Jennifer Safrey is an award-winning author of four romance novels. Tooth & Nail is her first foray into urban fantasy. Jennifer is the owner of Emerald Yoga Studio in Pembroke, Mass., and teaches vinyasa flow yoga. She holds a black belt in taekwondo. She grew up just outside New York City and is a graduate of Boston University
Thank you for joining us at Scribbler’s today, Jen.
What’s Tooth and Nail about?
Gemma Fae Cross, a tough-girl amateur boxer whose fiance is running for congress, has just made a startling discovery about herself. She is half faerie – and not just any faerie, but a tooth faerie! A hybrid of fae and human, Gemma is destined to defend the Olde Way and protect the fae – who are incapable of committing violence – from threats to their peaceful and idyllic way of life, which must be maintained by distilling innocence collected from children’s baby teeth. But when a threat to the fae mission emerges, Gemma is called upon to protect her heritage, and become a legendary fae warrior… even if it means sacrificing everything she knows about being human!
Do you figure out deep back story for each of your character’s before beginning or invent on the fly as your write?
I kind of invent on the fly as I write. I have tried writing back stories for different characters but frankly, my best laid plans always fall apart once I get them involved in the plot, so I’ve pretty much given up. I don’t mean to say I don’t prepare and know things about my characters in terms of what makes them tick, but they are usually a bit abstract until I start the process of actually putting sentences together.
In crossing over from contemporary to Paranormal, did anything in your writing process change?
Yes, it did. I was writing strictly category romance before this book, and I’d written four good ones, four that were selling decently. After that, I couldn’t write an acceptable proposal to save my life. I submitted idea after idea and the publisher kept turning them down. After a while, I stopped trying, figuring this was probably a sign that it was time to write down this weird idea in my head about Gemma the boxing tooth faerie. I was sure no one would buy it, but then no one was buying anything else from me anyway so I decided to go ahead with this strange idea and hoped some publisher somewhere, someday, would buy in.
Do you have conversations with your character’s to figure out why they are doing what they are doing?
No, not really. What I do need to do is choreograph scenes in terms of who is standing where, especially in scenes where there are a lot of people in the same room, like the final fight scene in the boxing gym in Tooth and Nail. I used stuffed animals and moved them around my office in order to make sure I was getting everything right! That was fun.
Are you a believer in the detailed outline or write by the seat of your pants school of thought?
Haha, well, the truth is I am a strong believer in the detailed outline — the only small problem is that I can’t do it! I think it would make the writing process smoother, leaving more room for creativity. The way I do it, I realize I spend a lot of time writing myself out of holes I inadvertently put myself in, or I finish a novel and realize it’s 25,000 words short of the acceptable word count for the genre (which is what originally happened in Tooth and Nail). Now, sometimes the difficulties gave birth to the best ideas in the book — for example, Tooth was way short and in order to deepen it, I created a back story for the D.C. Digger, the blogger that is dogging Gemma throughout the story. I never thought of doing this; and I quickly realized I had made him far too one-dimensional. I opened up his motivation, made him more human. He went from a necessary character to one of my favorites, once I fleshed out his personal reasons for pursuing a tooth faerie.
Do you have a minor character from Tooth n Nail you feel deserves their own story?
I think Frederica, the beautiful and enigmatic Morning Fae recruiter, has this mysterious demeanor and may be deserving of her own story one day. Frankly, I’m curious about her myself!
How about an excerpt from Tooth n Nail?
Glove slammed into jaw. His glove, my jaw.
Back and forth, back and forth. Evenly matched this still belonged to both of us. A drop of sweat dripped into my eye but I ignored the salty burn, never breaking away from our locked gaze.
Glove cracked into shoulder. My glove, his shoulder.
Jab, jab, jab. We measure distance by inches, by fractions of inches, pushing in, pulling away. His next punch only brushed the side of my head but it still hurt.
Then I saw it, his twitch of anticipated control. I ducked the confident punch and when I straightened my knees, I brought an uppercut with me.
Glove slammed into chin.
He had nothing and I came at him again with a left hook.
His head fell to the side with my blow, and over his shoulder, I saw something.
In the fraction of a second it took me to glance at it, my opponent drove into my gut. I exhaled hard and my knees buckled. But I pushed at him again with another uppercut, my momentum tilting me back upright. He swayed but locked his gaze onto mine, and I had to unleash punch after punch to keep him on the defensive, keep my advantage. A shout from below us:
“It’s over! Let’s Go!”
Halting my fist halfway to its target, I backed off. And I had to hand it to him – he held his ground until I turned away. I wrestled with my head gear. “You all right?” I called over my shoulder.
I collapsed on a stool in the closest corner of the ring, and remembered the glimmering distraction. I half stood, searching the spot where I’d seen something. Then I surveyed the dark room, filled thick with seat and ambition. No sparkles.
My sparring partner, Not-Rocky, walked over to me. A moment ago he was someone I had to take down. But now he was my friend again
“I’ll probably need to suck up my dinner through a straw tonight,” I said, moving my lower jaw from side to side.
He grinned around his mouth guard before spitting it out and opening his mouth wide to let go of the hit to his chin. “I’m going to be hunched over for a week if it makes you feel any better.”
“I knew it would.” He slung an arm around me. “Ow,” I told him.
“No, you’re not.”
“Yeah,” he said. “I’m kinda not.”
Something shimmered in my periphery. It moved. Something alive and formless and there. It hovered around chest-level, then the air seemed to shimmy into wavy watery lines. I put out my fat glove but it ony slipped through the apparition. I snatched my hand back and in an instant the waves stilled, the life draining out, and it was nothing.
Of course, it had been nothing.
“What’s up?” Not-Rocky asked.
“I saw something. Just now. Out of the corner of my eye.”
“You saw stars, is what you saw.”
I blinked again. then squinted at still nothing. The air was quiet and empty. I let out a breath. Much as I hated to admit it, he had to be right. But I glanced back once as we walked away. Nothing.
“Good thing you quit,” Mat shouted at Not-Rocky from the free weights at the back wall. “You’se about to get your ass kicked by a girl.”
“Bricks isn’t a girl,” Not-Rocky countered.
I was Gemma Cross to the outside world, the real world, but not here. Here we turned into our own superheroes, and our real world names weren’t appropriate for the transformation. The guys were nicknamed for their quirky personalities, but bewildered by the way of the female, they did the man thing and zeroed right in on my appearance – christening me the oh-so-not-original Brickhouse. I knew why. I was sort of Amazonian – hard and muscular, but not lacking in curves, thank you very much. Five-foot-ten and often indignant, I was pretty sure I scared a lot of other women. So I liked the company of my boys.
As the founder of Emerald Yoga do you feel there is any connection between the practice of yoga and the creative process of writing?
I know there are some articles and books out there that can draw parallels, but I really can’t. Writing, even when successful, is a source of working stress for me, mental and physical, and the strongest satisfaction has come from finishing a project or finishing word count. Yoga, on the other hand, is a joy while I’m doing it … I am in the moment, every moment. You know, come to think of it, I did sometimes have those days of flow in writing, where I lost track of time and was absorbed completely in the story. But that was only sometimes, while yoga gives me that feeling of being in flow every single time … in fact, our classes are called Flow, Power Flow, Gentle Flow. Yoga cultivates and nourishes a peace in myself that nothing else in my life ever has. I am completely in love with it. I encourage my students to laugh and have fun, and love where they are without an urge to improve or get better or keep up with others. They get to just be themselves with a smile, and sometimes they surprise themselves with their own strength.
When you do an interview like this what is the one writing process question you hope not be asked?
I always hope to not be asked what my daily writing schedule is like, because I never, ever had one. If I had a book under contract I tried to write 1,000 words a day to stay on deadline, but the time of day and the true word count fluctuated. When writing a book like Tooth and Nail, which was not under contract when I wrote the first draft, I sometimes went two weeks without writing a word, then wrote 20 pages in one day. I know it’s not professional, but that’s the truth. 🙂
Do you read the genre of what you are currently writing?
Not during the writing process, no. Although I do like watching paranormal movies and TV shows while writing a paranormal. It helps me stay inspired without having to entertain jealousy at another novel writer’s talent.
Any sure-fire cures for writing block you’d like to share?
Deadline. That will do it. Take your publisher’s deadline, subtract two weeks to give it more urgency, and get to work. If you aren’t under contract, don’t create your own deadline; have a friend create one for you. With a punishment attached if you fail. Seriously, this works, and can be fun if you make it into a bit of a game. Also I strongly feel that every writer needs to remember that this is a job, like any other. It seems to me that writers are caught up in a complaint culture that is truly unnecessary and counterproductive. I realized I was tired of complaining about it all the time. I don’t believe anymore in pursuing what doesn’t make us happy … if you are happy, writing will happen. If every day is a struggle … is it what you really want? Does it make you happy? If writing doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it. It’s OK; you don’t need to do it. Let it go. Just write in your journal and smile. Writing doesn’t need to be a world of stress and competition. Remove yourself from that, search your soul to see if writing truly makes you happy, and take your next step toward it or away from it. Either way, you are amazing.
Do you have a favorite Author?
Madeline L’Engle was my all-time favorite from way back. Two of my modern-day faves are Christopher Moore and Marian Keyes.
What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Don’t get caught up and waste your time writing complaint culture (hello, Facebook). Write, learn your craft (grammar is as important; you can’t tell your story without it), learn about the industry, and remember not to let rejections — or contracts, for that matter — define your self-worth. Write because you love it. Join Scribbler’s Ink … I love Bobbi and I love her group, a bunch of writers who do it daily because it is fun and who positively support each other.
What is your go to snack to have on hand while you are writing?
A bagel with butter, and a lemon Snapple. Breakfast of champions.
Thank you for joining us here today at Scribbler’s, Jen.
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