2018 releases

Hell's Bell
Scent of the Jaguar
His Outback Nanny
The Queen's Game
366 Days of Flash Fiction
On the Horizon: Simple worlds of speculative adventure
Lusting the Enemy

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Darklight On.. Jenny Schwartz Q&A

Today's Darklight On... is with Jenny Schwartz. Welcome, Jenny! 

How did you come to write speculative fiction? What attracted you to the genre?
When I started thinking about this question I realised I’ve been telling spec fiction stories all my life—at least since seven years of age when I’d include myself in Enid Blyton’s Folk of the Faraway Tree adventures. I think the appeal is the chance to see the world in new ways. Fantasy provides a lens in which to see how weird the “normal” world is.

Please tell us a little about your road to publication.
I’d love to share a highlight. Nearly ten years ago I submitted a story to Anna Genoese when she worked at Tor. In hindsight, I shudder at how awful the MS was, but her encouraging rejection kept me writing. For me, the road to publication has been starred with editors who—even as they rejected my stories—gave up some of their scarce time to offer encouragement. I can never thank them enough—and the list includes editors responding to poems, short stories and novels, from paid and unpaid publications. Editors are my heroes.

You have three Out of the Bottle releases. What is the attraction of writing series?
In spec fiction you spend a lot of time creating a unique world. A series lets you explore that world. Hopefully, readers feel the same.

Your upcoming release Wanted: One Scoundrel will be in the Carina Press Steampunk anthology, A Clockwork Christmas. Can you tell us a little about it?
“a little bit about it” – I want to tell you heaps! It’s the most amazing experience, from great editing (Angela James) to an amazing design team and my fellow authors...can I just say they rock! We’re organising some group posts and the laughter and general feeling of kinship is fantabulous.
As for the story, itself, well it’s just plain fun. I’m a history grad and for a while I thought of specialising in Australian social history. That never happened, but all my research and ongoing interest has spilled out into my take on West Australian history—the Swan River Colony that I wish we’d had. I’d have loved to walk through Bombaytown, which I’ve modelled on San Francisco’s Chinatown. And what if Western Australia had become a separate country?

You’ve had some fantastic covers. Do you get a say in how they look?
Some authors tell me they dread filling in Art Fact Sheets. Not me! I love them. I have great fun describing my characters and story and anything visual that I can think of, and attaching photos. Then the draft covers come back and blow me away with the artist’s vision. I have been blessed by the cover gods, and I’m truly grateful.

You recently undertook a Claytons Conference with the RWAustralia. How did you find this?
I loved it! So much humour and encouragement, not to mention the great presenters (though I didn’t have time to catch up with everyone at the time—it was a frantically busy two days) and guest editors. I came away with renewed enthusiasm for my writing—and that is the best of all results! A gift. Thank you to everyone involved.

You are constantly blogging about interesting snatches of information. Do you have favourite websites for research?
I have a magpie mind. I can’t resist curious bits of information, and having a blog gives me an excuse to hunt them down.

Three blogs I’d hate to do without are:
http://www.mindhacks.com , a neuroscience blog. It’s fascinating for what it says about people. Great links.
http://ilonaandrews.com , I really like her (their—it’s a husband and wife team) blog for its down to earth take on the writing life
http://dearauthor.com, great reviews, interesting discussions on publishing’s future

Are you a plotter? Pantser? Or somewhere in-between?
I have to have the spine of a story: conflict, major twists and turns, outcome, characters and setting. Beyond that, the story insists on surprising me. One thing I’ve learned by writing is that writer’s block hits me when I’ve taken a wrong turn. If I scrub out the blind alley I’ve written myself into, then hey presto, the words fly again. The difficulty is accepting that all the words in the blind alley must go.

Do you have a favourite of your characters?
I might, just might, be a little in love with Jed, the hero of “Wanted: One Scoundrel”. I thought I had my crush under control, but then I saw the photo the cover artist used for him. Swoon.

What are you currently working on?
A Jed and Esme steampunk story. What’s the point of having a crush if you can’t dream about him? ;)

I think I might be addicted to writing Australia steampunk. So many ideas are teeming in my brain. Oh well, at least this addiction isn’t fattening—unlike my chocolate one.

What is your favourite part of the process of writing?

Tough question. If I say “all of it” you’re going to think I’m insane. But on reflection, I truly do love all of it. If I didn’t, I’d be following a different dream. I love the thrill of a new idea, the buzz of the first draft, the sheer indulgence of adding colour and detail in the second draft, the crispness of the final draft and the sense of huge courage and daring when I hit the send button. If the editor says “yes”, then we get to the fun bit of seeing someone else’s vision and improving the MS, the copyeditor’s polite highlighting of my stupidities, and then, the cover. Ta da! Promo and release day are like a natural, prolonged high. Best of all, people then want to read my work. Honestly, that is a feeling I can’t describe: humbled and proud. Every review feels like a gift.

Like any job, there are times when you feel down. But writing is a glorious adventure.

What can we expect from Jenny Schwartz in the future?
More steampunk—fingers crossed! I might even venture into full-length novels. Scary. Beyond that...I want to jump in a thousand and one directions. Jazz Age, contemporary, and definitely, more angels and djinn.

Who are your favourite authors?
There are seriously too many to list. But looking at the stacked shelves...Terry Pratchett, Barbara Michaels, Margery Allingham, Jayne Ann Krentz, Susan Napier, Dick Francis, Edmund Crispin, and then I open my ereader and... nope, we don’t have all day :) I adore genre fiction: mysteries, fantasy, SF and, of course, romance.

What are you currently reading?
I finished “Canyons of Night” by Jayne Castle (Jayne Ann Krentz) a few days ago. Loved it. She’s my author hero, or one of them. “Boomerang Bride” by Fiona Lowe was a lovely weekend read. I like stories that embed the hero and heroine in a lively family/friendship group. Now I’m indulging an orgy of re-reading. Penny Jordan’s early categories are soooo good.

Do you have a favourite spec fiction movie or TV series?
Bewitched—I know there’s been a ton of great spec fic movies and tv shows since then, but Bewitched remains brilliant for its weaving of the paranormal and its consequences into “ordinary” life, and the way that weaving can be both humorous and socially insightful.

Do you have advice for emerging writers?
Shyness won’t kill you. No, really. I’m living proof. Besides, the community of readers, writers, editors and reviewers is overwhelmingly friendly, funny and supportive. Get involved. Prospective publishers do seem to pay attention to whether you have an online presence, so it’s never too early to build one. Don’t panic about it, but become comfortable with social media and decide what suits you. If you have all this in place before your book is published, the promotional side of things will be a heap less stressful—you’ll be among friends :)

Thank you, Jenny.
Go find out more about Jenny at her website, which includes her cool blog.

Note: sorry everyone, I had the wrong link to Jenny's web address. It is now fixed.


  1. Eleni -- the Bewitched image just made me smile! thanks for the lovely formatting. I just had to scroll back and admire the great Carina Press covers. I've been so lucky! Not least, in making the great decision to join Romance Writer of Australia -- if anyone is lurking and thinking of joining -- do it! Tons of fun and support.

  2. Great interview. Bewitched is very entertaining to watch and Australian steampunk sounds interesting! Do you mean the story is set in Australia?

  3. Sussan, just hearing the Bewitched theme song brightens my mood :)

    "Wanted: One Scoundrel" is set in Australia. I think Australian Steampunk has a great opportunity to use the most intriguing British and American influences (like the Royal family and the Wild West) and branch out on its own, with bushrangers and dropbears ;)

    For me, the chance to re-imagine history is irresistible.

  4. I would read that book. Look forward to the release of the anthology.

  5. Thanks, Sussan!

    There's four of us authors involved in the anthology and we're so excited we've already started a facebook page for it -- and release day isn't till 5 December! http://facebook.com/aclockworkchristmas

  6. Great post. I'm longing to feature dropbears in a book.

  7. Hi Jenny!

    I love the sound of your steampunk books! And Bewitched is one of those shows that never seem to age, a bit like "I dream of genie."

  8. Jenny, I love your covers too. Those steampunk ones are especially cool, as is that you've set steampunk in Australia. Can't wait to read it.

    And yay for more Bewitched fans. Loved it growing up.

  9. Janni -- write the dropbears!!! I double dare you ;)

    Mel, MASH is the other one that never ages for me -- and Scooby Doo. Love Scooby, but only the original! not these recent kids' movies.

    Eleni -- I swear if I'd ever learnt to twitch my nose, that would have been it! I'd have been causing magic chaos everywhere :)

  10. Jenny I loved your comment about how you enjoy every single part of the writing process. You presented each stage in such an upbeat way that you almost made me rethink my dislike of editing. Almost!


  11. Adina -- I felt like such a Pollyanna when I re-read what I'd written, but it's true. I seriously love the editing process -- some great editors have probably biased me :) It's lovely to be able to see your story through someone else's eyes -- and trust their vision.