Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Guest Author -- Jennifer Estep

Jennifer Estep says she's a Southern gal through and through - sassy, sarcastic, and just a tad crazy. She's always loved making up wild stories in her head but nowadays she gets paid to do it. The author of four published novels, Jennifer is also an award-winning features page designer for a daily newspaper.

Spider's Bite (Pocket Books), which was released January 26th, kicks off Jennifer's new Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series.   

Please give Jennifer a warm welcome to The Romance Dish!

Greetings and salutations! First of all, I want to thank PJ and the rest of the Romance Dish ladies for inviting me to guest blog. Thanks so much everyone!

So today I thought I would talk about romance, of course.  *g*  And I thought that I’d focus on reader expectations, especially when it comes to books that aren’t straight-up romances – like my new book Spider’s Bite.

Spider’s Bite was released last week, and it’s the first book in my new Elemental Assassin series. Now, some of you might know me from my Bigtime paranormal romance series. Those books – Karma Girl, Hot Mama, and Jinx – were definitely romances, with a lot of sexy superheroes, masks, and spandex thrown in.

But Spider’s Bite is not a paranormal romance. It’s an urban fantasy through and through, and focuses on an assassin named Gin Blanco who runs a barbecue restaurant in her spare time. It’s very dark, gritty, and Southern with lots of blood, lots of action, and lots of violence.

And I think it also has a lot of romance in it. There’s a ruggedly handsome detective, loads of sexual tension, and a very steamy scene that takes place inside a supply closet. You can imagine what happens in there between Gin and the detective. ;-)

But I wonder if there’s enough romance in it for, well, romance readers. How much romance do folks expect in a book that’s not a straight-up romance? A love interest? Some kisses? A sex scene or two? And what about the happily ever after? Is that a requirement in a non-romance?

For the record, Spider’s Bite gets pretty steamy in places (namely, that supply closet). But Gin doesn’t get her happily ever after at the end of the book, although I do plan for her to have one during the course of the series. Whether it’s with the detective or someone else, well, readers will just have to wait and see.

Me, personally? I like books that have a little bit of everything in them – action, adventure, romance, even an explosion or two. I don’t necessarily expect a romance in say, a spy thriller or a cozy mystery, but it’s always a nice bonus. So is a happily ever after for the couple in question.

But writing a romance in a non-romance book can be tough. It’s a fine line to tread between putting enough romance in to please fans of that genre and enough fantasy world building to please fans of that genre (or a twisty mystery or whatever specific genre you happen to be writing in).

And urban fantasy is its own unique hybrid, since the genre gets so much crossover readership from romance fans, fantasy fans, and others. It’s a lot to juggle and think about as an author. But in the end, all I can do is write the best book that I can and hope that readers – all types of readers – respond.

What about you? How much romance do you like in other genres? Is the promise of an eventual happily ever after enough to get you to read a series? Share in the comments.


  1. Good morning, Jennifer! We're so glad you're dishing with us today. :)

    I'm fine with the "promise" of a HEA, which is usually the case with urban fantasy, like SPIDER'S BITE, which I loved by the way! And that scene in the supply closet....very hot! :-D

    Now when I read other sub-genres of romance, I really want my HEA at the end of the book.

    Can't wait to see what you have in store for Gin! Can you give us any hints or info about your next book, WEB OF LIES?

  2. Hi Jennifer! Thanks so much for being with us today. I'm just getting into the urban fantasy books with their eventual HEAs.

    I read a variety of genres so I'm used to books without a HEA. However, having said that, when I read a "romance", I want that happy ending. When I begin the book knowing there won't be a nicely wrapped up happy ending, then that's okay.

    I'm looking forward to reading SPIDER'S BITE!

  3. Hi, Gannon! I'm glad to be here. I'm so glad you enjoyed the book, and thanks for the awesome review you posted here. ;-)

    Sure. In WEB OF LIES, Gin decides to help out Warren T. Fox, an old friend of her mentor/handler's who's being threatened by a coal mine owner. The mine owner wants Warren's land for his own purposes -- he just doesn't realize what a fight he's in for when Gin gets involved.

    Finn, Sophia, Jo-Jo, and Donovan are all back, and there are some new characters as well, like sexy businessman Owen Grayson, who has his own interest in Gin ...

    Is that enough of a teaser? ;-)

  4. Hi, PJ! Thanks for having me on the blog.

    Me too. I'm okay as long as I'm not expecting a HEA, and with urban fantasy, I know that's not usually going to happen.

    Hope you enjoy SPIDER'S BITE. ;-)

  5. No matter the genre, if it tends to fall to heavily on the happy ever after mashup for an ending...I'm likely to lose interest. Even in fiction, I tend to think like gets mimicked to a certain degree. Having said that - the reality is there isn't always a happy ending.

    I tend to like just enough mystery, hints at possibilities to keep me reading.

    Wonderful interview! I'm looking forward to reading Spider's Bite. (Hugs)Indigo

  6. Gah! My fingers are typing faster than my brain today. I meant LIFE gets mimicked to a certain degree. Indigo

  7. If the book is marketed as a romance or any sub-genre of romance then yes, I expect some sort of romantic growth between the main characters.

    I've noticed that lines within romance have become more blurred, heroines don't necessarily have one main love interest anymore and some books only IMPLY a HEA and doesn't necessarily guarantee one...which is ok with me. To an extent.

    I do not as a reader and book consumer like to be dangled along, you know? The thing with genre writing is that it is formulaic...people who read within that genre have certain expectations and for romance it is the HEA and personally, call me traditional, I want ONE love interest. They can go through hell and be separated, etc but in the end (to keep me interested) the pairing I fell in love with, better be the ones standing at the end.

    I've read/heard great buzz about Spider's Bite, congrats on teh new release!

  8. Indigo -- For me, the ending doesn't have to involve a wedding, babies, and the house with the white picket fence, but I do like at least a hopeful ending. Real life is depressing enough as it is sometimes. LOL.

    Scorpio -- I know what you mean. As much as I love the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, I've quit reading them just because it seems like Stephanie will never make up her mind between Joe and Ranger. I want her to just pick one of them already!

  9. Jennifer, thanks for giving us a sneak peak of WEB OF LIES. Methinks things will be very interesting with Gin, Donovan and the new, sexy Owen. *g*

  10. Hi Jennifer,
    A fantasy with a romantic twist is just the right read as long as there is a happy ending, especially since people are having a hard time now in real life.

  11. Gannon -- No problem. And yeah, there are some interesting develpoments between Gin, Donovan, and Owen. ;-)

    I should also mention that I'll be posting a free bonus short story to go along with WEB OF LIES sometime in the near future (I hope) on my Web site. A bonus short story for SPIDER'S BITE is already on the Excerpts page.

    Rbooth -- I agree. One of my favorite epic fantasy romances is Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan. That's a great pick-me-up read!

  12. Hi Jennifer, your book sounds fascinating!
    I look at the spine of the book, if it says 'paranormal romance' then, yes...I want romance, and lots of it mixed in with the other elements.

    I am reading 'Blood Dreams' by Kay Hooper, it says 'fiction' on the spine so my expectations of any romance are slim. And I am not really expecting any (though she did once write strictly romances)

    No HEA at the end of a book? If it is a series, and the promise of one is forthcoming, I can live with it.
    You're right, Urban Fantasy is a category all its own, it's all over the map as to romance. Very tricky. But I feel it should have some romance/sex, to keep those strictly romance readers interested!
    Great questions!
    And all the best for your book!

  13. Karyn -- Thanks. That's one of the things that I like best about UF, that it does have so many different elements. You've got magic, fight scenes, a snarky hero, and more all in one book. And I agree. I like at least a little romance in UF and the promise of a HEA at some point. ;-)

  14. Hey Jennifer! Thanks for spending the day with us here at The Romance Dish.

    I have to say that I'm a HEA girl when it comes to romance novels. At the end of the book, I want to close it with a sigh and a smile.

    With all this talk about the supply closet, I'm thoroughly intrigued!!! :-)

    Wishing you much success with Spider's Bite

  15. Hello and welcome, Jennifer! Thanks for joining us today. And congrats on the release of SPIDER'S BITE!!

    I like having a HEA, though I am okay with a happily for now, if the promise of a HEA is on the horizon. For example, I really enjoyed Colleen Gleason's Gardella Vampire Chronicles. And I was overjoyed with who Victoria ended up with. ;-)

  16. I do like romance in all my genre's, but as long as I know eventually there is a HEA I'm okay.

  17. Buffie -- I think the supply closet scene is one of the best ones in the book. ;-)

    Andrea -- Thanks! I would sort of compare my series to Colleen's in that I do plan to have Gin get a HEA at the end of book 5. Of course, I want to write more books beyond that one, but we'll see.

    Linda -- Me too.