Today, I’d like to welcome our own Jeanne Oates Estridge, one of nine paranormal finalists in RWA’s 2015 Golden Heart contest. Jeanne has graciously agreed to answer our questions and share her GH journey to date. First, congratulations on your Golden Heart finalist nod, Jeanne. That’s a tremendous accomplishment and we’re all proud of you!
I’m sure everyone is dying to know about “The Call”. Where were you when you learned the news? Did you scream for joy? Drop the phone? Spill, girl!
JE: Like everyone else who entered, I was watching the RWA website that morning, hoping against hope. When names started to populate in the different categories and I hadn’t received a call, my heart fell into my shoes. Then I saw that I had a missed call from an unknown number in California. I told myself it was probably someone trying to sell me something, but my hopes rose anyway. A few minutes later, the same number called back and it was RWA. I cried. Big, fat tears. I asked her if everyone cries and she said, “Some people cry, some people curse. I spoke with a woman in London this morning and she said, ‘Crikey!’”
Once you processed the fact that you’d just finaled in the mother of all RWA contests what went through your mind? What was your primary emotion?
JE: Thrilled. I kept checking the site to see if my name was really there. With a little disappointment mixed in, because I thought some of the other Eight Ladies would final, too, and that didn’t happen. Look out for their names next year.
Tell us what’s been happening since the call. What’s your writing life been like? Has it changed, and if so, how?
JE: Since the call I’ve finished polishing Demon’s Wager, my entry, and started shopping it, looking for an agent. And I’m working on the next book in my demon trilogy.
Have you found a downside to being nominated? If so, what is it?
JE: It can be a little time-consuming. There are 46 Golden Heart Finalists and the online chatter was about 1500 emails in the first month, I think. That’s really tapered off since we picked a class name—The Dragonflies. Now we’re working on designing a class pin to wear on our RWA badges.
What’s the best thing so far about being nominated?
JE: They tell me that having “2015 Golden Heart Finalist” in the subject line of your query email moves you to the top of the slush pile. Someone described it as the golden ticket from Willy Wonka—it doesn’t guarantee you’ll win (publish) but it does get you in the door.
I can tell you from experience that it’s no guarantee—I’ve received two rejections from agents so far.
Tell us a little about your book. What’s the title and premise? How would you categorize it?
JE: Demon’s Wager retells the story of Job as a paranormal romance. When the demon Belial gets in hot water with Satan, he launches a redo of the Job wager as a distraction. For his champion, God chooses Dara Strong, a widowed nurse who runs a free clinic. Raised by demon-fighting grandparents, Dara was bred for this fight. And so begins a battle between two cosmically well-matched opponents.
What sets your story apart from other paranormal romances?
JE: Probably the biggest thing is, it’s a comedy. A pretty dark comedy, but a comedy nonetheless. And it’s partly set in the Hell of the Old Testament, updated to include all the negative qualities of modern corporations.
What do you like best about your protagonist? What about your Antagonist? Who was more fun to write?
JE: It’s Belial’s story, so he’s the protagonist. I adore him—he’s gorgeous, smart and ambitious. He’s also really arrogant—he’s used to winning. This time around, though, he’s totally out-matched.
Dara is my antagonist. She’s the one who will force Belial to change in ways he never anticipated. She’s suffered terrible losses her life—both parents when she was a child, and her husband and the baby she was carrying in a car accident five years before the story begins. Unlike Job, she’s pretty pissed off at God about it all.
I love them both, but my favorite character is probably Lilith. She’s another demon, sent along as backup for Belial and determined to make the most of it. She’s gotten a pretty raw deal over the past 10,000 years—Hell is very sexist—and she takes deviousness to a whole new level.
What’s the first line of your book? What’s the last line?
JE: First line: It was poker night in the Ninth Ring of Hell and the demon Belial was in trouble.
JE: Last line: “I don’t know,” he said, closing her door. “No one ever knows.”
Perfect place to end today. In part II of our interview next week, Jeanne will discuss her Golden Heart journey, as well as give us the scoop on the conference events. Until then, you’re welcome to post any questions you have for Jeanne or visit her website.