When plucky Stephanie Plum lost her job as a lingerie buyer, she had little other choice than to take a position working for her cousin Vinnie's bail-bonds office where she'd spend her days and nights hunting down fugitives, solving mysteries, and falling ass-backwards into adventure. Come to think of it, Ms. Plum has more than a little in common with her creator Janet Evanovich.
Much like the panty-pushing Plum, Evanovich once made her trade in erotica as a romance novelist for the trashy Bantam series "Loveswept." Tiring of the genre and finding herself increasingly fixated on crime, mystery, and the kind of adventures she came to love through comic books like Uncle Scrooge, she decided to ditch steamy stories in favor of off-the-wall humor and feats of daring. As Evanovich said on her website, "after twelve romance novels I ran out of sexual positions and decided to move into the mystery genre."
The resulting Stephanie Plum Mysteries reflect Evanovich's love for comics, toys, shoe-shopping, Cheez Doodles, and beer. Evanovich also created a memorable character that shares many of the author's distinctive traits, such as her self-effacing, dirty-minded wit. The Plum Mysteries, while often rambling and thin on plot, are never anything less than entertaining, hilarious, and refreshing in every way.
Stephanie Plum made her debut in 1994's One For the Money, in which she tracked down Joe Morelli, an ex-cop and murder suspect who'd also been guilty of taking Stephanie's virginity when she was 18. The novel's sly mix of sexiness and childlike playfulness made for a sort of young adult novel for adults.
Since then, the red-hot bounty hunter and a crew of misfits that includes retired hooker Lula, aging bail-jumper Eddie Decooch, and Plum's own hipster granny have romped their way "through the numbers," establishing Evanovich as one of the best and most inventive writers of "Strong Woman" mysteries and guaranteeing her a place on the New York Times bestseller list.
In 2004, Evanovich introduced a smart, savvy new series featuring Alexander "Barney" Barnaby, a sexy Baltimore car mechanic, NASCAR nut, and amateur sleuth with her own posse of delightful eccentrics. She's not Plum, but she's definitely a peach. Hey, what else would you expect from a Janet Evanovich heroine?
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Evanovich's motorcycle-riding daughter Alex has created an online comic about her hamster called "Batster," which her mother proudly displays on her web site. With episodes like "Batster vs. Beerzilla," it's clear that wackiness runs in the Evanovich genes.
If you think the Stephanie Plum novels are zany, wait till you hear about what Evanovich was writing before she started getting published. As she explains on her web site, "The first story [I ever wrote] was about the pornographic adventures of a fairy who lived in a second rate fairy forest in Pennsylvania."
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In the summer of 2003, Evanovich took some time out to talk with us about her favorite books, authors, and interests.
What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer -- and why?
When I was a kid I read comics. My favorites were Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge. Donald, Scrooge, Huey, Dewey, and Louie were a little dysfunctional, but they basically liked each other and they were always going on adventures -- just like Stephanie Plum.
What are your all-time favorite books, and what makes them special to you?All of the Uncle Scrooge stories by Don Rosa.
The Law is a Lady by Nora Roberts, because it encouraged me to try writing romance.
The Rake by Mary Jo Putney, because I love the hero to heroine dynamic.
All of Robert Parker's books, because they're so clean.
The Black Stallion series by Walter Farley, because they made my childhood bearable.
What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to you?
I like films that make me happy and raise my energy level. I love Ghostbusters, French Kiss, Captain Ron, Troop Beverley Hills, Pretty Woman, Notting Hill, Miss Congeniality, Wallace & Gromit, My Man Godfrey, all Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies, You've Got Mail, Back to School, The Blues Brothers.
What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you're writing?
I need quiet to write. When I listen to music, I like happy music, like funk and disco.
If you had a book club, what would it be reading -- and why?
Junie B. Jones books -- because they're fun, and I like the drawings.
What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
I like nonfiction for gifts.
Do you have any special writing rituals? For example, what do you have on your desk when you're writing?
I have a Winnie the Pooh clock, a statue of an angry Donald Duck, a Little Lulu bank, a stuffed Sully from Monsters Inc., a Bartman action figure and my cat, Gus, on my desk when I write.
Many writers are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?
I was unpublished for ten years and have three books that are still in my dresser drawer (and will stay there)! If you want something bad enough, you stick with it, eh?
What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
Don't give up, continue to grow, eat some Cheez Doodles and drink some beer.
What was your first job like?
My first job was as a mail clerk for the DuPont chemical plant in South Amboy. I used to have to run across a catwalk grate over vats of formaldehyde to get from one side of the plant to the next. I used to wear short skirts and the men tending the vats would stand under the grate and wait for my run!
How do you like to unwind?
I don't unwind! I just keep going. If I ever unwound I might not get wound again. I have no hobbies. I just work. I'm really boring. I like champagne and greasy pork roll sandwiches, and shopping for shoes.
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