AuthorScoop first met with the prolific and talented Jennie Bentley back in June of 2010. (Don’t let the nom de plume fool you, this is a woman of several names and a veritable avalanche of ideas to keep her readers – and her mailman, presumably – very busy.) It’s especially nice to welcome her back again on the occasion of her first appearance on The New York Times bestseller list.
We’d like to thank her for coming back to once again take part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.
AuthorScoop: So your latest novel has launched you up to the next level. Tell us a little bit about FLIPPED OUT.
Jennie: It’s the fifth book in the Do It Yourself series. It’s been a year since Avery Baker inherited her Aunt Inga’s house in Waterfield, Maine, and started renovating houses with her new boyfriend, Derek Ellis. Over the course of that time, they’ve worked on four: Aunt Inga’s second empire Victorian, a haunted mid-century ranch, a carriage house, and a 1783 center chimney Colonial on an island off the coast. Now it’s time for #5, a small 1930s cottage in Waterfield Village, the historic district. The house belongs to Tony Micelli, ace on-air reporter for Portland’s Channel 8 News, who also happens to be the fiancé of Derek’s ex-wife Melissa. And as an added bonus, the renovations are being filmed for a home renovation TV program.
But when they walk into the house to start work on the second day of filming, they find Tony dead on the kitchen floor, stabbed multiple times with a screwdriver. Filming and renovations are put on hold while the police investigate, but in the end, it’s up to Avery to figure out what happened before the TV crew leaves, possibly taking the murderer with them.
AuthorScoop: Tell us about finding out that you’d made The New York Times Bestseller List.
Jennie: There’s not a lot to say about it, really. My editor called on Wednesday afternoon to say we’d hit the list. I jumped up and down and squealed, bringing both the kids and the dog running. And then I called everyone I knew and posted the news to all my social media. Other than hitting the #1 spot, the entire New York Times list is the pinnacle of achievement for a writer, and it’s super-exciting to get there.
AuthorScoop: Are you the type who avoids her reviews or do you peek between your fingers to see who’s saying what about your work?
Jennie: I don’t usually go seeking out reviews, but if I come across one, I’ll read it. If it’s good, I’m happy. If it’s bad, I do my best to find some reason to laugh. Overall, my reviews have been pretty good—thank you very much to everyone who’s ever reviewed one of my books!—but once in a while I get a doozy. The first time it happened I was devastated. It was for book 2, Spackled and Spooked, comparing it unfavorably to book 1 (Fatal Fixer-Upper), and I was sure my career was over.
It didn’t turn out to be, and I learned that I can’t take bad reviews to heart. There’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like my work, and who feels compelled to tell the world how awful it is. It’s unfortunate that that person’s opinion might sway someone else from trying the books, someone who might actually have liked them, but there’s nothing I can do about it. And as long as I’ve done my best, and written the best book I can, I just have to accept that there’s going to be readers out there who don’t love my books the way I do.
I think that as writers, it’s extremely important that we realize that our books can and must stand on their own. When someone doesn’t like our books, it’s no reflection on us. We’re separate from our books, just as they’re separate from us. If we can just get that straight, we’ll save ourselves a ton of grief down the line.
AuthorScoop: How has writing well-received fiction changed the way you read?
Jennie: LOL! I’m not sure writing well-received fiction has changed anything. Writing at all has changed the way I read in that I can’t turn off the internal editor when I read other people’s books these days. I’m forever rewriting their prose in my head, ticking off any errors I come across, making note of how I would have done things differently—or just writhing with envy because what I’m reading is so far superior to anything I could have written myself.
AuthorScoop: What’s next for Jennie Bentley?
Jennie: DIY mystery #6 will be coming next year. It’s currently without a title or a release date, but it’s written, and given the delivery date for the manuscript, I’m envisioning a release date sometime in late summer/early fall of 2012. The working title has been Secrets and Small Spaces: Avery and Derek take on the renovation of a condo, and when the neighborhood busybody is found dead, Avery discovers that everyone in the building has something to hide. The trick becomes sifting through the various secrets to determine which is worth killing for.
We’re in negotiations for books 7 and 8, so there may yet be more Avery to come beyond 2012. If things work out, the next book will probably be a Christmas mystery for 2013.
As for the other me, I have four mysteries in an eBook-only series out currently, about a real estate agent in Nashville. The fifth – and so far last – in the series will be coming in December. And starting next summer, I’m branching out into romance. I’ve just agreed to write four books in a futuristic romance series for Entangled Publishing, about the crew of a smuggling ship and their adventures in a galaxy far, far away. The first book is tentatively called Fortune’s Hero, and will be coming in July 2012, assuming I can get it written and delivered in time. All those books are/will be published under the name Jenna Bennett.
FLIPPED OUT is available now and there’s a quick clickable route to the DIY series through her website, where you can see the array of her literary goodies on display. And keep up with Jennie on Facebook and Twitter X2.