The Seattle writer talks about the making of "Untouchable" — and some of the other wildly popular books written under her own name and the noms de plume Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle.
Thirty-five million books in print.
More than 50 New York Times best-sellers.
As the latest of Jayne Ann Krentz’s more than 100 novels rolls off the presses and into the bookstores, it’s safe to bet that “Untouchable” (Berkley Hardcover, $27) will have plenty of readers sitting up and taking notice. A concoction of the Seattle author’s favorite elements — romance, suspense, danger and compelling characters — “Untouchable” also occupies an intriguing niche in her oeuvre. It is both a standalone novel and the finale of a three-book series about the long-awaited downfall of a charismatic cult leader whose evil deeds launched the saga.
You might think that all this plotting and planning, and the sheer volume of Krentz’s output, would operate like a well-oiled machine after nearly four decades of novels. But there is nothing mechanized about Krentz’s writing process. She describes the series culminating in “Untouchable” as “like juggling with chainsaws, for all three books. (The first two are “When All the Girls Have Gone” and “Promise Not to Tell.”) There were no storyboards: just chaos. Otherwise I would lose the energy, if I knew exactly where everything was going. I kept introducing elements that needed to be resolved. It was hard but fascinating to wind everything up.”
Clearly this is a process that works well for this prolific author, who also writes novels with a more historical setting under the pseudonym of Amanda Quick. There’s a third nom de plume as well: Jayne Castle, under which Krentz writes futuristic novels set in other worlds. At present, Krentz is concentrating on the first two names, Krentz and Quick: “I hope to get back to the Castles, but right now I’m having a lot of fun with the Quick books.”
How does she do it? — Writing two books a year, juggling two fictional worlds, editing and researching and doing publicity, keeping ideas and style fresh? — For nearly four decades?
Well, it helps to start the day early, and sometimes the day starts on a ship: Krentz and her husband, Frank, will occasionally take a monthlong cruise, an atmosphere in which she can work very successfully. A morning person, Krentz is up and at her computer by 5 a.m.; she explains that she’s really “creative until about noon.” Petite, fit and red-haired, she keeps in shape by walking and going to the gym, and she recently has undertaken boxing.
“I can see the appeal of the physical blow,” she quips of her sessions with a boxing trainer.
“I have permission to do something violent without repercussions. It’s surprisingly fun.”
Afternoons are usually spent editing what she has written, and doing research, as well as responding to typeset edits of books in progress. This way she is able to complete two books a year, with a break in between to consider new ideas. Krentz can get very analytical about the structure and appeal of her books — not surprising for a writer with a master’s degree in librarianship who edited and contributed to a nonfiction essay collection, “Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance.”
She knows her readers “come back again because of the author’s voice, and the core values in the voice. If the reader finds the values unpleasant, if the books don’t feel real or good, the reader won’t go back. My core story is my core story: I can explore it more widely in different settings and times, but with the same values and sensibilities. Every romance walks a line: They (the protagonists) see the hero in each other, but they respect their differences.”
Which books sell better — the contemporary Krentz ones, or the more historical Quicks? The author, who is perfectly capable of writing in one voice in the morning and the other in the afternoon, says the former books have the popular edge now, but this changes from time to time. The Quick novels, now set in a fictitious California resort town frequented by Hollywood stars in the 1930s, have a glamorous aura and a lot of witty byplay that keeps Krentz smiling into her computer screen.
For Northwest readers, there’s a lot of fun in seeing Seattle and its environs providing the backgrounds for a lot of the Krentz novels, whether it’s a downtown art gallery with an unfortunate corpse, or an exploding yacht in the San Juans. For all her traveling, this author is a Northwesterner.
“I need Seattle,” Krentz laughs.
“I need Nordstrom! This is my town.”
Jayne Ann Krentz will greet readers and sign books at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, at the Bothell Public Library, 18215 98th Ave. N.E., Bothell, and 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16, at the Kent Public Library, 212 2nd Ave. N., Kent (jayneannkrentz.com/news-2).