Author Interviews
1:00 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Janet Evanovich On Love, Laughs And Being A Voyeur

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 8:04 am

Best-selling author Janet Evanovich has a lot to laugh about: She's sold more than 75 million novels.

Her latest, Explosive Eighteen, is the 18th in a series of crime novels featuring Jersey girl Stephanie Plum, a bounty hunter with big hair and an even bigger personality. She works for her bail bondsman cousin, has a couple of love interests and many laughs along the way.

Evanovich started out as a romance writer. She tells NPR's Lynn Neary that it was a pretty simple existence.

But then she introduced the world to Stephanie Plum.

"The first thing that happened to me, of course, is that I sold it to the movies," the author says. "And I sold it for $1 million."

Suddenly, her family's lives changed. She and her agent husband paid off their children's school loans, and then the kids joined the empire that became Team Evanovich: Her daughter handles the website, her son the finances.

Plum is not autobiographical, though Evanovich gave the character a lot of her own history as a way to keep her consistent.

"I wanted this to go on for a long time," she says.

Evanovich says she knew she wanted her heroine to be likable — tenacious yet vulnerable, a little flexible in her makeup. "She wouldn't be perfect but she would try very hard," she says.

As a romance writer, Evanovich had to give Plum some hot guys in her life, so of course, there's a love triangle. The author likes that her heroine is a bit indecisive.

"We all live a little vicariously through her," she says. "How bad is that? Here's this woman who sometimes can't get the snap together on the top of her jeans and she has a lot of bad hair days and she's not fabulous at her job, but she sort of gets it done. She doesn't have a great car, and she has these two amazing men who just think she's the most attractive woman on Earth. We should all have this problem."

Plum doesn't take herself too seriously, though.

"I think this is a good thing in today's world," Evanovich says, "because I think there are a lot of people out there who do take themselves way too seriously. And, you know, we need a little humor in our lives to balance all that out.

"We don't appreciate the value of humor sometimes. You can get through very serious and sometimes horrible and sometimes embarrassing and very awkward situations with humor. It gives us a way out."

After 18 Stephanie Plum novels, Evanovich has no problem coming up with ideas.

"There's just so much craziness out there in the world; it's like I couldn't fit them all in my books," she says. "I'm a real voyeur. I go to bars and restaurants, and I sit and I eavesdrop on people and I watch people in shopping centers and, you know, I read the newspapers and I talk to the Trenton cops, and I just get a lot of information that comes in that somehow turns into a book."

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Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

LYNN NEARY, HOST:

And I'm Lynn Neary. Janet Evanovich has just published "Explosive Eighteen." It's the 18th in a series of crime novels featuring Jersey girl Stephanie Plum. Plum's hair is big, and her personality bigger. She's a bounty hunter in Trenton who works for her bail bondsman cousin, has a couple of love interests and a lot of laughs along the way. Janet Evanovich has a lot to laugh about as well. She has sold more than 75 million novels. The books fuel the empire that is Team Evanovich.

Her daughter handles the website, her son the finances, and her husband is her agent. Janet Evanovich has made it big, but she didn't start out writing crime novels.

JANET EVANOVICH: You know, I started as a romance writer. I did 12 romance novels, and that was a pretty simple existence for me. But when I moved over into Stephanie Plum and the first thing that happened to me, of course, was that I sold it to the movies, and I sold it for a million dollars. Now, we were not wealthy people. My dad worked in a factory, and I was the first to go to college. And we had a lot of debt sending our kids through school. So all of a sudden, you know, our lives changed.

And we said to our kids: We have all this money. We're going to pay off all your education loans. And you can choose what you would like to do: if you want to go to law school or if you want to join in with us and we'll, you know, do this book thing together. And they both chose to come on board. So it was, you know, kind of this gradual process.

NEARY: Well, tell me, how did you create Stephanie Plum? Who or what was the inspiration for this character that so many people love now?

EVANOVICH: I know what I like as a reader. I know what I like to see on television and the movies. And I thought I had a sense of who my audience was. So I knew what kind of a heroine I wanted. I knew that she would be likeable. I knew that she would be a little vulnerable. She wouldn't be perfect. But she would try very hard. She would have some flexibility in her makeup. She would be a tenacious person. You know, some of the things that I really admire in people. And then because I wanted this to go on for a long time...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EVANOVICH: ...I gave her some of myself. I thought this is a way of keeping the character consistent, you know, of knowing the character. So Stephanie has some of me. I gave her a lot of my history. And then, of course, there's a lot of my daughter in Stephanie because my daughter is Stephanie's generation. You know, I'm a generation away. And so I had this woman. I knew that I wanted to have some hot guys in her life because I love that as a romance writer.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EVANOVICH: I was never very good, you know, at all the detailed sex scenes, he did this and then that and - but I love the adventure of it. I love the romantic chase. And so I knew...

NEARY: Yeah. And you have these two guys who are, you know, one is a cop, Morelli, and the other, Ranger, is this sort of mystery guy. He wears all black. He works in security in some way. And I was wondering - she's in a triangle with these guys - do you ever plan to make her decide once and for all which one she wants?

EVANOVICH: I'd love the triangle, and I love - I kind of like the indecision that she has, you know, because Stephanie is a pretty normal person, and we all have our moments of indecision. And we all live a little vicariously through her with these - I mean, you know, how bad is that? And, you know, here's this woman who, you know, sometimes can't quite get the snap together on the top of her jeans, and she has a lot of bad hair days. And she's not fabulous at her job, but she's sort of, you know, gets it done. She doesn't have a great car. And she has these two amazing men who just think, you know, she's the most attractive woman on Earth. And, you know...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EVANOVICH: ...so, like, we should all have this problem, you know?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EVANOVICH: I just think it's fun.

NEARY: I want to give our readers who may not have read your books an idea of what Stephanie is like, and I was wondering if you could read a passage from the book "Explosive Eighteen." This is a description of Stephanie getting ready for a funeral after a very rough day.

EVANOVICH: (Reading) By 6:30, it was clear there was only so much improvement I could expect from ice. I got dressed in a black pencil skirt, black heels, a cream sweater with a low-scoop neck and matching cardigan. I wore my hair down and fluffed out, hoping it would distract from my monster bruise and cut lip. I smeared on a lot of concealer, tried to balance out the black eye with extra blush, and I was wearing my pushup bra for maximum cleavage. I took one last look in the mirror and thought this was as good as it was going to get.

(Reading) I drop my new GLOCK into my purse, along with the stun gun on steroids. I was wearing the GPS watch, pearl earrings, a Band-Aid where the knife had nicked my neck and a huge Band-Aid on my skinned knee. I was the all-American girl.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NEARY: She's very funny. And it seems to me that humor really is what kind of - is the main engine behind your books.

EVANOVICH: Yes. Stephanie doesn't take herself too seriously. And I think this is a good thing in today's world because I think there are a lot of people out there who do take themselves way too seriously. And, you know, we need a little humor in our lives to balance all that out, to - humor, you know, we don't appreciate the value of humor sometimes. You can get through very serious and sometimes horrible and sometimes embarrassing and very awkward situations with humor. It gives us a way out.

NEARY: You know, we should say about the movie, although the first book was optioned, it's only now coming out as a movie, right?

EVANOVICH: Yes. January 27th.

NEARY: Why did it take so long?

EVANOVICH: I don't know.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EVANOVICH: I don't know. We have asked ourselves that at the dinner table every day for 18 years. We - I just don't know. But I'm glad it's finally happened.

NEARY: Well, do you ever run out of ideas? I mean, do you ever get tired of the Stephanie Plum story and...

EVANOVICH: I wouldn't say that I run out of ideas. Sometimes I'm a lot more clever than other times. I consider myself to be a professional, you know? And I show up for work every day on time just as any professional would: a nurse, a doctor. We put our time, and then we do our job and just hope that it works out well. And I have a lot to draw from. I created a very good situation for myself because there are all these auxiliary characters that I can pull forward, and that helps a lot for me.

And, you know, I mean, there's just so much craziness out there in the world. It's like I couldn't fit them all in my books. I mean, I'm a real voyeur. I go to bars and restaurants, and I sit and I eavesdrop on people, and I watch people in shopping centers. And, you know, I read the newspapers, and I talk to the Trenton cops. And I just get a lot of information that comes in and, you know, somehow it turns into a book.

NEARY: Well, Janet Evanovich, it was really great talking with you.

EVANOVICH: Thank you. It's been fun.

NEARY: Janet Evanovich is the author of the Stephanie Plum novels. The latest is "Explosive Eighteen." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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