Friday, February 5, 2010

Guest Author - Jennifer Estep (Interview and Giveaway)

With me here today is Jennifer Estep, who has a new book out (January 26) - Spider's Bite, the first in a new dark urban fantasy series called the Elemental Assassin. It will be followed up in May with Web of Lies and Venom in October. Romantic Times magazine gave Spider's Bite a 4.5 star review and Pocket Books has also picked up the series for Books 4 and 5!

You can read an excerpt of Spider's Bite here and Jennifer has posted a free prequel story, Spider's Bargain on her website. I think you;ll enjoy this action packed thriller of an urban fantasy. I know I did. Jennifer will be dropping around to respond to commenters, so read the interview, enjoy the visit and say hello to Jennifer.

I also have two copies of Spider's Bite to giveaway, so check the Giveaway Guidelines at the end of the post for full details on how to enter. So with no further ado - welcome Jennifer Estep!

SFG: You are launching a new exciting urban fantasy series with Spider’s Bite and following it up with two more books in the same year, which is a real treat for us impatient readers. What is the story behind that and can you give us an overview of Spider’s Bite and the Elemental Assassin’s series?

Of course. The Elemental Assassin books are set in the fictional southern metropolis of Ashland, where Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina meet in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. The books focus on Gin Blanco, an assassin codenamed the Spider who runs a barbecue restaurant in her spare time. Gin is also an elemental or person who can control one of the four elements – Air, Fire, Ice, and Stone. Gin has the rare gift of being able to control two elements, Ice and Stone in her case. Besides elementals like Gin, Ashland is also home to giants, dwarves, and vampires.

The first book in the series, Spider’s Bite, was released on Jan. 26. In the book, after Gin is double-crossed on a hit and her handler is murdered, she decides to get to the bottom of who set her up and why. Along the way, she teams up with a sexy detective to help her figure things out. Only one thing is certain -- if Gin has her way, then someone’s going to die …

Web of Lies, the second book in the series, will be released in June 2010, with Venom, the third book, to follow in October 2010. There’s a free prequel short story called Spider’s Bargain that folks can read on my Web site, along with the first chapter for each of the books.

I know as a reader myself that I get impatient when there’s a long wait in between books. So I’m thrilled to have three books coming out this year for folks who like the series. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it!

SFG: Your main character Gin Blanco is an elemental. Please tell us about elementals and their abilities. Do you have a favourite element? Which would you be?

Sure. Gin is a Stone and Ice elemental, which means that she has the power to create, control, and manipulate those two elements. For example, Gin can use her Stone magic to make her own skin as hard as marble or her Ice magic to make a quick knife or a pair of lock picks. The other two elementals in my world are Air and Fire. Also, there are people who can use offshoots of each of the four areas, like water would be an offshoot of Ice and electricity would be one of Air.

I like the Stone and Ice elementals just because I think that their powers are a little more interesting and varied. According to my significant other, I already have a magic power -- ghoul touch! Seriously, my hands are frigid all the time. So based on that, I’d have to go with being an Ice elemental. ;-)

SFG: Gin is also an assassin. This is a popular theme in a lot of fantasy but not so much in urban fantasy. What inspired you to build a series around one?

I’ve always loved reading about assassin characters in fantasy books just because there are so many different takes on them -- everything from light and fun to dark and creepy. One day, I realized that it would be cool to come up with my own assassin character in my own world with my own kind of magic system.

Over the years, I tried to write an epic fantasy assassin book. But writing epic fantasy is something that I struggle with -- the story just flows better for me when my characters are in a modern setting with things like cars, electricity, and indoor plumbing. When I changed the tone of the book from epic to urban fantasy was really when Spider’s Bite and the character of Gin Blanco started to sing to me.

I think having an assassin as a central character raises a lot of moral questions -- Is it okay to kill people for money? Are assassins automatically bad people? Do some people deserve to die? And so on and so forth. Also, it was an interesting challenge for me as a writer to create an assassin character and still have her be relatable and likable at the same time. You always want to push yourself creatively as an author. Plus, you can’t write about an assassin without having some fight scenes in your book, and I love writing fight scenes. ;-)

SFG: You also have another popular ‘Bigtime’ series about superheroes. If you were in an elevator and had sixty seconds to convince a reader to try it, what would your elevator pitch be?

Sex, lies, and superheroes. That’s my tagline for the series and that would be my elevator pitch. I’d also explain a little about the series and how the books (Karma Girl, Hot Mama, and Jinx) are basically fun, superhero spoofs with lots of action, adventure, danger, and romance. If you like the campy fun of the old “Batman” show with Adam West or “Wonder Woman” with Lynda Carter, then you’d probably like my Bigtime series.

When the pitch was done, I’d give them a wink and hand them a bookmark, if I had one handy.

SFG: A trend seems to be forming for urban fantasy writers to expand into writing young adult fiction or even into graphic novels. Do you have any plans to write YA or have a favourite novel of yours you would like to see turned into a comic?

I am interested in writing a young adult book. In fact, I have an idea that I’m mulling over right now -- an epic fantasy YA that’s sort of a cross between Beauty and the Beast and Robin Hood. I plan to write a few sample chapters to see if I want to explore the story more or not.

I think both Karma Girl (from my Bigtime series) and Spider’s Bite (from my Elemental Assassin series) would make great graphic novels. I imagine a Karma Girl graphic novel as being very bright, colorful, and fun just like the book is. Plus, it would be awesome to see my superheroes drawn to life, so to speak. ;-)

Spider’s Bite would make for an excellent graphic novel too. I picture it as being in the Sin City vein, since the book is so dark and gritty, just like that series is.

SFG: What future projects are you working on or considering?

I’m working on books 4 and 5 in the Elemental Assassin series right now and trying to think of titles for both of those. I’m also working on a free short story to tie in with Web of Lies, the second book in the Elemental Assassin series that’s coming out in June.

I have a new urban fantasy series in the works, but with spies instead of assassins. I’m pitching that series as Alias with magic. The first book is called Live & Let Spy.

I also want to play around with the YA project that I mentioned earlier. I have so many books/genres that I want to write in -- an urban fantasy western, a contemporary romance, a heist book. I just wish that I had time to write them all -- right now. ;-)

SFG: The urban fantasy and paranormal genres are booming. What are your thoughts on the future of the genres?

I think both genres have a bright, bright future ahead of them. I think there’s a sense of magic and wonder in urban fantasy and paranormal books that people really respond to. Who hasn’t wished that she had a superpower? Or was a kick-butt vampire slayer or some other kind of fantasy hero? Who hasn’t dreamed of saving the world once or twice? We all have, and we will continue to do so. That’s why I think urban fantasy and paranormal books will always be popular.

Plus, fantasy books in general transport readers to a completely different world where anything is possible in a way that no other genre really does. They’re just great escapes and great entertainment.

SFG: You have a dual career in the newspaper business and as an author. Do you have any work-related anecdotes you can share – co-workers pressuring you to include them as characters in your books or pitching you story ideas?

The most interesting thing about the newspaper business is all the strange calls that we get on a daily basis. Seriously. You would not believe what people will call in to their local newspaper about. And a lot of them are rude or mean when they do it -- I’ve gotten callers angry about all kinds of things, as if all we do all day long is just think of ways to upset them. It really shocked me at first how rude the people were. Apparently, it’s quite easy to be mean to strangers over the phone. Who knew?
One time, a guy called and asked me how to spell Fiji. That’s all he wanted. I wondered why he hadn’t taken the time that he’d spent looking up the newspaper’s phone number to, you know, look up how to spell Fiji in the dictionary. But maybe that’s just me. ;-)

Another call that I remember is when a man read a story that I had written. I don’t even remember what the story was about now, but the man called and basically told me that I couldn’t write and that I needed to take a good English class!

SFG: You have said that you are a fangirl. Tell us about your most memorable fangirl moment.

Hmm … I don’t know if I have a most memorable fangirl moment. I’ve never met any actors or anything like that that would make me squeal with joy (not yet anyway!). But one of my most recent fangirl moments happened a few weeks ago when the trailer for the new A-Team movie hit the Internet. Now, I’m a huge A-Team fan -- it’s my favorite show of all time, and I’ve really been looking forward to the movie.

So when it first hit the Internet, I sat at my computer and watched it a couple of times -- and I loved it. I think it makes the movie look like cheesy fun, which is what the show was all about.

But that wasn’t enough to satisfy my inner fangirl. So, I called my significant other and told him how cool the trailer was. Then, I e-mailed the link to all my friends. Then, I asked them what they thought about … and so on and so forth.

Just hearing the opening dialogue makes me smile, so every time I need a little pick-me-up, I’ll go watch the trailer again. And the van -- the van is in the movie! Can you tell that I’m counting down the days until it’s in theaters? ;-)

SFG: If you could have lunch and a conversation with any author, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Ian Fleming. I love his James Bond books and am a huge fan of the movies as well. Fleming did so many things that we see in spy and action-adventure books/movies today in his books -- things like gadgets, interesting names, and some really great villains. I’d just love to have lunch and brainstorm with him.

SFG: Being the SciFiGuy, I need to ask – what is your favourite SFF movie and book?

Oh, this is a toughie! I can’t pick just one each.

I would have to say The Princess Bride. I love, love, love that movie. It’s just so fun and so quotable. It’s followed closely by the original Star Wars trilogy, though. I think one of the best sci-fi movies that I’ve seen recently was the Star Trek reboot. I had never watched any Star Trek shows or movies before, but the movie rocked.

As far as books go, I love Beauty by Robin McKinley, which is a young adult retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I also really like the Elenium series by David Eddings and the Shannara series by Terry Brooks. Those two series really got me hooked on fantasy in the first place.

SFG: Tell us five things about yourself that nobody else knows (until now of course).
  1. I don’t like the color yellow.
  2. I am an obsessive list-maker.
  3. I have a terrible weakness for cheese fries.
  4. I love classic oldies music (which I sing terribly in the car).
  5. I enjoy watching reruns of Matlock and Murder, She Wrote. (I can never figure out whodunnit!)

Thanks Jennifer for introducing us to Gin Blanco!


I have two copies of Spider's Bite to giveaway to our dedicated commenters.
  1. Leave a question or comment for Jennifer. Also tell us which elemental you would like to be and why.
  2. An autographed copy available to a commenter from the US and Canada. An additional copy available to international entrants (not autographed).
  3. Leave a way to notify you if you should win.
  4. Blog, tweet, post on Facebook or other social network sites for an extra entry. Leave a comment here to let me know.
  5. Giveaway open until Midnight, February 15, 2010 EST.


  1. great interview! What do you do on your spare time when no writing? and are you having any upcoming book signing?
    - I would be an ice elemental, to keep me cool on those hot summer days. :)

    thanks for the giveaway!

    Van P.

  2. I've read a couple of wonderful reviews for Spiders Bite. Really looking forward to reading it. Would love to win a copy of it. Thanks for the opportunity. I work for the largest book company in Canada and have many regular customers who value my recommendations. I prefer to recommend books I have already read.

  3. I enjoyed the interview and I'm really excited to read Spider's Bite and the Elemental Assassin series. Are there a set number of books planned for the series or are you going to continue as long as you can?

  4. I forgot to leave my elemental choice. I'd choose to be a fire elemental because it seems like a pretty powerful element to control.

  5. Hi! I cannot wait to read this. I would be a water element. Water can bring relief and life but it can also be very destructive and cause lots of damage. ;o)

  6. hi great interview you are a new to me author I cant wait to read spider's bite it sounds awesome .I would be an air elemental I just think it could be cool to command the wind.

  7. Jennifer... do you really like spiders, or are you an arachnophobe like me?

    I would definitely want to be an Ice elemental, it's be nice to be able to conjure up some ice on a hot summers day. :)

    I'm an international entrant.

  8. Hi,

    Your Ian Fleming is showing "Live and Let Spy" !
    That is a terrible pun !

    Elementals, I don't know if I would really like to be one but if I had to choose probably water.

    All the best.

    Carol (International)

    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

  9. You haven't told us much about Air and Fire elementals, but I think being an Air elemental would be interesting and usful in day to day life.
    I can see how telephone and electricity bills would be greatly reduced ;-)

    Thank you for the (international) giveaway!


  10. Jennifer - I think this book looks more interesting than your superhero series. I kind of like the idea ofa female assassin.

    As far as elementals go, a stone elemental sounds pretty good. Hardening your skin could prevent all kinds of injuries.

    SciFiGuy, thanks for the contest and the interview questions were interesting. I can never think of smart things to ask someone.

  11. Reviews i've read for Spider Bite sound amazing so im looking forward to getting it, and reading it of course :)

    Jennifer..Which of your characters do you feel is most like/and not like you?

    If i had to be an elemental i would be fire, because i could warm myself if im cold, control the heat when im hot, and if i ever need to survive- i can heat water, cook food, make a fire etc etc.

    Im an international entrant.

    bianca.riot.08 at hotmail dot com

  12. Great interview! I would love to be a water elemental. I have always loved to be in the ocean or the pool so controling it would be too cool.


  13. Been hearing great things about Jen's new series. I loved her superhero books also.

    Jennifer, what is your typical writing day like? I am trying to balance everything myself and sometimes it can be very difficult!

  14. Great interview SciFi. Both of these series look very interesting. Fantastic covers. Sounds like this is an author to watch for big things. Hey, I've been to Ashland.

    I would be fire. As a matter of fact, it goes back to a nickname I had when I was younger.

    Thanks for the chance to read this. Elie

  15. What a cool new series!

    I'm loving the stone elemental. That's a new one for me. It's usually Earth but having it be specifically stone is super cool!

    And I love that 3 books will be published the same year! I'm so sick of having to wait a year or more for the next installment of my favorite series. :(

  16. Hi, everyone! Thanks for all the nice words about Spider's Bite. I appreciate them! ;-)

    Van -- I love to read, of course. I also like cooking, hanging out with friends and family, and playing D&D games.

    Lynette -- Your job sounds really cool. I'd love to be able to work with books all day, every day.

    Barbara -- Right now, I'm under contract for five books in the Elemental Assassin series. That will let me wrap up the first main story arc with Gin and her nemesis. Of course, I want to write more books in the series beyond that, but we'll see how it goes.

    Tiah -- Indeed. We're supposed to get more than an inch of rain where I live today, maybe along with some ice.

    Wanda -- I think all of the elemental powers would be cool to have.

    Aye -- I don't mind the little, itty bitty spiders. I don't kill those. But I have been known to wallop the big, fat, hairy-looking spiders. Those creep me out!

    Buddy -- Yep, it's a pun on the James Bond book/series.

    HWM -- Air and Fire elementals have some interesting powers too. Obviously, Fire elementals are all about creating fire. Air elementals can do things like use oxygen in the air to heal wounds -- or use those same molecules to rip the skin from your flesh!

    Mardel -- Thanks! Hardening her skin is one of the powers that Gin has in the book.

    Bianca -- I'm a lot like Gin in that I'm pretty sassy and sarcastic just like she is (and I love to cook too). But then again, I'm not an assassin so I'm not like her at all in that respect!

    Cait -- Thanks!

    Katiebabs -- I know what you mean. I've been crazy busy with the launch of Spider's Bite. I work a day job, so I do my writing at night and on the weekends. I try to spend at least an hour each night doing book stuff, whether it's writing or catching up on e-mail or whatever. I work a couple more hours on Saturday and then most of the day on Sunday doing book stuff too. I just have to squeeze it in whenever I can!

    Elie -- There is a real Ashland in Kentucky, something I didn't realize until I'd already decided to use that name.

  17. Jessica -- Thanks! I'm excited that the first three books will be out this year too. I hate it when an author only puts out one book a year -- or you have to wait even longer for the next installment of a series that you really like.

  18. You won me at cheese fries. :D An author after my own heart.

    Having an ice power sounds like a cool element to control. Pun intended. :)

    Please enter my name in the contest for one of your books.

    Thank you!

  19. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Been seeing lots of buzz on book blogs about this new series. Congrats on the new release.

    I would like to be an air elemental. I think it would be fun to glide as Aereon of the Chronicles of Riddick.

    cheleooc at yahoo dot com

  20. Vslave -- They are a weakness of mine. Just talking about them makes me want to go get some for lunch!

    Daelith -- Thanks!

  21. Jennifer,

    it sounds like a really good book. What made you use a barbque pit as a setting for the book?

    I'd be an air elemental. i'd be able to go anywhere.

    sgiden AT verizon DOT net

  22. Sandy -- I'm a Southern girl, and when I started writing the book, I knew that I wanted to give it a Southern vibe. And I thought what's more Southern than great barbecue?

    I had actually created the Pork Pit for a mystery novel that I'd written a couple of years ago, and I thought that it would make a great set piece for Spider's Bite. The idea just kind of flowed from there.

  23. I think I would want to be Air. I could conjure a cool breeze whenever I wanted :)
    throuthehaze at gmail dot com

  24. Hi Jennifer!
    thanks for being here - that was a fantastic interview :)
    I would be a fire elemental - my star sign is the lion and fire would be perfect *gg*
    wish you all the best,

    inale87 at gmx dot at

  25. I love the potential of the ice elemental. It seems like there are things about it that wouldn't be readily apparent (like the lock picks).

    I've been reading such great things about Spider's Bite, so I'm looking forward to reading it!

  26. Great interview. Spider's Bite sounds good. I love the cover. I would want to be a fire elemental so I could keep warm during the winter.


  27. Throuthaze -- That would be handy.

    Ina -- No problem. I really like guest blogging because it lets me interact with so many different folks.

    Renee -- Thanks. I hope you enjoy it!

  28. Hmmmm cheese fries! (Also--fangirl? FTW!) =) Awesome interview Jennifer!


    Christine, from Canada

    chrissy dot morin at gmail dot com

  29. Crystal -- Another handy elemental power to have. I could use that one right now! ;-)

    Christine -- Thanks!

  30. I love the spider theme in the titles. If I had to pick an element it would be water.

    lizzi0915 at aol dot com

  31. I would definitely be a water elemental as I've spent half of my life in a swimming pool. I would love to control the moisture in the air and see what I could do.

    Great interview!

    icewoman96 at gmail dot com

  32. Ah, I loved the A-Team trailer too. Who's your favorite team member? I like Murdock in the original series and I'm excited to see what they do with this one.

    Spider's Bite is on my wish list, and I'd like to be entered in the giveaway.

    macmomma2099 (at) yahoo (dot) com

  33. Bethie -- I like the spider titles a lot too.

    Stephanie -- Thanks!

    Laura -- Murdock and Hannibal are my favorites from the TV show -- mainly because I always thought Hannibal was just as crazy as Murdock. I think the movie will be good as long as it tries to be cheesy fun just like the show was and not take itself too seriously. Know what I mean?

  34. Great interview. I am looking forward to starting this series.

    What is your favorite part of writing paranormal stories?

    I think I would like to be a nice light floaty air elemental.

    Linked on sidebar -

    bacchus76 at myself dot com

  35. That is the first time I've seen the A-team trailer. Thanks for passing it on. I use to spend every Saturday watching like 10 eps in a row. So, who is your favorite character? I always loved BA. Favorite part of the series for me is when they built some cool destruction machine. Hmmm...maybe that's why I became an engineer.

    Anyway, I am very excited about Spider Bite, and I can't believe you have 3 books out this year. Do you sleep? I'd LOVE to win a copy!!!


  36. posted at twitter:


  37. Great interview! I've been see such good buzz around the blogosphere about Spider's Bite and am looking forward to reading it. If I had to chose an elemental it would be ice. I would use it to make the ice get off my sidewalk ;) And using it to make a lock pick for when I forget my keys would be cool too.

  38. Donna -- Typing "The End." LOL. I also really like writing action scenes.

    Heatwave -- BA was always funny/entertaining when he and Murdoch were fighting. They had some of the best scenes/lines in the whole show.

    Heather -- Thanks! And yep, ice lock picks would definitely come in handy for that.

  39. This book is on the radar here. I am going to have to get it, as it sounds like a great adventure and mystery.

    I think I would like to be an elemental with stone as well. Even though air sounds very tempting.

    Thanks for the great giveaway!

  40. Melissa -- No problem. And I hope you enjoy Spider's Bite.

  41. I have read so many great reviews on this book. Can't wait to get it in my hands. I think an earth elemental would be great. I love to garden and it would be awesome to have the power to make my yards even prettier. I love finding a new author(to me) and I have already started running down copies of your earlier books. Welcome to my TBR pile.

    alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com

  42. I love the cover of this book! Also, I'd want to be a stone elemental.

    spiffyish at hotmail dot com

  43. Jennifer - I've been hearing such great things about this book - Congratulations! Oh, and I <3 the A-Team too.

    I think I'd like to be fire just because it seems pretty bad-a$$ (and I'm always cold in real life).
    pspinney at cox dot net

  44. Lisa -- Thanks! I hope you enjoy my books.

    TJ -- Me too. And I also love the cover for Web of Lies. I can't decide which one I like better!

    Patti -- Thanks! I'm planning to watch my A-Team DVDs again before the movie comes out. Yeah, I'm a total fangirl. ;-)

    I know what you mean about being cold in real life. My significant other always tells me that I have ghoul touch because my hands are so cold.


    Please enter me in the giveaway.

    I would like to be fire elemental

  46. I am anxious to read this book, I have been hearing a lot about it.

    I would love to have power over fire (etc). I am not sure of the usefulness of it, unless I was fighting baddies. But it would be my preference.

    patronus89013 at yahoo dot com

  47. Hey!
    Great interview. I've been dying to read this book!

    -I think I'd either want to be a earth elemental.. or a air elemental.. float type? haha


  48. Another great interview!
    I choose Fire because for me it represents energy and strength... pretty powerful stuff :P


  49. Excellent fun! I have Jennifer's JINX, etc trilogy/series on the WWBL (Wanton Wantin' Book List), now adding SPIDER'S BITE, etc there, too.

    I think Air Elemental would be pretty nifty....could blow some fierce wind on someone who's pizzing me off, have a nice breeze for those I like. Blow the leaves off the lawn instead of raking those damned cottonwood leaves every freakin' fall.

    I love chili cheese fries second to chili cheese Fritos

    Princess Bride is a huge guilty pleasure

    My DH is from that area of the Appalachians.....

  50. I would like to be a fire elemental. There is something so hot about it ;D

    I look forward to Jen's new series!

    faked_sugartone at hotmail


  51. شركة تنظيف خزانات بالمدينة المنورة وشقق بالمدينة المنورة شركة غسيل خزانات ومكافحة حشرات بالمدينة المنورة ونقل عفش بالمدينة المنورة مؤسسة صفوة المدينة
    شركة تنظيف خزانات بالمدينة المنورة
    شركة مكافحة حشرات بالمدينة المنورة مؤسسة صفوة المدينة انها الاولى فى مكافحة ورش الحشرات بالمدينة المنورة رش البق رش الصراصير مكافحة النمل الابيض بالمدينة المنورة
    شركة مكافحة حشرات بالمدينة المنورة


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