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Q&A with Jenna Harte

What is the hardest part of your writing process? 

My biggest challenge is that my first drafts are pretty weak and I worry I won’t be able to fix them. Especially in romances, the snap and crackle required between characters is usually nonexistent in my first draft. I’m also weak on descriptions (setting and facial). So during revision, I spend a lot of time going through my thesauruses to find the right words to express what I see in my head.
How do you develop your characters? Are any of them like you or people you know? 

Like my weak scenes and descriptions in early drafts, my characters are often flat when I first start writing. They deepen during the writing process. That means, they’re not really based on anyone in particular. However, Tess Valentine in the Valentine mysteries likes old R&B music and chocolate, as do I. And she’s not very tall. Neither are two of the characters in the Southern Heat series. I’m not very tall either. Technically, I’m short.

You are both traditionally and self-published. How did you decide what route to take for your books? 

For the most part, the decision to self-publish the Valentine Mysteries came from an inability to get an agent to take a chance on the concept. Several liked the first book, but pushed me to sell it as a stand-alone romance. I always knew I wanted to do a mystery series featuring a romantic couple. I knew I couldn’t be alone in that, but agents and publishers are sensitive to book stores, and no one felt it fit well into the mystery-lane, and romances don’t usually continue with the same couple. I’ve started to see some change in this, but at this point, with five books and a novella, and a sixth book in the conception stage, it will remain self-published. 

For Southern Heat, a series of interesting events happened. The first was that I had this old romance sitting on my hard drive (it was so old it mentions dial-up Internet). I thought would be a fit for a Harlequin line, but at the time they only took snail-mailed manuscripts, so it sat. But then a few years ago, I noticed an online pitch contest with Harlequin Blaze and thought, what the heck, and entered. I won one of the five spots, which lead to a request for the first three chapters. The problem was, the book was far from done, so I spent the next few weeks getting it finished and revised. Harlequin then asked for the full manuscript, and then it sat for nearly two years. I finally got an agent, who was able to get a response (no), but she helped me beef up the story and sold it a few months later, as a series. 

Both traditional and self-publishing have their positives and negatives. What many new authors don’t get is that it doesn’t matter what route you use, marketing is the key success in writing.

The Southern Heat series is a departure from your mysteries. What made you decide to write them? 

The first book, Drawn to Her, I wrote so long ago, I’m not sure where the idea came from. When the Harlequin pitch contest came about, I decided to try and sell it. To be honest, I’m not much a contemporary romance reader. I usually prefer romantic mystery or suspense. So this series is quite an anomaly for me. When it became a three book deal, I already had ideas for the other two stories, one of which has a bit of suspense. Moving forward, my ideas are for the Valentines, a traditional cozy, and possibly a paranormal.

What authors or books do you enjoy reading? 

I’m a huge J.D. Robb fan (married couple solving mysteries). I also like Sandra Brown and Linda Howard...mostly their older stuff, but I haven’t had a lot of time for pleasure reading, which is why I’m not caught up on new books. I like to listen to audio books when I run, and Linda Howard is good for that. Bella Andre’s Billionaire stories have been good in audiobook too.

What is next for your writing? 

I just sent final copy edits back on Meant to Be, book two in the Southern Heat series and I hope to have book three, Wed to You, finished in the next couple of weeks (it’s due July 1). I’ve promised Valentine fans a new book this fall, so I’ll be working on the sixth full-length Valentine mystery. After that, I have a traditional cozy mystery I’ve already started that I plan to complete, and hope my agent will like enough to sell.

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