Today is a very special day because it is the release of Under the Gun by Hannah Jayne! This is the fourth installment of an urban fantasy detective series featuring the human Sophie Lawson, vampire Nina, and the Underworld Detection Agency, around to help your neighborhood monster keep from disturbing the neighborhood. It’s part Buffy the Vampire Slayer, part Stephanie Plum, and a lot of marshmallow pinwheels as Sophie and the gang rush to save their boss, their friends, and maybe the world once again.
To celebrate the release, I interviewed author Hannah Jayne about just what her secret power is:
1. What’s your origin story? (or: how did you become a writer?)
I was (according to my parents), a born dramatic. I Houdini’ed myself out of my crib routinely, dramatically claimed that the cat was stalking me, and was certain that I was left on the doorstep by gypsies. By second grade I wasn’t fooling anyone anymore, so when I was assigned a 3-page story, my dramatics exploded on paper – I wrote 12 pages and never looked back.
2. How did you go about getting published?
Well, by age 18 I had lost all the confidence of my seven-year old self. I still wanted to write, but the real world and what everyone else said got in the way. I needed to pay bills, and have a “fall back” career, and I should be worried about college and husbands and my biological clock, so I let 10 years slide by while I dated, perfected a beef wellington recipe, and worked at a perfectly respectable dead end job. But I was miserable. One day I couldn’t take it anymore and I just quit. Then the man I intended to marry dumped me – and then my house burned down. I figured, what else do I have to lose? I dedicated myself to my dream career, and within the year I wrote my first novel, snagged an amazing agent, and signed a publishing contract.
3. You have three books coming out by July. How on earth do you manage to do that?
Honestly, I’m still kind of scratching my head over that one! In total, I’ll have five new books coming out in the next 13 months. I’ve had some back-to-back, hail Mary deadlines (I’m on one right now), but every time I want to complain I have to remind myself that this is what I’ve always wanted and that I’m still in my pajamas. If I’m going to have problems, these are the best ones to have.
4. Do you have any writing rules or rituals?
Besides moving the cats off my keyboard every fifteen minutes? My rules and rituals literally change with each book, but I try to always adhere to some basics – a minimum of 2000 words per day, treating writing as my job (not my favorite pastime) and I always, ALWAYS carry a spiral notebook with me, usually labeled for the book I’m working on at the time. I tend to write about 20-30% of my books by hand – Truly, Madly, Deadly was more like 90%. You never know when a great scene will hit – while sitting at a traffic light, while showering at the gym, etc.
5. Are you a plotter or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pantser?
I started out as a pantser, but now that I have to present my editors with outlines and full synopses, I find myself plotting more. My plotlines and outlines are still rather loose, however, and I think in every book, something or someone has popped up unexpectedly – like Vlad! He wasn’t supposed to be in book 1 at all, and he certainly wasn’t supposed to be such a major character, but he kind of marched on in and made himself comfortable. Now some of my fans demand he be in every book!
6. How did you go about making the “rules” for your urban fantasy world of the Underworld Detection Agency series?
I really tried to make my world rules adhere to natural rules as well as the accepted rules of the legends. My vampires are very traditional (except for Nina’s penchant for couture and her disdain for all-black clothing), and, according to legend, the banshee scream signifies the next to die, etc. The legends have their own rules and legacies and requirements, and I really wanted to honor that in the Underworld – just like I wanted to honor the “rules” of San Francisco (no one calls it Frisco, most locals have never been to Alcatraz, everyone knows where the Burma Superstar is but most people can’t remember where the closest McDonalds is…)!
7. Sophie Lawson as described in the books and Sophie Lawson on the covers is not exactly the same creature, but book and cover Sophie are beginning to merge. Was this character development always in the works, or did the cover inspire you? And how do you go about planning character development for an entire series?
I would love to say that was all part of my master plan but no, not so much! In every book (after Under Wraps), Sophie does poke fun at her previous cover incarnation, and I did want to make her get tougher and more confident as the books wore on, but that was more recent. Stay tuned though, because she will soon have cause to don those leather pants! As for overall character development, I really let it go organically. Sophie grew and matured and learned as she got into more and more scrapes, just as any of us would naturally (I hope!).
8. In Rebound Guy and Truly, Madly, Deadly you switch genres from urban fantasy to romance and YA. Was writing for a different genre difficult?
Surprisingly, it really wasn’t, but I’m pretty sure that’s because I have some screenwriting roots. I hate to say that I “wrote” because it was pretty more just fetching coffee and Jolly Ranchers, but I worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a teen movie that never got made, and a couple of other series, so that meant a lot of genre, character, and storyline switching, often in quick succession. I think it really helped in being able to switch literary genre gears.
9. And, just quickly:
Like making me pick between my favorite children! I’ll always have a soft spot for Angel, but I think the years have turned me into a Spike girl! What can I say? I love me a bad boy…
Alex or Will? (okay, I know you can’t really answer that one…)
Seriously, I arm wrestle myself over this every book! “Will’s going to win! No, it has to be Alex! No, Will! No, Alex!”
Thanks for a great interview!
And finally, to spread the Sophie Lawson love, Hannah is offering two books to a lucky reader! To enter, you can:
a) Post in the comments (please include your email address or other contact info)
b) Tweet about this interview and include @kflanagan
c) Do both!
The winner will be selected next Tuesday.