I've known Jenny since her first writing projects that she shared with HVRWA and the critique group. Her historicals are feel good stories and her paranormals to come are quite intense. Janet
. For you, which comes first the characters or the plot?
I’d have to say neither or, perhaps, both. I usually start with a ‘what if’ question or some fragmented scene. Each book is different. For one of my recent historical, HIGH PLAINS BRIDE, I came up with an opening page of dialogue and had to construct plot and characters from that. That book left me wondering who these people were and how they had gotten themselves in such an awful mess. My newest paranormal, DREAM STALKER (Silhouette Nocturne), came to me as a premise: What happens when a woman discovers that the terrifying creature from her nightmares is not a dream, but a vengeful spirit sent to reclaim her for the spirit world from which she escaped?
2. How do you create your characters?
I generally try to decide what is good and honorable about my hero and then what his flaw or insecurity might be. Then I find the woman who would be absolutely perfect for him, but also be most threatening to his flaw/insecurity, so as to put him under the most stress possible. Then I’m in business.
3. Do you plan ahead or go with the flow?
I do a lot of planning, plotting and scene outlining. But I’m not so detail oriented that I don’t allow for surprises and discoveries along the way. It reminds me of a road trip. I know the starting point, the major points of interest and my final destination, but I leave time to explore interesting or unexpected attractions.
4. How much research do you do and how do you go about it?
I often do a lot of research. I love to read history books and original journals, diaries and sources from the time period I am exploring. I also use the web to check facts and details. Sometimes just reading along in a history book, I might find an intriguing detail that sparks a story. That was the case for my story, TURNER’S WOMAN, from Harlequin Historicals. I discovered that an up-and-coming military man dropped out of the service and disappeared for a few years to be a mountain man and then returned to resume his career with great success. It was theorized that he may have been a spy/cartographer for the US Government, sent to Spanish California to find an overland route to the sea. Well, that was all I needed to have my imagination go into overdrive.
5. How do you select goals and the reasons your characters what to accomplish these goals?
The character’s goals grow naturally out of their backstory. I don’t force them into unnatural situations, but let them lead me into discovering why they do or don’t want a particular thing. It is fun, as the author, to figure out or unearth an entire psychological profile on a person that began with just a name and a vague impression.
6. Tell us about your latest release.
I’m not sure which story will be released next, but believe it might be DREAM STALKER, followed by the second book in the series, GHOST STALKER. The second story is about a shapeshifting wolf who escapes a vicious attack by ghosts only to be dropped into the hands of an enemy healer who might just as soon kill him as help him. Check out my website at www.jennakernan.com for exact release dates and excerpts.
7. What's on your backlist?
My back list is all western historical, which I will continue to write. I’d say my westerns are romantic adventures that take place mainly on the trail or in the mountains. My first three stories (WINTER WOMAN, TURNER’S WOMAN, THE TRAPPER) all feature scouts and trappers. My last release, OUTLAW BRIDE, begins with a jail break and then a mountain rescue.
8. What are you working on now?
I’m working on two projects now. The first is a western historical where a woman is forced to choose between the man she loves and saving her family’s home. It is set in Sacramento after the gold rush and my hero is a railroad tycoon with issues of trust. No release date on that one.
The second project is a short story for Nocturne Bites, which are about 50 pages and released initially as ebooks available from www.eHarlequin.com . The story is titled, SHADOW STALKER and it is about a bear researcher who is rescued from poachers by a shapeshifting grizzly bear.
Thanks for the interesting questions. Aspiring authors can always visit my favorites pages for articles on craft at www.jennakernan.com.