Jayne Ann Krentz has penned over fifty New York Times bestsellers, and her most recent book, When All the Girls Have Gone, is already poised to become her next big success. In her latest novel, out Nov. 29, Charlotte partners with a private detective, Max, to help find her missing stepsister, but ends up entangled in a web of deceit and murder.
Krentz actually pens books under three names: she writes historical romance under the name Amanda Quick, paranormal romance under the name Jayne Castle, and contemporary romantic suspense under the name Jayne Ann Kretnz.
"One of the benefits of that over the years has been that every time I finish with one book, I plunge into a whole new world," Krentz tells Bustle. "It's a fresh feeling, it allows different kinds of storytelling. You can tell different kinds of stories in one world in the futuristic world that you don't tell in the contemporary world or in the historical world or vice versa." She adds that by writing under three names, she is able to let readers "know what they're getting."
Writing successful novels in not one but three genres is no easy feat, so I asked her the question on the tips of all our tongues: how does she write so much? Krentz says that she has never had the feeling of being stuck, and that writing is very much an addiction for her.
"It's got a light side and a dark side, like any good addiction," she says. "The dark side is that sometimes you don't pull away from it to do other things. You forget you have another life going on. I think it's the balancing of it that's been the hard part over the years, because left to my own devices I would probably just write all day and most of the night."
Krentz describes her style as dialogue-driven, something that was not common at the time she began writing. "Back at the start, the characters in a romance novel or in a romantic suspense novel often didn't really talk to each other, and whole stories would sometimes hinge on misunderstandings, which is kind of a cheap trick as far as I'm concerned as a writer," she tells Bustle. "And I just wanted more of that sense of communication."
The dialogue scenes are vital to the story, but they are also the most fun for her to write. "I love that discovery period of the relationship when you find out that you and this other person can form a bond," she says. "There's a saying that in a romance novel, ultimately the heroine sees the hero in him and he sees the [heroine] in her. They recognize each other's strengths and that's what gives them the real bond to build something more than just a sexual relationship on. And I think that in my books, it's discovered through dialogue,"
Where the Girls Have Gone is jam-packed with dangers — conspiracies, murders, and disappearances force Charlotte and Max to navigate dangerous waters together. Often, her characters discover what's going on at the same time she does. Krentz says she would love to be the kind of writer who outlines ahead of time, but instead, elements come to her as she writes. Most of the action of her novels remains a mystery to her until the very end.
"I didn't know who actually shoots the character in the very first scene," she says of When the Girls Have Gone. "I didn't know who the shooter was until the very end of the book."
For Krentz, plotting is all about creating scenarios, asking questions, and trying to answer those questions. She also says that she sees plot as "circles within circles" and she works to find the connections within those circles.
One of these underlying "circles" is the decades age-old mystery that Max is trying to solve: the whereabouts of cult leader Quinton Zane, who killed his and his foster brothers' mother. When All the Girls Have Gone is the first book book in a trilogy, and each book will follow a different brother. Each book will also have its own complete and separate mystery. "I want to emphasize that When All The Girls Have Gone can be read as a stand-alone," she says. "Nobody has to commit to the next three books to read it."
At the heart of the novel is Charlotte, a woman hell-bent on discovering what's happened to her stepsister without forsaking her strong sense of honor, loyalty, and determination. "Strength always has a flip-side," Krentz says of Charlotte. "The same thing that makes you strong can also leave you vulnerable in some parts." In fact, Charlotte's positive qualities are often perceived as naive by more cynical types, Krentz explains. "Because if you're not a bold-faced liar, you sort of assume nobody else is either," she says.
But as the book unfolds, readers learn that Charlotte is plenty tough. In one of the pivotal scenes of the novel, Charlotte and Max are forced to save themselves from being drowned in a river. Krentz says that this scene was the most fun part for her to write.
"I do like action adventure in a story. It not only gives energy to the book, but it allows you to see a character's under stress, and how they're going to react under stress, and I think that's why it appeals," she says. "If you survive an experience like that with someone, there's a bond there. You did it together and you're alive because of each other. And that's a heck of a bond to build a romance on for sure."