Janet Evanovich has written many bestselling novels featuring a would-be detective named Stephanie Plum, who is actually a bounty hunter. She has also published many romance novels, along with the Barnaby & Hooker series and the Wicked series. She is so popular that she has her own Apple app. She is up to Explosive Eighteen, and in June comes Wicked Business. The movie One for the Money is based on her first Plum novel. This interview dates from several years ago.
AUDIOBOOKS TODAY: In what way is Stephanie "spooky" this time out?
JANET EVANOVICH: In PLUM SPOOKY Stephanie is harassed by the Jersey Devil and adopted by a monkey. Is that spooky or what?
AT: No more little mystery bookstores, this book tour?
JE: I'd love to do those, but they need to have shelter and restrooms for at least 700 people, and most just can't handle that.
AT: There's a problem we'd all love. Remind folks of your humble beginnings. What got you started writing, and what is your background?
JE: Well, I majored in Fine Arts in college. I was a painter. Somewhere in my late twenties I realized painting wasn't where I wanted to be and started searching out other avenues of creative endeavor...like baking chocolate chip cookies and making party dresses for my daughter. I was a stay-at-home mom and when the kids went off to school the chocolate chip cookie baking somehow morphed into trying to write a book. Previous to this my only English background was Freshman English 101. I learned to write by analyzing books I loved and hated.
AT: A bounty hunter is certainly more interesting than the typical sleuth. Where did your character Stephanie Plum come from? And how did you come up with the name?
JE: I have a lot of history with Stephanies. My favorite niece was named Stephanie, and there were a lot of Stephanies in my home town. I think it's a pretty name with a lot of music to it, and I used it once as a pseudonym back when I was writing romance as Stephanie Hall. I chose Plum because it seems to go well with Stephanie, and I wanted people to think of something that was ripe and juicy. When I decided to move into crime fiction (reached menopause and had a lot more ideas about murder than about sex!) I searched around for the perfect job for my protagonist. One day I happened onto the movie Midnight Run. It's about a bounty hunter and I thought the job suited my purposes. Stephanie Plum is probably not the world's best bounty hunter, either.
AT: You like to keep things humorous...murder mysteries with a light touch. Is this Stephanie's modus operandi, in order to stay sane, or do you also react to tense situations with humor?
JE: I'm one of those people always laughing at inappropriate moments. I suspect I see things at a slightly off-center point of view. I also think laughter is important. Some of my humor comes from my formative years watching I Love Lucy, and some of my humor is social commentary.
AT: Describe Fearless Fourteen, if you will.
JE: There's a monkey named Carl, a kid who's a Blybold Wizard, Moonman Dunphy saves the day with his potato rocket and there's a dead guy in Joe Morelli's basement.
AT: Quirky, to say the least! Look forward to hearing it. How many numbers do you anticipate writing? Those Alphabet mystery novels have an end point at Z, but you can go on forever, at least in theory, can't you?
JE: I'll continue writing as long as people keep reading.
AT: Do you listen to your own audio books? What do you think of Lorelie King?
JE: I do listen. And I love Lorelie King! She was actually my request. She'd been doing my U.K. books, and I was having a hard time finding someone to do my books in this country. The Recorded Books reader C.J. Critt does the library editions here, but she was contracted to them, and although I love her, she wasn't available. So I asked to get Lorelie. What do you think of her?
AT: She captures Stephanie's character very well, and does a marvelous job.
JE: Yes, she's articulate and consistent.
AT: Did you hear she won an Audie award for reading Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas?
JE: I wasn't aware of her winning, but I'm not surprised. Lorelei rocks.
AT: So who influenced you? Who are your favorite authors?
JE: The earliest influence was Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge. They were always setting off on adventures. And of course, there was Lucille Ball. On my last book tour the book that traveled with me was Slightly Shady by Amanda Quick. Shady is a Regency romance and I love reading about the Regency period. They're comedies of manners much like the Plum books.
AT: Is anything going to film? Have you written any screenplays yet?
JE: TriStar bought the rights to One for the Money, the first book in the series. I've never written a screenplay but think it might be a fun future project.
AT: Am trying to think of who might best play Stephanie. Ashley Judd? Cameron Diaz? Sandra Bullock? (Note: Katherine Heigl played Plum in the 2012 movie.)
JE: Or maybe Anne Hathaway or Ellen Page.
AT: A Stephanie Plum for a new generation. Now, you are truly everywhere, these days. Ever signed books overseas, and does any of this ever interfere with the writing?
JE: Once I did a month long tour of Australia, three weeks in England, Scotland, Ireland, and then a month long tour of the U.S. The result of all that touring is that you can get behind on the writing. I love the signings and media but hate the flying.
AT: At this point, can you even remember being at a signing where few people showed up?
JE: When I first started touring I had signings where no one showed up. It takes a lot of Cheez Doodles and beer to get over that sort of thing! An average signing now runs anywhere from 500 to 5,000 people.