Thursday, January 16, 2014

A "Bitter" Interview with Jenn Bennett

by Kathy F.

As in BITTER SPIRITS of course! Jenn Bennett was a treat to interview, and I was so glad we could have her here today to talk a bit about her latest book.

The blurb: "First in a new romance series: It’s the roaring twenties, and San Francisco is a hotbed of illegal boozing, raw lust, and black magic. The fog-covered Bay Area can be an intoxicating scene, particularly when you specialize in spirits…

Aida Palmer performs a spirit medium show onstage at Chinatown’s illustrious Gris-Gris speakeasy. However, her ability to summon (and expel) the dead is more than just an act.

Winter Magnusson is a notorious bootlegger who’s more comfortable with guns than ghosts—unfortunately for him, he’s the recent target of a malevolent hex that renders him a magnet for hauntings. After Aida’s supernatural assistance is enlisted to banish the ghosts, her spirit-chilled aura heats up as the charming bootlegger casts a different sort of spell on her...

On the hunt for the curseworker responsible for the hex, Aida and Winter become drunk on passion. And the closer they become, the more they realize they have ghosts of their own to exorcise…"

This is a good read. I am a sucker for the time period and the topic and it all works for me. Interesting world and characters. I had this book on pre-order for a long time and I was not disappointed.

Now, on to the interview!

KF: Welcome to Stellar Four!
JB: Thanks so much for having me here!

KF: How does this series differ from the Arcadia Bell series?
JB: The Roaring Twenties series features romances that take place in 1920s San Francisco, and the paranormal elements are more esoteric/less fantastical than Arcadia. All the new characters are human, and the world building mainly centers on magic, spirits, and humans with unusual talents—like my heroine, Aida, a spirit medium who can summon loved ones from the afterlife. For readers that already like my urban fantasy (which is fairly romantic and very character-driven), this might be appealing—especially if they also read paranormal and/or historical romance.

KF: What drew you to the Roaring 20s and San Francisco? (I love both, BTW, so thank you for setting your story there)
JB: I’ve always been attracted to the 1920s, especially in America—Prohibition, flappers, jazz… And as a writer, the most interesting thing about this era is that it was a decade in which women broke social barriers and ventured into institutions that were previously regarded as Men Only. Women got their hair bobbed at the barbershop, smoked cigarettes, and sat at the bar alongside men. They moved to big cities to find work. Drove cars. Voted. They were pioneers, learning how to be independent, and that’s exactly the kind of heroine I like to write. And setting my series is San Francisco, was purely selfish, because I'm madly in love with the Bay Area. All of my books so far are set in Central/Northern California.

KF: How much research did you have to do? Any favorite tidbits you uncovered?
JB: I already had an armchair enthusiast’s feel for the period, but before I began writing the book, I read a lot about spiritualism, which was popular around the turn of the century. I also collected magazines and newspapers from 1927—the year in which BITTER SPIRITS takes place—and browsed antique shops, looking for period items, because I wanted to see and touch things like candlestick telephones and cloche hats. I watched documentaries about Prohibition and dozens of silent films from the 1920s. (One of my favorites is A LADY OF CHANCE with Norma Shearer, but watching THE SHEIK with Rudolph Valentino was no hardship whatsoever.)

KF: Sherlock, Firefly, Buffy or Doctor Who?
JB: Oooh, hard question, because I adore all of them. After watching first two Sherlocks of this current season (Watson's marriage, etc.), I'll say that I sort of miss the mysteries from last two. Firefly: love it all. Buffy: love all but first and last seasons. Doctor Who: my husband's a Who nerd and has seen all the classic episodes, but I've only watched a handful outside the reboot. A few favorites are: "Blink," "Vincent and the Doctor," "The Doctor's Wife," "The Girl in the Fireplace," and "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances."

KF: What book are you currently reading? What book are you eagerly awaiting?
JB: I recently finished HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE, which was delightful. I'm counting the days until the next Outlander book.

KF: What movie/TV show do you love most right now?
JB: A French supernatural show called The Returned (Les Revenants), which is a different take on zombies, and very character-driven storytelling. (Plus, full-frontal male nudity, God bless the French!) Also, I'm absolutely enamored of Black Mirror, a British sci-fi show (hit and miss, but when it hits—wow). And Orphan Black.

KF: Have you attended many cons? Will you be attending any in the near future?
JB: A few. Dragon*con is here in my neck of the woods, but I haven't been in three years. I still haven't decided what I'm attending in 2013.

KF: I love the extras on your website. Are you planning more for the Bitter Spirits series? Jewelry, maybe? (Inquiring minds, you know)
JB: Thanks so much! And yes, there will be some BITTER SPIRITS things going up. Jewelry, possibly. The woman who makes the Arcadia jewelry just contacted me today about doing some 1920s pieces.

KF: What is up next?
JB: Arcadia Bell #4 comes out in May (BANISHING THE DARK), Roaring Twenties #2 comes out in early June (GRIM SHADOWS, which features a romance between an Egyptologist and a museum curator), and I have a new contemporary young adult book coming out in 2015, which—surprise!—is also set in San Francisco. And lastly, I just started writing a romantic young adult fantasy book. It's very hard for me to sit still!

Thank you so much for joining us, Jenn!

BITTER SPIRITS  Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Indiebound

Jenn Bennett
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