Saturday 25 February 2012


1. What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
My name is Jennifer Quail, and I was born in southeast Michigan, and now live in southwest Michigan (with intermediate stops in Virginia, Washington D.C., New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.)

2. Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
I don't know I ever considered being a writer full-time.  I've wanted, variously, to be an astronaut, a jockey (before a growth spurt), a racehorse trainer, an actress, an archaeologist, a lawyer/politician, an engineer, an antique appraiser, a baker, and an innkeeper.  Readers of the book might notice a few familiar jobs in that list. My degrees are actually in archaeology, museum studies, and culinary arts, and at the moment I'm a museum educator and make and sell steampunk jewelry on etsy, along with 'picked' antique and vintage items.

3. When did you first consider yourself as a "writer"?
I think I thought of myself as "someone who writes" in fifth grade, when I pulled my first all-nighter turning a 'write a story' assignment into a short, Saddle Club/ Baby-Sitters Club-inspired novel about me and my friends.  (Even then I was always pushing up against deadlines.)  I didn't think of myself as an author in any real sense until I sold a story (to Dreams of Decadence magazine, which I believe is now defunct.)

4. What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?
My book is called Strange Roads: Book One of Omens in the Night.  In less than twenty words, I'd say "Two unsuspecting people aren't as ordinary as they think-and it turns out they have magic powers, too."

5. How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
Well, if you count from the very first time I sat down and wrote a book with main characters named Elaine Gates and Alan Graves, then...about seventeen years or so.  The final draft of this book probably took just under two years to write.  It's about 96,000 words, but I've probably written closer to 350,000.  I'm a firm believer in not being afraid to rewrite.

6. Which of your books were easier/harder to write than the others?
Well, as this is the only one worth publishing so far, I'd say it was easier!  The trick wasn't so much the writing as finding a niche for the characters, which involved salvaging some secondary characters from an idea that didn't go anywhere (Val and Nadia, the second leads) and a lot of false starts, including at what point in the protagonists' lives the story needed to begin.  The hardest time I've had is ironically with the character in the short for the magazine, who also stars in a story I recently submitted to Black Sails Press.  He's been useful in short stories, but as far as the book I originally had planned for him, he's been a complete non-starter.  I think that writing a story with him for a steampunk anthology may have shaken me loose and I might have found his niche at last. 

7. What genre would you place your books into?
I call this particular series contemporary fantasy.  It's definitely fantasy, the setting is a modern city, but "urban fantasy" has started to really overlap with "paranormal romance", and the romance, what there is, isn't central to the plot.

8. What made you decide to write that genre of book?
It's what I read.  Well, I read fantasy, some softer science fiction, lots of non-fiction, juvenile/young adult (my favorite author of all time is John Bellairs.)  Really, I read a lot of things, but fantasy is my favorite and I've never quite found the one book I really loved.  So I wrote it.

9. What can we expect from you in the future?  ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
See below for more about this series, but I think that there will also be a more overtly steampunk novel in the near future.

10. Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
Omens in the Night will be a series, I hope (assuming people want to keep buying it!)  The second book, The Demon That Is Dreaming, is in early drafts.  Now that I have a better grip on the characters, I hope this one will take a little less time to write!

11. Do you have a favourite character from your books? and why are they your favourite?
Oh, dear.  They're all special, but I have to admit Val (Mark Valentine) is kind of my spoiled baby.  But I like them all and they all have their moments.  Even the main villain (the only 'bad guy' who gets POV chapters) can be an author's pet sometimes.  

12. Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
Since I'm the unusual person who needs noise, rather than quiet, I usually work in front of the TV in the evenings, with frequent interruptions by the dogs and cats.  But my laptop goes with me almost everywhere, and I find I write particularly well on the train.  I took Amtrak to D.C. for a research trip while working on Strange Roads and there's nothing quite as relaxing as sitting in a compartment with the scenery going by, working.

13. Would you ever ask a reviewer to change their review if it was not all positive about your book/books?
Certainly not. Now, I would probably chose to ignore a review that was clearly just meant to be obnoxious (say, a one-star Amazon review that just says "U suck and ur family must write the good reviews") but I know my book isn't perfect and that not everyone's going to enjoy it.

14. How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book/books? Who designed the Cover of your books?
The title was a struggle.  I really, really hate coming up with titles and it went through a lot of really terrible place-holders.  But when I was browsing a local antique mall's book vendor I found a fairly cheap book of Kipling's poetry from before World War I.  I absolutely fell in love with "The Song of the Dead", and took the title from a stanza I eventually used as an epigraph.  The cover came about from a photograph I took in Congressional Cemetery while on my research trip.  I happen to have a friend, Dasteroad, (made through fan fiction, at that) who is a talented graphic artist, and I asked if she would be willing to design a cover for me using the picture.  

15. Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?I definitely write first, worry about a title later!  Though I did do one short story that started as nothing BUT a title, inspired by Edward Gorey.  Writing it was like pulling teeth as I just had a cute idea for a theme, not a plot.

16. What do you think makes a book a really good/bestseller?
If I knew that, I'd write the next Da Vinci Code and get rich!  Generally, though, what makes a book good is if it's something people enjoy reading.  I don't think you write a good book without getting outside input-if you have several people read your manuscript, and they just don't find it engaging or there's a part they don't like or don't understand, the problem isn't that they're not getting it, the problem is in the text.  A good book takes an ability to analyze your own work and know when to edit.

17. Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is your favourite/worst book to movie transfer?
I think it depends on both the book and the people writing the movie, and how the reader/viewer manages their expectations.  There are people who think that Peter Jackson's take on The Lord of the Rings is horrible because he didn't include every single scene from the books or replicate the dialogue exactly. Well, as they are, the movies are three hours long each, without even getting into the extended versions!  He and his co-writers were making an adaptation, not filming straight from the book, and it worked.  Adaptations where I enjoyed both the book and the movie include Gettysburg and Gods and Generals (from Jeff and Michael Sharra's The Killer Angels andGods and Generals), Goldfinger (I'm a big fan of Ian Fleming's novels), The Right Stuff, from the book by Tom Wolfe, and though it's technically a miniseries, John Adams, from David McCullough's biography (which is one of the most gripping books I've ever read.  I was reading it when doing gallery-guard duty once, and when the head guide came through to close I said "I can't go now, he just arrived at the Court of St. James and is about to meet King George!")  My least-favorite book to movie transfer is actually not one most people would think is especially bad, but I mildly detest it.  The Black Stallion is a very pretty movie, but the changes made from the book were so significant and so drastically altered the protagonist (making Alec a whining, rather pinch-faced ten-year-old instead of a young man in his late teens) and made it into another Mickey Rooney horse-racing film I just can't enjoy it.  At least the horse is pretty.

18. Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books?
I certainly hope not.  I don't even own an e-reader, and I encourage people to buy the "real" version of my book (the print copy.)  Of course, I also loathe tablets (I don't even like these awful touchpad mice on laptops), don't have a smartphone, and really dislike reading on a screen.  I can't give anything my full attention reading it on the computer.  I think, also, that after the initial glow of 'anyone can publish' wears off, people will realize that market glut is a bad thing, and that just because you CAN upload a file and call it a book doesn't necessarily mean you should.  Besides, you can't browse in a used bookstore full of e-books.  Any on-line shopping for books is automatically limited because you have to start with a search, be it "Fantasy" or a  name or a topic, and instead of having to walk down aisles and see titles that might be totally unrelated but vastly more interesting, you're given options a search engine thinks are related to what you're looking for.  There's no spontaneity.  Where I do think e-readers will really take the majority market share is for daily news and the 'rag-trade' magazines.  You don't need People or US Weekly if you read it yesterday on TMZ.  And while papers like the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times definitely have a place with analysis, things like stock prices can be checked instantly on-line.  .

19. Is there a book you know you will never read? Or one you tried to read but just couldn't finish?
NEVER? Well, I'm fairly sure I will never read Moby-Dick.  But then no one reads Moby-Dick.  In fact I'm fairly certain even Herman Melville didn't read Moby-Dick.  Maybe he was able to guilt Nathaniel Hawthorne into reading it.  I have lots of books that I haven't finished, but none where I can't say I'll never go back.  It took me literally years to get around to reading Little Men and Jo's Boys, despite reading Little Women/Good Wives in sixth grade.  

20. Where can readers follow you?

Twitter: @stmpnksweets
The Independent Author Network:

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