Today I’d like to welcome author Judi Fennell to Fang-tastic Books. Thank you, Judi, for joining us today.
Thanks so much for having me back!
Q: Your newest books feature genies; your first books had an “under the sea” theme. So you’ve gone from mermaids and mermen to genies—how did that come about? What was your genie-ous inspiration?
A: I’d love to say that it was sheer genius (love your play on the word!), but honestly? Notsomuch. I’d actually started the story before I sold the Mer series to my publisher.
Before you’re published, you submit manuscripts to editors and agents. If that manuscript doesn’t catch anyone’s eye, you need to have something else to submit, so you should always be working on new stories.
There were no guarantees with the Mer stories, so I tried to come up with something else that would be fun to write about and hopefully interesting enough to an editor for him or her to buy it. I went back to what I liked to watch on TV (since the Mers were inspired by The Little Mermaid), because I loved the 60s and 70s’ sitcoms, especially I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched. There are already witch books out there (Linda Wisdom’s Hex series from Sourcebooks being one of them), so I decided to go with the genies. I didn’t really have any other idea for the book except that when I thought about it, I heard the Indiana Jones’ theme. Which leads to your next question…
Q: What can you tell us about your newest book, I Dream of Genies?
A: It starts out with Eden (yes, as in Barbara… see? Told you I liked that show!) in her bottle. She’s been locked away in her bottle for 3000 years for committing a crime (accidentally), sealed in with enough magic that only an explosion could free her.
Or the jaws of a garbage truck.
But once she’s out (early), she plans to stay out. Unfortunately, her magic got a little wonky with the bump on the head, so she’s not exactly in control of what she does. Pink mailboxes, dodo birds, magically appearing vases of violets… Yeah, she’s wreaking a little havoc in the mortal world.
She’s also wreaking havoc in the Djinn world because Faruq, the High Master’s vizier, is responsible for Genie Compliance. When Eden gets free and goes off the Djinn Radar (GPS – Genie Placement System), Faruq has to get her back or lose his job. The fact that he wants her for the ties she has to the High Master so he can get in good with the Supreme Leader of the Djinn world only adds to his determination.
But as determined as Faruq is to return her to The Service, Eden is just as determined not to go back.
And Matt Ewing is stuck in the middle. All Matt wants to do is keep his construction company afloat in a cruddy economy, but when Eden comes along with her screwy magic and a powerful Djinni after her, he’s got more problems than he counted on—especially when Faruq kidnaps Eden and returns her to the magical city in the Sahara, Al-Jannah.
That’s when the Indiana Jones’ theme kicks in as Matt and the talking cat Obo are off to rescue her with only a magical amulet and Obo’s questionable altruism to help them.
Q: It sounds like you have an all star cast of crazy characters lined up for us in this new book (series) like Humphrey the baby dragon, Obo the talking cat, the cross-dressing High Master genie, and the Egyptian goddess Bastet, and of course the main character of the story, the centuries-old genie, Eden. Which character was the most fun to write?
A: This is the biggest cast of characters I’ve written to date. The story just wouldn’t stop. All of a sudden, Obo had an agenda, Humphrey was more than he seemed, and the Egyptian goddess wanted in on the act.
As to the most fun to write, I’d have to say Obo. And I think it comes across in the book because everyone who has read it has commented on Obo. I have no idea where he came from, but I sometimes couldn’t type fast enough to keep up with his smart-alec comments.
Q: Which character, of all of the ones you’ve written so far, is your favorite?
A: I honestly can’t answer that. While I’m writing the stories, the beginning is always fun. The ending is, too, and sometimes I write the ending either first or right after I write the beginning. Filling in the middle takes the most work so by the time I’m finished the entire thing, I’ve wrestled with each and every character to get them to fit into the story—or wrangled the rest of the story around the direction they wanted it to go. It’s a love/hate relationship each time, but when I read the final book, I fall in love with each of them all over again. So I really can’t pick, except maybe to say, it’s Vana, the heroine of Leave It To Genie because I’m at the beginning stages with her. And Zane, too, her hero. Who doesn’t love a hero?
Q: Humor seems to come easy for you. How do you manage to balance the humor and the sizzle in your books while keeping the romance and action of the story going strong?
A: Easy? Really? Geez, that snowstorm in the Northeast wasn’t just white fluffy stuff on the ground, now, was it?
The funny thing is, I didn’t start out to write humor; it just sort of happened. In In Over Her Head, my debut novel, I stuck a woman who’s terrified of the ocean under the sea in a merman’s lair. I had to give her some reason for not going insane. Humor is a great diffuser.
From there it just sort of snowballed. (Hmmm, I’m seeing a theme here.) Next came Reel’s name, which was a twist on Ariel. I’d originally started with Riel, but figured no one would be able to pronounce it. When I changed it to Reel, and his fish buddy Chum showed up, I had a feeling where it was going to go from there. Then Erica asked Reel (after she heard his name), “So do you have a friend Rod around here anywhere?” and he answered, “My brother. He’s in charge of the South Atlantic,” I knew we’d be going down that path.
It was as if a door had opened in my brain and tons of puns and word-play came out, followed by the snarky, sarcastic comments and I’ve just kept going with it. It makes it a lot of fun to write.
As to keeping the story strong, there’s an adage in this writing world: if your story starts to slow down (known as the “Sagging Middle”), kill someone. Whether that’s literally or metaphorically depends on what kind of story you’re writing and where you are in the plot, but to keep things interesting, do something unexpected. There are many times when I get to a point and don’t know where to go, that I think of that adage and do something unexpected. You’ll see that in I Dream of Genies when Eden and Matt are answering the Hadhayosh’s questions, the first one especially. I knew they had to come up with the right answer to pass through the garden, but answering questions just seemed too generic to me. So I came up with a little extra danger just to keep it interesting. I remember when I wrote the first one, the rest of the ideas came flooding after it (some humor for those of you who’ve read the book…). I think I wrote 6000 words that day because the scenes just played out in my head like a movie reel and it was all I could do to keep up with it while I was trying to type so fast.
Q: What is your favorite part of being an author?
A: Hearing from readers that I’ve helped them get through a particularly tough time, or gave them a few hours of escapist fun.
Q: For you, what is the hardest part of being an author?
A: When the story isn’t working. And the hours away from my family. I recently went back to work full time at a day job, so fitting in hours of writing on top of that day, plus having enough time for my husband and kids… it’s tough.
Q: What books are currently in your to-be-read pile?
A: Gosh, I have so many!!! One of the best things about being an author is all the books you get. One of the worst things about being an author is all the books you get. There’s never enough time to read them when I want, or as fast as I want, so I find myself reading more than one at a time.
I have a friend’s manuscript on my laptop, Grace Burrowes’ The Heir on the Kindle app on my iPhone, Mary Burton’s, Dying Scream on my bedside table, Cleopatra on request from a friend, and a stack of others I’m dying to get into.
Q: Can you give us a little peak into I Dream of Genies; maybe an excerpt or a little snippet of one of your favorite scenes?
A: Absolutely! There’s another excerpt on my website (www.JudiFennell.com) and my newsletter subscribers had another exclusive excerpt, but this one is just for you.
This takes place after Matt and Eden have spent the night together and Eden’s magic is starting to get back on track. Unfortunately, genie magic leaves Glimmer in the atmosphere that magical beings can see—and track her with—and she was a little too “occupied” with Matt to really care all that much at that minute. Now however…
“Yo, babe, we have to talk about the Glimmer you’re leaving all over the place.”
Obo shoved the bedroom door open and Eden spun around, pulling the sweater down. “Don’t you knock?”
“Me seeing you naked is the least of your worries. And besides, compared to Cleopatra, sorry, but there’s no comparison. Not that I’m in the market, you understand.” The cat shook his head.
“What am I saying? We’ve got worse things to worry about than your modesty. You might as well have left boulder-sized breadcrumbs to this place. It was like the Halley’s Comet of Glimmer last night. I mean, come on already! A cloud of butterflies? Why not eagles? An airplane, for Bastet’s sake. I was choking on the stuff last night. Everywhere I turned it was like Glimmer was falling out of the sky.”
It had been, actually. Zift! She should have thought about that—not that she’d really been thinking coherently last night. Plus, it wasn’t as if she’d ever really thought about Glimmer before. It’d never mattered. Now… oh it mattered.
“Not to worry, Obo. I figured out how to control my magic, so I’ll be out of here soon enough.” Hopefully with bottle in hand. She wouldn’t think about saying goodbye to Matt. “And what do you mean about Cleopatra? You really did know her? Those weren’t just rumors?” The famous queen had died only a few years before Eden had been born, which put Obo at at least two thousand years old.
“Forget Cleopatra.” Obo hopped onto the bed. “We’ve got Faruq to worry about.”
“True, but by the time he gets here, all the Glimmer should be gone, so I’ll be able to mortal my way past him. He won’t expect me to use their transportation.”
“Whether he expects that or not is the least of your worries.” The cat stretched out his front legs, claws poking holes in one of the feather pillows as he bared them. “He’s here.”
“Here. As in nearby. In town. Aqui. Ici. Edo. Honaa. Get the picture? You need to get a move on if you plan on hiding from him. Oh, and you might want to take care of the donkey. The dragon, too. If the Glimmer doesn’t lead Faruq here, the stench surely will. Or the torched house.
Humphrey’s been practicing his aim. Sad to say, it’s off.”
Zift. Faruq had gotten here quicker than she’d expected. He must have been watching the crystals that tracked genies in The Service like a hawk for him to notice so quickly. Thank the stars he hadn’t shown up last night.
“I’ve got to get out of here.” She held out her hand and called Humphrey, who dove down from the top of the door, then shoved her feet into the pretty high-heeled boots she’d worn last night. Not the most practical, but she couldn’t start zapping things now. Fresh Glimmer was easier to track.
“That’s what I’m trying to tell you.” Obo leapt off the bed and followed her out the door. “And I’m going with you.”
“Obo, that’s not possible. I’ve got to hide. Stay out of sight. Bad enough I’m going to have to do something non-magical with Humphrey, but having you along too will only complicate things.”
“You want to talk complicated, babe? I just spent the last ten hours or so hiding from Faruq. Matter of fact, I’ve kept him following me, running all over town, to leave you free to do whatever”—he nodded back to the bedroom—“you felt the need to do. Then I risked my butt getting back here to warn you, not to mention having to give up my bed, kibble, and litter box to some random cat you dragged in. You owe me.”
©Judi Fennell, Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2011
Thank you again for joining us today. I look forward to reading this magical new series.
My pleasure! Thanks so much for having me! I hope you enjoy the (magic carpet) ride!
I DREAM OF GENIES BY JUDI FENNELL – IN STORES JANUARY 2011
“The nonstop cinematic gee-whiz results will keep the reader enraptured. Fennell also tosses in sultry sex scenes, a bubble-gum-sweet but passionate romance, quick-moving action, and a variety of puns and riddle-making beasts.”
—Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW
He needs to change his luck, and fast!
Matt Ewing would gladly hunt down a fortune in lucky pennies if he thought it would help save his business. But for all his hoping, Matt’s clueless when his long-awaited lucky charm falls in his lap in the form of a beguiling genie. He just can’t believe that this beautiful woman could be the answer to his prayers…
She’s been bottled up for far too long!
Spending 2,000 years in a bottle would make any woman a little stir-crazy. So when Matt releases Eden from her luxurious captivity, she’s thrilled to repay him by giving him the magical boost he needs…
But for all her good intentions, Eden’s magical prowess is a little rusty and her magical mistakes become more than embarrassing. And though Eden knows falling in love will end her magic and immortality, she can’t help but be drawn to the one man who wants her just for herself…
About the Author
Judi Fennell is an award-winning author and writes what she calls “fairy tales with a twist.” Her romance novels have been finalists in Gather.com's First Chapters and First Chapters Romance contests, and have won numerous RWA Chapter Awards, including the FF&P Prism Award, and the New Jersey Golden Leaf Award. Judi lives with her family in suburban Philadelphia, PA, where she is working on the next book in the Genie Trilogy, Genie Knows Best, set for release in November 2011. For more information, please visit http://www.judifennell.com/.
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