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Somewhat depressed after ten years of rejection notices, Janet Evanovich had pretty much dumped her dream of becoming an author. Then, something nice finally happened: a telephone call from an editor offering to publish a short category romance novel she had written months earlier under the pseudonym Steffie Hall. The 1987 MMPB, Hero at Large, opened the door to the world of professional writing. She went on to write 11 more category romances both under her pen name and as Janet Evanovich. Then, as she admits, she "ran out of sexual positions and decided to move into the mystery genre."
In the early 1990s, Evanovich took two years off from writing to investigate the world of murder and mayhem, "drinking beer with law enforcement types, learning to shoot, practicing cussing." In 1994, a novel entitled One for the Money introduced the world to Stephanie Plum, a sassy and brassy Trenton, New Jersey ex-lingerie sales person turned bounty hunter. While not quite an overnight sensation, the book was named a New York Times "notable book, a Publishers Weekly "Best Book of 1994," and a USA Today "Best Bet." The Plum novels have since won numerous other literary awards and continue to sit atop the national best-seller lists.
Evanovich denies that Stephanie is an autobiographical character but says "I will admit to knowing where she lives." And, indeed she should; Evanovich grew up in Trenton, and the character of the city plays an important role in all her Plum novels.
In 1995, Evanovich and her husband moved to New Hampshire, "...a good place to write a book," she says, "and would be even better if we just had a decent mall. You can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can't take Jersey out of the girl."
BookThink congratulates the writer on the publication of her twelfth Stephanie Plum novel, Twelve Sharp, from St. Martin's Press, and debuting in bookstores nationwide on June 20. An official "launch" party is scheduled that same day at Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut.
BookThink: Given the success of your mystery novels, we're pretty sure that your upcoming book tour will pretty much be "standing room only." How would this compare with your earliest book tours?
Evanovich: I didn't tour as a romance writer. When I started touring for the Plum series. I was mostly going to independent mystery stores. The people were great, but the crowds were small. Frequently I didn't sell any books. I schlepped around by myself staying in budget hotels, eating candy bars because the schedule didn't include lunch. It was a demoralizing, depressing experience, and I spent a lot of time crying myself to sleep. My signings now run anywhere from 400 to 5,000 people. I travel with my webmaster daughter, Alex, and usually my L.A. escort, Ken Wilson, who works as trouble shooter. Having that many people to a signing carries a whole other set of responsibilities. It requires water, and toilets, and lots of books, and wrist bands so they don't have to stand in line for six hours, and entertainment so they don't get bored. And lots of Advil for me. The human thumb wasn't meant to sign 5,000 books in a single sitting. This book tour we're at Foxwoods with a Tom Jones impersonator. Bring extra panties. Woohoo!
BookThink: Your daughter, Alex Evanovich, has pulled so much interesting material together for fans visiting your website that the experience is almost as enjoyable as reading one of your books. How much interaction do you have with you fans at evanovich.com?
Evanovich: Alex and I do the Q&A a couple times a week and we read every e-mail. An automatic response goes out when the e-mail comes in but somewhere in the next five days a human being reads the e-mail. We get about 9 million hits a month, so needless to say there's a lot of mail.
BookThink: Let's come back to your early writing days. You've confessed to suffering through years of rejection notices. How and at what point did things really start turning around for you?
Evanovich: When I made my first sale with Hero at Large. And then again when I sold the Plum series. Still, the early years with Plum were a struggle. I've kind of inched my way up the ladder of success. Finally making the Times list was a biggy.
BookThink: While we're sure that your early romance novels are fast becoming collectible, it's your work in mystery-adventure writing that has everyone heading for the bookstore. Here's the stock question: Why and how did you shift away from the romance genre for, let's say, "guns and roses?"
Evanovich: By about the sixth romance I knew I wasn't in exactly the right place. I liked writing action. And I wanted to write a book with a little more edge than I was allowed in romance (remember this was over thirteen years ago when there were a lot of rules associated with romance).
BookThink: On evanovich.com, fans get to vote for who they think should play Stephanie Plum and other book characters in the movie version of One for the Money. Sandra Bullock as Stephanie and Queen Latifah as sidekick Lula seem to be the front-runners, with Hugh Jackman and athlete-turned-actor "The Rock" as Stephanie's love interests. What's your prediction as to if and when we might see your characters on the big screen?
Evanovich: TriStar bought One for the Money thirteen years ago and it has been in "preproduction" every since. Hard to believe they've been sitting on this multi-million dollar franchise for all these years, but go figure.
BookThink: Just to further impress you with your popularity, we've polled our Evanovich-fan neighbors about the burning question we should ask you, and they all want to know: Are you really the writer-workaholic you've confessed to being, or (as you've also admitted) do you just really enjoy spending all the money your books bring in?
Evanovich: Yes, to both. I'm for sure a workaholic. I'm a complete control freak, and I take on way too many projects. I also think money isn't any good sitting around, so I spend some time in the shoe department at Saks.
BookThink: I think most people from New Jersey are amused at how often the state turns up as a joke or punch-line in the media. Your heroine, very much like you, is Jersey born-and-raised. She lives and works in "the burg" in Trenton, where you lived. Any thoughts or ideas on why and how New Jersey is so popular? Do you ever miss New Jersey?
Evanovich: I miss all kinds of things about Jersey. I miss the people, the attitude, the energy, the pizza, the Tastykakes, Point Pleasant, Jersey weddings, and the challenge of driving the Turnpike from Newark to New Brunswick.
BookThink: Any thoughts about if (and when) you might marry off Stephanie Plum and have her "settle down" so that you can move on to new books with different characters?
Evanovich: Good heavens, man, my fans would burn my house down! No, no, no!!
BookThink: When you were first starting out in your writing career, you were quoted as saying something to the effect that "romance novels are birthday cake while life is often peanut butter and jelly." What's on the menu when you're writing Stephanie Plum mysteries?
Evanovich: Pizza and beer and Cheez Doodles.
"Workaholic" Janet Evanovich averages one Stephanie Plum novel each year, in some years augmenting this output with an additional non-Plum offering (Metro Girl, 2004, and Motor Mouth, 2006).
Researching Biblio.com, we learn that her earliest Plum novel, One for the Money, in an ex-library Fair/VG condition can demand as much as $45 and better first/first editions run up to $150. Want it in First/First, F/F and signed? Be prepared to pay something between $180 to $500.
Other Plum firsts, beginning with Two for the Dough and ending with Eleven on Top in F/F or "As New" condition peak at around $75 and more recent titles are offered at prices as low as $8. Similar but signed copies range from $75 to as much as $360, depending on the scarcity of the title.
Skipping blithely to the ultimate offering of the entire collection, titles One through Eleven, first/first in "as new" condition can be yours for a mere $1,680 - plus shipping and handling, of course.
Over on eBay, we scouted signed firsts at "Buy It Now" prices and found most offerings consistently at half the cost proffered by fixed-price venue sellers. For example, a first edition, signed One for the Money can go for as little as $95 or as much as $245. Super book sleuths can certainly come away with a bargain, but - for the average buyer - caution should be exercised when purchasing signed editions.
The bottom line? Evanovich is now at number Twelve in the Plum series. She's a prodigious writer with enough energy to go the distance - we're guessing to at least to number Twenty-Seven (we'll leave it to you to figure out why). Given this, BookThink believes that earlier Plum titles can only become more and more valuable.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A few more marketing observations. An ARC copy of Twelve Sharp recently sold for over $200 on eBay. This is a clear measure of fan appetite for upcoming Evanovich titles - rapacious, I'd say. Also, note that grouping Plum paperbacks into eBay book lots will often result in sales that (given 10 or more titles) will meet or exceed BookThink's 50/50 criteria of $50. And yes, they're everywhere.
For updates on when and where Janet Evanovich will be speaking and signing each new book, visit www.evanovich.com/tour.html.
Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark
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