Until I’m Safe in Your Arms is out tomorrow! Jenna was kind enough to answer some questions for us.
You can get your copy of this steamy historical romance HERE!
Did you always know you wanted to be an author?
I don’t remember wanting to be an author—I just wanted to read, although I do remember loving writing assignments in English classes or Social Studies.
What is the first story you remember writing?
The first story I ever wrote was in 3rd grade: Miss Priss Finds a Kitten. They say write what you know, and we always had a lot of cats at our house. So, I wrote about a woman (Miss Priss—I loved the repeated sound) who finds a kitten who she named Nipper (no idea where that name came from) and then Nipper had kittens of her own. The end. But it was a big hit with my 3rd grade teacher who had me go down and read it to the 1st grade classes.
How did you get from there to where you are today?
A long and circuitous route. I continued to write school assignments (I wrote a time travel story in 8th grade that I got 100 on), but I was too busy reading to get serious about fiction writing. I did do a bit of academic writing in school, culminating in a 400-page dissertation on Women of the Abbey Theatre. About 4 years later, the stress of directing a production of Macbeth made me gluten-intolerant. Six months after I went on a gluten-free diet, I got a burst of creativity. I had gotten a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss’s last book, Everlasting. I read it, loved it because it was set in the medieval period, and I loved that period. I remember finishing that book, standing up in my office at school, looking at the book and saying aloud, “I could write something like this.” Then I sat down and started writing what would become Time Enough to Love.
What is the most inspiring place you’ve visited and has it shown up in one of your books?
I have to say the most inspiring place I’ve been was the Assembly Ballroom in Bath. I visited there in summer of 2019 and the day I went was two days after I’d written a scene set in that ballroom (the novella was It Happened at Christmas) and when I stepped into it, goosebumps rose all over me and I could see my scene in my head as I looked all around the room.
How much research do you do into the time period and places you write about?
I’ve always loved doing research. I was a history major in undergrad school and my PhD is in theatre history which I’ve taught for years, so I had a good background in history when I began writing historical romance (probably why I do). I also live quite near the William & Mary campus with all their outstanding libraries, where I’ve done a lot of research as well. And of course, there’s the internet when I write late at night if I get stuck for things like “How long does it take a carriage to travel from London to Bath in 1815?” Google can bring ups some amazing things in that respect. I also like to include as much historical detail as I can. I have my characters stop at coaching inns that were in existence in whatever year my book takes place. I make sure to describe gowns that actually existed when I can. Same with carriages, and with the villages that my earls and viscounts and marquess’s titles are taken from.
So the short answer to your question is A LOT!
Do you have any experience dressing in character or participating in living history situations or are you more a fan of libraries and online resources?
Because I’ve been working in the theatre since high school, I’ve had my fair share of dressing other people in character in historical garb. I’ve even costumed historical plays and certainly collaborated with a costumer on period clothing for the plays I’ve directed. I’ve dressed in p
eriod costume myself only once before, when I wore a 1710 robe volante at an historical fashion show. But I’m having two Regency dresses (one day dress and one evening gown) made for me to wear at Romance Reader conventions. My first appearance in them will be at BookLovers Con in Houston June 1-4!
Where is your favorite place to write?
My absolute favorite place to write is in a cabin in upstate New York, owned by a good friend of mine who was my professor and mentor when I was getting my Phd. The cabin is way up in the woods, off grid, where it’s quiet and there are zero distractions. I’ve been going there for twenty-odd years, first writing on my dissertation there, then when I started writing romance, writing a lot of books there. Many of my first drafts are written longhand, so that cabin without electricity is ideal for me. I am making plans to go there for a week in August, where I’ll be working on book 4 of The Welwyn Marriage Wager series, No Rival for You Love.
Does it change depending on where you are in the process?
Other than the cabin, no, as long as it’s a quiet place I can write without a problem.
Which comes first for you: the plot or the characters?
The plot, always. Mine is the eternal “Magic If” from acting classes. What if a group of women who were widowed by the battle of Waterloo formed a club after they came out of mourning in order to help one another find new husbands? What if six unmarried cousins were given a wager they couldn’t refuse? What if a courtier in the medieval court was in love with a handsome knight, but found out she was betrothed to his best friend?
It’s always the plot for me, and then the characters start to speak and grow in my mind. Sometimes they surprise the hell out of me, too.
Do you know where the story is going before you begin, or does it come to you as you write? Do scenes come to you fully formed or are you as surprised as the reader?
I always plot out the story from the beginning, writing a very detailed chapter by chapter outline that’s usually 10-12 pages long. I use this as my road map. But if, along the way, there are interesting side trips, most times I will take those and see where it takes me. And recently, the last three books, for various reasons, the destination has changed completely, or at least significantly. In one book I decided I liked one secondary character too much to kill him off, so I had to change the ending to accommodate his title not going to the hero. One book I decided to change a couple of plot points to keep the action interesting. And one book I discovered a gaping plot hole, so I had to completely revise the last 10 chapters of the book to account for this change to the outline. I don’t like it when these things happen—I’d much rather know exactly where I’m going. But, if I have to take a detour to get to the HEA, then so be it.
From all your books, who is your favorite hero and why?
That is really a tie between the hulking knight Sir Geoffrey Longford, my first hero from Time Enough to Love and my second hero, Duncan Ferrers, Marquess of Dalbury, my second hero, the devilish rake of Only Scandal Will Do. My favorite is whichever one I’m reading at the moment.
What do you like to read when you’re not reading in your genre?
When not reading historical romance, I read Stephen King. I’ve loved his books for decades. His characters just suck me right into the story and keep me held spellbound until the end. My absolute favorite book of his is It.
Did you have a favorite book or series when you were growing up?
My favorite series growing up was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Little House on the Prairie series. I read them constantly. When I was about 13 years old, I saved my allowance money for a year and then went to a bookstore in Williamsburg and bought the whole set in hardback. Then started at the first book and read them all straight through.