Janet Evanovich: From Cheez Doodles To Book Empire

Evanovich (c) Roland Scarpa
Janet Evanovich, Credit: Roland Scarpa

by Clay Stafford,
Founder Killer Nashville,
Publisher Killer Nashville Magazine

Janet Evanovich has written or co-written a total of 54 books to date, and she’s still going strong. That Evanovich has captured the hearts of readers all over the world with her multiple series is an understatement. She is a New York Times bestseller many times over. The thing about Evanovich is that she, as well as her characters, has a relatable quality that readers love. Perhaps this stems from her sense of humor. At book signings, thousands show up for a glimpse and a chat. At the end of the day, though, Evanovich is a hard worker, and has much to share about how she has arrived at the top of this heap, including the Evanovich Empire that her family helps to run.

Character Stephanie Plum (as in Top Secret Twenty-One) has to be one of the characters I hear the most about at Killer Nashville. (And you are one of the authors most requested, by the way.) Why do you think Stephanie has made such a connection with readers?

Stephanie is like Seinfeld …she’s the likeable, approachable character who is the center of the universe.  She’s not perfect but she’s a good person who through tenacity, community, work ethic, and desperation succeeds at the end of the day.  She’s heroic because she’s not stopped dead in her tracks by a broken nail, bad hair, or monsters (real or imaginary) hiding under her bed.

When I first asked you about doing this interview, you referenced your packed schedule. On your website, you talk humorously about your day. In real life though and speaking to real writers, what kind of schedule do you really keep (I don’t think there is time for you to take a drive for Cheese Doodles) and what should writers expect from their lives when they reach your level of success?

In real life I’m up at five and at my computer by five-thirty with my dog Ollie and a cup of coffee.  I break for lunch and go back to work.  Depending on how awful my day went I either get some exercise or have a glass of wine at four.  I do this seven days a week.  Sometimes on weekdays, if I’m behind schedule, I go back to work for an hour or two after dinner.  Weekends are date-night and my husband and I go out to dinner or have friends in.  I start my day early because the empire continues to expand and usually after lunch I have to change hats and take care of the business side of writing.  There are contracts to review, endless Q&As to answer (this is one of them!), co-author meetings, editorial meetings, publicity meetings, financial decisions, social media (this is a monster time-gobbler), fan mail, photo ops, west coast projects (like movies and televisions shows that never happen), radio interviews, etc.  This is the measure of success –how much of your time is consumed by stuff other than writing.  That and the fact that while no one recognizes me in person but tons of people know my name, I can never be a bitch to the checkout moron at the food store if I’m going to give them my credit card.

 

 


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Your wit is incredible. Have you ever thought about doing stand-up comedy just for kicks? Or are you funniest when sitting down? And do you sometimes laugh aloud at your own cleverness?

I do a lot of on-stage Q&A type events and sometimes they border on stand-up.  I enjoy it because it gives me a chance to physically interact with my readers.  I don’t usually laugh out loud when I’m writing but sometimes I think I’m clever.  Although I have to admit the scene with Grandma Mazur shooting the chicken in the gumpy in One4the$ cracked me up.

You’ve made it so easy for fans to get to know you, including offering signed, hardcover books at below-market-cost, plus free shipping, all from the store on your website! (By the way, I created an account.) Is merchandise a financially worthwhile extra for you or is this just a great way to connect with your fans?

We never make money on merchandise sold.  It’s strictly a fan service, and we try to price things to break even.  It’s actually a pretty small operation that’s run out of my garage!

Most of your books have been written solo. How is writing with a partner (e.g., Leanne Banks, Lee Goldberg, Charlotte Hughes, Dorien Kelly) different from writing alone?

It’s a little like wearing someone else’s underpants.  Takes some getting used to.

Your daughter Alex has done an incredible job putting together your web-based Q&A and then compiling it into your indispensable 2006 book How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author. Since publishing this, is there anything you’ve always wanted to answer, and wonder why no one has ever asked it?

I can’t think of any writing questions, but there’s a Plum question that I’ve only been asked once and I find this surprising because my fans are usually a step ahead of me.  Only one woman has ever asked me if Ranger is an Unmentionable.

To follow up on the last question (because you left me hanging), Ranger seems like a hot, Navy Seal-type bondsman (though that in itself is a bit supernatural) and he does hang out occasionally with Diesel, but I don’t get he’s an Unmentionable. Is he? Or are you going to leave us all hanging?

All I can say is that he has some of the same skills as Diesel – opens locks mysteriously, gets cars from an unknown source, supernatural in bed…

Readers: If you want to read more about Stephanie, Ranger, Diesel or how to write such characters, check out Janet’s books.

See you next month!

Until then, read like someone is burning the books!

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Clay Stafford

CClay Staffordlay Stafford is an author / filmmaker (www.ClayStafford.com), founder of Killer Nashville (www.killernashville.com) and publisher of Killer Nashville Magazine (www.killernashvillemagazine.com). In addition to selling over 1.5 million copies of his own books, Stafford’s latest projects are the documentary “One of the Miracles” (www.oneofthemiracles.com) and writing the music CD “XO” with Kathryn Dance / Lincoln Rhymes author Jeffery Deaver (www.jefferdeaverxomusic.com). He is currently writing a film script based on Peter Straub’s “Pork Pie Hat” for American Blackguard Entertainment (www.americanblackguard.com).

Janet EvanovichJanet Evanovich is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum series, the Fox and O’Hare series with co-author Lee Goldberg, the Lizzy and Diesel series, twelve romance novels, the Alexandra Barnaby novels and the Troublemaker graphic novel, and How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author.