Local author talks about writing fiction

“Writing always terrified me, so I’m baffled how I got here,” she said, laughing.

Truex’s Valentine romantic mysteries feature a sleuthing couple living in a fictional town in central Virginia. Tess is a former lawyer turned lingerie shop owner who craves chocolate, and Jack is a business man. Through the books they marry and continue to get entangled in murder.

Currently there are five books and a novella in the series, Truex said.

Another of Truex’s works, the Southern Heat series, is a contemporary romance series that also takes place in fictional Virginia town. Each book in that series involves a southerner and a northerner.

“In this series, I highlight southern language and culture, so the setting is also a character, to a certain extent,” said Truex. “There is humor and romance, but also angst and sadness in each of the books. They include intimate scenes, which I’d rate 3.5 to 4 out of 5 in the heat scale.”

Nowadays publishers like a series of books featuring the same characters as opposed to a single novel; particularly in the romance or mystery genre.

“What I like best about a series is that I can use characters I know well,” said Truex. “It’s easier to write future books because I know what they’re going to think and do. I suppose the disadvantage would be getting tired of the characters, but in my case that hasn’t happened. I enjoyed writing single stand-alone novels, but as I mentioned before, developing fully-fleshed out characters is a challenge for me.”

Truex said she prefers romantic mystery over straight romance. “I’m a die-hard romantic, but what I really enjoy is committed passionate couples who sometimes get into trouble. What I enjoy about fiction is the ability to create the characters and write the stories I’d like to read. This is especially true for my romantic mysteries, because there aren’t many mystery series that have the level of intimacy you read in romance novels.”

Writers will often talk about the downside of writing fiction, such as struggling to finding an audience, appealing to a wide range of literary tastes, and dealing with writer’s block.

“I struggle with creating new characters and plotting. I start with a surface idea, but books are driven by fully-formed characters and a plot. It takes me a while to get that all fleshed out. Sometimes I worry it won’t ever come together,” Truex said. “I long for the day when Apple or Microsoft invents a doodad that I can plug into my head while I’m sleeping and download my stories to my computer.”

One of the most difficult parts of the writing process is to be able to find the time to write. Truex makes a point of writing 1,000 words a day. “It adds up quickly,” she said.

“I wish I could plot more, but find that most of the story evolves through the writing process,” she said. She admitted her weaknesses are describing settings and human emotion and strives to find the words that describe the images in her mind.

Under her pen name Jenna Harte, Truex is both traditionally published and self-published. The decision to self-publish the Valentine mystery series came from the inability to find an agent who would take a gamble on the concept.

“Several publishers liked the first book but pushed me to sell it as a stand-alone romance,” she said. “I always wanted to do a mystery with a romantic couple but agents and publishers are sensitive to retailers. No one felt it would fit into the mystery genre and romance series do not continue with the same couple. I have noticed some changes in this area.”

For her romance series, Truex found an agent after waiting two years for a response from a publisher who was intrigued in the beginning but never followed through as her manuscript sat, gathering dust.

“In self-publishing, I have to spend money on cover design and editing,” she said. “It’s time-consuming to format and take care of all the details a publisher would. But the advantage is that I can get it published faster, I earn more and get paid more frequently than in traditional publishing, and if I need to make a change to the book or how the book is listed in stores, I can take care of it on my own.”

Truex said traditional publishing comes with perks such as the clout that goes with having a publisher buy the book, having the publisher take care of all the editing and cover design, and receiving the benefit of distribution into bookstores. While all book stores can order books, she said, not all will carry the book, and even then, they’ll only carry it if they can return what doesn’t sell.

Truex recognizes the changes in publishing in the digital age and markets her books accordingly. Currently she uses Facebook as one of her favorite methods of marketing. She says she finds most of her fans through networking with other authors.

Currently Truex is working on a traditional cozy mystery, then book six of the Valentine mysteries, which will have the couple returning to her home city of San Francisco.
Meant to Be, the second in the Southern Heat romance series, will be released on Sept. 27, and the final one, Wed to You, will be published in January 2017.
Under the pen name of Jenna Harte, the books are available at Amazon or online at Barnes and Noble. They are available on Kindle for e-book readers and the Southern Heat books are also available on Nook, iBooks, and Kobo.

For more information about the author and her books, visit JennaHarte.com.

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