Jenna Petersen writes Regency-set historicals for Avon, and erotic romance under the name Jess Michaels. In addition to writing, Jenna runs the Passionate Pen website, an amazing resource for romance authors. She’s recently joined the writers’ blog the Jaunty Quills. Desire Never Dies, the second book in her Lady Spies series, comes out December 26. Leave a pertinent comment on today’s post, and your name will be entered to win a copy of Jenna’s latest book (mailed out when Jenna gets her author copies).

Welcome to the Riskies, Jenna. Thanks for joining us.

1. You’ve been writing for a long time. What were your first books like? How did they differ from the ones you’ve published with Avon (as Jenna Petersen) and as an erotic author (as Jess Michaels)? What is the one piece of advice you would give an aspiring author?Do you plan on revisiting any of those earlier unpublished books and trying to get them published?

Hi Megan! Thanks for having me, Riskies! I’m excited to be here. I visit the blog every day. Yes, I started writing seriously in 1999, though I technically finished my first book in 1996. So coming up on 8 years seriously, I guess. I’ve always written historical romance. My first couple of books were quite dreadful, though (I sold my 10th historical manuscript). Clichéd and poorly plotted and no sense of place. Hopefully that has changed over the years. If no, just put me out of my misery now! There are a couple books in my ‘unsold backlist’, though, that I wouldn’t rule out revisiting. Though I’m having so much fun with new work now, that I’m not sure when or if that would happen. As for advice, most of my best advice is on my site for writers, The Passionate Pen,

2. Which of your books is your favorite?

Of my own books? Mean question, Megan!! That’s like choosing which of your kids you like best. Um, I really love Desire Never Dies, and not just because it’s the book that’s out on December 26 and I want you all to buy it. I really loved watching my heroine’s (Anastasia) character grow and blossom. She starts out so unsure of herself and trapped in her own grief, and then she’s thrown into a strange situation with a tempting man and her life is irrevocably changed by love. Which is pretty cool.

Desire Never Dies is the second book in your Lady Spies series. What was the spark that inspired the series? Did it start with a character, a setting, or some other element? How many books do you have planned for the Lady Spies?

I actually started working on my Lady Spies series before I sold my first book, Scandalous, to Avon in 2004. A friend and I were batting around ‘what ifs’, looking for some high concept spins for me to give to my agent. She said, Charlie’s Angels. I said, “In Regency? Yeah, right.” But by the next day, that was all I could think about. So it was the concept that came first, then I built my ‘girls’ and the kinds of stories they would have (investigating the one you love, From London With Love; male and female spy working together, Desire Never Dies; Spy v. Spy, Seduction Is Forever). There are three books in the series, but I’ve left the door open for more books in their world, so you just never know…

4. How much research do you do?

It really depends on the book and the situation. Some stories are going to be more character driven, like Scandalous, where I just needed a basic grasp of the period and the setting. Others might be more in-depth and I might need more specific information. Like in From London With Love, I had some research on Regency art houses. I didn’t need it for more than a chapter, but I wanted to make sure what I was describing was possible, at least.

5. You write very quickly. Can you describe a typical writing day?

There is no real ‘typical’ here, but when I’m fully in writing mode, I put out no less than ten pages a day. Generally more like 12-15. I make a weekly/daily page goal and try to put butt in chair until I’ve hit it. So some days I’m up and out by noon. And some days it is 10:30pm and I’m still sitting.

That means I can write a book in about 6-8 weeks, plus two week to a month for revision before I turn it in. Outside career stuff also gets done every day. Website updates, blogging, and I’m very active on the message board.

6. What are you working on now?

Actually, I just finished revisions on Seduction Is Forever, which is the last Lady Spy book (for now) and will be out October 2007. After the new year, I’ll be back working on my new historical called The Promise of Pleasure, which is an ‘estranged husband and wife reunion’ storyline. Very sexy.

7. In your writing, do you feel as if you are taking risks? How?

I think writing in general is a risk! Just doing it and pushing through the times when I’d rather just watch CourtTV or mop the floor. But I think I’m pushing the boundaries with my heroines. Charlie’s Angels female spies? How fun is that? And in my next book, the heroine is posing as a courtesan to save her friend’s life (and it doesn’t hurt that it pisses off her estranged husband). It’s always an interesting balance to write such strong heroines, but try to keep them befitting to their time, as well. They’re constantly walking a tight rope, and so am I.

8. Did you run across anything new and unusual while researching the Ladyu Spies series?
I was really surprised by how little information I could find about female spies during the period in general. Most of the information about women undercover comes from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars in America. That was frustrating in some ways since I would have loved to add a little more depth with some real facts, but it was also freeing since I could create my own world. In the end, I just tried to do what I felt like made sense. And hopefully it does.

9. Is there anything you wanted to include in the book that you (or your CPs or editor) felt was too controversial and left out?

Actually, I just took out a subplot from my last Lady Spy with a stolen artifact. It was really fun, but it detracted from the romance and the end of the book was SO BUSY. My editor and I agreed the story would be better if it went away, so it did. Honestly, I’ve never had my editor ask for anything yet that really made me flinch. She’s spot on with her comments, so I’m lucky in that way. We mesh well.

As for controversy, nothing. Yet…

10. You’ve just joined the Jaunty Quills as an official blogger, but have been online for years, long before you were published. How has the internet helped or hindered your career?

Oh, gosh, the internet is totally my friend. When I stared Passionate Pen almost 8 years ago, I never thought I’d reach so many people, or that they would begin to care about me. At some point, I looked at the stats for the site and thought, hey these people might actually buy a book of mine if it came out.

And then they did! I completely credit my Passionate Pen platform with why I hit Waldenbooks Mass Market with my debut. Hopefully, they liked the book enough to keep buying me. But it was definitely, and continues to be, my best promotional tool (even though it was accidental). I really enjoy the activities I do online. Like blogging or message boards or chats or my author sites. And I love how it connects our writer and reader communities. The moment I’m feeling completely depressed, I can hit Tess Gerritsen’s blog and read that she’s having some of the same experiences. And she survived, so there you go.

Of course, it can be a naughty way to procrastinate, but I’ll just pretend that isn’t true.

11. Is there anything else you’d like the Risky Regencies readers to know about you?

Well, Desire Never Dies hits shelves on December 26, of course. And even though it’s part of a series, it can be read on its own, so if you didn’t get From London With Love, you won’t be lost. And also just that I enjoy reading this blog and I’m so flattered you’d ask me. I’ll be around today if anyone has any questions!

Thank you!

Thank you, Jenna!