Octoberguest! Jennie Bentley

You know how much I love having debut authors here at the Handbasket, and Jennie Bentley is one of two who will be here this week. Her novel, Fatal Fixer-Upper, will be available just days from now; it’s the first in her Do-It-Yourself Home Renovation mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime (Penguin).

When Jennie’s not writing, she’s buying and selling homes for her real estate clients as well as her family. They’ve owned eight houses in the last eight years and renovated every one! How she does it all with a husband, two boys, a hyper-active dog, a parakeet and a goldfish, I don’t know. (Aren’t parakeets very resistant to change? Don’t they die if they’re exposed to paint fumes?)

Jennie blogs at Working Stiffs and at her own place, The ABCs of DIY. I should also mention that Fatal Fixer-Upper received four and 1/2 stars from Romantic Times Book Review Magazine–their highest rating!

Welcome, Jennie!


When I signed on to do a guest blog for late October, I figured I’d put something together on the same subject I usually do: the fact that my first book is coming out November 4th—yay!—and how I came to write it.

Then Laura mentioned that since it’s almost Halloween, spooky posts are encouraged. And I was brought up short. I’m the least spooky person I know. What the hell do I write about?

It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good, old-fashioned ghost story. I do. Scooby-Doo was on a continual loop in my house for years, until the kids started school and the house got quiet during the day. We still own every single Scooby-Doo episode and movie ever made, with the exception of the two where the villains are real. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in Scooby-Doo, there’s supposed to be a guy with a mask at the center of things. If there isn’t, then somebody screwed up.

And that brings me to expectations, I guess. That unspoken promise that when you turn on a Scooby-Doo cartoon for your kids, you won’t set them up to have to deal with anything too disturbingly real (and you won’t have to deal with their nightmares later that night). The bad guys—or girls; Scooby had equal opportunity villains—are always people dressed up as ghosts or vampires or zombies, not the real thing. It’s part of the deal, and when it isn’t so, I feel cheated. And pissed off.

I like expectations. Like knowing that when I pick up a book with a cat and a kitchen sink and a mysterious shadow on the cover—like mine—I’m probably looking at something that won’t keep me up nights. (Not unless I’m staying up to finish reading it, anyway.) If I want nightmares, there are books I can read that will give them to me, but I like to know those things up front. I don’t like picking up something that looks innocuous and innocent—like a movie with Scooby-Doo and the Gang—and discover that it’s actually scary and is gonna creep me out.

So I guess we’re back to that old discussion about the contract between reader and writer. Which I fully believe exists, BTW, and which I do my level best to abide by. When someone picks up my book, I want them to get their $6.99 worth of what they’re expecting to get. A few laughs, a little romance, some suspense, a mystery, and a hot handyman with tight jeans and a low-slung tool belt… Nothing gory, creepy, or scary. And next year, when they pick up the second book in the series—which I hope they’ll do, after reading the first—I want them to expect those same things, plus know that those ghostly footsteps that walk down the hallway when no one is there, and that eerie scream that echoes through the house when someone opens the front door… those aren’t real. Because if they were, then I probably wouldn’t be writing a cozy series at all. Or at least there’d be something like a ‘paranormal’ sticker on it somewhere.

Just giving fair warning, you know?

Thanks, Jennie! (I confess that I’m a total sucker for the Scooby-Doo live action stuff, just like I was for the cartoons. But Freddie Prinze, Jr in a blond wig was a little much for even me!)

[Remember, everyone, to comment to win books–including Fatal Fixer-Upper!–and Godiva Chocolatier and Harry and David giftbaskets. Drawings November 2nd!]

Tomorrow: Mystery writer Karen Olson

7 thoughts on “Octoberguest! Jennie Bentley”

  1. Tom says:

    Jennie, I’m really ticked! As your book’s cover, you’ve used a photo of our former disaster-kitchen in our former disaster-home in St. Louis. And with our late cat, Fantasia, sitting right in the path of progress, as usual.

    Honestly – some people! Harrumph!! No respect, these young ones, with their ScoopyPoo. What? You mean . . . well, dog doo is dog doo any way you spell it.

    Best wishes with your book and your series. You have courage far beyond ours – we said, “Hold! Enough!” after two damn old houses.

  2. So that’s who the cat is… I was wondering. See, there are two cats in the book – Maine Coon cats – but this cat clearly isn’t one of them. If you look closely, you’ll see it doesn’t have a shadow (unlike everything around it), so I’m thinking it must be a ghost cat. That explains it. Thanks for clearing it up, Tom!

  3. RAC says:

    Ruh-roh! I don’t see any Scooby snacks! Best of luck on the release of your new book!

  4. Joe P. Frick says:

    Does the idea of scary home renovations automatically conjure up the image of Tom Hanks in “The Burbs” for anybody besides me?

  5. Tom says:

    Fantasia *was* a Maine Coon. Now this is getting spooky.

    Joe, you’re thinking of ‘The Money Pit,’ I do believe. We had a therapist who thought we’d regain our sense of humor about the monstrous rehab enterprise if we’d just watch the flick together.

    We strangled her, and hid her body in the new concrete in the basement. Or we should have.

  6. Karen Olson says:

    The Money Pit was a bad remake of a great Cary Grant movie: Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. Myrna Loy was also in this movie, which is absolutely hysterical.

    I think we all like to read and see movies about someone else’s home improvement nightmares. It makes our own seem more normal, I guess. Good luck with the book!!

  7. I think I’ve seen Mr. Blanding’s Dream House twelve times. I adore that film. But it never once stopped me from buying houses and pouring more money than they deserved into them. Cary and Myrna just made it all seem so jolly!

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