The Cultural Gutter

unashamed geekery

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

Peanut Butter and Jayne

Chris Szego
Posted June 12, 2008

smalljayne.jpgNo matter the genre or subject, every reader has her Absolute Favourite writers.  The ones whose books she’ll charge the stores to get, and drop everything to read.  Diving into those books is a particularly edifying treat, a gourmet of literary delight.  But there’s more than one kind of favourite. Sometimes a reader wants plain and simple — sometimes the hankering for peanut butter wins out over a new gustatory adventure.  Occasionally, you just want something comforting, familiar, and, though it may not be the fanciest item to ever hit the palate, a taste you know you’ll like.
   
That’s pretty much how I feel about Jayne Ann Krentz.


 Jayne Ann Krentz did not set out to become a New York Times bestseller.  She completed a B.A. in History, then a Master’s in Library Science.  For a number of years she worked in academic and corporate libraries.  While still employed as a librarian, she began to write, and eventually sold her first novel.  More followed.  Like many other writers who rose to prominence in the ‘80s, Jayne began her writing career with category books for Harlequin, Silhouette and several other series publishers.  
 
Although her earliest category books are rife with the melodramatic tone of their time, they also contain the seeds of what made her so popular.  Krentz’s heroines were reassuringly far from the Dynasty-esque ideal of their day.  They were hard-working, though often a little scattered; they were striving for success rather than wallowing in it; they were friendly instead of gorgeous.  It’s that last point, I think, that won the hearts of so many readers.  

1979-89 was heady decade for the romance industry.  Category publishing opportunities blossomed; sales began to soar across the genre;  writers like Nora Roberts and Jude Devereaux became household names.  But it wasn’t all fun and games.  Harlequin and Silhouette were gearing up for a major battle, each trying to lock up as many rising stars as they could.  Contracts often contained serious pitfalls for new writers; Jayne signed one which granted the publisher  the exclusive right to her own name.  
 
She racked up an impressive number of pseudonyms over the next ten years: Jayne Castle (her maiden name); Jayne Taylor; Jayne Bentley; Stephanie James (her brothers are Stephen and James); Amanda Glass.  It was a hard lesson, but when contract term finally ran out, Krentz was a more enviable position.  So many different identities gave her a chance to stretch a bit, and try new things.  As Amanda Glass, she wrote several futuristic novels that were the first real paranormal romances.  Unfortunately, as it turned out, they were ahead of their time by the better part of a decade.  Jayne herself has said that they nearly killed her career.   
 
third 2.jpgLuckily, she had other names to fall back on.  And she used them carefully and well.  Finally able to use her own name again, she branched out into contemporary single title romances as Jayne Ann Krentz and began climbing the ranks.  She traded melodrama (well, most of it) for adventure, but retained the cheerful, practical heroines so loved by her readers.  In 1990, she began to write historical romances, under the name Amanda Quick.  It was daring move: at that point, many historical writers were jumping ship for the booming contemporary field.  But it worked.  And the mid-90s she made another calculated risk, and tried paranormal romances again, this time under the name Jayne Castle.  The Castle paranormals didn’t have nearly the same sales numbers as the Quick or the Krentz novels (even given that the cover read ‘Jayne Ann Krentz writing as Jayne Castle’), but they sold enough that Jayne, a lover of science fiction and fantasy, could continue to write them.
  
And continue she does, writing contemporary books as Krentz, historical novels as Quick, and paranormals – their time come at last – as Castle.  To date, Krentz has written more than 120 novels.  32 of them have hit the NYT Bestseller list: both those numbers will have increased by the end of this year.

As a teen, I loved her futuristic romances.  In my twenties, I most enjoyed her charming historicals.  Today I find myself leaning towards her contemporaries.  The writing is unadorned; the plots are linear; the characters are ordinary people doing the best they can.  It is, in short,  peanut butter at its finest:  crunchy, both salty and sweet, and a thoroughly satisfying meal.

~~~

Chris Szego also has an inconquerable fondness for Beefaroni, but finds spray cheese frightening.
     

Comments

2 Responses to “Peanut Butter and Jayne”

  1. weed
    June 24th, 2008 @ 4:07 pm

    Hi Chris,
    I’m curious: with all of her different genre approaches, does she focus more on particular themes in each, or is there a lot of similarity across her pseudonyms?

  2. Chris Szego
    June 25th, 2008 @ 11:45 am

    The latter. She tends to focus on the same themes regardless of which genre she’s writing in. Family, for instance. And learning to deal with failure – most of her heroines (and heroes, too) have had serious setbacks in their lives. They’ve lost jobs, or family; they have failed businesses or marriages in their pasts. But they keep trying new things, and they learn how to succeed.

Leave a Reply





  • Support The Gutter

  • The Book!

  • Of Note Elsewhere

    At Paleofuture, Matt Novak writes about Idiocracy‘s unpleasant implications: “Sure. As an over-the-top comedic dystopia, the movie is actually enjoyable. But the movie’s introduction makes it an unnerving reference to toss around as our go-to insult….Unlike other films that satirize the media and the soul-crushing consequences of sensationalized entertainment (my personal favorite being 1951′s Ace in the Hole), Idiocracy lays the blame at the feet of an undeserved target (the poor) while implicitly advocating a terrible solution (eugenics). The movie’s underlying premise is a fundamentally dangerous and backwards way to understand the world.” (via The Projection Booth)

    ~

    Friend of the Gutter, Will McKinley looks at “The 1979 Rockford Files Episode That Inspired The Sopranos.” “A gang from Newark’s South Side is hiding Vinnie Martine’s body in a restaurant freezer. Tony’s mad because Anthony Jr. got caught pranking another mobster. And a boss who’s trying to reform gets his mansion sprayed with bullets. Remember that episode of The Sopranos? If you do, your memory’s playing tricks on you, because all these things happened on a 1979 episode of The Rockford Files—written by Sopranos creator David Chase.”

    And McKinley defends classic television with, “In Praise of Vintage Television.”

    ~

    Journalist Margot Adler has died. She is best known for her work as a journalist on NPR, but she also created the speculative fiction radio program, “The Hour Of The Wolf” and was the writer of Drawing Down The Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today (1979) and Vampires Are Us: Understanding Our Love Affair with the Immortal Dark Side (2014). The New York Times, NPR and  Suvudu have obituaries.  Here Adler discusses Vampires Are Us. And here is an excerpt from Adler’s memoir, Heretic’s Heart (1997).

    ~

    The Toronto International Film Festival has announced its Midnight Madness and Vanguard programs for 2014. There’s lots of goodness in there and it’s worth taking a look even if you aren’t going to the festival, so you can you movie watching later this year or next. We’ll be posting the trailers from the films later.

    ~

    Actor James Shigeta has died. Shigeta appeared in Die Hard (1988), The Crimson Kimono (1959) The Flower Drum Song (1961),  Bridge To The Sun (1961), Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966), The Yakuza (1974) and many, many television shows.  The AV Club, Den Of Geek and Angry Asian Man have obituaries. Bridge to the Sun is discussed by Robert Osborne and Dr. Peter Feng on TCM.  At RogerEbert.com, Matt Zoller Seitz writes an appreciation of Shigeta’s life and work. “Shigeta, who died yesterday at 81, was a marvelous performer, and his work as Nakatomi Corporation President Joseph Takagi in the original 1988 Die Hard is one of my favorite examples of how an imaginative actor can sketch out a life in just a few scenes and lines.”

    ~

    At RogerEbert.com, Alan Zilberman explores the history of the eye in cinema from Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) to Mark Cahill’s I Origins (2014). (via Matt Zoller Seitz)

    ~

  • Spilling into Twitter

  • Obsessive?

    Then you might be interested in knowing you can subscribe to our RSS feed, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter or Tumblr.

    -------

  • Weekly Notifications

  • What We’re Talking About

  • Thanks To

    No Media Kings hosts this site, and Wordpress autoconstructs it.

  • %d bloggers like this: