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Q & A with Judi Fennell

Judi Fennell

Sourcebooks, Inc.

November, 2009


Rod Tritone is all set to take over the Mer kingdom when his father retires, until the ruling council tells him he has to marry first. The council gives him legs for the duration of his mission, as well as his future queen’s address and phone number.

She’s Valerie Dumere, the daughter of a Mer father and a human mother who raised her in landlocked Kansas. When devastatingly handsome Rod Tritone shows up and tries to tell her about the kingdom under the sea, not only does she think he’s crazy, she’s determined that’s the last place she’d ever want to go.

Then a vicious squad of seagulls tries to stop the Mer Prince from inheriting his throne and Val finds out about her true nature. Now she has to make the choice of a lifetime—stay on land, or follow Rod to his underwater world…

Judi, Thank-you for agreeing to an author interview today.

Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Can you tell everyone a little bit about yourself?

Where to start… I was born in …. Never mind. I’m a former corporate meeting planner-turned-stay-at-home-mom who finally decided five years ago that if I was ever going to get a book in print, I’d better start working on selling one. I now have my second book out this month.

How long have you been writing?

Ever since I could form letters. I have my work from kindergarten. My mom, thank goodness, saved lots of my work throughout the years. I have the first story I wrote in first grade on the big-lined yellow paper, complete with drawings, about a raindrop. I have the Honorable Mention I won in the Caldecott Award contest with my second grade book, Cotton the Lonely Rabbit, and it goes on from there. So I guess the answer to this question is: Forever.

What is your writing process like?

Procrastination.  LOL.

Seriously, though, those first 100 pages are tough. The story is forming, the characters are forming, I might not be sure of the bad guy or how they’re going to resolve whatever it is they have to resolve… I like to go lock myself away, whether it’s in my office or at my local bookstore, turn off the internet, turn on the classical/new age/nature sounds/instrumental weird mix I have for writing and lose myself in the story. I love watching things pop into the story that I had no idea I’d need somewhere down the line, or listen as the characters tell me things I didn’t know about them. I’m more of a pantzer than a plotter, but since I now sell on proposal, I have to have some idea of where the story is headed and (hopefully) how it’s going to get there.

Can you tell us about your newest release Wild Blue Under?

Wild Blue Under was the first book I’ve written under contract, under deadline and had to adhere to the rules I’d already set up with the first book, In Over Her Head, which was written without thought to a series. In Over Her Head is about a Merman and a Human who’s afraid of the ocean and I got to use all my angst about the ocean (seeing the movie JAWS at a young age left its mark!) for my heroine.

So, when it came time for the next book in the series, I had to come up with something different. I’d already done a Human-goes-in-the-sea-and-freaks-out-when-she-sees-Atlantis story. I couldn’t do that same one again with different characters, so I had to figure out what was the most different thing to the first story. Well, if I had a Human going into the sea to see Mermen, why not have a Merman come out of the sea and meet a Human?

So, that’s what we have. Except that the Human, Valerie Dumere, isn’t quite all Human—although, she thinks she is. Actually, she thinks she’s allergic to the ocean and when Rod Tritone, Heir to the Mer Throne, shows up telling her she has to accompany him to the East Coast, and the ocean, to collect an inheritance her dead father has left her, well, let’s just say she’s not overly willing to believe him. It takes some mighty convincing reasons to get her go with him: dive-bombing peregrines and a mercenary albatross. Oh, and a talking seagull named Livingston do the trick.

All of my stories are tongue-in-cheek, light-hearted paranormals, with lots of manipulating language and clichés, as well as pop culture references and humor. I have a lot of fun writing them and am so glad there are so many others who have the same wacky sense of humor I do. 🙂

This is the second in a series, correct? How many books will be in the series?

Wild Blue Under is second; In Over Her Head is the first and it came out in June of this year. Catch of a Lifetime comes out in February 2010. So far those are all I have written in this series, and I’m actually contracted for a new series, but as my editor and I have said, it’s a big ocean out there. And there are two more Tritone siblings whose stories are waiting to be written. Matter of fact, Mariana’s is already started.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve finished the first book in the next series, which was pitched as I Dream of Jeannie meets Indiana Jones, so we’re talking genies. The first one is tentatively titled, I Dream of Genies, and will be out in Fall 2010.

Where do you get your ideas for your books?

I have no idea. I might get an opening line in my head that wakes me up, or I might hear something and think, “Hmmm, but what if X had happened instead?” The Mer series actually started because I’d been working on a series that are twists of fairy tales: Cinda Bella, Beauty and The Best, Fairest of Them All… So I wanted to write another one and thought of The Little Mermaid. And what was the best twist to that story? I’d make him the Mer and her the Human, and voila! That was born. When it came time to sell it, I realized that the series was about the Mers, not the fairy tale twists, so I developed stories for the other siblings.

For my genie series, I thought about what I’d enjoyed with the Mers and that was the world building. So where could I build a new world? Well, a magical city in the middle of the Sahara Desert would be the perfect place. And who would live there but genies?

As an author, you must be an avid reader. What books do you enjoy reading? Who are your auto-buy authors?

It’s funny, but I actually enjoy reading books outside my genre. I love historical, and Julia Quinn is a must-buy. I also love Romantic Suspense. Cindy Gerard, Allison Brennan and Roxanne St. Clair come to mind there. I do love light-hearted paranormals, which would be why I write them. Katie MacAlister, Michelle Rowen, Judi McCoy and Cindy Miles are great there.

What books are on your keeper shelf?

Because I get so many books at the conferences I attend, I just can’t keep them all. I have a very small keeper shelf, but those that are on there are: Bewitching by Jill Barnett, When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn, A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Devereaux, Cardinal Rules by Barbara Delinsky, Line of Scrimmage by Marie Force, Romeo Romeo by Robin Kaye, Saved by the Monarch by Dana Marton and Lie to Me by Starr Ambrose.

What was the first romance book you read or the one book that has stood the test of time for you?  

I don’t remember the first one I read. I do know I started out reading Harlequin and some of my first authors were Anne Mather, Anne Stuart, Nora Roberts, Miranda Jarrett and Charlotte Dillon. The books I read over and over are the ones on my keeper shelf. Bewitching is my all-time favorite book. I know I’ve bought it at least four times, though I only have 2 on my shelf – one is the original cover edition and the other is one Jill signed for me with the new cover on it. The spine has not been broken on that one.

And I have to say, having lunch with Anne Stuart, and having Jill Barnett give me a cover quote and one on my website were total fan-girl “squee” moments. 🙂

If one of your books were made into a movie, which actors would like to see as the lead characters?

It’s funny, but I’d never thought about this question until people asked me in my blog tours. So, I have come up with the casts:

Erica and Reel, In Over Her Head: Sandra Bullock and Matthew McConaughey

Valerie & Rod, Wild Blue Under:  Kate Hudson and Bradley Cooper

Angel & Logan, Catch of a Lifetime: Jessica Alba and Hugh Jackman

Ceto: Susan Sarandon

If you could switch lives with one of your characters who would if be & why?

With any of my characters… hmmm, that’s a tough one. I’m going to have to say Erica from In Over Her Head only because I think it would be really cool to be able to breathe under the sea and talk to all the animals. My favorite animal is the sea otter, so maybe I’d go hang out with a bunch of them for a few days.

When you are not writing or reading, what do you enjoying doing in your spare time?

What is this “spare time” of which you speak? I don’t have spare time. Not since I’ve started writing on deadline. I have books to write, edits to do, promo to do, administrative things, reading to keep myself current, conferences to interact with readers, book signings… This is a career and I’m at the beginning of it. As with any career, you have to pay your dues. When my career work stops for the day, I have a husband and kids, pets, a house, too much land, friends, extended family, etc.

My guilty pleasures that I do try to sneak in are reality tv shows, namely Survivor, Amazing Race and the Real Housewives, total mind candy.

If you could ask readers anyone question, what would it be?

What kinds of things would you like to see in stories? I’ve got Greek gods and goddesses, lost cities, stolen treasure, villainous sharks, plus magic, myths, and flying carpets in the genie series. I’m not in danger of running out of ideas, but I’d love to see if there’s an area where they’d like to see someone write something about.

Where can readers find you on the internet?

These days, it’s more like, where CAN’T they find me! My publicist is awesome in setting up blog tours and I’m active on many social networking sites, though not as often as I’d like, simply because there are only so many hours in a day, and my first focus HAS to be on writing the next story and making the current one the best it can be.

But you can always find out where I am, from blog tours to book signings to conferences, on my website: http://www.judifennell.com/.

I tend to post pictures from these events (including cover models from the RT Conventions!) on my blog: http://www.judifennell.wordpress.com/.

Also every March on my blog, I host a Rita/Golden Heart nomination party on the day the nominees are announced for these prestigious awards. In 2010, that will be March 25, so stop by and “squee” along with the nominees and their friends.

To celebrate the release of each of her books, Judi Fennell and the Atlantis Inn (http://www.atlantisinn.com/) and the Hibiscus House (http://www.hibiscushouse.com/) bed and breakfasts are raffling off three romantic beach getaway weekends. All information is on Judi’s website, http://www.judifennell.com/

***Leave a comment answering Judi’s question for a chance to a copy of In Over Her Head, the first book in Judy’s Mer series. Good Luck 🙂