Monday, January 19, 2015

Jenna Bennett & Jennie Bentley - An Author Interview in the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Jenna Bennett a.k.a. Jennie Bentley. She is the NYT and USA International bestselling author of Mystery Novels. Jennie writes the Do-It-Yourself Mystery series and Jenna authors the Savannah Martin Mysteries series.

Author Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Romance

Website: Jenna Bennett - Jennie Bentley
Author's Blog: Jenna Bennett
Twitter: @Bennett_Jenna
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Author Description:
Jenna Bennett writes the Cutthroat Business mysteries, featuring realtor and Southern Belle Savannah Martin, who stumbles over dead bodies in Nashville, Tennessee. She's also the author of the award-winning Soldiers of Fortune series of science fiction romances from Entangled Publishing, along with assorted other romance-type books, about FBI agents, Greek gods, and rich businessmen, among other things.

As Jennie Bentley, she writes the New York Times bestselling Do-It-Yourself Home Renovation mysteries from Penguin/Berkley Prime Crime, featuring Avery Baker, a textile designer, and Avery's boyfriend Derek Ellis, a handyman, who renovate houses in fictitious Waterfield, Maine.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

First things first. Do you have another book on the horizon? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

LOL! I’ll come pretty close to having a release every month in 2015, so this will take a while.

The first book in a new mystery series, Ditching David – about a jilted wife who becomes a private eye to nail other cheating spouses, but not before solving her almost-ex-husband’s murder – was released this week. I hope to have two more books in that series out by the end of the year. The next one is called Stalking Steven, and deals with a college professor who may or may not be cheating on his wife.

In February, I’m re-releasing Fortune’s Hero, my science fiction romance, which was originally published by a publisher in 2012. Later this year, book 2 in that series, Fortune’s Honor, will be coming.

In March, I’m releasing book 2 in the Sex on the Beach series, which I write along with romance writers Jennifer Probst and Jen McLaughlin. Their books are romances, mine is more romantic suspense. It’s called Finding You, and is the follow-up to last year’s Before You.

In April/May, I hope to re-release my paranormal romantic comedy about Eros, Greek god of love, and the woman who picks him up in a bar for what she thinks will be a one-night stand. In addition, I hope to add a second book to the series – Tall, Dark and Divine: Adonis – about the Greek god of beauty and desire, who gets inveigled into going on a fake date with a woman whose boyfriend has dumped her after she helped him get a promotion at work.

And finally, the next book in my Savannah Martin mystery series will be coming in June. After ten books, Savannah and her boyfriend Rafe are tying the knot, at least if everything goes according to plan. But I haven’t written it yet, so who knows?

And that’s the first half of the year.

You have a good following on twitter. Since you started before the social media buzz, what impact has social media relationships had on your current success? How did you build your following in your niche? How much has it changed your book launch process?

I have no idea. I don’t interact much on Twitter. It seems to be a younger crowd. Some of my readers are there, but I find more of them on Facebook. So Twitter is more for talking to other writers, I find. But the secret to building any kind of following – be it on Twitter or Facebook or simply a following of readers who buy and read your books – is to be prolific, and to be accessible. More books, more tweets, more Facebook posts result in more followers. And they like it when you talk to them. :)

Do you maintain a reader list? What are the methods you use to find your readers and create the list and the relationship? Do you use social media, forums, newsletters and/or support groups to build your list?

I assume we’re talking about a newsletter list here? I do have one, yes. There’s a signup link in the back of all my books. There’s a signup link on my Facebook page. There’s a signup link right here:
There are several ways to sign up from my website. I tweet or post about it occasionally. It’s a pretty small list, though, because it has grown organically. I don’t do contests to boost signups or anything like that. I’d rather have a smaller list of people who genuinely want to be there, than a big list with lots of people where a lot of them only signed up because they wanted the prize.

Do you do any book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

I do, but less of them than I used to. I’m mostly indie publishing these days, and without the traditionally published print books, I do less book signings. I have a contact and events page on my website that gets updated when I go somewhere and do something.

You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach?

Thank you very much. :) I do a lot of my covers myself. It’s fun, and makes for a nice break from the writing. It’s creative, but a very different discipline. The Sex on the Beach covers are done by a cover artist, since we had to make sure all the books in the series, from three different authors, looked branded. I send her the photographs, and she takes it from there, pretty much. And of course I’ve had a lot of books traditionally published, where I get zero input at all in the cover process. My editor will send me the finished cover and say, “This is the cover for the new book; what do you think?” Any answer aside from, “It’s beautiful,” is the wrong answer. Another reason why I like to fiddle with my own. I’ve lucked out and gotten very nice covers overall, from all the publishers I’ve worked with, but there’s been one or two where I’ve had some minor complaints, and had to put up and shut up because the cover was done, and was what it was.

You have written several Short Stories and Novellas. Can you tell us if they had an impact on the sales of your novels? Are shorty’s one of your styles of writing or are they created to give readers a sample of your work?

I write long naturally. I have to really focus to write anything short. But as I’ve been experimenting with it, I’ve realized that it’s possible to tell a complete and satisfying story in a smaller package, too. It just has to be a simpler story. So now I write all different lengths, from very short – just a few thousand words – to around a hundred thousand. Books do come more naturally to me than short stories, though. I don’t see myself writing much that’s very short, but I have plans to add some novellas to one of the romance series, if I ever turn the single book I have into a series. To be honest, I have no idea whether the short stories do anything at all to sell my longer books. I doubt it.

I like the idea of Author bundles. You are a part of a novel collection called Mirth, Murder & Mystery. What was the impact on your other sales? What was the main objective of bundling your works with other romance authors? How did you put something like that together?

The MMM bundle has been great fun. I didn’t put it together, though. L.J. Charles did, and invited me to become a part of it. The purpose was to use the bundle as a sort of loss leader, and to – hopefully – boost sales of our other books. We all put in the first books in our series, and I do know of people who have gone on from the bundle to read the other books in the Cutthroat Business series, so it does work. Also, we did it hoping to be able to hit some of the big bestseller lists. I was already a NYT and USA Today bestselling author by then, but the others weren’t, so it was nice to be able to climb the USA Today list with them.

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

I haven’t really done much in the way of giveaways, but I made the first book in my series free on all the digital platforms in August of 2012, and gave away more than 100,000 copies that month. It really made a big difference for my Amazon sales. More recently, that same book has been featured in the First in Series Free promos on Apple, and that has made a big difference to my Apple sales, as well. So free books work, if there’s a series to benefit from the exposure, but it’s a harder gimmick to work these days, because of all the free books out there.

You have a great blog. You do a great job keeping readers informed and marketing your books. What is your primary goal? And where in the world do you find the time to create great novels, take care of the social media and maintain your blog?

I don’t really maintain my blog, to be honest. I post things on it when I have a new release, and I post excerpts and such occasionally, but most of the time it just sits there. I’m not a blogger at heart. I’d rather pour those words into the next book instead. But the blog is part of the website, and I’ve got it set to feed to my Amazon Author Page and my Goodreads page and a few other places like that, so it’s worth updating every so often. But I do as little as I can. I post on Facebook and Twitter a few times a day, and lately on Tsu, but that’s pretty much it.

What is your method of getting reviews for your novels? Do you seek professional reviews, use social media or do you rely on your reading audience to supply them?

I don’t do much about reviews. My main concerns are A) writing good books, and B) making sure people know about them. The more people read your books, the more reviews you’ll get, generally, so I focus on promoting sales. And I figure that if the books are good enough, people will want to recommend them. Although, from being traditionally published for a few years, I know a handful of mystery bloggers I can send copies of the books to, and they’ll usually oblige with a review, as well.

Author's Book List
Past Due - #8 Savannah Martin Mysteries
The sins of the past are coming due, and someone has to pay the price...

Savannah Martin’s high school reunion is supposed to be a fun weekend of catching up with old friends and parading her boyfriend—Sweetwater bad boy Rafael Collier—in front of everyone who used to sneer at him back in the day. Not even the daily battle she’s waging with morning sickness can douse Savannah’s anticipation.

But when Rafe won’t come to Sweetwater, Savannah has to face her old schoolmates without his support. And her best friend Charlotte isn’t as happy for Savannah’s new relationship as Savannah had hoped. And when a dead body turns up in the Colliers’ old mobile home in the Bog, Savannah is thankful to be on her own. The sheriff is always looking for a reason to shove Rafe back behind bars, and a fresh homicide is just the excuse he needs.

But when another murder takes place at the reunion, even the threat of jail can’t keep Rafe away. Soon old classmates are dropping like bowling pins, and Rafe and Savannah are scrambling to catch up with a killer hell bent on making sure old enemies pay for old sins... all while trying to stay one step ahead of Sheriff Satterfield and the Columbia PD.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO - iTunes
Kickout Clause - #7 Savannah Martin Mysteries
When Shelby Ferguson, Savannah’s ex-husband’s new wife, begs Savannah’s help in figuring out what’s going on with Bradley, Savannah can’t in good conscience say no. Shelby has no one else to turn to, no one to whom she can admit that her marriage is on the rocks and that Bradley may be straying.

But helping Shelby turns out to be just the tip of the iceberg. With two different sets of buyers vying to purchase Mrs. Jenkins’s house, and an escaped prisoner targeting Savannah, she has more than enough to deal with. And that’s before TBI rookie Manny Ortega is shot down in cold blood.

With Savannah’s boyfriend Rafe Collier, and their friend, homicide detective Tamara Grimaldi, busy looking for Manny’s murderer, it’s up to Savannah to juggle buyers and agents and vandals and lawyers, and come out on top... without losing her Southern Belle poise or her life in the process.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO - iTunes
Change of Heart - #6 Savannah Martin Mysteries
It’s late February, just two months after Savannah Martin and Rafael Collier finally worked things out between them, and Rafe is already sneaking out of bed in the wee hours.

Catching fellow realtor Tim Briggs rinsing blood from his hands in the office sink makes for a welcome distraction, and when Tim disappears just as one of his clients is found dead in a nearby park, Savannah throws herself into the investigation with abandon.

But even the murder mystery taking place right under her nose can’t completely distract her from worrying about personal problems. Has Rafe changed his mind about their relationship, or is something else going on? And what are the chances of Savannah coming out of this latest debacle with her life – and her heart – intact?

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO - iTunes
A Done Deal - #5 Savannah Martin Mysteries
Silver bells, silver bells...

It's Christmas time in Nashville, and all Savannah wants to unwrap on Christmas morning is Rafe Collier. Unfortunately, things don't look so good. He's back in town, but not alone: on his arm is a stunning brunette, just the kind of woman Savannah always suspected was his type.

When Alexandra Puckett asks her help in figuring out a way to stop Maybelle Driscoll from marrying Alex's father Steven, Savannah jumps on the chance. It'll give her something to think about other than Rafe and the mysterious Carmen, and anyway, she doesn't like Maybelle much herself.

Between investigating Maybelle's past, helping her clients Aislynn and Kylie buy a house, and stalking Carmen and Rafe, Savannah soon has her hands full. And that's before someone starts gunning for her. Suddenly it's not a question of unwrapping anything on Christmas morning anymore; it's a question of whether she'll even survive to see another Christmas.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO - iTunes
Close to Home - #4 Savannah Martin Mysteries
Sometimes, trouble hits too close to home.

Savannah's late. The kind of late that comes with midnight feedings and the pitter-patter of little feet. And while it's a circumstance that should make everyone happy - now she can finally settle down and marry Todd Satterfield, the way everyone's been hoping and praying! - it isn't Todd's baby. And Rafe Collier, whose baby it is, didn't sign on for fatherhood.

Add in the murder of Savannah's sister-in-law Sheila, the trial of Sheila's friend Marley, and the disappearance of Rafe's twelve year old son David - the kid he never knew he had - and things get complicated fast. And there is worse to come: When Rafe comes back to Nashville to help look for David, and learns that Savannah's pregnant, things do not work out the way Savannah hopes. In the end, she's left with nothing she wanted and a whole lot of trouble she didn't, and when she gets in over her head, Rafe's not there to save the day.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO - iTunes
Contract Pending - #3 Savannah Martin Mysteries
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and Savannah is certainly learning the truth of that statement.

It’s been a month and a half since Rafael Collier left town, and although Savannah knows it would be hideously inappropriate—not to mention supremely stupid—to miss him, she wishes he’d come back soon. His grandmother’s ailing, the nurse he hired to take care of her has disappeared, and somebody is watching the house and following Savannah as she goes about the business of bringing her first real estate transaction to a close.

But when Rafe comes back, things only go from bad to worse. Resident nurse Marquita Johnson is found murdered, and Metro Nashville Homicide Detective Tamara Grimaldi is asked to handle the case. It doesn’t take long for her to focus her interest, once again, on Rafe.

Now Savannah has to make the choice between staying safe by accepting her old flame Todd’s proposal of marriage, or taking a chance on losing her heart and her life by trying to help Rafe, as the term ‘contract pending’ takes on a whole new meaning.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO - iTunes
Hot Property - #2 Savannah Martin Mysteries
When Savannah Martin’s fellow Realtor and friend Lila Vaughn is robbed during an open house, Savannah rushes to the rescue with tea and sympathy, or at least a really good lunch and a shoulder to cry on. However, Lila seems more peeved than distraught, and her main gripe is that the sexy robber who tied her to a kitchen chair—for her own good—didn’t follow her suggestion to tie her to the bed instead.

Lila’s description of the man fits Savannah’s old school-mate Rafael Collier to a T. Rafe has recently turned up in Savannah’s life again, and he isn’t above doing a little breaking and entering. Metro Nashville Homicide Detective Tamara Grimaldi is of the same opinion, and when Lila turns up dead, tied to her bed and strangled, Rafe becomes a suspect. Now Savannah must get busy finding the real murderer before Detective Grimaldi can arrest the wrong man.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO - iTunes
A Cutthroat Business - Savannah Martin Mystery 1
Everyone has warned new-minted realtor Savannah Martin that real estate is a cutthroat business. But Savannah doesn't think she's supposed to take the warning literally ... until an early morning phone call sends her to an empty house on the 'bad' side of town, where she finds herself standing over the butchered body of a competitor, face to face with the boy her mother always warned her about.

Rafe Collier is six feet three inches of testosterone and trouble; tall, dark, and dangerous, with a murky past and no future--not the kind of guy a perfect Southern Belle should want to tangle with. In any way. But wherever Savannah turns, there he is, and making no bones about what he wants from her.

Now Savannah must figure out who killed real estate queen Brenda Puckett, make a success of her new career, and avoid getting killed--or kissed--by Rafe, all before the money in her savings account runs out and she has to go back to selling make-up at the mall.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO - iTunes
Home For the Homicide - A Do-It-Yourself Mystery Book 7
Avery Baker was a big city textile designer, until she inherited her aunt’s old Maine cottage and found her true calling—home renovation. But she never expected her latest job would come to such a bone-rattling dead end...

For Avery and her husband Derek, renovating the Craftsman Bungalow was like stepping back in time. The quaint old home was just as its original owners had left it—from the beautiful butler’s pantry to the surprisingly exquisite ribbon tile. But it’s the attic that yields the most heart-stopping surprise.

In a discreetly hidden antique crate, Avery finds a clue to a decades-old missing persons case. As Avery works on the house and delves deeper into the sinister story, it becomes clear that someone very crafty wants the Craftsman home’s secrets to stay that way!

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO - iTunes
Wall-to-Wall Dead - A Do-It-Yourself Mystery Book 6
Avery Baker never thought she’d leave Manhattan, until she inherited her aunt’s old Maine cottage and found her true calling—home renovation. But when Avery goes to work restoring a condominium, she discovers it’s another condo owner who’s been condemned...

Avery and her partner, Derek, are fixing up a cute little condo in homey Waterfield, Maine, hoping for a quick turnaround and some extra money. It seems like a simple project—and Avery is looking forward to using her big-city experience with small spaces.

But they didn’t expect to have their every move watched by the resident busybody in the condo, Hilda Shaw, who loves snooping on everyone’s comings and goings. When the busybody becomes a dead body, Avery suspects foul play. Soon she’s doing some snooping of her own—and it seems everyone in the complex has a secret. Could one of them be worth killing for? Avery needs to work fast, before someone decides to fix her...for good.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO - iTunes
Flipped Out - A Do-It-Yourself Mystery Book 5
Avery and her hunky handyman boyfriend are renovating a house belonging to a local news anchor who's thrilled to be filmed as part of a home renovation show. But cable television fame proves fleeting when the man is murdered and Avery faces the task of nailing the killer. Fast.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO - iTunes
Mortar and Murder - A Do-It-Yourself Mystery Book 4
Avery Baker was once a New York textile designer, but inheriting her aunt's old Maine cottage has led her down a new career path-home renovation. Finding a property's hidden potential has rewards and challenges-especially when a mystery surfaces from behind the walls of a centuries-old house on an island that has more than its share of deadly secrets.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO - iTunes
Plaster and Poison - A Do-It-Yourself Mystery Book 3
Ex-New York designer Avery Baker left the bustle of the big city to start her own home renovation business in Maine. But as she renovates an old carriage house on behalf of a soon-to-be wed friend, she stumbles across a lifeless body-a person known all too well by the blushing bride. The small town is abuzz with big suspicions, and Avery realizes she must unravel a matrimonial murder.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO - iTunes
Spackled and Spooked - A Do-It-Yourself Mystery Book 2
Avery Baker and her boyfriend, Derek Ellis, are flipping a seriously stigmatized house rumored to have ghosts. Soon they'll have even bigger problems-and this renovation project might haunt them forever.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO - iTunes
Fatal Fixer-Upper - A Do-It-Yourself Mystery Book 1
Avery Baker was once a New York designer, but inheriting her aunt?s old Maine cottage has led her down a new career path?home renovation. Now, with help from hunky handyman Derek Ellis, Avery starts learning the ABCs of DIY. But when the designer-turned-renovator finds clues that lead to a missing professor, she wonders if she can finish the house?without getting finished off in the process.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO - iTunes
Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
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HBS Author's Spotlight
eBook Author’s Corner
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Check out the index of other Spotlight authors. Spotlight Index.

1 comment:

  1. I love all of Jenna's work and anxiously anticipate all the releases and re-releases she has coming in 2015!