Interview
Amazon.com: For a lot of people out there New Jersey means Bruce Springsteen and Stephanie Plum. She's replaced the turnpike as a symbol.
Janet Evanovich: I love that! I think the people of New Jersey have this great sense of humor about themselves, and Stephanie Plum has what we perceive of as being the Jersey attitude. And since I'm a Jersey girl I get to have some fun with it too. I can take Stephanie down to Point Pleasant and Seaside and do my research down there in the summertime on the Jersey shore.
Amazon.com: Stephanie is both amazingly unlucky and amazingly lucky. Terrible things happen to her every day, but she always gets what she's after in the end.
Evanovich: She's a very bad bounty hunter, but she's a very good woman, and she listens to her womanly instincts. And she knows what's morally correct. And I think this is what ultimately brings her success. She is resilient, she's tenacious, but she's also very vulnerable, and she's also struggling to do a job that she's probably not very qualified for. I think that Stephanie is the woman that we are, but she's also the woman we would like to be.
Amazon.com: She's a role model partly because she can laugh at herself.
Evanovich: She's very positive. I think I brought this with me as a romance writer. If a romance is done right, it makes you feel better about yourself and about all the people around you; you're a kinder, gentler person for that story. And I tried to put that into the Plum series. When you read this I want you to feel good about yourself, I want you to like your husband better, I want you to be nicer to your dog. When you're done with the book, you feel good. You think, hey, this world is okay. And you go through the next couple of days with a smile on your face.
My books are very popular with people who have had a hard time, with people who have lost someone that they loved. I get a lot of letters from women who have had mastectomies, saying, I take your book with me when I'm having chemo because it allows me to laugh while I'm doing this. If Stephanie can get through the day, then I can get through the day too.
Amazon.com: The Web site your daughter Alex runs for you (www.evanovich.com) is getting a lot of traffic now. How has it changed your working life?
Evanovich: It allows me to be a year-round entertainer and stay in touch with my readers. And that's a unique thing, because traditionally authors sit at home alone and have very little contact with the people who buy their product. Even when you go on a book tour, it's so limited; someone passes in front of the desk and you say hello and you sign your book and that's it.
But with the Web site we get lots of e-mail and a better understanding of who's buying the book and how diverse the audience is. I find out what the people like about the series and don't like about the series. And we get a feeling that these people are part of the world of Plum now. They come on to the site and participate in games and talk to each other and send me e-mail, and we can communicate year-round. And I think this is a pretty special thing, that the Internet has allowed us to keep this contact going.
Amazon.com: Has e-mail caught up with snail-mail?
Evanovich: Oh, e-mail has far surpassed snail-mail. We get maybe 30 pieces of snail-mail a day, and we handle that in New Hampshire. But we get 500 pieces of e-mail a day, and Alex manages that from San Francisco.
Amazon.com: What with that, and hitting the New York Times bestseller list at No. 1, you're now in the phenomenon category.
Evanovich: We could see what was happening on the Web site, and we knew that we were picking up readers year-round, so we knew we were going to have this surge in book buying. But we never really expected that it would be this exciting. I thought maybe I would be in the top 10 on the bestseller list, but in fact the book really jumped onto it.
I think it's due to Alex, who has worked really hard on the site and is brilliant--I can say that of my daughter. One of the things that has really helped us is that the site is very innovative and is always changing, and as technology increases it gives us more opportunity. Alex is going to start putting home movies on it now. As more people get DSL and cable and have faster connections, we can provide them with more fun things to do.
Amazon.com: One of the low-tech but really innovative things that you've done is your book-naming contest. When did that start?
Evanovich: This is our fourth year. We did it for book four, five, and six, and now we have a contest going on for number seven. It goes from April 1 to September 1 each year, and thousands of people enter.
It has the added advantage that I don't have to think of a title. And the truth is, I am not nearly as creative as my readers, who send titles in that would never have occurred to me. We don't always necessarily use the titles that I think are best; last time I wanted it to be called Six Shooter, and Alex liked Twisted Sixter. But the marketing department picked Hot Six, which is fine. I love getting to take a look at these titles--some of them are just amazing.
Amazon.com: What would Stephanie be like with a computer? Would she have the same bad luck she has with cars?
Evanovich: Well, you know, Stephanie's no dummy; she's a college graduate. I think that probably she'll get a computer some day, and she'll be pretty smart at it. Of course, one of the reasons why I think that is that a lot of Stephanie is modeled after Alex; that's how I keep my character honest. Stephanie has my reactions, and physically she's Alex. Alex is 5 feet 7 inches tall and big-boned, and so is Stephanie. Alex is kind of a kick-ass kind of person, with that soft center, and that's Stephanie. They listen to the same kind of music, they wear the same kind of shoes. They even have the same cars--Stephanie has destroyed many of Alex's cars. So, since Alex is good at computers there's no doubt in my mind Stephanie would be good at computers.
Amazon.com: So what about Stephanie's love life? I have to say I didn't for a minute think she and Joe are going to ride off into the sunset together and get married in the next book. What is going to happen?
Evanovich: Well, I don't want to turn this into a romance novel. And my favorite part of this is the chase, so I can't see Stephanie settling down any time soon; this is my vicarious pleasure, seeing what happens between Stephanie and Joe and Stephanie and Ranger. And I'll keep going with that as long as I can. I don't want to turn her into a slut or anything, I have to be careful, but I like the play now between her and the two men.
Amazon.com: So, it could keep going until book 22?
Evanovich: I don't know. I have to say I'm struggling, because these are adults and it's unrealistic to think that you can keep them apart forever; that's not human nature. But I do the best I can.
Amazon.com: So what about Stephanie's upcoming movie career?
Evanovich: It looks like she will be a television heroine right now. I don't think the movies have been ruled out. Tri-Star has it all in preproduction, but the latest feeling is that they're going to do a pilot and see about taking Stephanie to television for an hour-long series.
Amazon.com: Is there anyone you imagine playing her?
Evanovich: I think it could be some unknown. The only person right now that I can really look at and say, yeah, that would work, would probably be Julia Louis-Dreyfus, because I think she has terrific comedy timing. There's a certain edge to her personality, and she has great hair. Hair is very important!
Amazon.com: If Stephanie had a female role model, who would it be?
Evanovich: Well, it would probably be Grandma Mazur. Nothing stops Grandma! She has this great joy for life. But hmmm… Well, actually Stephanie's role model is Wonder Woman.
Amazon.com: I can see that. Big hair, tight outfit, can do anything.
Evanovich: Yeah, with a golden lasso. If it was a person it would be Grandma Mazur, but as a superhero, it would probably be something between Barbie and Wonder Woman. Someone whose cups sort of overfloweth. I think that's something Stephanie aspires to.