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Where are you from?
I grew up in North Texas, and after living in Washington D.C., Chicago, and suburban New Jersey, I moved to back to Texas, but settled in the capital city, Austin. I didn’t stay there long before I moved back to Dallas-Fort Worth, which is where I now live with my husband.
Tell us your latest news.
I just returned home from a very long, very fun road trip that involved visiting eight states, with the purpose of researching for my next several books. While I was on the road, I also was getting ready for the release ofHanging by a Thread, which is the third and final full-length novel in the Riley O’Brien & Co. series. Later this summer, I will publish two Riley O’Brien & Co.-related novellas. After that, I will focus on a new series, which is based on a bourbon distillery. I’m really excited about the series, which will include at least three full-length books and one novella.
The first book, which is already written, should be out early next year, probably in February. The heroine is Ava Grace Landy, the best friend of the heroine from All the Right Places and a reader favorite who shows up several Riley O’Brien & Co. novels. Readers were worried that she wouldn’t get her own HEA, and I promise you that she does. The hero is Jonah Beck, and he shows up briefly in Hanging by a Thread. I will also be working on another series concurrently, but instead of it being straight contemporary, it will have a romantic suspense element. Sign up for my newsletter on my website (www.jennasutton.com) to get book-related news.
When and why did you begin writing?
I feel like I’ve been writing for most of my adult life. I was a journalist for a dozen years or so before I switched fact for fiction. I started writing romance novels three years ago. I had wanted to write a romance for a long, long time, but I never committed to sitting down and doing it. A lot of people want to write a book. In fact, every time I tell someone I’m an author, the response is usually, “Oh, I want to write a book, but I don’t have the time.” We’re all storytellers, but only a few of us put the story on paper (or the computer, rather). For several years, when I would be dissatisfied with a book that I had read, I would say, “I could write a better book than that.” Now that I’ve written a few books, I’m ashamed that I ever said that because it really doesn’t acknowledge the effort that is involved in writing and publishing a book.
Finally, one day my husband said, “Either write a book or stop saying that when you read someone else’s book.” Shortly thereafter, I received an email from MediaBistro advertising a romance writing class, and I saw it as a sign that I should stop talking about writing a book and actually write one.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
This is such an interesting question. I’m not really sure. As a journalist, I didn’t really consider myself a writer because the bulk of the job is asking questions, distilling information, and presenting facts. Even after I wrote the draft of my first book, All the Right Places, I didn’t feel like a writer. I think my mindset changed when I first held a copy of All the Right Places in my hands. And the first time I saw it in a store, I had a mini panic attack.
What inspired you to write your first book?
As I mentioned above, part of my inspiration was my husband and the MediaBistro class. One of the reasons I had never attempted to write a book before was because I didn’t want to put a lot of work into something that no one would ever read. As self-publishing became a viable option, I finally felt ready to write my first book. I initially thought that I would self-publish the book, but I queried agents, found one, and then sold my Riley O’Brien & Co. series to Berkley.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I write dual point-of-view, both hero and heroine. And I write third-person. Frankly, I am not a fan of singular POV or present tense, although there are exceptions, of course. I just feel that a romance is about two people falling in love, and I want to experience both sides of it. In addition, I try to balance internal narrative with dialogue and action. As a reader, I get a little distracted with books that have too much internal narrative—narrative that really seems like stream of consciousness. I know a lot of readers like this type of book, and I’m glad there’s such a variety of books for people to buy.
How did you come up with the title?
I wanted the titles of my Riley O’Brien & Co. books and novellas to tie into jeans since the company makes jeans. The creative team at Berkley came up with All the Right Places. My husband came up with the title for book two, Coming Apart at the Seams, which was perfect because Nick and Teagan definitely unraveled. I came up with Hanging by a Thread after writing a specific line of dialogue that the hero says during a sex scene. Initially, I was brainstorming ideas with the word pocket but I couldn’t come up with anything except for What’s in Your Pocket?
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
On the surface, Hanging by a Thread seems like a very simple, uncomplicated book. Hero and heroine fight their attraction, heroine wants to lose her virginity, and hero and heroine begin a steamy affair with no intention of anything more.
Yet Hanging by a Thread is more nuanced than that. It has a lot of additional threads, if you’ll pardon the pun. One of the themes that I explore in the book is how other people’s perception shapes us as people. The heroine’s intelligence has always defined her value, and she is subconsciously looking to connect with people who value her as an entire person, not just a brain. The people in the hero’s life, meanwhile, have always been his biggest fans, yet he too has struggled to find his place and to find people who value both his strengths and his weaknesses.
Ultimately, the message that I want readers to grasp is that everyone is multi-layered, like an onion, and that it’s important to find people who are interested in peeling back those layers and appreciating each one.
How much of the book is realistic?
This question made me laugh out loud because parts of it are very realistic, and part are less than realistic. For example, the hero is uncommonly well-endowed, and while that’s not unheard of, it’s not average. (Heroes in romance novels never have small penises, have you noticed that?) There’s a scene in the book where the heroine, Bebe Banerjee, and the hero, Cal O’Brien, are talking about the average length of erect penises. I actually did research to discover this fact, and while doing that research, I came across this awesome infographic that showed average penis lengths by country. It was like a starburst of penises. Let’s just say that there’s a wide range, according to the infographic, and men in many countries come up short… pun intended.
As for the rest of the book, the plot involves an Indian-American heroine who is in an arranged marriage. She’s a virgin, and she doesn’t want her fiancé to get her “firsts”. Cal is more than happy to help.
Arranged marriages are common in many cultures, so that’s certainly realistic. In fact, there’s a TV show on A&E called Arranged. It follows three couples as they navigate the path to an arranged marriage.
Another element of realism in Hanging by a Thread is Cal and Bebe’s behavior when they’re around each other. They hide their mutual attraction with insults, and in my experience that is very realistic. How many people have you known who seem like they can’t stand each other but they really just want to tear off the other person’s clothes?
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
To some degree, yes. One of my best friends from high school is Indian-American, and we talked a lot about arranged marriages when we were boy-crazy teenagers. I was always curious about that part of her culture… curious and kind of envious. I liked the idea that if I had difficulty finding a partner that my parents and family could help out. It seemed like the best kind of safety net. My friend ended up meeting a guy in college so she wasn’t arranged by her parents.
My critique partner is married to an Indian, and so is my best friend. Neither were arranged, but my best friend’s husband’s brother was arranged by his parents. We’ve had multiple conversations about arranged marriages, the motivations for people who enter into arranged marriages, how the process works, and also how the marriages turn out. Most of the arranged marriages that I know about (or have been told about) have worked out well, and the couples are very happy together. But I was interested in writing a book about what happens when two people agree to an arranged marriage for the wrong reasons, such as parental pressure or the need for approval, loneliness, or simple convenience.
What books have most influenced your life most?
I’ve always read romances. I started out at a very early age—way earlier than I should have. But I also read other genres too—women’s fiction, mysteries/thrillers, even true crime and non-fiction. Over time, however, I stopped reading other genres and exclusively read romance. I think part of the reason was that I hated investing in characters only to have horrible things happen to them. I loved the Outlander series, but I had to stop reading because I just couldn’t handle the stress of wondering what horrible things would befall the characters. More than once, I have felt betrayed by an author because they killed off my favorite characters. Occasionally, I forget why I stopped reading other genres, and I’ll read a book that, while well-written, makes me feel like crap for days afterward. I want to feel a good-book glow when I finish a book.
As for specific books that really impacted me, I can list a few of my favorites: Seen by Moonlight, Blue-Eyed Devil, See Jane Score, On Thin Ice,and The Bronze Horseman (which does not have a happy ending but is wonderful anyway).
What would you like my readers to know?
1) Every book in the Riley O’Brien & Co. series can be read as a standalone. You won’t be lost or confused if you don’t start with the first book.
2) Hanging by a Thread has a universal message that we can all identify with—the need to be loved. And it also touches on the idea that people are complex and multi-dimensional and often make decisions that have far-reaching, unexpected implications.
3) Readers and reviewers say that my books are smart, funny, and sexy.Hanging by a Thread is the hottest book I’ve written, and the sex scenes are hot and explicit. Don’t let the sweet cover fool you.
4) I love hearing from my readers. It makes my day when I get an email or Facebook message from a reader telling me how much they love my books. You can send me a message through my website athttp://jennasutton.com/connect/ or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org message me at www.facebook.com/jennasuttonauthor
5) You can sign up for my monthly newsletter here. Subscribers are the first to know about new books, giveaways, and get access to exclusive excerpts.