Writing from the Bible / Author Jennie Bentley

Jennie Bentley

NYT bestselling author Jennie Bentley

Killer Nashville’s “Killer Conversation” is pleased to welcome New York Times bestselling author, Jennie Bentley. Jennie writes the Do-It-Yourself Home Renovation Mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. As Jenna Bennett, she writes the real estate themed Cutthroat Business series as well as the brand new Soldiers of Fortune series of science fiction romances from Entangled Publishing. Book 1, FORTUNE’S HERO, is scheduled for release in November. Meanwhile, the next DIY mystery, WALL TO WALL DEAD, will be arriving in stores September 4. For more information about Jenna/Jennie and any of her books or series, please visit her website, http://www.jenniebentley.com

The first time I heard the term ‘bible-based mystery,’ I wondered how anyone could take the epic tragedy of Cain and Abel and turn it into a whodunit, when the whole world knows that Cain had motive, means and opportunity, and did indeed whack his brother over the head with the proverbial blunt instrument. Little did I know—then—that a bible-based mystery has nothing whatsoever to do with the Bible or anyone in it.

That all changed when I was asked if I’d be interested in writing a series of mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime, about a home renovator in New England.

The catch?

It was a bible-based series, a work for hire: based on a concept dreamed up by someone else, in this case my editor. I’d do the work and get the advance and the royalties, but the pseudonym would get the credit, and the publisher would get the copyright.

I admit it: I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do. As they say in the Bible—the real Bible—I counted the cost. There are drawbacks to writing someone else’s vision, and not getting to retain copyright to the work is the least of it. Spending months, maybe years, writing books with characters and a setting someone else has invented, isn’t all fun and games.

I guess I don’t have to spell out what I chose. After all, I’m sitting here writing this. In the end, I decided a three-book contract with one of the biggest publishers in the world, along with seeing my words in print, outweighed the negatives.

That doesn’t mean writing the first book was easy.

Usually, I’m a pantser. One of those people who go along for the ride, just seeing where the story takes them. I don’t like to outline. If I already know everything that’s going to happen, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to write the book.

Wall-to-wall DEAD

Wall-to-wall DEAD by Jennie Bentley

That was a luxury I didn’t have this time. What I did have, was a ‘bible’: a two page list of elements provided by my editor. She’s the one who named the characters—most of them, anyway; I changed a few names here and there when they cut too close to the bone—and she also chose the background or gimmick for the series, in this case home renovation. I chose where to drop the fictional town where the action takes place, and how to arrange the story and animate the characters behind the names. And of course I wrote the 90,000 words between the front and back covers. Every one of them. Including the tips for the Do-It-Yourself Home Renovation projects.

So would I do it again?Sure. It’s been a good experience, by and large.

I’ve had the fun of creating a series, once I figured out how to make the characters and setting ‘mine.’ I’ve had the pleasure of seeing my work in print, even if it isn’t my name on the cover. I’ve gotten some excellent reviews and I’ve had a lot of nice things said about me. I’ve been named a bestseller. I’ve received a few bona fide fan letters from people who’ve read and enjoyed my work, and I’ve been compared to my favorite author. I’ve had to learn to answer when someone calls me Jennie.

In the end, it’s not much different from writing any other book. You pour your heart and soul into it just as if the idea was yours to begin with. You spend the same time and effort you would on any other book. The only difference is that you know, from the moment you start writing it, that this is the manuscript that’ll get published, and you won’t have to worry about anything but creating the best story you can. And that’s worth quite a lot right there!

(The Killer Nashville Guest Blog series is coordinated by KN Executive Director Beth Terrell (http://www.elizabethterrell.com/).  To be a part of this series, contact Beth at beth@killernashville.com.)

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About Clay Stafford

Clay Stafford is an author / filmmaker (www.ClayStafford.com) and founder of Killer Nashville (www.KillerNashville.com). As a writer himself, he has over 1.5 million copies of his own books in print in over 14 languages. Stafford’s latest projects are the feature documentary “One of the Miracles” (www.OneOfTheMiracles.com) and the music CD “XO” (www.JefferyDeaverXOMusic.com). A champion of writers, Publishers Weekly has identified Stafford as playing “an essential role in defining which books become bestsellers” throughout “the nation’s book culture.” (PW 6/10/13)
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8 Responses to Writing from the Bible / Author Jennie Bentley

  1. bethth says:

    Thanks for the post, Jennie. I find this process fascinating, Bente. When I first heard about it, I thought it would be like writing a Star Trek or Star Wars book, where you’re writing about characters and settings that are already established, but it’s not like that at all.

    Having read the DIY books, you made those very much your own.

  2. Well, I learned something here. I didn’t know it was called a “bible-based series.” You covered the subject well, though. Just one question: is FORTUNE’S HERO by Jennie, Jenna, or Bente?

  3. maggietoussaint says:

    Jennie,
    I’m so glad you took Berkley’s offer and created this highly entertaining series. As a fellow author, I know that writing those 90K words between the covers is hard work. It’s so nice to see that your writing has received both critical and popular acclaim. I’m glad to know you!
    Maggie

  4. Jennie –

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. Pam De Voe says:

    Definbely worth considering as a way to begin stepping into the publishing arena – Thanks for your input on the pros and cons!

  6. radine says:

    Jennie, Thanks for taking the time to enlighten those of us who didn’t know what you share about work for hire. I admire you greatly, and honor your ability to do this. You make it sound relatively easy after the initial doubt about taking it on, however, both you and I know it isn’t. Of course writing is writing, no matter what the name of the author is (Carolyn Keene, for example), but writing to someone else’s outline would be a killer for me. Guess I’m too involved in my own imagination when working on a novel. (And, I’m a ‘pantser,’ too.) I don’t know whether or not I’d be able to accomplish what you did. In fact, I did turn down an opportunity to write a series to outline a few years back, though, until I read your words, I had actually forgotten about it. I know several other authors who write for hire, (westerns or romances, mostly) and all of them also write novels under their own names, sometimes completing four or five books a year. It wears me out to even think about it! So, I’ll plod along my own path and admire your gumption from afar.

  7. Chester, I think FORTUNE’S HERO is by Jenna.

    • Bente says:

      Yup. Everything else at this point is Jenna. I don’t use my own name for anything anymore, and Jennie goes with the DIY series, so the futuristic romances, along with the romantic suspense and the paranormal romances (yes, I’m having a busy year) – oh yes, and the Cutthroat Business books, are all by Jenna Bennett. 🙂

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