Special Feature: Author Interview
with Jeanne Stein
Lesley L. Smith
Jeanne Stein is the bestselling author of "The Anna Strong Chronicles".
Her novels include The Becoming, Blood Drive, The Watcher, Legacy,
Retribution, and the brand new Chosen. Her short fiction includes
"Better Lucky Than Good" in At the Scene of the Crime, "Elizabeth and
Anna's Big Adventure" in A Girl's Guide to Guns And Monsters, "The Ghost
of Leadville" in Vampire Romance2 and "The Witch and the Wicked" in
Many Bloody Returns. Jeanne is very active in the writing community,
belonging to several writers groups including Sisters in Crime, Romance
Writers of America, and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. In 2008 she was
named RMFW's Writer of the Year and she's also one of the editors of
RMFW's award-winning anthology Broken Links, Mended Lives.
Wow! Jeanne, you've achieved significant success in a fairly short time
period. How did you do it? Was The Becoming the first novel you wrote?
No. Actually I wrote half-dozen straight mysteries before The Becoming.
It's always struck me that the book I had the most fun writing was the
book that sold. I think there's a lesson in that.
What motivated you to keep trying for so long?
A desire to write. A desire to be published. I am the poster girl for
persistence. It's a simple truth, if you give up, you'll never succeed.
Anna's conversion in The Becoming is one of the more violent ones I've
read. Why did you decide to go that way? Do you ever worry about
upsetting or offending readers?
Yes. I worried about it a lot. It's a rape scene that turns into
something else. I was concerned it might be construed as implying rape
might ever be consensual. But I was not writing a straight crime novel
or mystery, I was writing a vampire story. I hoped my readers would
understand the difference and for the most part, they have.
Urban fantasy is a relatively new genre. Some scholars say literary
fantasy was created as a reaction against the rationalism of the
scientific method/industrial revolution. Do you think this is consistent
with urban fantasy?
Yes. I think we see a resurgence of interest in the paranormal or
magical worlds whenever our real world is in flux. We like reading about
an ordered world where superheroes save the day when we have no control
over our own.
I've also heard it said that all fiction can be considered fantasy. What
do you think?
I haven't thought about it that way, but I suppose anything that's made
up could be considered fantasy! And what's more made up than fiction!
I enjoy the unique twists of the vampire mythology in The Anna Strong
Chronicles. Why does Anna still have her soul?
I wanted to make the point that a person's character doesn't change when
he or she becomes vampire. Having a soul ensures that if you are good
before the change, you'll be good after and vice versa.
Why is Anna The Chosen One? What does this entail? Are these questions
resolved in Chosen?
All the questions are answered in Chosen. I don't want to give anything
What adventures does Anna get into in Chosen?
She's burned, kidnapped by someone she trusts, and faces a fight to the
death. I'd say she has a few adventures!
Do you anticipate Anna will have more adventures? Are more novels in the
In the seventh book, Crossroads, Anna learns of a Shaman who can restore
mortality. It takes place among the Navajo in Monument Valley. I don't
have the eighth book completely plotted yet, so I can't say anything
about that one.
So, the novel covers ...are you the model for them? Are kick-ass heroine
and sex object compatible?
Am I the model? Wow, I wish. The covers are done by Cliff Nielsen and
designed by Judith Lagerman. They are fantastically talented. I think
there's a difference between kick-ass and hard-ass, so yes, I think they
are compatible. Anna doesn't pick fights, but she won't shy away from
what she sees as a good one.
Since you continue to be active in writers groups, they must be
important to you. What do you think writers get from interacting with
their peers? What's your opinion of critique groups? How can authors get
the most out of these?
Writing is solitary work. For the most part, we writers are all
introverts who run around at conferences pretending we're not. But there
is comfort and inspiration in having a peer group for support. I have a
critique group and we've been together for almost ten years. We're all
serious writers. We meet every week. We critique each others' work,
brainstorm and share our triumphs and tribulations. I always come away
inspired and energized. Course meeting in a bar where we have beer and
food helps, too. I know there are differing opinions, but I feel a
critique group can be of great benefit to writers. You just need to find
the right fit.
Your blog, Biting Edge, seems quite successful. Do authors need to
market themselves on the web these days? Do you have any marketing tips?
Marketing is my least favorite part of the writing business. The Blog is
fun. Mario and I each have our own styles. I do a fair number of
interviews, too, and attend about six to eight conferences a year. As
for the web, I'm relatively new to Facebook, but I'm giving it a try. I
don't Twitter (yet). I'm afraid if I did it would take too much time.
Some people seem to be on twenty-four hours a day. I often wonder when
they find time to write.
Did your experience editing Broken Links, Mended Lives influence your
writing in any way?
Every critique, every story edited influences my own writing. You can
learn both from the good and the not so good. Plus, there's nothing
better than helping a writer make a good story great. Broken Links was a
finalist for the Colorado Book Award and my co-editors and I like to
think we played a part in that!
Does writing short fiction help novelists?
Before I wrote my first short story, I would have said probably not. But
short stories help a writer focus. Developing character and plot
without the luxury of eighty thousand words takes skill and thought.
I've found I really enjoy it. Also, it's another way to get my name out
there. I'm not a headliner yet, but people who buy the books for those
who are might also read my story and like it, too. Then they'll head for
the bookstore and look for my other stuff, right?
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
The best advice I can give is to write, keep writing, and never, never
Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?
You've asked very good questions-some of which I haven't been asked
before. I hope your readers got as much enjoyment out of the interview
as I did. If there are any other questions, contact me at my website or
blog and I'd be happy to answer them. I'm always available to speak at
book clubs or libraries. Since I had encouragement when I started out,
helping aspiring writers is of great importance to me.
Thanks a lot, Jeanne. This has been fun.
It's been a pleasure.
Readers can find Chosen, the Anna Strong Chronicles Book 6, on August
31, 2010 at all major Booksellers.
Jeanne's webpage is: www.jeannestein.com.
Jeanne's blog is: biting-edge.blogspot.com.