotify, where she talks “Twisted Twenty-Six” and much more.
Take a little look inside “Twisted Twenty-Six” and then check out our interview with Janet below.
Grandma Mazur has decided to get married again—this time to a local gangster named Jimmy Rosolli. If Stephanie has her doubts about this marriage, she doesn’t have to worry for long, because the groom drops dead of a heart attack 45 minutes after saying “I do.”
A sad day for Grandma Mazur turns into something far more dangerous when Jimmy’s former “business partners” are convinced that his new widow is keeping the keys to a financial windfall all to herself. But the one thing these wise guys didn’t count on was the widow’s bounty hunter granddaughter, who’ll do anything to save her.
John Raab (J.R.): We are very excited about speaking for the first time with none other than #1 NYT Bestselling author, Janet Evanovich. We’ll be talking about “Twisted Twenty-Six,” the newest title from her Stephanie Plum series, and more. Janet, thanks for coming on. How are you doing?
Janet Evanovich (J.E.): I’m doing great and I’m looking forward to talking about “Twisted Twenty-Six,” and many other things.
J.R.: Let’s just dive right in. Give us a little taste of what you have Stephanie involved in this time?
J.E.: A lot of this is about her grandma—Grandma Mazur. Grandma Mazur is such a fan favorite and I hadn’t spent a lot of time with her lately, so I thought I would do a couple of books. There is an ending here that continues on into the next book. And the next book leaves off the numbers. (Yay!) I couldn’t come up with anymore numbered titles so the book after this one, even though it’s number twenty-seven, will be called “Fortune and Glory.” It’s my ode to Indiana Jones. I’m willing to steal from anyone (LOL).
J.R. A lot of people don’t realize that line actually came out in Temple of Doom. I know my Indiana Jones, too.
J.E.: It’s a big adventure with Grandma Mazur. She was married 45 minutes to some killer mob guy and now his friends think that she has the key to a fortune that he left. It’s all about finding the key and saving Grandma Mazur. Lots of killers, pyromaniacs, and of course, we destroy a couple of cars.
Jeff Ayers (J.A.): I’m so thrilled that you focused on my personal favorite character, Grandma Mazur. When you were writing this book, did you learn something about her that you didn’t realize during the twenty-five previous times?
J.E.: I wouldn’t say I learned something, but I think readers will. I also wanted to make this book a little bit more introspective for Stephanie. I think we learn more about her; we see a lot more about her relationship with Grandma, too. Grandma is always a fun character; she’s out there. But I think you’ll discover that Grandma has a philosophy of life. There’s a lot of grit to Grandma that we don’t always see. She is fun and comedic, but there’s also this very tender, serious, loving relationship between her and Stephanie. In my more recent books, I thought it was time for the characters to grow a little bit. That was one of the things that I looked forward to with this book.
J.A.: And it certainly showed. It was great! Thank you.
J.R.: The one thing you do see when you have a long running series is that the plots and the character lines start to run parallel. When you have those challenges, how difficult is it for you to keep the character lines straight and then bring in a new plot?
J.E.: I don’t know that I would call that a challenge. Just writing is a challenge. I work really hard so that my reader doesn’t have to, and I think lots of times people will look at what I’ve done and say, ‘Wow, that was easy. You really ripped that one off.’ I actually spend a lot of time making it look like it was easy. Like I just sat down and the ‘thing’ just came, but it’s surprising the things that actually are challenges. For instance, transition. I spend a lot of time looking at transitions, making them seamless so the reader isn’t stopped because we’re moving from scene to scene. I try to make that transition slow without slowing the reader down.
The relationships between the characters, especially Stephanie and the two men, Joe Morelli and Ranger, is the most difficult part of the series. I start a new book and I’m like, “What was I thinking? How’d I even get into this? How the heck am I going to pull this off again?” The storylines running together, I like to think of as a braid—you have the plotline, the romance line, the family line, and the personal development for each of the characters. You weave these all together like you’re making a braid. Sometimes it’s easier, depending upon how much time I’ve put into preparing ahead. Life intrudes, so I don’t always have a chance to make an outline ahead of time. I know where I’m going, but I don’t know a lot of the detail. I kind of fly by the seat of my pants on some books but when I have prep time, that book goes faster for me. When I go to bed at night, I take a steno pad and write down notes about what I did that day, and then I make notes about where I want to go tomorrow or the day after and I can move through.
J.R.: You said you work hard so your reader doesn’t have to. I’ve never heard it put that way before but I think that’s a great line.
J.E.: I don’t want my readers to have to pick up a dictionary and look up words. I like to keep it at a very human level. I even work very hard at names, hoping that they’re memorable. I have a lot of new people in a book sometimes and I think it’s difficult for the reader to keep all of that straight, so I try to limit that as much as I can. I don’t have flashbacks; I know I hate them when I read and I don’t want to be bothered with a flashback. I write an entirely linear book so that the reader starts on page one and just glides through until the book is done.
I read dialogue aloud because I want to hear the “music” of the page. I can see if it flows and if it’s easy for the reader to understand. I tend to have a lot of dialogue and I personally like dialogue when I read. I think that’s an easy way to get to know a character. I don’t like to be “told” about the character; I like to find out for myself by the way they react, by their actions, by the way they talk—the dialogue and use of language that they have.
When I first started writing, I had no skills. I was not the kid who wanted to write a book; I was the kid who could draw. When I first started writing, I realized my dialogue was really wooden. I took some acting classes that forced me to get up on stage and do improv, which really helped. Actors and writers do very similar things. You think about the character, who they are, and how people understand those characters by what they do. What kind of hand gestures do they use? What kind of words do they use? How do they tilt their head? So by getting on stage and having to show how my character was nervous or angry became invaluable to me, and I use what I learned then in my writing.
J.A.: I have to ask, because you work so hard thinking about all those things when you’re putting words on a page, how do you co-write with someone else?
J.E.: It’s a little like wearing someone else’s underpants. In the past, my co-authors, Phoef Sutton and Lee Goldberg, were my friends for years before we decided one night in a bar to write a book together. Now I’m co-authoring with my son. The process is, we get together ahead of time and talk about what we want to accomplish. They had their ideas about how they wanted to set it up. Lee wanted to do a con man kind of thing; and I only did a couple of books with Phoef, which was a very different experience. Lee writes hour long series, and Phoef wrote half-hour sitcoms, and when I received their manuscripts you could really see this. After we talk about it, they write the first draft and I just pick it apart and send it back.
I have a team here; my daughter, my son, and my husband all work together. We all edit the books. Everybody sees it from a different point of view. My daughter does the Gen-X edit and my husband does the transitions . . . so when the co-author books come in, we all take a look and then edit it from our points of view. Both Lee and Phoef decided after doing books with me that they were going back into television. They’d had enough of me, I guess. I’m working with my son now, who is brilliant. It is a very easy process because he has worked with me for so many years as an editor. We’re like a little herd, this family. We all move around together. We all live in the same neighborhood. We actually even like each other. So my son and I talk a lot as he’s writing the book. He’ll call up and say, ‘Oh my God. I’ve just written a great scene. You have to hear this.’ And we read the scene and it’s great. He’s doing the Fox and O’Hare books. The last one is out now and the next comes out in March. We’re having a lot of fun with it.
J.A.: You signed with The Story Factory a couple of months ago. What do you see going forward with your brand?
J.E.: World domination.
J.R.: There it is! A new world order.
J.E.: Exactly. Shane Salerno is nuts, I have to say. I imagine this guy has no life. He works all the time. I’ve never had an agent like this. I have this image of him getting dressed in, I don’t know, jeans and a nice shirt, and then gets into this big ass car and goes into his office where he works all day. Then, at 6 o’clock he comes home, but at two in the morning, he’s still working—emails and phone calls. I think he goes to bed and sleeps somewhere between the hours of 4 to 5 a.m. California time, because I don’t know how this guy does everything that he does. He also works really well with my family. My daughter, Alex, does a lot of interface with the publisher and does everything online. She has a couple of people working for her and they do all my online marketing which allows me to write. You just can’t do everything. Then Shane comes in and he just has ideas shooting off his head like fireworks while talking with Alex. It’s been a very exciting process. So when I say ‘world domination’, I actually mean it.
J.R.: When you’re looking ahead, do you see an end game for Stephanie? Do you have plans mapped out, or are you going to just let it roll?
J.E.: I’m enjoying doing it and see no reason to end. Not to mention, the fans seem to be with me. I would love to see this go to television.
J.R.: There’s only 85,000 television sites that are streaming their own content right now; you would figure someone would pick it up.
J.E.: Well, it’s sitting with Sony right now. I don’t know. I imagine that Shane is trying to figure out how to take Stephanie to television. But I have no intention of stopping anytime soon.
J.R.: Did you like the Katherine Heigl movie? Did you like what they did with your character?
J.E.: I thought Katherine Heigl was great. She put that wig on and she was Stephanie. I thought the production was a little lacking; I would have done it a little differently. I wanted it to have more kick ass music, too.
J.A.: Let’s say Sony gives the green light, who would you cast to play Stephanie?
J.E.: I don’t have anyone right now. I keep having people and then the years pass. Sandra Bullock was always the perfect Stephanie.
J.R.: She would have been a good one. She popped into my head when he said that, but you’re right, she’s a little older now. We need to find that twenty-five-year-old Sandra Bullock.
J.E.: Maybe it’s someone who’s not a big name…someone who hasn’t been “discovered” yet.
J.A.: Who do your fans lean to in terms of who they want Stephanie to end up with?
J.E.: It’s pretty much 50/50. It’s interesting. The fans come out to signings and half of them are dressed in black, like with Ranger shirts, and the ones that are the Joe people are usually a bit saner than the Ranger people. They’re mellower; they come with the kids.
J.R.: You should capitalize on that and do a little Twilight thing. Have Team Ranger and Team Joe and see what happens.
J.E.: For years we were trying to grow the audience. We had this online store going and people were able to buy Ranger and Joe shirts and hats. Everybody thought I had this big thing but the store was in my garage. We would be sitting there at 4 o’clock in the afternoon with everybody stuffing t-shirts into bags and rushing out to the post office.
J.R.: Unfortunately, we’ve blown through our time. Is www.evanovich.com the best place for everyone to find all of your information?
J.E.: I think it’s a good place to start.
We would like to thank Janet for taking the time to talk with us. Again, if you want to listen to the entire interview on the podcast, simply search Suspense Radio on ITunes or Spotify or CLICK HERE. For more information on Janet and all her writing, check out her website at www.evanovich.com.
Interview with Janet Evanovich.