She-Wolf Reads Interview
On the day of her sister’s funeral, Tab Bennett’s life turns into a fairy tale – the Grimm kind. She discovers she’s a princess, the sole heir to the Light Elvish throne and that everything she knows about herself is part of a cover story created to hide her from the Dark Elvish king who wants her dead. The life she had planned – where she works at a bank and marries her childhood sweetheart – is over. She’s got an enchanted kingdom to rule and a handsome elvish prince to sit beside her on the throne – whether she wants them or not. But there’s a bit of a learning curve between bank teller and Queen of Light and Air. TB and the InB is about Tab finding herself; letting go of who she thinks she is so she can become who she was meant to be. As if fulfilling your destiny wasn’t hard enough, Tab also has to defeat the Dark Elvish king, save the world, and choose between the boy next door and the handsome prince.
If you read the series (and I totally think you should) you can expect a sense of humor, danger, swordplay, magic, sex, the struggle between good and evil, bitter betrayal, true love and the best advice about winning a fist fight you’ll ever get.
SWR: You’ve said never intended to write a story about elves. What inspired you to write a story so different than your norm?
I was working on this very sad, very depressing story about two sisters who were in love with the same man. These two had obviously never heard the phrase “sisters before misters,” and they were awful to each other. I kind of hated both of them. At this same time, I was reading the Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries by Charlaine Harris. One night while I was reading Dead to the World (Oh Eric…swoon) it occurred to me that Ms. Harris probably had a lot of fun writing it. She probably sat down at her desk with a smile on her face. She probably liked her characters. And I decided I wanted that for myself.
I didn’t want to write about vampires and I’d just read Beautiful Creatures, which is about witches, so I didn’t want to write about them either. I had never read a book about elves so I decided that’s what I would write about. Honestly, I could just as easily have chosen to write about sexy Yetis or something. (Needless to say, I’m glad I didn’t.) It started off as an experiment but once I started writing, something clicked and I realized I’d found my literary home amongst the Elvish.
SWR: Tab Bennett is like a dark fairytale. Did you have any favorite fairytales when you were young and did any specific tales inspire this series?
When you asked this question the first thing I thought of was the story of Little Two Eyes by the Brothers Grimm. It’s essentially Cinderella except Little Two Eyes is abused by her family because she’s got an unremarkable number of eyes (unlike her sisters, Little One Eye and Little Three Eyes) and goat entrails instead of a glass slipper bring her to the prince’s attention. I read it when I was seven or eight so it was my first experience with a real Grimm fairy tale – in all its dark and scary beauty. I’m not sure I’d describe it as a favorite, but it made a lasting impression.
SWR: Do you already know the arc of the series? How many books to do you anticipate writing for Tab?
I absolutely know where Tab is going to end up, but the road between here and happily ever after is somewhat uncharted. I like to stay open to possibilities when I’m writing and let the story go where it’s heading instead of trying to force it to stay on the path. Sometimes I don’t know what a story is about until I start writing it. There will be three books in the series (Inbetween, Underneath, and Here & There) and possibly a few novellas about the side characters. I want to know what happens to George.
SWR: My absolute favorite part of the book is Tab herself. She is smart and funny and a smart ass. I loved her voice. Was there anyone who inspired her as a character?
Tab is definitely inspired by my smart, funny, smart ass sisters and she’s got my unfortunate tendency to say random and inappropriate things when upset. Mostly though, Tab is my reversal of the traditional kick-ass urban fantasy heroine. At first she’s sheltered and weak – even a little bit bratty. She has to grow into her power and position to protect those she loves and somehow she finds a way to do it. It doesn’t come naturally to her so she slips up all the time and has to remind herself to be strong and brave when she’d rather hide. That’s what I like best about Tab; she’s so fantastically imperfect.
SWR: Did you have a playlist that helped you write Tab Bennett? If so, what were some of the tracks?
I’m way too easily distracted to listen to music when I’m writing, but I do use it to get inspired. A lot of times I’ll be driving along in my car with my IPod playing and an idea for a scene or a sentence or a conversation for whatever I’m working on will pop up in my head. If I’m alone, sometimes I’ll actually have the conversation out loud, acting out both sides of it.These are some of the songs that inspired me while I was writing Tab Bennett and the Inbetween:
Flogging Molly’s If I Ever Leave this World Alive: There’s a confrontation late in the book between Tab and Nicholas that this song inspired.
Harvey Danger’s Terminal Annex: If you are angry at someone, this song will help you get angrier. Best lyric: “You complain about an overflowing cup? Don’t forget that I’m the one who filled that f–ker up.” This is Tab’s feisty side.
Tom Petty’s Wildflowers: All the conversations Tab and Alex have early in the book when they’re getting to know each other could have this playing in the background.
Blind Melon’s Change
Social Distortion’s King of Fools: This is Alex’s song.
Jeff Buckley’s Last Goodbye: This is Robbin’s heartbreak song. I don’t think this is the kind of music he’d listen to, but the lyrics would resonate with him for sure: “This is our last embrace. Must I dream and always see your face?”
Johnny Cash’s Five Feet High and Rising: There’s something about the chuckle in Johnny Cash’s voice when he’s singing, “We can make it to the road in our homemade boat. That’s the only thing we’ve got left that’ll float,” that sounds like optimism and resilience to me. Those qualities totally remind me of Tab. She gets knocked down a lot but she always gets back up.
Pink’s So What?
Nick Drake’s Pink Moon: If there was a movie soundtrack, this would be the song that’s playing right at the beginning when Tab is planting flowers and her sister is dying. Listen to the lyrics and its pretty, tinkling melody takes on a slightly more sinister tone.
SWR: If you could cast any actors as the characters in the book, who would they be?
Visually speaking, Henry Cavill would make a great Robbin and Chris Hemsworth would be an excellent Alex. Alternates could be Kellan Lutz as Robbin and Alex Pettyfer as Alex. (If Matt Bomer had light hair, he’d be the perfect Alex. I don’t think he could be more perfect. Also, I love him.) Jessica Lowndes, from 90210, looks exactly like the Tab I pictured while I was writing.
SWR: I love the cover art for the book. Who is the artist and what direction did you give in its design?
Thanks. I love it to! The cover was designed by my very good friend, the lovely and talented Mr. Bill Wadman. If you’re into photography or you just like looking at pretty pictures, you should go check out his work at www.billwadman.com.
To get him started I sent him an excerpt from the book and then we met at a bookstore so we could talk about what we liked/didn’t like about the cover art on other urban fantasy books. I wanted the birds to be on the cover and Bill thought the model should be half-turned – kind of like she wants to go back but knows she has to go forward. It was a really good, collaborative experience and the cover turned out to be exactly what I wanted. I’m very happy to say that we’re working together on the cover for book two right now.
SWR: What’s the last book you read that you would recommend to a friend?
You know what I just read that I absolutely loved? Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost. I thought it was smart and fun and sexy. I loved Cat and Bones. I’m a gut reaction reader; the highest compliment I can give a book is that it made me feel a little bit nauseous and Half way to the Grave absolutely did. I’m reading the fourth book in that series now and it’s really good too.
SWR: You took some time off from the publishing world to be a mom. I did the same thing and took a year off from my job and am now just getting back into work. Any advice to mom’s out there juggling all these competing expectations?
When I quit my job at Random House to be at home with my son, all my working mom friends were like, “I can’t believe you’re giving up your career to sit at home with your kid.” Then, when my daughter was two and I went back to work, all my stay at home mom friends were like “I can’t believe you’re going to leave your babies and go to work all day.” The point is, no matter what you do someone is going to think you’re doing the wrong thing so might as well just do what you think is right for you and your kids and let other people deal with their own expectations.
There’s so much pressure on moms to be perfect, it’s surprising we don’t all have a chronic case of the bends. Well, newsflash: there’s no such thing as perfect. So just love your kids, feed them, keep them reasonably clean, and read to them. Everything else takes care of itself. Anything that doesn’t take care of itself probably isn’t as important as you think it is.
When you have to let something go, and you will, don’t always let it be your thing. Your happiness is your kid’s happiness. If you’re miserable, they will be too. So yes, make time for them. No doubt you’ll make sacrifices for them. But don’t lose yourself in the process. You have a name and it’s not Timmy’s Mom.
SWR: I am a big fan of the Song of Ice and Fire series (Game of Thrones) where every family has a motto. The Starks have “Winter is coming;” the Lannisters have “Hear me roar!” and “A Lannister always pays his debts.” What is the Jes Young motto?
“Mediocrity is self-inflicted. Genius is self-bestowed.” Is that too wordy for a motto?
SWR: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects? When is the next Tab Bennett book due to be released?
Tab Bennett and the Underneath, book two of the Princess of Twilight & Dawn series, will be out on December 1, 2012. I’m working on a six month schedule for these so, Lord willing and the cricks don’t rise, book three (Tab Bennett and the Here & There) will be out in June 2013. Oh and I’ve just started working on the first book of what I hope will turn out to be a new series about mermaids. I’ll keep you posted on that.
SWR: Thanks for the interview and coming by the blog, Jes!
Thank you for having me over. I really appreciate the chance to talk about my work with you and your readers! If anybody has any comments or questions, let’s hear them. I’ll check in to answer throughout the day.
About the Author
I started writing because of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. I don’t know how I started writing urban fantasy. I blame sparkly vampires, Charlaine Harris, and my own overactive imagination.
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