Sunday, November 29, 2009

Evanovich pulls out a Plum

From The Chronicle Herald - Halifax, NS --

Evanovich pulls out a Plum --
Best-selling author brings literary punch to crime formula

Sun. Jul 19, 2009 --

FOR SOMEONE who seems to have a lot to say, Janet Evanovich is proving herself to be a very good listener.

In fact, over the course of our 30-minute phone interview, I find myself opening up to the popular American author quite freely.

"I have to come clean about something before we begin," I say sheepishly at the start. "Um, up until just a few days ago, I had never actually read any of your books.

"To be completely honest," I continue, now a little embarrassed, "although I have seen your name before on bookstore shelves and bestseller lists, I really had no idea who you were or what kind of novels you wrote."

I confess to my new-found confidante — I am now sputtering like a madman, determined to let it all fall to the floor — that I am probably "not as well versed in the genre of mystery-adventure-romance novels as I perhaps could be," and that I have always been "somewhat suspicious" or even "disdainful" of writers who pump out two or three books a year like some sort of literary "mass-production appliance."

And then I tell her that it feels really good to finally get all of this off of my chest.

Evanovich laughs. I laugh also, maybe a little too long. There is a pause — a moment of awkward silence. I feel like an idiot, waiting for the receiver to drop on the other end. Finally she replies, "Well, I guess we have a lot to talk about then!"

I am overcome with relief. I then admit to her that I was actually quite surprised at how much I enjoyed her new book Finger Lickin’ Fifteen and how much I was looking forward to back-stepping my way through the previous works in her catalogue.

I am telling Evanovich the truth. The latest in her widely-acclaimed Stephanie Plum series is masterfully constructed; the writing is excellent, the pace is fluid, the storyline is well-developed, as are each of the characters — especially the story’s central persona.

"Thank you," she says.

"I have had a lot of practice at piecing these books together — Finger Lickin’ Fifteen is Stephanie’s 18th time around in print."

Although the New Jersey-born writer never goes so far as to call her style of writing a formula for success, she does understand the power of familiarity.

"By now I have figured out what my readers want and what they don’t want," she says.

"Like a favourite meal or a well-worn pair of slippers, they are looking for what they know. We are, after all, creatures of comfort."

As such, the series’ protagonist has become like a close friend or a family member for many book lovers.

"You can get to know someone — even a fictional bond enforcement officer — pretty well after 15 years," notes the 66-year-old novelist. "A lot of people have grown up with Stephanie, and they have watched her character evolve alongside the course of their own lives."

Evanovich believes that her readers have come to identify with Plum’s all-too-human qualities. "Because Stephanie isn’t perfect — because she has all of these fears and flaws and makes mistakes in both her personal and professional lives — we are able to relate and connect with her."

That bond of trust, adds the author, is the real secret behind her good fortune. "People come up to me all the time at book signings and readings and talk to me about what is going on in their own lives. I probably do more listening at these events than speaking and I absolutely love that part of the job.

"And it is really heartwarming for me to know that others are as passionate about Stephanie as I am. A lot of them ask me personal questions about her life and about what I have planned for her. And I tell them quite honestly I don’t know."

That is part of the fun, says Evanovich.

"I get as much of a kick out of writing these books as others get out of reading them. Stephanie’s future is as much of a mystery to me as it is to my readers and I think that it is this combination of the known and the unknown that keeps all of us coming back for more."

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