10 Questions for Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick

New York Times best-selling Jayne Ann Krentz has built a successful career writing novels under three pen names: Amanda Quick for romantic suspense set in the past, Jayne Ann Krentz for the present, and Jayne Castle for the future. Inspired by her own love of books, such as The Black Stallion and the Nancy Drew mysteries, as well as the classic science fiction novels of Robert Heinlein and Andre Norton, Krentz diligently pursued her own dreams of becoming a published writer while working in the world of libraries. Krentz’s first three books, written as Jayne Bentley, Jayne Castle, and Jayne Taylor, appeared in 1979, and today she continues to deliver, having released two new books—Close Up, by Amanda Quick, and The Vanishing, by Jayne Ann Krentz—this year to the delight of millions of happy readers. There are rumors that a new Jayne Castle is also in the works. 

Who is Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick?

Ack! Don’t get me started on the name thing! All I can tell you is that ending up with multiple pen names was not the plan back at the start. Come to think of it there was no plan at the start. I had some vague idea of using the different names to let readers know which of my three worlds they would be entering when they picked up one of my books—past, present or future—but that was it. I always assumed I would settle down with whichever name proved to be most popular. It never occurred to me that each name would acquire an audience and, no, not every reader will read me under all three names. I really treasure those who do, believe me.

Tell us about your new book, Close Up.

Here’s the “elevator pitch”: The heroine is a photographer in the 1930s who is determined to break into the art world but currently paying the bills by shooting gritty crime scenes at night and nude men by day. What could possibly go wrong? Oh. Wait. Turns out she’s at the top of an assassin’s hit list. 

Close Up is your fourth novel set in the world of Burning Cove. Tell us about Burning Cove and what you as an author find most fascinating about the 1930s?

Burning Cove is a fictional town loosely—very loosely—based on Santa Barbara, California, a long-time playground for Hollywood stars, wealthy entrepreneurs, aspiring actors, and the occasional gangster. I should make it clear that I’m doing the mythical California, the California infused with sunlight, glamour, murder, and a cast of shady characters who headed West on Route 66 to leave their pasts behind. I love working with heroes and heroines and bad guys who are all hell-bent on reinventing themselves.

The biggest surprise for me as an author was discovering how much fabulous plot material is available from the era: Psychics! Robots! Asylums! Spies! Enigma machines! Hired Killers! Gambling ships! Hollywood Fixers! Entrepreneurs inventing the future!

After earning an MLS, you spent several years working in corporate and academic libraries (as well as one “memorable” year in an elementary school library). Are there any skills you picked up as a librarian that have made their way into your writer’s toolbox?

The library skill that I value most is an understanding of how research works. Librarians know the difference between primary and secondary source materials. They know how to evaluate the credibility of a source. That said, I should make it clear, I’m not writing history—I’m writing fiction.  There is a wealth of fascinating material available from the 1930s and I sometimes find myself in over my head. But I do my best to get the small, significant details right.

You were an early advocate for the value of romance fiction in readers’ lives as demonstrated by your involvement with the groundbreaking reference work Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of Romance, which was published in 1992. What prompted you to take on this challenge?

I was frustrated by the lack of respect that the academic community and the media exhibited toward romance fiction. Science fiction, mysteries, and other genres were taken seriously and studied in college classes. But romance was treated as frivolous. I take a very Darwinian view of anything that displays impressive survival power and there is no question that romance not only survives, it flourishes. When a genre continues to acquire a devoted readership in the face of endless condemnation and snark, the only reasonable thing to do is ask why. Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women was an effort to start answering that question for romance fiction. It is very gratifying to know that things have changed dramatically since that book was published. Public libraries today routinely catalog and shelve romance fiction and the genre has become a legitimate area of research and study in the academic world. 

So, the answer to the question “are we there yet?” for romance is “Yes.” That said, I think our culture still has a problem appreciating the whole of popular fiction not just as entertainment but for its real job. It is through the genres of popular fiction that we transmit our culture’s core values. It is because of popular fiction that we know how real heroes and heroines are supposed to act when the chips are down. They must do the right thing.

The dust bunnies that populate your Harmony books have become reader favorites. How on earth did you come up with them?

I’ve always assumed that animals have a psychic vibe so it was easy to work that into the dust bunnies when I set up my futuristic world of Harmony. Now, of course, the little critters have taken over my Jayne Castle world. And, yes, I have heard the call of readers who want another visit to Harmony (and another dust bunny). I’m currently writing another story set in that world.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you would offer to an aspiring writer?

Join a good writers group. Not only will it provide you with invaluable information about how the business works, you will have the opportunity to connect with other people who share your passion for writing. You will form bonds that will sustain you through the bad times—and there will be plenty of those—as well as the good times. For those who want to find a writers group in their community I suggest—naturally—contacting your local public library.

What have you read recently that you loved and think should be on the radar of readers everywhere?

I love Christina Dodd’s brand of suspense. Her latest, Strangers She Knows, is a perfect example of her ability to combine family drama, humor and gritty suspense. She always delivers strong female leads. I’m also having a great time with Deanna Raybourn’s historical mysteries featuring Veronica Speedwell. A Murderous Relation is the newest title in that series. And for those who like the twisty books with an unreliable narrator, I can tell you that I really enjoyed J. T. Ellison’s Good Girls Lie.

What is next for you as an author?

All the Colors of Night, under my JAK name, will be out in early January. It’s the second book in my psychic thriller trilogy featuring the very odd little town of Fogg Lake.

How can readers best connect with you and your books?

Thank you for asking! I invite readers to check out my website www.jayneannkrentz.com, where you will find a complete list of my books sorted in a number of different ways including by series. You can also find me on Facebook, and, somewhat sporadically, on Twitter.

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About the Author:

The Romance Writers of America 2002 Librarian of the Year, Charles has been reviewing romances for Booklist since 1999 and is the author of Romance Today: An A to Z Guide to Contemporary American Romance. After working for the Scottsdale Public Library System for 30 years, Charles retired and went to work for Scottsdale's independent bookstore the Poisoned Pen, where he still gets to push books but has to deal with far fewer computer questions.

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