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Jayne Ann Krentz on her love of contemporary gothic and what was missing from Nancy Drew

Jayne Ann KrentzMarc von Borstel

During her long, hugely productive, and best-selling career, Jayne Ann Krentz has been an author of many pseudonyms. She’s boiled that list down to three. As Amanda Quick, she writes historical romance-suspense. As Jayne Castle, she pens futuristic romance-suspense. Lastly, under her married name, she writes contemporary romance-suspense novels, such as her newest, “Sleep No More,” which has three heroines, an earthquake, a fire, and — of course — an unsolved crime. Krentz is also the editor of and a contributor to “Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of Romance.” The author lives in Seattle with her husband.


BOOKS: What are you reading?

KRENTZ: I just finished Katy Hays’s “The Cloisters.” I loved that because the novel looks behind the scenes of the Cloisters museum. My favorite thing for the moment is gothic. This past year I read the quintessential modern gothic, Isabel Canas’s “The Hacienda.” If anyone is looking to see what the new gothic is, that’s it. And before that I read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Mexican Gothic,” which led the way for this genre.

BOOKS: What appeals to you about contemporary gothic fiction?

KRENTZ: The classic thing about gothic is that the danger is always inside the house. That just sends chills down my spine. Not that serial killers don’t, but for pleasure reading I love that closed-in feeling, which always has a hint of madness.

BOOKS: Do you have a favorite gothic classic?

KRENTZ: I guess “Jane Eyre” would be the classic but I never liked the ending. The thing about the gothic novel is that it’s always appealed to women because the heroine is on her own. There may be a handsome master of the house around but he’s not going to save her. She has to save herself.

BOOKS: What do you read when you aren’t reading gothic?


KRENTZ: Straight-up romance-suspense, which is what I write. It’s not suspense with a little romance on the side. Every move in the relationship affects the plot and every move in the suspense affects the relationship.

BOOKS: Who are your favorite romance-suspense authors?

KRENTZ: I love Christina Dodd. Her latest book is “Point Last Seen.” I’d also recommend J.T. Ellison’s “It’s One of Us,” which is about a woman whose husband’s DNA matches a murder suspect.

BOOKS: When did you start reading romance?

KRENTZ: I grew up on Nancy Drew. She had a cool car, but, for me, it was always missing romance. I don’t think there was a heck of a lot of romance around when I was growing up. If there was, it wasn’t on the book mobile. In high school I read science fiction, such as early Robert A. Heinlein and Andre Norton, which also didn’t have romance. I didn’t want just romance, I wanted more relationships. The first romance that grabbed me was Anne McCaffrey’s first novel, “Restoree,” which I read in college. It’s about an Earth woman who is captured and taken to another planet. Of course there was no market for futuristic romance then, which is probably why McCaffrey didn’t write another, but now there is.

BOOKS: Where would you suggest that new romance fiction readers start?

KRENTZ: I would point them to Susan Elizabeth Phillips. She’s a sophisticated writer with a wonderful touch for comedy but a lot of heart in her books.


BOOKS: What else do you read?

KRENTZ: Straight-up thrillers or nonfiction. Sam Kean’s “Caesar’s Last Breath” is about what should be the dullest topic in the world, atmosphere and currents, but it’s fantastic. He includes this wonderful statistic that ultimately during our lifetimes we will breathe some of the molecules of Caesar’s last breath or anyone else who has croaked.

BOOKS: Did you make any New Year’s resolutions for your reading?

KRENTZ: No. I read what sounds good. I should go back and read the classics that I didn’t read in school, like “War and Peace,” especially with Russia in the news, but I doubt I will. When I went to St. Petersburg years ago all the tour guides would quote Pushkin. That made you feel so bad! They are so well versed in their culture. But there’s so much new stuff I don’t feel compelled to go back.