Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Jana Denardo – Jana Denardo’s career choices and wanderlust take her all over the United States and beyond. Much of her travels make their way into her stories. Fantasy, science fiction, and mystery have been her favorite genres since she started reading, and they often flavor her works. In her secret identity, she works with the science of life and gives college students nightmares..
Thanks so much, Jana, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
Jana Denardo: I can barely remember a time that I didn’t want to write. My clearest memory of wanting to write was coming back from seeing Star Wars: A New Hope when I was ten. I started writing fan fic and yes I’m sure it was awful. I was active in fanfic ever since, which was where I learned I was good at it. I had a decent following in some of my fandoms (especially in the electronic age but even before that back in the paper zine days). I started writing original fiction in high school and ever since then I worked hard at improving and trying to publish.
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
JD: My writing style is more about dialogue than description. I love character interactions. I love writing urban fantasy, fantasy, SF and mystery. I’m definitely a genre writer at heart. I love inventing new worlds and species.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
JD: My first published work was a short story (under a different pen name) back in the mid 1996s. It was a vampire story set during the times of the Spanish conquest of the Incans. I’d love to see that story again even though it might make me cringe today. It was published in an international spec fic magazine that soon went out of business unfortunately.
My first published work as Jana was In the Hands of the Gods a short story published in Dreamspinner’s A Brush of Wings anthology. It was about a wealthy young man, Tiberius Aelius Rufus, who is fated to die when Pompeii is buried by the volcano. Priscus, his lares, a protective spirit, can’t allow that as he’s in love with him.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
JD: That’s a tough one. I’m a pantser by nature. I do write notes for myself though. I’m trying out setting aside a dedicated writing time but I’m not doing well with it. I usually do dialogue and the bare bones first and go back in and add description. I wish I could do it all in one sweep but a rather toxic writers group years ago put me off description and I’ve never quite got the ability to do that on the fly back.
JSC: Tell us about a unique or quirky habit of yours.
JD: I’m not so sure it’s unique but writing wise, I have a habit of talking to my characters out loud as if they were standing there with me. It helps me work through things. If we’re talking quirky habits, I’ve taken to making ghost tours part of every trip I take.
JSC: If you could sit down with one other writer, living or dead, who would you choose, and what would you ask them?
JD: Agatha Christie. She was one of the first authors I fell in love with. I would ask her how she soldiered on for so many decades. How did she pick herself up when she felt like her books weren’t any good? Who was her favorite detective to write and why?
JSC: What action would your name be if it were a verb?
JD: Daydreaming. I think I do more of that than nearly anything else. Of course much of that ends up as plot so I’m not complaining.
JSC: What kind of character or topic have you been dying to try to write, but you’ve never worked up the courage?
JD: I would love to write either a swashbuckling space opera filled with diverse characters or a mystery/police procedural. I think it might be less a matter of working up courage than finding time to do it.
JSC: If you had the opportunity to live one year of your life over again, which year would you choose?
JD: Either 1988 when I was choosing to go to medical school. I would have been far more proactive about it (or choose not to do it period) or go back to year 2000 and be sure I had hand insurance and to get better legal advice than I had after my hand injury.
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
JD: I’m working on a novel about vampires in Las Vegas and a SF novel about institutionalized sexual slavery (though the people think they are willing courtesans). I have no idea when either of them will be available as they are WIPs.
And now for Jana’s new book: Kept Tears:
Having left most of his arm and his self-confidence behind in the Afghanistan desert, young veteran Aaron Santori has enough on his plate learning to use his prosthetic arm. Attending graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh makes life both interesting and challenging. Mentally, he’s ill prepared for meeting Rhys Edwards, a young-adult novelist from Wales and everything Aaron could want in a man. Between the scars from the explosion and his PTSD, he’s reluctant to date. Ready or not, though, Aaron finds himself jumping into the deep end of the relationship waters.
What Aaron couldn’t possibly know is that Rhys isn’t human at all. As a prince of the Tylwyth Teg, Rhys is a fae with a list of enemies he’s accumulated over the past few centuries – among them a former lover, Morcant, who is back to make Rhys’s life miserable. An unwitting pawn in their Machiavellian fae politics, Aaron only knows he’s falling in love, never suspecting love might be his death sentence.
Aaron wanted to talk to the man, but he could barely remember how. It had been so easy before the war, when he’d been whole. Now he was nothing but scars, and just thinking about talking to a good-looking guy made him sweat.
He took his topcoat off. Aaron had designed his dress shirt to be short-sleeved on the side of his prosthesis so it could show off the gears and brass work he had sheathed the nonmoving parts in. Besides, coatless, he could show off the embroidered pattern of his vest. Slinging his coat over his good arm, Aaron decided to take a risk and be the man he was before Afghanistan. He walked over to the handsome stranger. “Hi, I’m Aaron Santori.”
“Rhys Edwards.” He nodded toward Aaron’s prosthesis. “I like it. Sit down.”
Aaron smiled. This could be the start of something interesting.
“Nice outfit.” Rhys gestured at Aaron’s costume rather than his prosthetic arm. “I’ve just started sticking my toes in these waters. I haven’t settled into a character.”
“It’s a lot of fun. Guess I never outgrew wanting to dress up in costume.” He blushed a bit. “Are you here with a friend?” Aaron had to force himself not to look away. He couldn’t believe he had just asked that. Could he make it any more obvious he was flirting?
Rhys spread his hands, not seeming the least bit put off. “Alone, I’m afraid.”
“My friends are late.” Aaron shifted on the uncomfortable chair. He was so out of practice at this. He wasn’t even sure if it was welcome. For all he knew, Rhys wanted pointers on how to really enter the steampunk world.
“My gain, then.” Rhys’s smile sent a frisson of desire through Aaron before it could be soundly beaten back by the vicious little voice that had been living rent-free in his head since the war. Who would want you? You’re hideous to look at now.
“So, you’re new to steampunk, but are you a local?” Aaron heard Rhys’s British accent, so if he was going to think about picking this man up, he ought to find out if Rhys was only in town for this event. Rhys definitely didn’t have the distinctive Pittsburgh accent.
“I just got into town a few months ago. I’m a novelist and I’m scouting out the area to write about.” Rhys picked up his martini glass.
“Oh? Anything I might have read?”
“I don’t know. What do you like to read?” As he sipped his drink, Rhys studied Aaron with his deep-blue eyes.
Aaron wrinkled his nose. “That was dumb of me. Mostly, I like fantasy, science fiction, and mystery.”
“Then, maybe. I’ve written a young adult series about the fae.”
Jana Denardo’s career choices and wanderlust take her all over the United States and beyond. Much of her travels make their way into her stories. Fantasy, science fiction, and mystery have been her favorite genres since she started reading, and they often flavor her works. In her secret identity, she works with the science of life and gives college students nightmares. When she’s not chained to her computer writing, she functions as stray cat magnet.
Jana is Queen of the Geeks (her students voted her in) and her home and office are shrines to any number of comic book and manga heroes along with SF shows and movies too numerous to count. It is no coincidence the love of all things geeky has made its way into many of her stories. To this day, she’s still disappointed she hasn’t found a wardrobe to another realm, a superhero to take her flying among the clouds, or a roguish starship captain to run off to the stars with her.