Welcome back. How's your Monday going?
I hope it's going well. If not, this may help improve your day.
It's time for another author interview! This time, I have the multi-genre author, Janie Franz!
Janie Franz comes from a long line of Tennessee liars and storytellers. Semi-retired from freelance journalism, Franz now writes fantasy, anthropology paranormal thrillers, time-warp novels, psychic murder mysteries, cozy occult novels, contemporaries, and self-help books through Per Bastet Publishing and Seventh Star Press. She also runs River’s Edge Editorial Services, doing academic editing and business ghostwriting/writing.
Previously, Franz ran her own online music publication and was an agent/publicist for a groove/funk band, a radio announcer, an avid book reviewer, a yoga/relaxation instructor, a music festival publicist, and a private chef.
She lives in Las Cruces NM. When not writing, you’ll find her on a dancefloor.
Firefly – gone too soon or overrated?
I loved Firefly when it first came out. Loved, loved, loved it. I even have the DVD box set and Serenity. Recently, however, I watched the pilot again via streaming, and I wondered why I ever watched the show. When I moved into the next episode, I could see the old magic. It was the characters that always intrigued me. The pilot introduced them. My first exposure to Malcolm was tepid. He grew on me over the length of the series. I immediately loved Kaylee, Shepherd, Jayne, and Hoban and Zoe. Affection for the others came in time.
Reboots – a great idea or a lack of creativity?
There has been a flurry of reboots lately—of everything from Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and even Rom-Coms. I really to think that those represent a lack of creativity. Longstanding, popular series like Star Trek and Star Wars usually are continuing the saga, not reinventing it. Though, some of the Star Trek material has been re-envisioned taking some things on divergent journeys based on what ifs, like Spock showing emotion and having a girlfriend. But everything in the Star Trek and Star Wars cannon becomes the history of the both franchises. Reboots of sitcoms and rom-coms I really think are laziness. Some series should just be left alone because their eras are over. You can’t now recapture what really caught the viewers’ eyes then.
Favorite hangover recovery recipe?
Actually, not much works for a hangover when you get one, except time. I’m a lightweight, so I only have 1 or 2 with food. Even one more puts me on my butt. When I have a drink, I always make sure to drink plenty of water and if I’ve had 3, I’ll take Vitamin B.
Are you traditionally or self-published? Or both? Do you feel there are advantages to one over the other?
I’m currently published through two small presses. In 2021, the publisher I had 12 titles with closed its doors and took down all of my titles. I got my rights back and formatted copies of each book. I bought the rights for the covers. When I went searching for a new publisher, I thought of two that are run by people I knew and trusted. They split my back catalogue between them and took new material.
During the first year or two of the pandemic, I wrote 6 books—three new series. Seventh Star Press took my 6-part Bowdancer fantasy series and my new Nabaril time-warp series. Per Bastet took my contemporary novels, my short occult story, and my Ruins trilogy. Handful of Dirt, an occult murder mystery, is the first book in Allan Rodriguez Investigations series. It is a spin-off of the Ruins books. Per Bastet took the first two books of a new cozy mystery series that tentatively will be called The Wildcraft Mysteries.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? I started writing short things when I was eight but never finished a complete story until I was 12 in 7th grade. I wrote short stories in a creative writing class when I was 16, junior I high school. My teacher encouraged the small class of 5 (the rest were seniors) to try to publish. That was when I first learned about freelancing. Two of the seniors were jocks so they didn’t really participate much. The three of us had specialties. One boy wrote non-fiction and actually got a job writing sports articles for a local paper. The other girl besides myself was a poet but she sold a short story to a teen publication. I was the short story person and I sold an essay to that same teen publication and 2 poems to a religious publication.
I eventually wrote newspaper promo for a coffee house at 24 and later a lot of articles for a regional entertainment rag in my 30 and 40s. Eventually, I started freelancing and wrote cover and feature articles about everything for regional newspapers and magazines and national and international magazines, online publications, and specialty trade pulps for dentistry and the paving industry. I wrote about art, music, and dance. But music was my passion and interviewed a lot of classic folk and rock and roll musicians.
After telling everybody else’s stories, I decided it was time to take stuff literally out of drawers and finish them and try to get published. The first three books of my Bowdancer fantasy series were published in 2009. In 2010, I signed with MuseItUp Publishing. Both publishers were in Canada. The first publisher closed its doors 3 years after opening and I moved the Bowdancer books there.
Do you write novels, novellas, short stories, episodic fiction, poems, screenplays, or something else? What is your preferred format?
I started out writing short stories. I understood that format because I’d spent a lot of my younger life reading anthologies because I could read one in a sitting. Besides books I was required to read in high school and college (a lot of great classics, by the way), I’d never read a full-length novel until my father encouraged me to read a YA mystery with maps and clues. Then after high school, I found 2001 Space Odyssey and was hooked on sci-fi. I found fantasy and later mysteries and thrillers. I devoured them and spend about 10 years writing reviews of those genres. I also learned how to construct a novel.
The first book in the Bowdancer series really was a novella. I began to write longer pieces with my later novels just under 80,000 words.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book?
I didn’t really start out to write series. The first three Bowdancer books are stand alones but do follow the same character as she progresses through her life. The next three represent an overarching story. Someday, I hope to write three more to finish out that series.
The Runis trilogy just kept growing. The first two books are connected and extend the story. The third book takes place 11 years later and the new murder mystery that is a spin-off of that series takes place 11 years farther in time.
My new cozy series didn’t start out as a series but the story wasn’t finished at the end of the first book. I just kept writing and realized even in book 2 that more needed to be written.
The time-warp book was the only series that was intentionally a series. I had originally written a HUGE book (by hand, by the way) that was the ground work for books 1 and 2. It was so big it had to be divided into two books. But as I entered that into my computer, I started literally tossing out pages here and there. I’d be saying, “She wouldn’t do that!” The pages would land on my office floor. “She’s too wimpy here. She’s not like that!” Pages on the floor. This went on until I’d totally changed the feel and pace of the story. Book three was a totally veering away from what I had intended and Book four will be unknown territory.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
I think a lot of writers get this question. My ideas come from different sources. The first book in the Bowdancer series came from a meditation. I saw my character shoot a flaming arrow into a night sky. She came to be full blown into who she was and who she would continue to become.
As for ideas for my other books, they come from odd places. The Ruins series grew out of observing a man at a convenience store in AZ when I was visiting my father after my first child was born. His appearance just intrigued me and I wrote the first book based on that encounter.
I do a lot of research for most of my books. It’s true that if someone looked at my search history for ten years, I’d probably get a visit from some national law enforcement agency. I’ve researched herb lore (medicinal and poisons), swords and sword fighting, cannons, police procedures, what the coroner and that office does, how forensics works in the state I’m writing about, etc. I’ve had conversations with law enforcement, public defenders, deputy field investigators from the coroner’s office, herb specialists, horse trainers and ranchers, etc.
I also draw on places I’ve lived or visited, people I’ve known, people I observe, chance observations or conversations. It is true that authors absorb everything so that when we write, we have material to draw from.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters, if anything?
I acknowledge people, when I can, for inspiring a character. And I usually gift them a signed copy and my thanks for their inspiration.
Is there a trope you find yourself going back to in multiple works? Or one you avoid?
Most people think of tropes as literary conventions or phrases. There are also tropes in genre fiction. Because I write across genres and often combine genres, I probably use cinematic tropes and I know I don’t write according to most genre conventions. Though my books may end, there usually is a big shoe hanging in the sky waiting to come crashing down either between the end of one book and the next or at the beginning of the next. I think that’s just how I approach life. There always is something going to happen next.
As I thought about this question, I realize that trope might not apply but theme or type of character does. First, I write strong female characters. The male characters are often as complex as the female ones and have some sensitivity. In other words, male and female qualities are often found in any character.
I also write about lesbian, gay, and bi characters and drag queens. It’s not necessarily just to have an LGB or drag queen character but because they just are. And often it’s just like saying that person has blue eyes or drives a Ford. It’s just a part of who they are. When I started doing this, my intention was to normalize those characters in my body of work. Not all books have these characters, but my newer work does.
Finally, I realized I’ve written about pregnant women often in my books. I hadn’t realized that until I started to think about my characters. There always was a reason to have a pregnant woman in the work. It was part of the story line but wasn’t the main focus of the plot.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’ve actually written 18 books, but only one is available at the moment. Five have been accepted and two of those will be published soon. My back catalogue will be re-released over time.
I think as I wrote each book and even each series, I loved specific stories and characters. I’m especially proud of Handful of Dirt, my occult murder mystery, because it’s the first murder mystery I’ve ever written and the first I ever wrote an outline for. It was a puzzle for me to write from multiple points of view, and I enjoyed it. I don’t normally outline. I’m a pantser. But I had to for this book to keep the incidents straight.
I do have to say I love Simple Gifts, a cozy mystery, that will be out this spring. This book has so many crazy loveable characters in it beside the main character. She’s a hoot but the other characters are interesting, funny, and often quirky. We’ll see a lot of those characters in future books.
I will admit that I do keep writing one character in different forms—male and female. She appears as Toni in the last Ruins book and in Handful of Dirt. The character is a man, Floyd, in Simple Gifts and its subsequent books. I’m planning a new series with a female character in Hawaii called Rain Morgan. All are based on someone I met in 2012 for 20 minutes. That person so influenced my writing life, I’ve written her over and over, younger, older, male and female. But always native. I’m excited how she will appear and what adventures she’ll get into in that new series.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Let me clarify here. I run River’s Edge Editorial Services. I do academic editing, business writing/ghostwriting, B2B blogs, research writing/editing, and grant writing. I write in some form every single day. That work is different and has its writing pleasures.
But novel writing is different. It can be consuming. I haven’t written another book for over a year or so, though I have participated in edits for the two new books coming. When I’m actively writing a novel, it plays like a soundtrack in the back of my head—even when I’m doing academic work. I look forward to my writing time, usually in the evening. I go to bed thinking about the next chapter and sleep really, really well.
But it is all-consuming…. Really. I think that’s one reason why I’m not actively writing right now. I’m brainstorming, researching, making notes, traveling to experience places I’ll write about or similar places. I want to absorb those places using all my senses. I have a couple of trips this year to do that.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I learned at a 7th grader NOT to give readers what they want. I had a teacher who wanted us to write a theme or short story and read it to the class. Sometimes, she would allow us to read a short story from a book to the class. Everyone got to read about once a month or so. I brought in a story and ended it where I thought it should end. The girls love the story and wanted me to change the ending to a happy ever after. I added a scene and did what they wanted. They were happy but I felt I’d sold out even at 12. So, I always write what I want---because I can and it’s my book. I have found readers over time who like my style. One of the best compliments I got was from a new friend who said to me: “Your book is too short.” I said, “What do you mean? It’s 345 pages!” “I don’t want it to end. I love these characters!” That told me I was right to write books the way I wanted to.
What do you have coming next?
Next up are two books.
Simple Gifts will be out from Per Bastet Publications soon. It’s the first in a cozy mystery series about an 85-year-old Tennessee herb woman who travels to ND to fight a vampire. The characters are quirky and I love them all! Paradise is the second book and it has been written and submitted. I’m brainstorming the next book in the series.
Nabaril: Immersion will be out from Seventh Star Press soon as well. It’s also the first in a time-warp series about a female archaeologist who is transported 1000 years into the future into a feudal society where women aren’t valued. Expect a lot of resistance and rabble-rousing. It’s a 4-book series. Book 2 and 3 have been submitted. Book 4 is being brainstormed now. Again, there are some characters here I adore!
In addition, I’m brainstorming the next Allan Rodriguez Investigations series. I hope to attend the Writers’ Police Academy this summer for some inspiration.
And now, a bonus exceprt! Chapter ONE from HANDFUL OF DIRT!
Day 1: Sunday, past midnight, near Dulce, NM
The old man raised his face to look at the night sky, only dimly illuminated by a partial moon. Studded with clusters of tiny sparkling gems, the sky made the old man smile. Those twinkling lights were spread out like the many presents on his great-great granddaughter’s name day quilt that night. She had gotten a good haul to start her journey of life. He tipped the bottle of tequila in his right hand to his mouth, taking a long swig, letting the top-shelf liquor burn his gullet on its way to join the rest of the bottle in his aching stomach. Though the old ulcer rebelled, he released a satisfied sigh, pleasure mixed with pain. His great granddaughter’s husband, Alphonso, had spared no expense for the celebration, stocking in four cases to supply all of the extended relatives.
The old man chuckled, remembering how he’d avoided the bar during the party so the Old Woman wouldn’t yell at him there and all the way home. He’d expertly swiped one bottle, stuffing it under his jean jacket as everyone made their goodbyes on the porch. That always took forever as blessings and forgotten news were shared. He’d slipped out the back door and took the path into the bush, stumbling through the landscaping of Alphonso’s massive four-bedroom adobe home just outside the tribal boundary. It was supposed to be a shortcut to the trailer he shared with the Old Woman beside the garden she’d have him hoeing when the sun came up. He chuckled again. It was good to be fortified and alone all morning, working outside where the Old Woman’s complaints would drift off onto the wind.
Staring up at the night sky once more, the old man realized he’d gotten turned around a bit. The sky was wrong. He blinked a few times, reorienting himself, turning his body as he stared, his mind taking in the starry expanse and feeling small. He grunted and began to sing. The words were old and from a culture not his own, though he understood the language. He’d learned to speak Spanish long ago to win the Old Woman’s heart. He grinned, remembering that sweet smile she once had and her buxom charms she soon showed to him. It made him bellow the words louder. He’d heard the song on the radio sung by a Norteno musician from a northern New Mexico family that should have had as much press as the Al Hurricane clan. Those songs moved the old man, even the ranchera and country ones that the Old Woman liked to dance to on the kitchen floor as he pulled her fleshy body close to his. But on this night, the words hit him in the gut like the tequila. No mas un puno de tierra.
The old man’s feet tripped over the uneven ground as he sang to the heavens, spinning his body with arms wide, belting the words through his raspy, aging throat. He landed hard near a boulder hidden by bushes, smashing the bottle over a booted foot. As he raised his hand, bloodied now, he stared at it, nearly blind in the dark, as the tequila soaked into the dry earth. The old man patted the boot that was not his.
“Well, my friend, I can’t offer you a last drink.”
The old man pushed himself up and leaned back against the hard rock. He offered his bloody hand to the figure with the worn Stetson covering his face. When there was no response, the old man patted the man’s chest. “No matter. You sleep it off.” He sang out that fateful last line of the song and added, “We’re just a handful of dirt, my friend. Just a handful of dirt.”
The old man’s head began to droop as his eyes closed, sleep letting his body slide against the figure in the darkness.