Jeni, welcome to Behind the Story. Tell us about your latest release.
My most recent release is a fantasy book entitled, Sacrificed. It’s the second novella in the Twisted Fate Novella Series following on the heels of Betrayed, the first novella. A descendent of the NJ Devil makes a bargain that he’s not sure he can afford. With the life of his first born daughter on the line, Donovan Barren does everything he can to try to out run, out hide, and out negotiate his devilish ancestor. When his family gets caught in the cross fire, Donovan has to figure out how to out-devil the devil and keep his family safe.
What inspired you to write about the NJ Devil?
As a NJ native, I grew up hearing the legend of the NJ Devil along with all the other scary things that kids talk about, but something about it stuck with me. As a writer, I have the unique opportunity to take a legend or story like that and play the “what if” game until I can see the story in a new light. The series of novellas is the anti romance that goes in tandem to a series of paranormal romance books that I’m writing set in the same small town part of New Jersey featuring Elementals, shifters, and more witches and devils.
What do you love best about the lead characters? What do dislike about them?
Sacrificed is told mainly from Donovan Barren’s point of view, which allowed me to sink myself into his skin and play with what it might look like if someone made a deal with the devil out of love for someone else.
In most stories where a/the devil is a character, any deals made are for selfish reasons; money, fame, etc. I wanted to take a character that is good and pure at his core, and happened to fall in love with a woman who was being abused by her husband, and give him the chance to make a deal with a devil. His deal is simple. He murder’s the woman’s husband to save her from being killed and the Devil covers it up. All for the low, low price of his soul and his first-born daughter.
So, for me, I love his innocence. His pure-heartedness. That piece of him that makes a deal so that he can protect a woman he loves. Who doesn’t love a man that will go to any lengths to save his true love?
When it comes to what I dislike about Donovan, it’s simple. I dislike his lack of faith. He underestimates everyone and everything around him. A man who works so hard to save those he loves, but doesn’t ever believe they can help save themselves has a huge weak spot he will never see coming. In Donovan’s case, it very well might be his undoing.
What was the hardest thing about writing this book? Any tough scenes? Any emotional ones that choked you up?
When talking with readers and other writers alike about this series, one reoccurring thing I hear is that I have no issues with killing my darlings aka my characters. That’s a very fair statement. When you have that type of plot line in a book, there are some scenes that are downright painful.
There’s a scene in this book that almost makes me cry every time I read it in the first novella in the series. I try to balance out these deep, dark scenes with lighter funnier scenes in the Paranormal Romances. So while I have a homicidal devil on the loose in the novellas, in the novels I have Elementals that are going wild mixing elements, humorous sex, and line dancing. Because what else is there to do out in the middle of the sticks on a Friday night?
The next book to be released is the first Twisted Fate novel, Fire’s Revenge. It releases at the end of May and will be followed by the third Twisted Fate novella, Revealed, in June 2015. Fire’s Revenge offers up answers to what happens to a community of supernatural beings whose keeper is killed. So, the characters go through life following these strict rules and regulations because that’s what they are taught is true and what they implicitly believe to be ‘right’ until a Wind finds herself falling for a Fire. The community says it’s forbidden. Their history as a culture says its doomed to end in disaster and yet, Elms and Simon can’t seem to give up on the idea that they could be perfect together. Despite heartache and pain, the two test the bounds of faith and love in the hope that they can find true happiness, even if it isn’t together.
What did you learn about yourself while writing this book?
I spent most of my time writing Sacrificed around the winter holiday season. It began over Thanksgiving and ebbed into the pre-Christmas time of year. That particular time of year is difficult for me, having recently lost my mom to cancer. Having the ability to escape to Harmony and play in a world full of magic gave me a respite from the sadness that exists during that time of year.
Interestingly enough, in writing Sacrificed, I learned that inner strength doesn’t just come from within. It comes from the support of the people one surrounds themselves with on a daily basis–it’s the refill of your depleted coffee cup of a soul. Hopefully, readers will take away from the book a little bit of that. An escape into a world where even if the worst happens, the characters surround each other and continue moving forward, growing, and finding new happiness in their lives.
Here is an excerpt from Sacrificed, Jeni’s latest:
DRAMMELECH DEWSBERRY HAD wandered through every inch of New Jersey for over two hundred years; angry, bitter, tired. Over the years, he’d left a trail of bodies in his wake; pretty young things, all with their veins turned black. That was until he happened upon a witch—a witch who would get herself into all kinds of trouble if she were any more obvious about her magical goings on.
It was her blatant disrespect for the rules that first caught his eye, however. She stood outside a candy shop in the small town of Belvidere, offering samples to anyone who wandered by. That in and of itself wasn’t anything special, but the silent spell she wove with her fingers every time someone took a morsel that compelled them into the store was very special indeed. Anyone who watched from a distance could witness the fingers on her free hand twitching in mesmerizing patterns beneath the silver tray she held.
Her movements had caught his eye on his first day in town, ensnaring him. The next day, he walked around the town square hoping to catch another glimpse of her. By his third time, she had emerged from the store with her tray, fingers dancing. It took stones to pull off magic like that out in the open, and Elech couldn’t resist the draw of a woman with enough gumption to try it. He strode right up to the dark haired beauty and basked in the glow of her aura.
“Would you care to try a nut cluster?” Her voice was soft, breathy, and light. His stomach growled, full of a hunger that food would not satisfy.
“Don’t mind if I do.” He selected a chocolate from her tray, brought it to his nose for a tentative sniff, then popped it into his mouth. He could feel the impact of her spell as it collided with the explosion of chocolate and cashews mixed with a liquor of sorts on his tongue.
“Mmmm.” He flashed her his most wicked smile and savored her offering. He nodded to her with a tip of his hat and began to walk away. “Good day.”
“Sir? Wouldn’t you care to go inside and purchase some more?” she called after him.
He turned back to her. “No. I think I’ve had just enough, witch. Unless you can offer me something a little more compelling to lure me in.” He lifted his left hand and mimicked the motions of her fingers.
Her face paled and the hand holding the tray of chocolates shook. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Her voice no longer held the sweet and innocent tone he’d come to identify with her in his short time watching her. Instead, it whipped at him, abrasive and full of accusation.
“Call me Elech. What do I call you?”
The woman made another sweeping gesture with her fingers, narrowed her eyes at him, and responded. “Cecily. Cecily Barren.”
Elech moved to her, withdrew the tray from her hand, and set it on the open window’s ledge.
“Well, Cecily, have I got a deal for you.” He crooked a finger at her, beckoning her to follow him.
Jeni Burns is a Jersey girl living in a southern world. While she’s firmly planted in the South with her husband, two kids, and one massive poodle, her heart still lives in the Northwestern part of New Jersey where her characters reside. Since writing about home is cheaper than airfare, she spends much of her time living vicariously in NJ’s snowy winters and humidity-free summers.
Jeni has been telling stories since she first learned to string two words together. Thanks to her mom and her middle school English teacher both telling her she should be a writer, she now happily spends her days writing all the stories that continuously float around in her head while drinking fabulous decaf coffees.