Monday, January 31, 2011

Judi Fennell interview and contest

What do you hope readers take with them after reading one of your stories?

A few hours of light-hearted entertainment that took them away from their life and left them with a smile.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? Not a message, per se, but I’ve had a few readers think I can’t write. I don’t always follow perfect grammar, but there’s the old adage that you have to know and understand a rule before you break it. I understand grammar. But my characters don’t speak that way and since I write in deep POV (deep point of view, where what you’re reading is the character’s actual thought), I’m going to be true to their voice, their way of viewing the world. Also, people consider my stories “light and fluffy,” which is fine, but I liken them to the movie, Shrek. I saw it with my kids and they were laughing at all the slapstick stuff. The things that were out-right funny. The parents in the theater, on the other hand, were laughing at the subliminal things. The things you had to “get” to find funny. I write my stories like that movie. There is the off-the-cuff funny (or eye-rolling), but then there’s the deeper meaning. Like Shrek said, “Onions have layers, ogres have layers.” My stories have layers. And if you don’t see those layers, that’s okay because the story itself is supposed to be enjoyable. But if you do see them, you’re getting an extra boost of funny.

How much time did it take from writing your first book to having it published?

I got lucky. A lot in this business is a lightning strike. I’d been in an online contest run by Romantic Times Magazine and Dorchester Publishing, called American Title. It was like American Idol in that the public voted, and the entry with the most votes won a publishing contract.

I didn’t win. That’s not the getting lucky that I’m talking about.

What that contest did for me was to garner me a following, so when the next online contest came about, this one from and Simon & Schuster, I had a great base to gather votes. Out of the almost 2,700 entries in all genres of fiction, my story, Beauty and The Best, was the only romance to make the Top 20 finalists.

But I still didn’t win.

I did, however, catch the eye of thousands of members, so when Gather announced it was doing another online contest, this time for strictly Romance, I had people asking me to enter.

So I did. But I wanted to have a new story because Beauty and The Best had already made the rounds and hadn’t found a home. I’d started my “little talking fish story,” as I called it, In Over Her Head, and was about 1/3 of the way from the end. The contest was announced at the beginning of July and the deadline was the end of August. I threw myself into finishing and polishing this story so I could enter it.

And I still didn’t win.

But I did finish in the #3 position, spoke with Sue Grimshaw who is the national romance buyer for Borders books (and one of the final judges), learned what I needed to make the story marketable and got lucky enough for Sue to back me, pitching my story to editors. THAT was the luck involved.

Shortly thereafter, I had a contract not just for that book, but for a trilogy. So from the big push to finish and the contract, it was one year, then another year for it to hit the shelves. A relatively quick time in this business, for which I’m very thankful. You’ll see an acknowledgment to Sue in every book to date.

How would your friends describe you?

“Ham.” That was my nickname in school. Stick a camera in my face and I smile. Put a microphone in my hand and I talk. Ask me about my books and you have to walk away to get me to shut up. Well, no, I’m not that bad, but I’m definitely a people person and don’t take myself too seriously.

Now, if only I could sing, I’d be really obnoxious…

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything on your road to publication?

I’d write Twilight. ;)

Okay, Stephenie Meyer might have an issue with that, but who wouldn’t love to have that kind of success? Writing is fun, it’s creative, it’s an expression of who we are, but in the end, we’d all like to be able to make a living from it.

But most of us have to work at it. We have to build a readership, we have to keep writing great stories. We need marketing and promotion, and enough luck to stand out from the crowd. So I’m doing that. I’m focused on my audience, staying true to my voice and my characters, and coming up with new fun ideas.

But I wouldn’t mind a lightning strike.

How do you come up with the titles?

I usually come up with the titles first, actually. It gives me a flavor of what the story is going to be about.

The titles have to have the same type of fun, punny-ness I put into my writing. In Over Her Head about a marina owner who’s terrified of the ocean and ends up living beneath the sea with a merman just totally cracked me up when I came up with it. I love all the nuances of what it can mean, both to the reader and to the heroine. The play on words of Catch of a Lifetime, especially because the six year old actually caught the mermaid heroine, makes me chuckle. When it came to the Genies, I knew the stories were going to pull from the TV show, so what better titles than to twist the shot titles? My tagline for all my stories is fairy tales with a twist, so anytime I can twist something, I will.

If you could be a paranormal creature, which one would you be?

I’d be a witch. Of course, according to my teenagers, I can be. LOL. But I’d be Samantha Stevens, though I have to say that my husband is MUCH hunkier than Darren. Both Darrens.

What’s a guilty pleasure you have?

Reality TV shows. I’ve been watching Survivor since the second season (I’d seen the finale show of the first one, where Truckdriver Susan ripped into Kelly and I had to see what would make someone act like that on national television and have been hooked ever since.) I love Amazing Race, and utterly adore the Real Housewives franchises. No, I don’t utterly adore the Housewives (some of them are good, others are just train wrecks), but I just can’t believe the way people will throw their friends under the bus for 15 minutes of fame, and I find that I can’t not watch it.

If you came with a warning label, what would it say?

This is from my husband, because I, of course, don’t think I need a warning label. He says, “Warning: Nothing Done In Moderation” or “Warning: No First, Second, or Third Gear.”

What’s your favorite curse word?

It’s unrepeatable. And I’m not proud of myself for saying it. I’ve told my kids that I can’t yell at them for cursing because I do it, but to learn from my mistake. It’s a bad habit, so it’s better not to get in the habit.

What is your favorite candy bar?

Favorite candy bar isn’t really a candy bar. To me, the most perfect piece of chocolate is a Hershey kiss. It’s a really good thing they’re individually wrapped or I’d inhale them! At least the wrapping slows me down. Second favorite is a Reese’s peanut butter cup.


“The nonstop cinematic gee-whiz results will keep the reader enraptured. Fennell also tosses in sultry sex scenes, a bubble-gum-sweet but passionate romance, quick-moving action, and a variety of puns and riddle-making beasts.”

—Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW

He needs to change his luck, and fast!

Matt Ewing would gladly hunt down a fortune in lucky pennies if he thought it would help save his business. But for all his hoping, Matt’s clueless when his long-awaited lucky charm falls in his lap in the form of a beguiling genie. He just can’t believe that this beautiful woman could be the answer to his prayers…

She’s been bottled up for far too long!

Spending 2,000 years in a bottle would make any woman a little stir-crazy. So when Matt releases Eden from her luxurious captivity, she’s thrilled to repay him by giving him the magical boost he needs…

But for all her good intentions, Eden’s magical prowess is a little rusty and her magical mistakes become more than embarrassing. And though Eden knows falling in love will end her magic and immortality, she can’t help but be drawn to the one man who wants her just for herself…

About the Author

Judi Fennell is an award-winning author and writes what she calls “fairy tales with a twist.” Her romance novels have been finalists in's First Chapters and First Chapters Romance contests, and have won numerous RWA Chapter Awards, including the FF&P Prism Award, and the New Jersey Golden Leaf Award. Judi lives with her family in suburban Philadelphia, PA, where she is working on the next book in the Genie Trilogy, Genie Knows Best, set for release in November 2011. For more information, please visit

CONTEST: 2 Winners. Open to US and Canada residents only. Winners will be selected at random from all commentors. Good Luck and please don't forget to leave your email so you can be notified if you win.


  1. Judi, we need writers like you! Some of my favourite books are fun jaunts that take me to a place that I love to go again and again.

    I haven't read any of your books, but I look forward to it!

  2. Hi Jenn! Thanks so much - I write the type of books I like to read and it's been gratifying to see that I'm not the only one who likes these kinds of stories.

  3. Love this interview! Really a great mix of questions — and answers.

    Judi, I completely agree with you about the "onion" analogy (I like "iceberg" too!) — the best books are those that work fine on a surface level but offer a whole lot of layers beneath for those who care to go deeper.

    (otherlisa at gmail dot com)

  4. Judi, I'm reading Catch of a Lifetime now (well, not right now because I'm writing you this note) and am enjoying it very much. I'm looking forward to enjoying the Genie books very much too.


  5. May I say I just loved this whole interview? The questions and your answers: just terrific. And I can totally see the warning labels from your hubby applying to you but they're a plus not a detriment. I'm reading Genie right now and it's terrific! Can't wait for the next book to come out. Of course I've felt that way about every book you've written.
    aries18 at charter dot net

  6. I'd like to have written something like Twilight too, lol!

    And yes, I've read all your Mer books and there is definitely the *shrek effect* in the humor. I want to read Genie, dammit.

    This was a good interview. I love Hershey kisses.

    siamckye at gmail dot com

  7. Loved reading your interview! I'm putting your book, I Dream of Genies, on my TBR list. BTW, everytime I scold myself for being addicted to reality tv, I think of all the things could be worse addictions.