First off, let me just say how immensely thrilled I am to be on Criminal Minds for a week. And let me also confess that much as I love and admire the lot of you, the only thing that would be better, would be if you could also serve up Shemar Moore while you’re at it.
Yes, I watch the TV show. Yes—as I recently told Jeannie—I think Shemar Moore is extremely decorative. So does she. And since he also looks just like the love interest in my most recent release, I have a built-in excuse to ogle all I want. Or so I tell myself - and my husband. Frequently.
Moving right along: my name is Bente Gallagher, and that most recent release I’m talking about is called A Cutthroat Business. Library Journal says it will “appeal to readers of chick-lit mysteries and romantic suspense,” so that should give you a fairly good idea of what it’s like. Sexy and sassy and just generally fun. I was reading a lot of Janet Evanovich when I wrote it.
While I waited for A Cutthroat Business to find a home, I also started writing a cozy mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime, under the pseudonym Jennie Bentley. Jennie is a lot sweeter than I am. She doesn’t mention sex or violence in her books, and she doesn’t use bad words. Much. She tries, but her editor comes along with her red pencil and gets rid of all of that. So the Do-It-Yourself home renovation mysteries are very nice and clean, suitable for your aged grandmother, your thirteen year old niece, and everyone in-between.
Now for a couple of questions from today’s esteemed Criminal Minds:
Jeannie's Q: How much renovation research do you conduct for each book? The DIY series is set in Maine while you live in Nashville. Do you travel to Maine often for the sake of research?
A: Specifically for the books, I don’t do any research at all. I’ve owned and renovated nine houses since 2000, though, so I have plenty of renovation experience to draw on. I basically just write about what I already know. And since I also know a lot of people who renovate, I can ask questions and beg help from them if I need to. I do have to come up with the DIY tips that are at the back of each book, for how to do the crafts that my main characters, Derek and Avery, undertake in the books, so I have to research those.
Yeah, the DIY series is set in Maine while I live in Nashville. I’ve never been to Maine. I’d love to go sometime, but so far, that hasn’t worked out. I grew up in Norway, though, and the landscape looks very similar, or so I’ve been told. That was one of the reasons I chose Maine as a setting for the DIY series, instead of someplace else in New England. What I describe is pretty much what I grew up looking at, and what I look at every time I go home. Craggy coast, lots of rocks, small islands, pine trees, moose...
As for the Savannah series, that’s set in Nashville, so everything’s ready to hand. I use real places and mix them in with imaginary ones, and after living here for years, I’ve got the Southern flavor down pretty good, I think. Surprised the hell out of my then-prospective agent when she called me to offer to represent A Cutthroat Business, expecting a Southern girl and instead getting a woman with a Norwegian accent...
Lois's Q: How do you keep your two different series (characters and story lines) separate in your mind?
A: Amazingly, that’s never been a problem. The wildly different settings help, of course, and the characters are so distinct to me, and their storylines so different, that it’s really no problem to keep them apart. They’re both telling their stories in the first person, but while Avery is a hip and independent transplanted New Yorker, Savannah is very much a gentle Southern Belle. Avery’s in a committed relationship with Derek, while Savannah still has a lot of growing up to do, and is fighting her attraction to Rafe with everything she’s got. They’re two very distinct people, at two very different places in their lives—and in geography—and they don’t sound the same at all.
That said, I sometimes slip up and then Savannah starts to sound a little too much like Avery, or vice versa, and I have to go back and fix. The biggest problem is juggling the two genres: I can’t write sex, violence, or bad language in the cozy series, and all those things come kind of naturally to me, so my editor has to reign me in sometimes when I slip too far out of the cozy realm. I don’t have those limitations in the Savannah series, so it’s easier in that respect. It’s kind of ironic when you think about it, that it’s the sweet Southern girl who gets the sex and bad dude, while the sassy New Yorker can’t have any!
I’ll be back tomorrow, folks, to answer this burning question from Becky:
I know you write as both Jennie Bentley and Bente Gallagher, so what are the advantages of a pseudonym? The disadvantages? Is it really twice as much work?