BOOK BEAT Naples Sun Times June 13-19, 2007
by Philip K. Jason
Janet Evanovich needed a “mud season” house. She had a house in New Hampshire and a condo in Boston, but she wanted to get away from the extreme cold and the messy thaw that follows. After driving around Florida and rejecting many other locations, she settled on Naples for several reasons. Key West was too inaccessible, and Evanovich didn’t feel that she had had enough plastic surgery to qualify for Palm Beach. Naples excited this best-selling author immediately.
A very busy and disciplined writer (she is up and writing at 4:30 each morning), Evanovich doesn’t spend much time preparing meals. So, a large assortment of outstanding restaurants is a must, as are easy travel connections, a full range of services, and the sense of living in a real town with a distinctive character. After a few short years, Naples became her primary residence. For Evanovich, Naples is the place where she does not have to make the choice between having a life and pursuing all of her writing projects. She can have it all.
We know Janet Evanovich best for her enormously popular Stephanie Plum crime novels, a series about a bounty hunter and her hilarious, suspenseful adventures. Though Evanovich was already a successful writer (primarily of romance fiction) before she invented Plum, this series broadened her readership enormously and placed her firmly on the best-seller lists.
Success breeds demand, and Evanovich is riding the crest of a wave as she builds a brand name by authoring reliably entertaining novels. For the past two years, she has brought out seven books a year. These include not only novels in the Plum series, but also titles in others series, some of which are collaborative endeavors, and also reprints of earlier works for which her fame has assured a new readership. In fact, collaboration – enjoyable in itself – provides an opportunity for her to meet the demand for more books with her brand name on them.
The latest Stephanie Plum installment, “Lean Mean Thirteen,” comes out in hardcover on June 19, but Evanovich sent it in only two weeks before our sit-down (on May 10). Not many writers could get away with this – but a dependable best-seller can. It follows after a special hardcover Plum Valentine’s Day Novella, “Plum Lovin’,” published in January; a hardcover omnibus “More Plums in One” (Plum titles number four, five, and six) published in April; and another April title, the paperback original “Hot Stuff,” co-authored with Leanne Banks.
Also on June 19 comes the paperback of the Plum “Twelve Sharp,” to be followed in late July by the paperback of “Motor Mouth.” And, if the bookstores have room, these titles will be joined in the fall by “No Chance,” Evanovich’s first collaboration with Stephen J. Cannell, and by “The Grand Finale,” the re-release of a pre-Plum romance.
This South River (New Jersey) High School graduate and Douglass College art major was not an instant success as a writer. Many manuscripts were rejected by publishers and agents before Evanovich (as Steffie Hall) hit with a title in the now-defunct “Second Chance at Love” line. Then she published regularly with the Bantam Loveswept imprint. Eventually, Evanovich decided that she wanted to enter the world of crime fiction, and, after two years of brainstorming and research, she invented Stephanie Plum.
Evanovich has no illusions about being or becoming a hi-brow writer. The immediate past president of the Mystery Writers of America, she means to be entertaining to a wide variety of readers. People who read literary fiction can switch off to an Evanovich novel for something light. “People who only watch television can read my books,” she says. “They are really television substitutes. I design them that way.”
Find out more about this amazing writer and “Lean Mean Thirteen” at Evanovich.com, a website that receives millions of hits a month and which the author believes is critical to her success, keeping her in touch with her readers and keeping her readers in touch with each other. Designed and run by her daughter, the website has helped generate an electronic family of devoted Evanovich readers, who return often to enjoy its changing content, contests, and Evanovich news. The website helps prepare the anticipation for each new book. When I checked on May 29, three weeks before its release, “Lean Mean Thirteen” was already the #23 best seller on Amazon.com and #13 on Barnesandnoble.com.
Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy. A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club.