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Interview with SOS Aloha

Ready for a visit to San Francisco?  Jenna Sutton will take you to the City by the Bay in her new series, Riley O’Brien & Company, and her new title, ALL THE RIGHT PLACES. Jenna joins me for a cozy chat …

Kim:  When it is not raining in Texas, what is your favorite sight, sound, and smell of the Lone Star State?

Jenna:  I love the sight of the bluebonnets when they bloom – a lush blanket of bluish-purple with little specs of white. They’re just lovely, and though it sounds ridiculous, it makes me a little sad when I see people sitting in fields of bluebonnets for family photos because all I can think is that they’re totally smashing those lovely blooms. As for my favorite sound, I’m not really sure. I live in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Texas; it’s very urban and it’s surrounded by train tracks so I hear train horns all day. They pretty much mask any other noise. And my favorite smell is definitely the scent of the air right after a thunderstorm. We have certainly had plenty of those over the past several weeks, and I know most Texans are glad for sunny skies again.   

Kim:  I was so happy to read on your bio page that you enjoyed the short lived TV series FOREVER along with the more successful GOOD WIFE.  What draws you into a TV drama?   As a novelist, do you analyze the script?

Jenna:  I’m so annoyed with ABC for cancelling FOREVER. In my opinion, it was one of the best shows on TV. It was so multi-layered and complex with several mystery threads and such likable, admirable characters. It’s the characters that really draw me into a TV show, and I’ve been told that it’s the characterization that makes my novels stand out. For me, I don’t have to like the characters, but I do need to understand their motivation and their behavior, which is why I like the GOOD WIFE so much. I have a tendency to analyze the storyline and the script, and I didn’t do this before I started writing books. Unfortunately, that means TV is a little less fun for me now. In fact, my husband and I were watching a movie last night about cyber-terrorism, and I mused that a particular structure would be an excellent target (one that hadn’t shown up in the movie yet), and about an hour later, that particular structure ended up being the bad guy’s target. TV and movies have become a little predictable to me, and I think that’s one of the reasons why I’ve started to enjoy sports so much, football in particular. The outcome is unpredictable.

Kim:  What have you learned from a journalism career that you can apply to romance writing?

Jenna:  I wish I could tell you that journalism gave me such a thick skin that bad reviews roll off me like water off a duck. But that wouldn’t be true. Journalistic writing is factual and not as subjective as fiction, so the criticism feels different. But my journalism experience definitely gave me a lot of skills that I use as a novelist, and the most valuable skills are outlining and being able to meet deadlines. When I start a new book, I outline it from beginning to end and really flesh out each chapter. I already know how the story is going to end before I even open up a Word document to type the first word. As a journalist, you have pages to fill, and you don’t have the luxury of writer’s block or “not feeling it” that day. As a result, I’m very comfortable with the deadlines in book publishing.   

Kim:  Tell us about ALL THE RIGHT PLACES – what inspired it?

Jenna:  Strangely enough, a bumper sticker inspired ALL THE RIGHT PLACES and the entire Riley O’Brien & Co. series. My husband and I were coming back from a shopping trip, and as we sat at a stop light, I noticed the bumper sticker on the car in front of us. It advocated breast cancer awareness, and it said: Save the Tatas.

I pointed out the bumper sticker to my husband, and he pointed out that there are a lot of words for breasts. And then he oh-so-helpfully proceeded to name them all: boobs, hooters, jugs, melons, rack, tits… oh, the list just goes on and on.

And then I started thinking that there were a lot of words for butt, too: ass, backporch, badonkadonk, booty, caboose, derrière… again, so many words, so little time.

That thought led me to another – listing the synonyms for butt would be a fun beginning to a romance novel. But who would be thinking about butts all the time? And then it came to me – someone who was involved in the clothing business.

And the most popular clothing for butts? Jeans.

That’s how I came up with the idea for a denim empire like Riley O’Brien & Co. I wanted the company to have a rich history, and I could imagine all kinds of challenges and conflict as the company is passed from one generation to the next.

The hero of All the Right Places is Quinn O’Brien, and he’s the heir apparent for this multibillion-dollar company. The women’s division isn’t performing well, and he needs to solve that problem. Up-and-coming designer Amelia Winger may be the solution, but she a problem for Quinn, who struggles to keep things professional between them when all he wants to do is get her naked.

Kim:  What’s next for Jenna Sutton?

Jenna:  I’ve written three full-length Riley O’Brien & Co. novels. The second one, COMING APART AT THE SEAMS, is scheduled for publication on Dec. 1, 2015. The third in the series, HANGING BY A THREAD, will come out in spring 2016. In addition, I’ve written two Riley O’Brien & Co. novellas, but I don’t have any specifics on when they’ll be published.

And I’ve also started a new series that I’m really excited about. I don’t want to share too much about it, but similar to the Riley O’Brien & Co. series, the new series is based on a family business. I’m about a third of the way finished with the first book in which my hero and heroine meet in a hotel bar and have a one-night stand (something that is out of character for both of them). They think they’ll never see each other again. They also think it will be easy to forget what happened in that hotel room. They’re wrong, on both counts.