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Monday, February 8, 2010

Guest Blog + Giveaway: Jennifer Estep

Today I'd like to welcome Jennifer Estep, who is stopping by to talk about her new Urban Fantasy release, Spider's Bite, which released on January 26th. You can see my 5 Star review here. Her topic for this guest blog is her writing process. I found it very interesting, and hope you do to! And stick around, there's a giveaway at the bottom of the post.

Greetings and salutations! First of all, I want to thank Sara for inviting me to guest blog. Thanks so much, Sara!

So today, Sara asked me to talk a little bit about my writing process. I have to admit that I’m a total “pantser.” That is to say, I don’t sit down and meticulously plot out my books before I write them the way that writers who refer to themselves as “plotters” do. I don’t do storyboards, write down information about my characters, or plan out what happens in each chapter. Usually, I just sit down and write. Sometimes, it turns out well. Sometimes, it doesn’t. But it’s the process that works for me.

Usually what happens is that I’ll get a “what if” idea for a specific scene or situation. For Spider’s Bite, the first book in my new Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series, the idea was something like this – What if an assassin was double-crossed on a hit? What if her handler was murdered as a result? What would she do about it? (The answer, at least in Spider’s Bite, is find out who set her up and why, and then take that person out.)

I’ll think about my “what if” scene for a while, focusing on the main character and how whatever is happening will affect her – and then I’ll go from there. Once I have my character in mind and hear her voice in my head, that’s when I start figuring out the overall plot of the book, as well as the magic system, the world, the other characters, etc.

Now, I don’t really figure my plot out chapter by chapter, scene by scene. What I do is think of the opening of the story, then divide the book into thirds and think of a couple of turning points that drive the action for those parts of the book.

For example, in Spider’s Bite, the first turning point is my assassin character, Gin Blanco, getting double-crossed and her handler being murdered. That drives the action from the first third of the book all the way up to the second turning point, which is Gin going to meet/fight/kill the person responsible for her handler’s murder. That plot point then drives the action through the rest of the book.

When I have those plot points in mind, then it’s time to sit down and write my first draft. I really push myself to get the first draft done as quickly as possible, so I’ll write anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 words a day for about three weeks, until I have a draft that’s somewhere in the 50,000- to 70,000-word range. Why do I do this? For one, it helps me keep my story thread and characters in mind. Two, I have a day job, so my time to write is fairly limited. Three, I’m just anal in that I like to get one project done and then move on to something else. Writers. Sometimes, I think we’re all half-crazy. ;-)

After the first draft is done, I take a break for about a week or so (sometimes longer) before going back to the story. I read through the draft, seeing if the characters, world, setting, magic, plot, etc. all make sense, work together, and tell a good story – in other words, if it’s a project worth pursuing. If so, then I start working on my second draft, which is where I go back through and flesh out things like descriptions, character quirks, etc. I usually go through the book three or four times, adding in more and more detail and tweaking everything, until I have a finished draft of about 100,000 words that is the absolute best book that I can make it.

All of this usually takes me several months. Sometimes, shorter. Sometimes, longer. It all just depends on what else is going on and what the demands on my time are as to how long it takes me to finish a book.

After that, the book gets sent to my agent, who reads it and gives me her feedback and asks me to do revisions, if necessary. Once those revisions are done, a couple of different things can happen. If this is a new book/series that I’m working on, then my agent can try to sell the book/series. Or, if I’m already under contract for the book, it will then go to my editor, who reads it, gives me her feedback, and asks me to do revisions, if necessary.

It’s a long, long process, but it’s totally worth it. How do I know? Every time I get an e-mail from a reader telling me how much she enjoyed my book. That’s what makes it all worth while to me. ;-)

What about you guys? For all you writers out there, how do you go about crafting your books? And for readers, what are some of your favorite urban fantasy books? Share in the comments.

And now for the giveaway. Jennifer has graciously offered one lucky commenter a signed copy of Spider's Bite. All you have to do is answer one of Jennifer's questions or ask her one of your own!

My name is Gin, and I kill people.

They call me the Spider. I'm the most feared assassin in the South -- when I'm not busy at the Pork Pit cooking up the best barbecue in Ashland. As a Stone elemental, I can hear everything from the whispers of the gravel beneath my feet to the vibrations of the soaring Appalachian Mountains above me. My Ice magic also comes in handy for making the occasional knife. But I don't use my powers on the job unless I absolutely have to. Call it professional pride.

Now that a ruthless Air elemental has double-crossed me and killed my handler, I'm out for revenge. And I'll exterminate anyone who gets in my way -- good or bad. I may look hot, but I'm still one of the bad guys. Which is why I'm in trouble, since irresistibly rugged Detective Donovan Caine has agreed to help me. The last thing this coldhearted killer needs when I'm battling a magic more powerful than my own is a sexy distraction... especially when Donovan wants me dead just as much as the enemy.

Giveaway Rules:

You must leave a vaild e-mail address.
This contest is open to the US and Canada only.
Please, only one comment per person.
Must answer or ask a question.

** This giveaway will end at midnight EST on Friday 02/12 and the winner will be announced Saturday 02/13. Winners will be chosen using


  1. THanks for the interview and the giveaway opportunity!

    My favorite series are:
    Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
    Shifters by Rachel Vincent
    Mercedes Thompson by Patricia Briggs and
    The Night Huntress by Jeaniene Frost

    I love kick-ass female charater with big mouth attitude and some romance to sweeten the pot!


  2. Great interview Sara!

    My favorite series are:
    Night Huntress - J. Frost
    Accidental Series - Dakota Cassidy
    Amanda Feral Series - Mark Henry

    I love snarky female characters, with big soft romantic sides!


  3. Tynga -- You're welcome. I recently discovered the Vampire Academy series myself. I'm really enjoying them.

    Natasha -- Cat & Bones are two more of my favorites. ;-)

  4. I am very excite to read this book! I have a very difficult time choosing favorites. I have recently discovered so many authors that I want to read for this genre. I too love tough females leads. Nothing entertains me more than imagining the bad guys suffering at the heroines hands.

  5. Robin -- Me too. Strong, sassy heroines are one of the things that I like most about urban fantasy.

  6. My favorite urban fantasy series are Richelle Mead's Georgina Kincaid series (love her snarky humor and her crazy friends) and Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series (gotta love Bones!). My favorite characters are snarky and sarcastic.

    Thanks for dropping by, Jennifer!

  7. Sara -- I love Bones too. ;-)

    Frost has a new book out that I'm looking forward to -- First Drop of Crimson. I may have to go get a copy this weekend ... not that I don't have 20 other books sitting at home waiting to be read. LOL.

    Thanks for having me here!

  8. Great interview Jennifer! That is cool to find out that you are a pantser. When I write I am more of a plotter. It is interesting to find out the different writing styles of authors.

    Some of my favorite books are by,
    Kat Richardson, GREYWALKER series
    Charlaine Harris, Sookie Stackhouse series
    Jeaniene Frost, anything by her
    Shana Abe', Drakon series

    and I absolutely loved your Bigtime series! Love stories where the women are powerful and strong.


  9. I like a no holds barred hero with a quick comeback. She shouldn't take any crap off of anyone but still has to have a soft heart (especially for kids and puppies). I like humor in my story. I'm not really into the dark, gritty urban fantasy as we see enough of that on the nightly news. Give me something that while action packed can still make me laugh from time to time.
    Jennifer, "What elemental would YOU like to be?"

    alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com

  10. Jennifer, when did you decide to first become an author? Why?

    Great interview and giveaway. Thanks

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

  11. Great post.
    someof my favorite series are:
    Morganville Vapires-Rachel Caine
    Shifters by Rachel Vincent
    Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
    The Hollows-Kim Harrison
    Night Huntress by Jeaniene Frost


  12. Michele -- Thanks! I've heard a lot of good things about the Greywalker series. Yet another author I need to try!

    Lisa -- That's actually one of Gin's rules -- she doesn't kill kids or pets, ever. I think my books are dark and gritty, but there's some humor in them too. I know I don't like reading pages and pages of angst, so that's not what I write either.

    Actually, according to my significant other, I have a power already -- ghoul touch! Seriously, my hands are ice-cold all the time. So I'd have to go with being an Ice elemental. ;-)

    Miss Kallie -- Well, I've always loved to read. One day, I think I had the thought that a lot of authors do when they're reading something that's maybe not so good -- Why, I could write something better than that! And thus the crazy writing began ... LOL.

    Elaing8 -- Those are all good books/series.

  13. Loved the interview. :)

    Favorite series:
    The Hollows - Kim Harrison
    Anita Blake - LKH
    Demon Slayer - Angie Fox

    I love my kiss-ass heriones.



    My favorite series....

    Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
    Dock 5 Universe by Linnea Sinclair
    Dark Hunter by Sherrilyn Kenyon

    Please enter me in the giveaway.

  15. Great interview. Congrats on the release. It looks like a great new series. I am looking forward to reading it.

    Some of my favorite series are:
    Night Huntress - Jeaniene Frost
    Mercy Thompson - Patricia Briggs
    Kitty - Carrie Vaughn
    Weather Warden - Rachel Caine

    Donna S
    bacchus76 at myself dot com

  16. I'm enjoying the Morganville Vampire series by Rachel Caine!

  17. Heatwave -- Thanks! I hear a lot of good things about Angie Fox's books too.

    Justpeachy -- Linnea Sinclair is another author that I've been meaning to try.

    Donna -- I've been meaning to try the Kitty series as well.

    Tetewa -- I haven't tried that series, but I really enjoyed a couple of pirate short stories that Caine did for the My Big Fat anthologies.

  18. Thank you for the interview.
    I'm looking forward to getting a copy of this new book. Been hearing so many good reviews.

    Some of my favorite series are:
    Savannah Vampires by Raven Hart
    The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
    Southern Vampires by Charlaine Harris
    Kate Daniels - Ilona Andrews
    just to name a few. This list could go on for a while.

    cheleooc at yahoo dot com

  19. Please count me in. I have been hearing such great things about these books! There are so many great Urban Fantasy books. some of my favs are
    Anita Blake series
    Night Huntress
    Southern Vampire Series.

    lizzi0915 at aol dot com

  20. Great post and giveaway!

    Some of my faves are:

    Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead
    Georgina Kincaid series by Richelle Mead

    and plenty more :)

    throuthehaze at gmail dot com

  21. Hello! I am dying to read this book!

    My favorite authors are: Mead, Briggs, Aguirre, and Andrews!

    patronus89013 at yahoo dot com

  22. Great interview and giveaway!

    Some of my favorite series are:
    The Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost
    Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
    Dark Swan series by Richelle Mead
    The Hollows by Kim Harrison

    I like strong, snarky, sarcastic women. Men, I love Bones!!!


  23. Thanks for visiting. Among my favorite UF series are:
    Keri Arthur's Guardians (Riley Jenson,) Kim Harrison's Hollows (Rachel Morgan,)both Laurell K. Hamilton series (Anita Blake and Merry Gentry) and Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampires (Sookie, et al.)

  24. Daelith -- Thanks! Savannah Vampires? That's another series I haven't heard of but it sounds interesting.

    Bethie -- Thanks!

    Throuthehaze -- I just started reading the Vampire Academy series but I'm hooked already.

    Marianna -- I hope you enjoy it.

    Amanda -- I love Bones too. ;-)

    LSUReader -- I like the Hollows series a lot too.

  25. Great interview. Thanks for the chance to win your book - it looks like a good one.

    Some of my favorite urban fantasy series are:
    Mercedes Thompson by Patricia Briggs
    Harry Dresden by Jim Butcher
    The Walker papers by C.E. Murphy
    Cat and Bones by Jeanine Frost

    sgiden AT

  26. Great post! I generally don't read urban fantasy but the only series that comes to mind right now is the Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn.

    faked_sugartone at hotmail

  27. Great interview. My favorite Urban fantasy series is Vampire Academy.

    ajolly1456 at gmail dot com

  28. My favorite series right now is True Blood/Sook Stackhouse
    mstlee2000 @

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Thanks for stopping by Sara's Urban Fantasy Blog! I'd love to here what's on your mind. :)