Chatting with the Pros: Interview with bestselling author Jenifer RuffPosted: July 15, 2019 | |
My guest today on “Chatting with the Pros” is bestselling author Jenifer Ruff. She’s booked as a psychological thiller author, but much of her works falls under the genre of crime fiction, as well. She has a knack for keeping the action moving and throwing in surprise twists, which is always great in crime fiction stories. I’m excited to find out what she has to share, so please join me in welcoming her to Writing to be Read.
Kaye: What elements of storytelling do you feel are specific to the crime fiction genre?
Jenifer: A well-developed and slightly flawed but likable antagonist. An interesting protagonist with clear and shocking or complex motives. A suspenseful, intricate plot with unexpected twists that involves a crime or series of crimes.
Kaye: What is the biggest challenge in writing crime fiction for you?
Jenifer: The most enjoyable parts are creating the plot, the twists, the characters, and the crimes. The hardest part for me is having the patience to go back and edit and rewrite again and again until the writing is the best I can make it.
Kaye: Are there any particular crime fiction authors that you fashioned your writing style after?
Jenifer: There are too many (way too many!) excellent authors and excellent novels out there for me to pick one in particular. I learn a little from all of them. I try and read as much of everything as I can—bestsellers in literature for the two book clubs I’m in, and indie authors in the thriller genre for me. I love it when the book I’m reading sparks new ideas, but that can happen no matter what genre or what author. I do know that when I read literature, I get inspired to create all sorts of similes and metaphors and my editor usually nixes almost all of them.
Kaye: You have also written thrillers, horror and YA suspense. What are the differences in writing crime fiction from the other genres you’ve written in?
Jenifer: All my novel are dark and twisty psychological suspense thrillers with disturbed characters readers often can’t help but like. Each book involves crimes, mostly murders. Each has a different contemporary topic—terrorism, sex trafficking, social media, for examples. I think I’ve been consistent with that character-driven style no matter the story or the genre. They’re more similar than they are different, but each emphasizes certain genre elements slightly more than others.
Kaye: What kind of research do you find yourself doing for crime fiction?
Jenifer: With my Brooke Walton series, I did a lot of research about psychopaths, PTSD, and working in a Medical Examiner’s office. For Only Wrong Once, I researched ISIS, particularly their recruiting techniques, and bio-terrorism. I was a little worried about setting off alarms on the internet because of the type of research I was doing for that one. Pretty Little Girls, the book I’m finishing now, involved research and attending lectures on sex trafficking. I’ve interviewed FBI agents and had a few beta read my books to make sure I wasn’t too far off on anything.
Kaye: You write in several genres. Which genre is your favorite one to write in? Why?
Jenifer: Psychological suspense. I enjoy getting into the heads of my very flawed characters and figuring out how they might react, respond… thinking up actions that would be outrageous for me or any “normal” person, but perfectly normal for them.
Kaye: Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?
Jenifer: Hike with my dogs and exercise classes – Barre, Pilates, Zumba, athletic conditioning – anything where I’m moving and sweating. If I get on a bike or elliptical it’s because I’m really into whatever book I’m reading and I want to be able to exercise and keep reading.
Kaye: Your most recent crime fiction novel is The Numbers Killer, which I reviewed last Friday. What other novels have you written that would fit into the crime fiction genre?
Jenifer: Only Wrong Once, the Brooke Walton series: Everett, Rothaker, and The Intern. And my newest, coming out soon—Pretty Little Girls.
Kaye: Can you tell us a little about The Numbers Killer?
Jenifer: It’s the first in a new series about FBI Agent and heiress, Victoria Heslin. The series will appeal to fans of A.J. Finn, Thomas Harris, James Patterson, Jeffrey Deaver and Karin Slaughter. Most of my early readers have said they couldn’t put it down, which is exactly what I hope to hear.
When a key witness in an organized crime trial turns up dead in his kitchen with liar and the number two scrawled on his forehead, the FBI assumes the murder was a hit to silence him. Then the calls start coming in—more victims with similar markings and no connection to the mob.
As agents Victoria Heslin and Dante Rivera struggle to catch a break in the case, they receive a series of cryptic, personal messages from the killer, complicating the investigation. Something disturbing and frightening is underway, and anyone might be next, including the agents, unless they uncover the common denominator.
Kaye: The old adage is, ‘write what you know’. Obviously, you haven’t lived through the horrendous events featured in your crime fiction stories. In what ways do you draw off of your own experiences when writing crime fiction?
Jenifer: I write about things that might fascinate me – the abnormal and the unexpected. I really admire determined people, but when someone is determined and also misguided, things can get very interesting. I’ve created characters like that in most of my novels.
Kaye: What is the strangest inspiration for a story you’ve ever had?
Jenifer: The idea for Only Wrong Once was inspired by a secure laboratory at my graduate school that held research samples of the most deadly diseases on the planet – small pox, bubonic plague, and Ebola, to list just a few. And also from a quote by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in 2004. She said: “And let’s remember that those charged with protecting us from attack have to be right 100 percent of the time. To inflict devastation on a massive scale, the terrorists only have to succeed once. And we know that they are trying every day.” Her powerful, frightening words inspired the book title and the theme for Only Wrong Once.
Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?
Jenifer: I don’t think there’s anything unusual about it. I sit down in front of my computer for as long as I can, as many days per week as I can. Even though I write most days, I still consider that time a luxury. I write in my house and I can’t get any writing done if I have housework to do, I’m too distracted by awareness of what needs to be cleaned. So cleaning and chores first, then I can write.
Kaye: If The Numbers Killer was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Jenifer: I’d love for Blake Lively to be Agent Victoria Heslin.
Kaye: What’s next for Jenifer Ruff? Can readers look forward to more crime fiction from you? What are you working on now?
Jenifer: The second in the Victoria Heslin series, Pretty Little Girls, is almost finished and will be published in the fall. I’m waiting on beta readers now, and next it will go out to ARC readers. In Pretty Little Girls, Agent Heslin is called to Charlotte, NC to consult on a kidnapping case, but what she discovers ends up being much, much worse. Right now, I’m busy working through ideas for the third novel in the series.
I want to thank Jenifer for joining me today and offering a glimpse into her writing process here. I reviewed her book Only Wrong Once last month when we were looking at thrillers. You can see that review here. You can find out more about Jenifer Ruff and her books at the following links: