AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: JENNY TROUT
Abigail Barnette (aka Jenny Trout, aka Jennifer Armintrout) has been busily writing but made time to stop by and see us at Joyfully Reviewed…
The Girlfriend, a self-published sequel to my erotic romance, The Boss.
Tell us a little about The Girlfriend?
I had originally intended to write a single work of erotic fiction as a response of sorts to 50 Shades of Grey and the other “Billionaire Dom” books that were flooding the market last year. I was really uncomfortable with what I perceived to be disempowering themes in these types of books, where the heroine always seemed to be young and naïve and the Dominant hero was almost always this a-hole alpha who threw tantrums if he didn’t get his way. I thought, “I’ll write a book in this genre and try to avoid those pitfalls I’m seeing, and if it works great, if it doesn’t, oh well, because I’m giving it away for free anyway.” But as I got closer to the end of The Boss, I realized there was no way for the characters to have a realistic HEA, or even a HFN in that book. And then I thought, well, what the hell, why not give them some sequels and tell their entire story? So I plotted out The Girlfriend, The Bride, and The Baby. While the first book has a cliff-hanger ending, the sequels give Neil and Sophie HFNs on the way to their HEA in the final book. Because I’m a romantic at heart.
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
I always have the story plotted out, but the characters almost always surprise me once I get going. There’s a scene in The Girlfriend where a minor character from the first book shows up. I never planned for her to be there, and she ended up becoming a bigger part of the sequels than I anticipated; I really thought we would never hear from her again. I already had The Bride and The Baby plotted out, and I had to go back and revise those stories a little as a consequence. I figure I have a roadmap, but the characters are going to dictate alternate routes.
What inspired you to write in your genre? Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?
I started out writing urban fantasy and fantasy novels under the name Jennifer Armintrout. Then I got really into reading classic historical romance, like Virginia Henley and Bertrice Small, and I thought, you know, I’d really like to do something like that. Obviously, I couldn’t do that under the name I was using, so a friend and I invented Abigail Barnette, this alter-ego who could write erotic romance and do whatever she wanted. Somehow along the way, Abigail kind of took over; I’ve been writing erotic romance exclusively since my first one, Ravenous came out from Samhain Publishing. I am sort of branching out into YA as Jenny Trout, so we’ll see how that goes!
Do you have a favorite character you have written?
I really like most of my characters, but the one I’ve liked the most so far is Sophie from The Girlfriend and its sister novels. She’s the twenty-four year old I wish I could go back in time and force twenty-four year old me to be.
Who was the toughest character for you to “get right” that you have written so far?
I wrote a historical erotic romance for Ellora’s Cave called Silent Surrender, and the heroine is a deaf woman in Plymouth in 1841. I know a little bit about Deaf culture in modern times, but I had to try to figure out how to get into the mind of a person who is isolated from society, who doesn’t have deaf peers, and who is really isolated because of this. I felt I had a responsibility as a hearing person to portray Honoria as accurately as I possibly could, so she went through a lot of changes from the character I first drafted on paper to the woman in the story.
Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life? Any fun stories you could share?
In The Girlfriend, Sophie’s best friend Holli is based on two of my real-life friends I sort of merged into one person, and then I threw in a healthy dose of weirdness that’s not attached to either of them. My hope is to throw them off the scent a little, so if they ever read the books, they’ll blame the character flaws on each other, and take credit for the good parts they see in themselves. That way, I’ll never have to say, “Yes, I really do think you’re too loud when you chew,” or something!
What do you find the hardest part of writing?
I recently saw an interview with Ron Howard where he said that filmmaking is the thing he enjoys doing the most, so he doesn’t need a hobby. That really resonated with me, because writing is the thing I like to do the most, so I do it all the time. I start to feel guilty because I know I have to work, I know I have to meet my deadlines, but I think, “It’s my husband’s day off, I should be spending it with him,” or “Maybe I’m working too much and not spending enough time with my kids,” and I feel guilty because I’m enjoying myself and I think I don’t feel guilty enough about that. So, the hardest part for me is just accepting that I can put myself and my work first, sometimes, and it’s not always selfish of me to do so.
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
How much I truly enjoy old historical romances. Or “rapemances” as I call them. I’ve built this sort of aura around me of upholding feminist ideals and really taking people to task who say awful, misogynist things in their books or their blogs. And then I’m shamefully indulging in Skye O’Malley on the side.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
No, I never feel guilty about anything pleasurable. Life is too short.
Okay, maybe a little about Skye O’Malley.
What TV Shows are you addicted to?
Right now, Hannibal is my favorite thing in the whole wide world. Partially because my son is autistic, so to see Hugh hot-as-hell Dancy playing a guy who’s on the spectrum, and all these women are lusting after him on Tumblr… it makes me feel good for my kid. Like, okay, the cultural perception of Autism is shifting from Rain Man and that’s a good thing. Plus, I’ve always loved Thomas Harris’s books. I may or may not have had a massive crush on Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, and that’s driving my obsession quite a lot as well.
What do you need before you start writing? Anything that is just a must have or the creative juice don’t flow?
Coffee. I know that’s such a cliché answer, but I have to have it. I also have to be sitting in a chair with my computer on some kind of surface. I see authors writing with their computers in their laps or laying down and I’m like, “What kind of sorcery is this?!” Because I have some medical awfulness in my life, I occasionally find myself having to work from my bed, and that just sucks, because it’s like, “Gah, my computer is touching my lap WHY?!” I don’t get much done those days.
Does music influence your writing? If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?
It’s funny, I used to always listen to music, but as I’ve gotten older and my writing process has become more streamlined, I don’t listen to it as much. I do create playlists for each book that I’ll listen to while I’m doing other stuff like cleaning the house or doing dishes, so I feel connected to the story, but when I sit down to write, I’m finding myself preferring silence more and more. But I don’t tell my family that, because then they’ll know that I’m wearing these headphones to block them out.
If your story was optioned for a movie, who would play your characters?
If The Girlfriend was optioned, I would probably want Naya Rivera or Amber Heard as Sophie, and Anthony Head in 2003 as Neil. But since time travel isn’t possible, I’d be totally okay with Mads Mikkelsen or Daniel Craig in the role. One of the side characters in the book, Deja, was born from my blatant and eternal crush on Rosario Dawson, so I’d like to think she’d take that role, even if it’s a small one. And then I would meet her on the set and we would fall in love and have a wild affair. Which is about as likely as my book getting optioned, so I can just keep on dreaming!
Where were you when you got your first contract? Who did you tell first?
I was at home in my teensy little apartment in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I think I was doing the dishes at the time, and Shannon Godwin called me from Harlequin and said, “We’d like to offer you a three-book contract.” This was on the first book I’d ever written, the second place I’d ever submitted it to, so I said, “Shut up, you do not!” After she assured me that it was a real offer, I called my friends from my critique group. Then, shamefully, I remembered I should tell my husband, since he’s my best friend and the person I’ve chosen to spend my entire life with and all. But I needed to tell a writer first, darn it!
How old were you when you read your first romance book?
Fourteen years old. I mean, before that I had read the dirty parts of my mom’s romance novels for… purposes. But I’d never read a whole book for the sake of just reading the book. My grandmother, Peggy Hanchar (now writing as Temple Hogan), took me to the RWA national conference in New York and bought me scads and scads of books. I actually remember meeting Nora Roberts there and thinking, “Who?” I got one of her books signed and ended up giving it away to a friend later because I’m a freaking idiot. I really wasn’t into romance at all yet, but on the way home I remember reading a Nancy Gideon book and thinking, “This is something I can get into.” I also read Simon’s Lady by Julie Tetel, which I got from that conference, and I was hooked.
What author causes you to “go fan girl”/ squeal over/anticipate upcoming books?
Leanna Renee Hieber. Which is a little weird, because I’ve met her a bunch, we’ve hung out together at conferences, and it seems really strange to me to be like, “Oh, you’re a person, I can talk to you and visit a cemetery with you,” about 90% of the time, but then there’s this 10% where I’m like, “Oh my god you have a new book out, I am consumed with the squee!” She came to a con party dressed as Percy once, and I flipped out and started talking to her like she was really Percy. And I proudly tell people she took a nap in my hotel room while waiting for her flight in NOLA last year. I’m like a creepy, creepy stalker.
If you still have one of those pesky non writing jobs what is it?
I’m pretty lucky in that I was a stay at home mom when I wrote my first book, and that’s still what I do. I have occasionally picked up a job here and there, like seasonal work at The Gap or a summer at McDonald’s. But I hate work, and I never end up leaving on good terms with my places of employment. I quit my last job by passing a note across the counter and literally running away. So I better make sure this writing thing continues to work out.
Do you have a favorite movie you have seen in the last few months and/or an all time favorite?
A Royal Affair. It’s a Danish movie I watched only because Mads Mikkelsen is in it. It totally swept me away.
What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?
Right now I’m putting finishing touches on Such Sweet Sorrow, the first book in the Wondrous Strange series. That one will be out from Entangled Teen in February of 2014. The series remains Shakespearean stories and adds paranormal elements. The first book sees Hamlet and Romeo on a quest through the Norse underworld – the Afterjord, as we’re calling it – to rescue Juliet. I’m also writing the first draft of Raptors of The Great Plains, a Steampunk adventure/erotic romance novel that takes the characters from my short story, Sex, Lies, and Inventions on a new adventure. That one will be self-published and available through my website, hopefully in time for Christmas.
If you could co-write with another author who would it be?
Nobody! I’m too much of a control freak. I did work on Such Sweet Sorrow with Nick Harris at the Story Foundation, and we brainstormed and bounced ideas off each other until the book took shape, but if it were a matter of just sitting down and adding my words to someone else’s words and them adding their words to mine… I don’t think I could handle that, I’m too selfish and egotistical.
How do you pick your characters names?
At this point I’ve written over twenty novels, novellas, and short stories, so I’m just trying not to pick duplicate names. I do find that census records and parish registries work really well for historical names, though.
Do you prefer the love at first sight approach or a steady growth throughout?
I need a mix of both. When I met my husband, I didn’t think, “There’s the man I’m going to marry,” but I thought, “I want to have sex with him.” I think it’s perfectly reasonable for two characters to form an instant physical attraction, or get a crush on the cute coffee guy, and then it grows into something more. I’m really over soul mates and soul bonds and “I knew you were my mate the moment I smelled you” type scenarios in paranormal romances, though. I wrote a novella where the heroine and hero were lovers in a past life, but I had to make sure their attraction and attachment grew from more than that. It wasn’t as simple as, “I remember you! We are in love now!” It just seems like an excuse to jump past important character growth and development. I like learning about characters through the way other characters view them, especially as they’re falling in love. That’s from a reader perspective and a writer’s as well.
What is your reaction to people who say one of the following…”Oh you write romance, I thought you were a real writer”, “Romance isn’t a real writing career” or the ever popular “Oh, one of those books”.
I used to be really patient and explain how it’s the biggest selling genre and the stories are well-crafted and blah blah blah, but now I’m just tired of that. Those people are assholes, they’re never going to listen to a justification or defense of the genre and change their minds. My standard response now is, “Wow. That was really rude. Aren’t you super embarrassed that you said that? Because you should be.”
Where can readers find you?
my blog, JennyTrout.blogspot.com.
I’m also a mad Twitterer, I tweet all the time. I’m @JennyTrout. Just be prepared for me to blow up your TL.
And for the silly side –
What is your favorite type of chocolate?
Chocolate is like sex. Even when it’s bad, hey. At least you’re having it. The only thing I just cannot eat is Fannie May chocolate. I think it’s 5% chocolate and 95% ear wax.