Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Q & A With Jenny Bentley on Plaster & Poison

Q—Aren’t you introducing us to some family members in PLASTER AND POISON?

A—I am, as a matter of fact! For the past two books, FATAL FIXER-UPPER and SPACKLED AND SPOOKED, Avery, the main character, has been talking to her mother Rosemary on the phone. Rosemary is in California. Her husband Noel Carrick is a TV producer out there, and in PLASTER AND POISON, the two of them come to Waterfield to see Avery and to check out Avery’s boyfriend Derek. Who has his own family playing a part in the story as well: Derek’s father, Dr. Benjamin Ellis, is also remarried, and his wife Cora came with two daughters attached. Both of them, Alice and Beatrice, come to Waterfield for Thanksgiving; Beatrice with a couple of suitcases in the car. She has just left her husband, Steve, who is a lawyer in Boston, and she becomes an integral part of the plot. A long-dead Ellis also figures into the World War One history mystery in PLASTER AND POISON.

Q—Which new character was the most fun for you to create and why?

A—I really had fun with the history mystery in this one; so much so that my editor told me I had to tone it down because it was threatening to take over the plot. So the historical characters are both near and dear to my heart. Rosemary is a fun character to write, as well. So many people had asked me if she would ever be in any of the books, because they liked her so much when Avery spoke to her on the phone, and it was nice to be able to introduce her here.

Q—This is your third book in a series and you’ve signed to write two more books. What’s your advice on keeping a series fresh and entertaining?

A - I prefer reading series to reading stand-alone books, and I think the reason for that is the same as for most of the other people who feel the way I do: we like hanging out with characters who have essentially become like old friends. It’s human nature, once we care about them, to want to know more, to want to see what happens next. The trick is to keep the characters growing and developing, not getting stale, but at the same time keeping them true to themselves, to what readers love about them.

Basically, Avery and Derek’s relationship is the backbone of the series. There are also a few secondary relationships that are developing over time. The mysteries are superimposed over the relationships, and they change in every book. In chapter 1 of each book, Derek and Avery take on a new project, the renovation of another house. Because the job is different in each book, and because the setting is different, each house is in a different spot surrounded by different neighbors, it isn’t hard to keep things interesting. I always have an influx of new characters I can use, while at the same time I get to add in whoever I need from the secondary characters already established in the previous books. The houses are always different, and I try to vary the plots as much as I can from book to book, while staying true to the characters and basic premise established in the first and second books.

Q—How long did it take you to write PLASTER AND POISON?

A—Publishing a book is a long process, and writing the book is only a small part of it. I’m on a six-month contract. It takes me roughly three months to write a first draft of the book.. After that, I spend a couple of weeks going over it before sending it to my agent. Then I wait a few weeks to a month until she’s had a chance to read it, and then I work in her suggestions. After that it goes to my editor, who has suggestions for rewrites, as well. After I do those, there are copy edits and line edits to get through. While all this is going on, the designers and marketing department at the publishing house work on the cover, the layout, and the promo. The whole process usually takes close to a year and a half, from the time I write the first words to when I have a book in my hand.

Q—Can you talk about the renovation tips included in the back of the book?

A—Each book has a set of renovation tips in the back, for how to do some of the crafts and projects that Avery tackles in the course of the story. In FATAL FIXER-UPPER, it was kitchen projects and in SPACKLED AND SPOOKED, bathroom. In this third book, the main focus is on the bedroom that B&B owner Kate McGillicutty and police chief Wayne Rasmussen will move into once they’re married and Derek and Avery have finished renovating the carriage house on Kate’s property and have turned it into a romantic retreat for two. Avery is turning the bedroom—the whole house, really—into a pseudo-Parisian apartment, with a padded and upholstered wall behind the bed, skylights that look like balcony doors in the ceiling upstairs, and dripping chandeliers everywhere. The tips include upholstering a wall, turning a basic Shaker-style headboard into a romantic Gustavian-inspired bed, and how to make Avery’s paper-flowers, pictured on the cover of the book.

Make sure to visit Jennie's website here

Plaster and Poison is now available to be purchased at:


Barnes & Noble

Indie Bound

Penguin Group


Anonymous said...

Jenny, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I haven't read your series yet, but I'm aware of it. I'll get around to it soon. I like what you said about why to write a series. You've got me pegged completely. When I fall in love with characters, I want to stay with them.

Lori, thanks for this!

Jennie Bentley said...

My pleasure, Kay. If you do end up trying the books, be sure to let me know what you think.

And thanks Lori, for posting this. I appreciate the shout-out!

dollycas aka Lori said...

nice interview!!!

WonderBunny said...

Great interview! I have the first book of this series sitting on my bookshelf but haven't gotten to reading it yet (if you had seen my bookshelves you'd know why). I am still excited to read it though.

By the way, I found you through the book blogger hop! :)