Jana Denardo: *The Darkest Midnight in December* and 50 sizzling words

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The year is 1930, and something is hunting infants and young couples in Economy Village, PA. When a local priest begins to suspect a demon may be the culprit, the sheriff calls in a team of Soldiers from the Sun.

Caleb, Agni, Temple, and Li specialize in demon hunting, but they can’t rule out an old religious sect as the true culprit. Prejudice, distraught parents, and angry townspeople don’t make the team’s job any easier. And if something goes wrong, they’re on their own, because by the time their backup arrives, it will be too late.

Jana Denardo’s career choices and wanderlust take her all over the United States and beyond. Much of her travels make their way into her stories. Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Mystery have been her favorite genres since she started reading, and they often flavor her erotic works. In her secret identity, she works with the science of life and calls on her medical degree often in her stories. When she’s not chained to her computer writing, she functions as stray cat magnet. She’s also learning that the road to enlightenment is filled with boulders she keeps falling over and that the words gardening and Zen don’t go together no matter what anyone says.

My web presence:

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: You started out with a toughie. For me, the process of naming a character is very difficult. I often take days, if not weeks, to find the right name, sometimes even going so far as to put in a generic name to switch out later, once I know more about the character. I also try to find one that fits ethnically, if that’s important to that character.

Titles are even harder. I’m a little ashamed to say that, sometimes, there is much whining and begging for help in that department on my blog. (Bet my first readers will say it’s more than sometimes).

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: Pittsburgh and Ambridge, or at least the Old Economy part of the latter, was the locale of my most recent novella, The Darkest Midnight in December. It’s also set in the 1930’s. It was compelling for the story to have Old Economy, as its history played into the demon-hunting aspects of the story. It made a good counterpoint to the demons, as the founders of the village were a celibate Christian sect.

I don’t choose the setting the same way every time. Sometimes, especially if the setting plays a role in the story, it has to be a very carefully considered locale. Sometimes, it’s a place I just vacationed in, like with “Haunted” in Dreamspinner’s Two Tickets to Paradise anthology, or is a place I’ve lived in. I was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area, so I knew something about the area I was writing about for The Darkest Midnight in December. Also, I look at the characters’ jobs, and set my stories somewhere appropriate to that in some cases, like the holiday story I just finished, where a mountainous area was needed.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: I give them most of the power. I’m in Stephen King’s “Let it Spin” camp, so I follow where the characters lead me. Of course, I have ideas where a story will start and end, but the rest is from the characters as they come to life.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: I’ve never really thought about it. I write all kinds of characters of various orientations. I started emphasizing gay relationships about fifteen years ago, when various writing instructors, writers groups and first readers told me that I couldn’t write gay characters and be taken seriously along with a whole host of other narrow-minded crap. I said, ‘Watch me.’ I’m ornery that way. I won’t say that’s satisfying except in the most cynical of ways, but it really is one of the reasons I started writing in this field. I hate seeing people marginalized. I think if I had to pick one thing that satisfied me most, it is the opportunity to show love is love.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: So far, not so much and I’ve tried to engage them in this sort of thing on my blog. In my non-pro stuff, yes, they do. I, at least, try to get ideas from my first readers and friends on my blog. It’s been surprisingly unsuccessful. I could only wish it was like the fanfiction side of life, where people offer me all sorts of ideas.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: For me, that would be the moment when they tell me they were up all night or late to work so they could finish the story. Or maybe when they didn’t quite want to finish the end because they didn’t want to say goodbye. If I can give them a story that touches them and they, in turn, want to tell others about the book, I think the ideal relationship has been reached.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: I know a lot of people don’t care for reviews, especially reader based ones like Amazon and Goodreads (and I’ve seen those sites light up like New Year’s Eve when someone feels their review has been ignored or disputed). Even with those sites, I can often find something worthwhile in a review, be it good or bad. All reviews, regardless of source, should reflect something of my writing that I need to know. Sometimes, it’s a weakness, and even if it hurts to hear it, there have been many cases where I have to agree about the weakness and hope to do better next time. Of course, if it’s a positive review, that’s enough to make me grin all day. That said, probably very quickly there will be a time where I do not even look at them for my own peace of mind. The reviews are more for the reader than they really are for me.

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: This is always a ridiculously hard question to answer. Probably I’d have to give the edge to Arrigo, one of my Las Vegas vampires (see Crisis of Faith with Dreamspinner Press). He’s certainly been taking up real estate in my head the longest (I started writing him in the early 1990’s). Arrigo has the coloring I love, that dark olive skin, long, black hair and chocolate eyes. He’s been alive for nearly two thousand years, so to say he’s experienced in lovemaking is probably a wee bit of an understatement.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: Another really tough one. This is from “Snowbound” in the Dreamspinner anthology, Necking. (The same characters are in the prequel The Darkest Midnight in December.)

Taking hold of Temple’s hips, Agni complied, pounding into
Temple, raw and unbridled. Caleb felt the transmitted force. It took
Temple a few moments to get the fast rhythm but he matched it, diving
into Caleb deep. Temple’s breath rasped in Caleb’s ear. Caught in the
middle, the redhead’s moans dissolved into a symphony of inarticulate
cries until one final sharp one as he emptied into Caleb.

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: I’m going to be doing Nanowrimo in November, and I do erotica every other year, so I’m currently trying to figure out what to write. Another story with my 1930’s demon hunter series? A modern day demon hunter story also set in Pittsburgh? A traditional fantasy story?

I’m also working on finishing a novel length story for my Las Vegas vampires and I’m within 10K of finishing an urban fantasy novel featuring an injured Iraqi vet and that story has become very special to me. I did my residency in VA hospitals and had wanted to go into service myself. Veterans, their service and sacrifice, mean a lot to me, so the characters in this story do as well.

Excerpt from The Darkest Midnight in December

“How many babies have gone missing?” Li asked.

Caleb tapped the briefcase holding a stack of files given to him by General Taglioferro before they left their headquarters in Pittsburgh. “Three and several couples. The local priests and police think it’s all the work of demons.”

“I was too busy packing.” Temple patted the box that held his Tommy gun and ammunition. “I didn’t get a chance to check out what the Order already knows about what’s going on here.”

“Once again, Li, your partner was napping.” Agni leveled a look at Temple who wrinkled his nose.

“We’ll bring him up to date once we get there.” Li pulled his coat tighter as the truck taking them from train station to hotel lurched down the road. “I just want to know why we have to ride in the bed with the luggage.”

“We all wouldn’t have fit.” Caleb shrugged. “And the driver they sent didn’t want any demon hunters in the cab with him, like we’ll infect him with our ability to see the demons or something.”

“Idiot. Who does he think is going to save this dumb town?” Temple grumbled.

“I also think he wasn’t too keen on our partners.” Caleb glanced over at his Hindu partner. Agni’s dark skin peeked out from where he had a scarf wound around his hooded head.

Temple snorted. “Big surprise. One of Father’s biggest complaints about me joining the Soldiers of the Sun and not the Knights Templar was that we welcomed all faiths, all cultures. I thought he’d go apoplectic when he found out I have a Chinese partner,” he said. The wind nearly whipped away his whispered, “too bad he didn’t just die from it.”

The four demon hunters hunkered down, trying to keep out of the wind as the truck wound its way through Ambridge, Pennsylvania. The store fronts winked by with promises of Christmas treasures on offer. The holiday was only a few days away. None of them, Temple in particular, had wanted to leave home before Christmas. There was no guarantee they wouldn’t be spending the holiday holed up in their hotel, nursing demon-inflicted wounds.

The brick hotel looked hospitable enough, and the truck owner was quick to help them off his truck and inside, away from him. It wasn’t an entirely new reaction. As Soldiers of the Sun, they had long since gotten used to people being wary of them. The hotel staff shunted them upstairs just as swiftly to adjoining rooms. Temple scowled at the metal bed frame of his twin bed in the room he shared with Li.

“This bed better be movable,” he grumbled.

“If you keep me awake, that adjoining door will be a pathway to your doom,” Agni warned grimly.


Filed under Dreamspinner Press, featured authors, Writers on writing

3 Responses to Jana Denardo: *The Darkest Midnight in December* and 50 sizzling words

  1. SJ

    Those excerpts are really hot!

  2. Jana Denardo

    Thank you very much.

  3. Awesome. 🙂

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