Friday, March 2, 2012

Author Interview: Jennifer Quail

Our interview today features Jennifer Quail, author of Strange Roads: Book One of Omens in the Night.

Jennifer Walker: Where can we find out more about you and buy your book?

Jennifer Quail: You can find a page for the series on Facebook at where you'll find character bios, links to interviews, and photos, visit the blog at, and check me out at the Independent Author Network at I'm also on Twitter @stmpnksweets

Jennifer Walker: Tell us about your book.

Jennifer Quail: Strange Roads is the first book in the Omens in the Night series. Set in Washington, D.C. in more or less the present day (I'm deliberately vague, and no, you won't find out a president's name for a while!) it's about two seemingly ordinary people, Alan Graves and Elaine Gates. Alan is a self-described 'just off the turnip truck' Senate staffer from California. Mildly liberal with a penchant for wanting to save the world, Alan's finding D.C. not quite what he expected. Elaine is a former Navy test pilot whose career came to a literal crashing halt when it had barely begun, and she finds herself at loose ends. Apparently-chance encounters with two strange antique-shop owners lead them into a mysterious world of magic, vampires, ancient secrets, and a shared destiny . . . whether they want to go along with it or not.

Jennifer Walker: Where did you get the idea for the story?

Jennifer Quail: Alan and Elaine are actually the last refugees from my very first attempt at writing a 'grown-up' novel. I was fourteen and trying to write like Allen Drury ("Advise and Consent"), so you can imagine how that worked out. I moved on to other things (including the now-defunct story that created Val and Nadia, the secondary leads in this book) but I kept coming back to these characters, and not wanting to waste them. I don't actually remember when the idea of combining D.C., politics, and magic really came together, or how exactly I tweaked out the magical system they use. Some of the details for the final draft, like setting the climatic fight in Congressional Cemetery, really only came together after I went back and spent a vacation just exploring things I'd never gotten round to seeing when I lived there. The plot itself is pretty basic--good vs. evil, with the adventure story race for a MacGuffin--but the details got picked and pried from a lot of different places.

Jennifer Walker: What other projects do you have coming up?

Jennifer Quail: Right now, I'm focusing on the second Omens in the Night book, The Demon that is Dreaming, which will take Alan and Elaine past the initial shock of finding out who they are and out of immediate danger to life and limb and give them some time to process what's happening to them and really figure out how that's going to change their lives. Meanwhile, there are new characters to introduce (one in particular my advance reader's been very excited about), and of course they'll have more magical trouble to confront. I've also been working on short stories for other markets, and one of those may spin off into a novel of its own. We'll see! I'm also tentatively poking at a non-fiction project about Titanic's three senior officers, Lightoller, Murdoch, and Wilde, from the perspective of their wives (Lightoller was married more than fifty years, Murdoch's widow never remarried, and Wilde had become a widower a little over a year before the sinking) as I think much about the officers and their families have been overlooked in favor of the passengers with more 'glamour' stories.

Jennifer Walker: Do you write full time? If so, tell us how you manage it. If not, what is your day job?

Jennifer Quail: Oh, lord, no. I don't have that kind of money. My main 'day job' is as the education programming coordinator for a small museum, and I also make and sell steampunk-themed jewelry and resell vintage and antique items on Etsy.

Jennifer Walker: What was the hardest part: writing the book, getting it published, or marketing it? Why?

Jennifer Quail: Getting it finished and reaching a point where I could step back and say 'this is it'. Since it's just a self-publish at this point, publishing was easy--anyone with an internet connection can use Amazon or CreateSpace. (On a side note, I am not one of those bitter 'indies' who has it in for real publishers and agents. I've never had anything but good responses and personalized rejection letters, where the main point is that it is a hard book to market as it's not the stereotypical urban fantasy where the girl with the tramp stamp's being courted by the vampire and the werewolf.) Marketing isn't much hard as expensive and time-consuming. Mostly the toughest part is finishing, and acknowledging that I'm finished.

Jennifer Walker: Tell us a little about your non-writing life. Family? Pets? Hobbies?

Jennifer Quail: As it says on my IAN author page, I'm an owner of dogs (a secondhand farm dog and a Pembroke Corgi from the county shelter), manager of cats, and keeper of a retired racehorse (who has his own blog, ReRider Who's Lucky To Cope. Lucky To Cope being his registered name.) As the number of cats indicates, I'm single and apparently have a small cat hobo sign written somewhere on my house that says "A soft touch lives here," The horse is my second ex-racehorse and the first I've bought and worked with largely on my own. Lucky was a reasonably-successful mid-level claimer and low-level allowance horse whose last trainer wanted to keep him as a pony horse, and he's good quiet fun to toodle around on. I'm trying not to get sucked back into showing in any big way as that would cut into time and money for my "big" hobby, pro-am ballroom dance. I love sparkly dresses, being the center of attention, and competing at anything, so it's pretty much tailor-made for me! I started dancing when I lived in Boston and was lucky enough to find a great teacher not too far from me when I moved back to Michigan.

Jennifer Walker: Is your famly supportive of your writing?

Jennifer Quail: Well, my parents have put up with my constant scribbling since I first starting writing stories down. In fact my mother and brother are two of my advance readers (my friend Laurie being the other person most often subjected to discussions of my imaginary people) and my dad knuckled down and read my book, even though it's not his favored genre. My uncle also bought several copies to give to my aunt and their children after I signed them, while another aunt apparently downloaded the e-book. Now if I just get all the rest of my relatives to buy it, I'd be doing really well!

Jennifer Walker: If you could travel to anywhere in the world, where would it be, and with whom?

Jennifer Quail: Well, I'm getting a start on it this summer--I've never gone on any kind of cruise, so I'm starting small with a five-day trip to New York, Halifax, and Boston on the Queen Mary 2. (Perhaps there'll be puffins!) But if I could go ANYWHERE, I suppose I'd like to go to Great Britain with lots of time to explore, especially in the north and Scotland. I don't suppose with anyone as I'm not married so I don't have anyone to travel with. More practically, at some point I need to visit more places for writing--Alan is from Sacramento, but I've never been there, and of course Val being who he is at some point I do have to go to Rome (though Pompeii might be more helpful as far as seeing it how he saw it!) And, without giving too much away about future books, seeing Alaska might be quite useful. Bur finding time for a vacation that's not doubling as a dance competition is never easy!

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