Today I’m very happy to welcome author Jenny Trout to The Discriminating Fangirl. Jenny is the author of the upcoming Say Goodbye to Hollywood. Some of you may know her from her 50 Shades of Grey recaps or The Boss series (written under the name Abigail Barnette). Say Goodbye to Hollywood will be released on Tuesday, March 21. You can pre-order a copy from Amazon now.
Amanda: You mentioned in your recent update that the book had shifted from erotic romance to contemporary romance and finally, to something between women’s fiction and fiction with romantic elements. Was this a conscious decision or did it happen more naturally as you wrote?
Jenny: It happened naturally while I wrote it, but it was natural like a tornado or a rock slide. It was not a fun, organic process where I had a lot of input. It was just, “gah, what is happening?” and I had little to no control over the direction it went. All I knew was that when I tried to resist, it felt like I was burying the most interesting part of the story. Trying to get multiple sex scenes in felt contrived, and like it was slowing the story down. So while I’m happy with the result, boy was it hard to get to the finished product from my original vision of what I thought it would be.
Amanda: I’ve been a fan of your books since the Blood Ties series, and since then, you’ve written erotic, contemporary, and paranormal (both contemporary and historical) romance as well as horror. Is there a particular genre or subgenre that you prefer to write?
Jenny: I tend to hop to whatever genre is shiny at the time. I don’t mean in a commercial sense; chasing the market just does not work when you write as slowly as I do. So, I just write what I feel interested in writing about. In 2018, I’ve got another vampire paranormal romance coming out. I’ve still got my The Boss and By The Numbers series that I’m working on, which are contemporary erotic romance and contemporary romance, respectively. I’ve done YA fantasy, high fantasy, right now I’m working on a YA Urban Fantasy, I’ve got a hobby screenplay and TV pilot that are just for fun… I just write what makes me happy. If you’re not having a good time, or you don’t have room to grow, the reader can tell.
Amanda: Is there a favorite scene that you can share from Say Goodbye to Hollywood?
Jenny: It’s hard to pick a favorite scene, because it’s so close to release day and I’m in that “Oh god, this whole thing sucks, this is the book where everyone realizes I’m a fraud,” mindset, but I guess my favorite is probably a flashback scene where the heroine, Jessica, is having a meeting with a big-time Hollywood actor she’s met, and she keeps thinking of him as his full name in her head. She’s in Jack Martin’s house, Jack Martin is sitting next to her, Jack Martin is talking about her script, she can’t just call him “Jack”, even in her mind. I love the scene because it’s how people actually think—if you’re sitting next to Tom Cruise, you’re sitting next to Tom Cruise, you’re not sitting next to Tom, like any old mortal man—but also the other side of it, having someone sitting there, trying to make a connection and get over that hurdle of being the famous person and trying to figure out when to drop the Hollywood act. It was a fun interaction to write.
Amanda: What did you enjoy the most about working on this story?
Jenny: Coming up with the text for the fictional book Beautiful Darkness. It was so much fun to imagine just the absolute worst book you could ever read and then try to write that. It’s an obvious parody of both Fifty Shades of Grey and Beautiful Disaster, but it’s more like if you put those two books in a blender, pureed them, then poured the whole mess out on a pile of every inexplicable bestseller ever. And then you set fire to the whole thing. That’s how bad Beautiful Darkness is.
Amanda: This book is “ripped from the headlines” (or, at least, ripped from the Internet rumor mill headlines in this case). About how much of your writing is inspired by real life?
Jenny: In this book? A lot. I went out and found the most bizarre and unlikely rumors swirling around several authors over the years. Obviously, a lot of the plot points have been taken from gossip about the Fifty Shades of Grey movie, but there are some others in there, like an author whose assistant famously wrote a tell-all. The character of Lynn Baldwin, the bestselling novelist, is based almost entirely on a writer I knew in real life, who was so touchy and moody that you always felt like you were walking on eggshells trying to deal with her. I know a lot of people are going to think I based her solely on E.L. James, but that would have been really difficult, because I don’t know her. So, I dumped the author I did know into the role of E.L. James and let the whole thing snowball from there.
In other books, I’ve tackled some broader issues, like abortion, domestic violence, feminism, infertility, etc. I think when you put in something real that readers can relate to, even if you’re writing about unlikely situations, it makes a connection that draws them in deeper. And my characters always have little things in them that I can identify with or that came from me (even Lynn Baldwin).
Amanda: You’ve shared Spotify playlists for your books, including one for SGTH. How important is music to your writing process? And how much Billy Joel is typically involved?
Jenny: Less Billy Joel than you might imagine from someone who legally changed one of her middle names to Joel. “Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)” was on the playlist for The Baby, and I think “Just The Way You Are” was on First Time. But I listen to Billy Joel typically for meditative and religious purposes.
Music is extremely important, because it helps me tune out the world. And while I have the songs arranged into a nice little playlist on Spotify, the truth is that I’m probably listening to any one of those songs on repeat multiple times. I wrote whole chapters of Second Chance with Carly Rae Jepsen’s “I Really Like You” on a loop for six hours. A little window even popped up on the dashboard that was like, are you okay?
Amanda: For First Time, you posted a list with the people who you had in mind for the book’s major players. Do you always cast your characters? Do you start out with a mental cast, or do the characters develop first and then you cast the roles?
Jenny: The characters definitely come first. I don’t write real person fanfic, because that creeps me out. But yeah, I have to have an idea of what the people look and sound like pretty early in the game, so there’s always kind of a cast. When I went to write The Boss, I was like, okay, I know I want my hero to a billionaire, I know I want him to be middle aged, and I was watching a lot of Merlin at the time so I went, “Oh, wow, I’ve always had a thing for Anthony Stewart Head…now Neil Elwood looks and sounds like Anthony Stewart Head.” And it can change down the road, too. When I started writing Say Goodbye To Hollywood, in my head, my heroine was Margot Robbie. But as I went on, I started seeing Jessica Chastain. Maybe it was the name Jessica that morphed her in my brain, but once it clicked, that’s who I saw in my head and that’s who she sounded like.
Amanda: Which of your characters (from any book of yours) would you want to hang out with for a day?
Jenny: Rosa, Penny’s best friend from First Time and Second Chance. She and I seem like we would get along. Side characters are the best, because they rarely have the level of drama and bullshit that main characters are hauling around.
Amanda: Could you describe your writing routine?
Jenny: It’s not terribly interesting. I get up in the morning, get my daughter to school, I get some coffee, I usually work on the blog until around nine then I wake up my son, get his day started (he’s homeschooled), then work on whatever book I’m writing until my daughter gets home at three. I’m on and off social media all day, too, and it would seem like, “Well, she’s on Twitter all day, she must not be getting any writing done,” but it’s funny, some days I’m on Twitter or Tumblr and getting loads of writing done on the side, other days I’m not on there at all and I’m doing nothing. I’ve looked for a pattern and I can’t find one.
Amanda: Planner or pantster? Or somewhere in between?
Jenny: I always have an outline, but I’m never married to the outline. If I get halfway through the book and go, “Oh, well, this isn’t working,” I’ll move things around. I did that with The Bride and The Ex. They were supposed to be one book, and I got about halfway through The Bride and went, yeah, that’s not going to work. I’ve just started writing The Sister, the next Neil and Sophie book, and I’ve already had to tear up the outline and go, “Nope, this can’t all fit into one book. This is The Sister, and this other stuff is going to have to go in the next one.”
Amanda: In this increasingly stressful trash fire of a year that we’ve been having, what are some ways that you take time to relax and/or tend to your mental well-being?
Jenny: I smoke a lot of weed, I’ve never been secretive about that. That’s certainly helping. I knit and crochet, and I try to force myself to take weekends off from the news or I try to stay off social media as much on Saturdays and Sundays. I’m also big into my planner, decorating it and setting up a plan for the upcoming week grounds me, I think. Also, I draw and color and I’m really big into Spirograph, lately. People who follow me on Instagram must think I’m so boring. “She’s posting all this Spirograph stuff? Why?”
Amanda: If someone has never read your books – where should they start?
Jenny: I automatically send new readers to The Boss because it’s free, and also because I really think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written.
Amanda: Tell us about any upcoming projects that you have.
Jenny: I’ve got the next Neil and Sophie book coming out this year, as well as more Penny and Ian for fans of that, but in 2017 and 2018 I’m really going to be returning to some of my roots with vampire books. I’ll be re-releasing an older title, In The Blood, this year, and then I’ll have something new for 2018 in a multi-author project I’m really excited to share details about later this year.
Amanda: Finally, is there anything (books, TV series, etc.) that you’ve enjoyed recently and want to share with our readers?
Jenny: A friend of mine begged me to get into Supernatural, and I was like, there’s no way, there are like eleven seasons on Netflix, I’ll never get through it. That was back in December and I’m almost completely caught up. I’m totally addicted. And I would be remiss if I didn’t use this opportunity to tell everyone to watch Galavant.
As for books, I’m one of the many who loved Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. That book is so realistic and heartbreaking and as a white person, it really made me confront my complicity in white supremacy in a lot of uncomfortable ways. It’s the definition of a classic. Kids are going to be studying this in schools a hundred years from now, the same way they study The Diary of Anne Frank.