INTERVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Jennifer Estep, Author of the Elemental Assassin series

Jennifer Estep writes the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series for Pocket Books. The books focus on Gin Blanco, an assassin codenamed the Spider who can control the elements of Ice and Stone. When she’s not busy killing people and righting wrongs, Gin runs a barbecue restaurant called the Pork Pit in the fictional Southern metropolis of Ashland. The city is also home to giants, dwarves, vampires, and elementals – Air, Fire, Ice, and Stone.

Books in the Elemental Assassin series include Spider’s Bite, Web of Lies, Venom, Tangled Threads, Spider’s Revenge, By a Thread, Widow’s Web, and Deadly Sting. Thread of Death, an e-novella, is also available. Heart of Venom, the ninth book, is due out on Aug. 27, 2013. The Spider, the tenth book, will be out on Dec. 24, 2013.

Kiss of Venom, an e-novella from Owen Grayson’s point of view, is new this week!


Kristin Centorcelli: Jennifer, will you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Have you always wanted to be a writer?

JE: My name is Jennifer Estep, and I’m the New York Times bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series for Pocket Books. I also write the Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series for Kensington. I’m also the author of the Bigtime paranormal romance series.

I always loved to read, and my mom used to take me to the library every week when I was a kid. So I think that my love of books and reading definitely grew out of that. One day, I thought that it would be fun to write my own book with my own characters and tell a story that I wanted to tell. I’ve been writing ever since.

KC: The 9th book in your Elemental Assassin series, Heart of Venom, arrives in August! Will you give us a bit of a teaser?

JE: Like the other books in the series, Heart of Venom focuses on Gin Blanco, an assassin codenamed the Spider who can control the elements of Ice and Stone. When she’s not busy killing people and righting wrongs, Gin runs a barbecue restaurant called the Pork Pit in the fictional Southern metropolis of Ashland. The city is also home to giants, dwarves, vampires, and elementals – Air, Fire, Ice, and Stone.

In >Heart of Venom, one of Gin’s friends is attacked and another is kidnapped, so it’s up to Gin to track down the bad guys and save her friend.

KC: When you started the series, did you have in mind how many books you’d like to write, or did you just decide to see where the story took you?

JE: When I started writing, I had a story arc in mind with a villain that I thought would probably play out over five books or so (which it did). But sometimes, when I read a book where folks overcome all of these great villains and obstacles, I always wonder what the characters do next. What are the consequences of slaying the dragon and saving the kingdom? What new problems and challenges arise from that?

So I thought that it would be fun to explore what happens after Gin defeats her nemesis and what the consequences of that are, which is what I’ve been doing in the last few books in the series. But it’s almost like a domino effect in that solving one problem leads to a new one to tackle. So now, I am just seeing where the story and characters take me.

KC: In your writing, are you a plotter or a pantser?

JE: I’m definitely a panster. I don’t do a lot of detailed outlines, character profiles, or anything like that. I think about my main character, her magic/powers, and the main turning points of the story. When I have those in mind, I sit down and start writing.

I try to write at least a few thousand words a day until I have a rough draft. Once I’m done with that, I go back through and see if the story holds together, if the characters are interesting, what changes need to be made, etc. Then, I get to work on my second draft, filling in more of the details of the world building, magic, descriptions, dialogue, etc. I usually do that a couple of times until I have a finished book that is the best that I can make it. It’s just the method that works for me.

KC: What do you enjoy most about writing the Elemental Assassin series?

JE: I really enjoy writing fight scenes, which I do a lot of in the series, since Gin is an assassin. I also enjoy writing about food, which is something else that I do a lot of, since Gin owns a barbecue restaurant.

But I would say that the thing that I enjoy the most about writing any of my series is getting a nice e-mail or comment from someone saying that they are enjoying my books. That is what makes all of the long hours at the computer worthwhile.

KC: Who, or what, are some of the biggest influences on your writing?

JE: As I mentioned before, I would say my mom is one of my biggest influences, just because she’s the one who got me so interested in books and reading in the first place.

I like to read books with a little bit of everything in them – action, magic, danger, adventure, romance – so those are the kind of books that I like to write. Also, folks always say to write what you know. I live in the South, so many of my books and characters also have a Southern vibe to them.

KC: Along with the Elemental Assassin series, you also write the Mythos Academy series for young adults! Whew! When you’re not at work on your next project, how do you like to spend your free time?

JE: I’m almost always working on one book project or another. But when I do have free time, I like to read, watch movies/TV, and hang out with family and friends.

KC: What’s next for you?

JE: I have several projects out this summer. Spartan Frost, an e-novella in my Mythos Academy series, was released on June 25. Midnight Frost, the fifth book in the series, will be published on July 30.

Kiss Of Venom, an e-novella in my Elemental Assassin series, will be released on July 22. Heart Of Venom, the ninth book in the series, will be published on Aug. 27.

“Parlor Tricks”, a short story set in my Elemental Assassin world, will be included in the Carniepunk anthology that will be released on July 23.

“PARLOR TRICKS” is also available now as a free e-download.

Happy reading, everyone!


GIVEAWAY (U.S. Only): Win a Copy of DEADLY STING by Jennifer Estep

SF Signal has a copy of Deadly Sting by Jennifer Estep to give away to 1 lucky SF Signal reader!

Here’s the book description:

Red is definitely my color. Good thing, because in my line of work, I end up wearing it a lot.

Most people shy away from blood, but for an assassin like me— Gin Blanco, aka the Spider—it’s just part of the job. Still, it would be nice to get a night off, especially when I’m attending the biggest gala event of the summer at Briartop, Ashland’s fanciest art museum. But it’s just not meant to be. For this exhibition of my late nemesis’s priceless possessions is not only the place to be seen, but the place to be robbed and taken hostage at gunpoint as well. No sooner did I get my champagne than a bunch of the unluckiest thieves ever burst into the museum and started looting the place.

Unlucky why? Because I brought along a couple of knives in addition to my killer dress. Add these to my Ice and Stone magic, and nothing makes me happier than showing the bad guys why red really is my color.

And here’s how you can enter for a chance to win:

  1. Send an email to contest at sfsignal dot com. (That’s us).
  2. In the subject line, enter ‘Deadly Sting
  3. In the email, In the email, please provide your mailing address so the books can be mailed as soon as possible. (The winning address is used only to mail the prize and, like all other address info, will be purged once the giveaway ends.)
  4. Geographic restrictions: This giveaway is only open to residents of the U.S.
  5. The giveaway will end Monday, July 29th, 2013 (9:00 PM U.S Central time). The winners will be selected at random, notified, and announced shortly thereafter.

Good luck!