Jayne Ann Krentz aka Amanda Quick aka Jayne Castle has a cult-like following reminiscent of Trekkies. (Does that make her fans 'Quickies'?) Jayne's fans have put her on the New York Times bestseller list 19 times. Like "Star Trek" fanatics who debate the relative quality of the various "Star Trek" TV-shows, Jayne's fans can argue for hours about which of her pseudonyms is best. (Krentz books are contemporary, Castle's futuristic and Quick's historical.) In fact, her fans can turn just about any aspect of her career into a game/debate.
Take her Quick books. The first three were titled Surrender, Scandal and Seduction. When the fourth book, Rendezvous, came out with a teaser chapter for Reckless in the back, readers realized that a pattern was underway (three "S" books, three "R" books, etc.). Around the country, fans set up bets about what the final "R" book would be called. Those who guessed Ravished walked away with the money. By the time "D" followed the "R"s, most reader groups had joined the game.
"The 'M' books [Mystique, Mischief and Mistress] really threw us," says Thea Mileo, owner of Cover to Cover Bookstore in Huber Heights, Ohio. "We couldn't figure out what the next titles would be. In the beginning we tried to figure out if the letters she chose for each set of books would end up spelling something. But the "S" and "R" books were followed by the "D"s. We realized no word began with S-R-D," she says, sounding distinctly disappointed.
"I guess I'm ending that game," reports Jayne, who was surprised to learn what her fans were up to. Although her last book, Affair, ushered in a new letter, the next Quick novel will not be an "A" book. Instead, it breaks the pattern with the title With This Ring (April '98). "Oh, shoot," Mileo sighs.
Not to worry-plenty of other games remain. One is picking up on the significance of character names. You won't see too many John Smith's in a Krentz, Castle or Quick novel. Instead, Jayne has a fondness for quirky monikers like Stone, Winter, Scarcliffe and Lark. The newest game revolves around the futuristic Castle books. Each novel has had a flower title: Amaryllis and Zinnia. "What do you think the next book will be called?" asks Mileo mischievously.
Her fans aren't the only ones who like to play. Jayne and some of her closest friends, Stella Cameron, Ann Maxwell aka Elizabeth Lowell and Suzanne Simmons, tease one another by making some specific reference to their fellow authors in their books.
Take a peek in Deep Waters, Jayne's recent Krentz novel, now out in paperback. Her bookstore owner heroine, Charity, smiles with satisfaction when she gets a shipment of Simmons' books. Charity also chats about how great Cameron's books are with a customer. In Stella Cameron's upcoming book, The Wish Club, Cameron has a character named Quick who leads a gang of pickpockets.
The game began many years ago. Jayne vaguely recalls that Simmons started everything, whereas Cameron says that Maxwell began the game in her Lowell novel, Only You. "I suppose we're testing each other to see if we're reading each others' books," Jayne says, laughing.
Look for names, or a character saying something in our books, Cameron advises. We never make a character reference [fictional elements from anothers book]. Its always a personal connection. Like her pickpocket Quick.
The public knows Jayne as much for her fierce defense of romances as for her writing style. Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, which Jayne edited, examined the value of romantic fiction from a feminist viewpoint. That book alone made media leaders take a second look at romances. She also conducted a series of interviews with leading publications like The Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly and The Wall Street Journal. The articles are rare, in that they portray a romance author without resorting to clichis. They are surprisingly well-rounded pieces, discussing the difficulty romance readers and fans have gaining respect, and they sketch Krentz lifestyle from the angle of a respectable and intelligent writer.
If I couch my words in feminist phrasing, it puts the interviewer on the defensive, Jayne says, revealing her strategy, which led to the positive, lengthy mainstream articles. Plus, shes careful about whom she accepts an interview with. I dont accept an interview where I know [romances] will be ridiculed.
Last year, RT created the Jane Austen award to honor those in the romance community who have significantly impacted our genre. Jayne was not just the first recipient, but her efforts to change the way the public perceives romance is what led to RTs decision to create the Jane Austen award.
Romances should continue gaining respect this next year, thanks to Jaynes efforts. There are a lot more people out there now defending romanceslike Jennifer Crusiewho are more qualified than I am, Jayne comments.
Whether or not anyone else is more qualified is debatable, but there are a lot more authors who no longer quietly fume when their work is insulted. Following Jaynes example, they intelligently demand their accuser take another, less-biased look at romances.
Watch for SHARP EDGES, Jaynes next Krentz novel, out Jan. 98. Her next Quick novel, WITH THIS RING, is out April 98, and ORCHID, a Castle novel, is out May 98. Write to her c/o Pocket Books, 1230 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10020.