Friday, May 1, 2009

An Interview With Jenna Petersen

by Nicki Salcedo

Jenna Petersen started writing full-time in 1999 when her husband said, “You’re only happy when you’re writing, why don’t you do that?” In 2004, her dream came true when her literary agent called to say she’d just sold two books. Since then, she’s been a Waldenbooks Mass Market bestseller, a Bookscan bestseller and won the Bookbuyers Best Award for Best Historical Romance.

In addition, she has run The Passionate Pen since 1999. This popular site for aspiring authors contains information on literary agents, publishing houses, articles about writing and the industry, links and Jenna’s Diary toward and beyond publication. This year the site celebrates its ten-year anniversary with events and prizes each month.

You can find Jenna online at and

How did you get started in your writing career?

I started writing full-time in 1999. My husband was working nights and I started fiddling with a project I’d written in college. Soon I was hooked and we decided that was the path I should pursue. In 2004, my agent called to say I’d sold two books to Avon and my mainstream publishing career began. Since then I’ve published 12 books (ten with Avon) and have four more contracted in the next couple of years. So I’m very blessed to be where I am!

Your stories are well-known for being sexy and sexier. Do you plot? Do you know what will happen at the end of the book before you start writing?

I am most definitely a plotter. I do detailed character work, synopses and then what I call “scene sketches” before I write anything. I find I work best when I know where I’m going.

You’ve written historicals. Do you have any other genres up your sleeve?

You know, I get this question a lot. I know many authors branch out into other sub-genres, but I’m most interested in writing historicals. That’s where I get my ideas and where I get excited about actually writing those ideas. So as long as they keep buying them, that’s what I’ll keep writing.

You’ve got an active web presence. What’s happening on your website? How do you balance your time? What’s your average day like?

I do like the web, it’s a great place to connect with readers and other writers. I have my author site, where you can see all the sneak peeks of my upcoming and existing books, enter contests and check out my favorite things (and pictures of my cats). I update it every month, so there’s always something new.

Then I have my site for authors, The Passionate Pen. It turns ten this year, so we’re having a big Ten-Year Anniversary Celebration. Every month there is a new interview with a publishing professional and a new contest with big prizes! You can check that out at .

Finally, you can also find me on Facebook and MySpace where I have very active pages.

Balancing the time is easier for me because I don’t have kids, and I write full-time. On a typical day when I’m working on a book, I do email and other online type things for half an hour to an hour first. Then I write with a few breaks here and there until I hit my page goal for the day. If I have time, the rest of my day is dedicated to other online and promotional things or to just… you know… screwing around. LOL! Some days I have more time than others.

Tell us about your most recent release?

I actually had two books out last month. On March 31 my Jenna Petersen historical romance release, HER NOTORIOUS VISCOUNT hit shelves. Then on April 21, my latest Jess Michaels erotic historical romance, TABOO, became available.

In HER NOTORIOUS VISCOUNT, my hero Nicholas, bored with the life of a gentleman, has dissolved into the underground and become a boxer. But when his twin brother tragically dies, he is forced back into Society. He turns to our heroine Jane to help “train” him back to manners. Jane agrees to do it, but only if Nicholas agrees to help find her own brother, who disappeared into the underground, himself. A bargain is struck, but the closer they come to each other and the truth, the more obvious it becomes that they might never be together.

In TABOO, my heroine Cassandra was once secretly engaged to our hero Nathan, but when she didn’t show up the night they were to elope, he disappeared to India. She went to London and became one of Society’s most popular seamstresses…. With a secret. She also designs naughty toys! But when Nathan returns he has revenge and blackmail on his mind, in the most pleasurable way possible.

I’m very excited about both releases and I hope readers enjoy them!

Jenna Petersen loves hearing from other writers and readers. We really appreciate her spending the day with us, and she appreciates everyone who has stopped by today! As a thank you to those who leave comments, you will be entered in a random drawing for copy of Jenna’s A RED HOT VALENTINE’S DAY, which has her story “By Valentine’s Day” in it under her Jess Michaels name.

You can learn more about Jenna at and


Sandy Elzie said...


Thank you for dropping by to spend the day with us. I haven't read any of your books...yet, but it's always exciting to try new authors.

Congratulations on your success.

Sandy Elzie

Maxine Davis said...

I look forward to your new books. Thank you for posting with PF&HT.
Hooray for your husband.
Encouragement is wonderful.

Since joining Ga. Romance Writers, I have learned the importance of plotting, chara. synopses, and scene sketches. I was impressed that you do these. I love to write; hope to join you one day as published.

I also enjoy the information on The Passionate Pen.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Hey Jenna:
Thank you so much for what you do with the Passionate Pen website. What a treasure trove that is of information and help.
Thanks also for blogging with us today. We really appreciate it. I love the little twist on your seamstress in TABOO. Naughty toys! How fun. I can see that my TBR pile is going to grow more!

Marilyn Baron said...

Thank you for blogging with us. I was interested to find out about the Passionate Pen Web site and learn more about how you write.Good luck with your recent releases.

Marilyn Baron

Nicki Salcedo said...

Jenna, thank you for being our friend and friend of romance writers everywhere. I think we can all take some advice from you on writing discipline and self-promotion/marketing.

I'd be curious if you think that there are any marketing pitfalls that you think new writers should be aware of.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

JennaPetersen said...

Thanks so much for having me today! And I hope if any of you do pick up a book of mine that you'll enjoy it! :) I'm happy to answer questions all day and I'll start with Nicki's...

I think marketing has to be a very personal thing. You have to figure out how much money you can/are willing to spend and also what you LIKE to do. If public speaking freaks you out, then conferences might be your thing, but if you love Facebook, you'll focus a lot of energy there, that sort of thing.

Also, be sure to try to figure out what you're getting for any dollar you spend. For instance, if you spend $300 to get promoted on a site and that site only gets 100 visitors a month... well, you just overpaid. Ask about statistics, ask about what you're getting for what you're paying. Otherwise you can throw a lot of money out there and not see much return.

Also don't forget that as an individual author it is almost impossible for you to reach a significant number of readers. Your publisher can do a better job of that, so writing books is your first job ALWAYS.

CiCi Barnes said...

Thanks for stopping by Jenna. Love your PassionatePen website.

And kudos to your hubby for the great support.

Looking forward to reading Taboo.


Stephanie J said...

It's always good to hear that other (successful, published!) authors plot and do scene sketches. I discovered that these are the key to my success so let's hope that translates to publishing success someday!

The Passionate Pen has great information out there. Thank you!

JennaPetersen said...

Thanks everyone! I'm so glad Passionate Pen has been helpful to so many people! I just updated the site for May and there is a new contest there.


J Perry Stone said...

The damn blogger ate my post.

Jenna! I am so thrilled you're here.

As you know, I'm all over Passionate Pen. It has been one of my most valuable writer resources. I've printed out so many pages, I have files in a filing cabinet authored by you.

And what's more important by far, you must know that so many of your historicals line my shelves (many of them signed).

Terrific interview. I love to read about new releases (Taboo sounds delish) and also about your writing process.


What are you favorite approaches to learning about your characters before you ever sit down to write them?

J Perry Stone said...

Ooo. I have another question.

Because you write both historical and hist erotica, do you ever get confused between the two? Do you ever look back and you historical rom and think, "Man, I steamed this one up"?

J Perry Stone said...

Okay, last one, I swear.

Where did you go to research 19th century sex toys?

Or did you simply rely upon your fertile imagination?

J--Running to tell Santa to get over here.

JennaPetersen said...

Hi again everyone! Thanks for all the nice comments. Now let me attack all of J. Perry's questions:

*What are you favorite approaches to learning about your characters before you ever sit down to write them?*

I actually have a character sheet in the articles section of Passionate Pen. That's what I use!

*Because you write both historical and hist erotica, do you ever get confused between the two? Do you ever look back and you historical rom and think, "Man, I steamed this one up"?*

I don't really get them confused. The erotic romances have a sexually based conflict, so that makes them different. But I do sometimes realize I've written a very steamy historical. LESSONS FROM A COURTESAN was one of them.

Oh and there's not much to research with the historical toys. LOL A few things here and there, but it mostly came from my own brain. LOL

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Wow! How is it I haven't made it to the Passionate Pen before? I'm definitely adding your site to my favorites, and I can't wait to try your new books.

I was going to ask a question, but I think J. got to them all before me!


J Perry Stone said...

First of all, I'm claiming Connie Brockway's typo disease.

Secondly, I already have that character sheet! What I don't have is any semblance of memory, apparently. Oy.

And yes, LFC most certainly was one of them. The chemistry and jealousy and torment was so achingly wonderful.

I'm feeling tingly.

Lastly, you know I'm going to be giggling to myself when I read the descriptions of those toys.

Bad, Jenna. I'm telling your mother (she's probably read it already, hasn't she?).


J Perry Stone said...

And Santa said she'll get here as soon as she can leave work.

J Perry Stone said...

Sadly, I have one more question, Jenna.

I think every author has a fan-favorite. Which book is yours, do you suppose?

Justin and Ria's story?

Anonymous said...

J. Perry, you KNOW I have read all of Jenna/Jess's books and Her Notorious Viscount and Taboo are my two new favorites. When I read Jenna/Jess's books they are my daughter's writing for about 10 pages and then it just becomes a good book and I lose track of who wrote it and just enjoy the story.


Susan May said...

Thanks for joining us today. I sat beside you at the Moonlight and Magnolias Conference booksigning last year. There was such a crowd around you that I had to buy a book to see what all the fuss was about. I enjoyed the book and look forward to reading the new ones.

Anna Steffl said...

I finished Lessons from a Courtesan not long ago and was quite enchanted! Taboo looks so fun. I'm getting a copy for my sister, too.

Thanks, too, for the Passionate Pen website. It has been a terrific resource for me.

JennaPetersen said...

J. Perry, I don't actually have a favorite. Maybe HER NOTORIOUS VISCOUNT at present...

Thanks again for having me today!! IT was lovely to be here and I am so glad to hear so many of you are enjoying the books! :)

Anonymous said...


Thank you for being the guest blogger this week. I am really looking forward to reading your books!

Caroline Z.

Tami Brothers said...

Ohhhh, those books look good. I'm definitely adding themt o my list.

THANKS a ton, Jenna, for blogging with us today. This was a great insight into the writer's life. I am very impressed and I'm one of those LEARNING the art of plotting and being more into planning.

AND I add my thanks for the Passionate Pen sight. That is an amazing resource....

Tami Brothers

J Perry Stone said...

Clarisse! LMAO.