'Promise Not To Tell,' A Conversation with Jayne Ann Krentz

Under seven different pseudonyms, Jayne Ann Krentz has written more than 120 romance novels. Forty million of her books have been sold, and she is one of the most successful commercial fiction authors writing today. More than 50 of her books have been New York Times bestsellers. Now, she uses only three names: Jayne Ann Krentz when writing contemporary romantic-suspense; Amanda Quick for historical romance-suspense; and Jayne Castle when penning paranormal romance-suspense.

Promise Not to Tell blends elements of a psychological thriller, a mystery and romantic suspense against the backdrop of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle gallery owner Virginia Troy and P.I. Cabot Sutter were both children reared in a cult headed by Quinton Zane. The compound where they were raised was set on fire by Zane, and Virginia’s mother died in that conflagration, but Cabot and Virginia were saved. Now, years later, one of Virginia’s artists takes her own life, but not before sending Virginia a last painting, one that makes Virginia and Cabot doubt it was a suicide. And, there’s the question of whether or not Quinton Zane is still alive and plotting revenge.

In ‘Promise Not to Tell,’ Cabot Sutter and Virginia Troy reunite years after they were rescued from a cult. Tell us about their special connection to each other.

Their connection to each other is that they’re the only two people in the world who understand what each went through all those years ago. Their bond is a survivor’s bond, deepened by the fact that they survived together. They’re also connected because they’re both dealing with the long-term fallout from their horrendous cult experiences. They’re uniquely able to understand each other, and unlike an outsider, they don’t feel sorry for each other. The appreciate the other’s strength, which makes for an indelible bond.

In ‘Promise Not to Tell,’ Quinton Zane, the cult leader and a man of consummate evil, is lurking in the background; and there’s a question about whether or not he died in a fire at sea. Will you talk about using the device of a villain not being seen or heard throughout the novel?

If I had brought him into the story, the characters would have lost the impetus to solve the initial case of the artist who appeared to have committed suicide. They are left considering whether or not Quinton Zane is alive, and the reader must ponder that question with them. It’s all speculation until a certain point in the book.

Also, sometimes what isn’t seen is more frightening and ominous than what you actually see. I felt having Quinton Zane lurking on the edges lent more suspense and a level of eeriness to the book than if he were an actual presence.

‘Promise Not to Tell’ has more than its share of suspense. Talk to us about setting and maintaining tension in your novels.

I think the most interesting suspense is the kind that derives from someone’s past or the family dynamic, as opposed to suspense emanating from something like a terrorist attack. I prefer an intimate kind of suspense.

Also, suspense deriving from a character’s past is immediate and individual. Readers can easily relate on a human level to a story where the past reasserts itself. A good novel basically illuminates what we all have within us—something human—where we must rise up and defend ourselves and defeat the menace.

The erotic scenes in ‘Promise Not to Tell’ (and in all your novels) are done very artfully. Will you talk about writing such scenes?

Erotic scenes are essentially scenes of intense communication. They occur on a physical level, on an emotional level, and intellectually as well. Without those three components, I’m not interested in the sex. With those three elements, sex becomes an intimate form of communication between the characters. Those characters will be different people when they come out of that sexual experience. Their relationship will have been inalterably changed—it will be deepened, intensified, or perhaps not. But the two people will relate differently to each other. So, the purpose of an erotic scene is to effect that transition.

From your oeuvre of works, it’s clear you’ve written two, three, and sometimes four novels a year. Tell us about your writing schedule and routines.

We all have a certain pace in doing what we do. For us writers, we each have our own pace, which is virtually impossible to change. If I take too long in writing a book, I lose interest and the thread of the book unravels. I stop being able to keep the balls I’m juggling in the air. If I get bored with the story, I know the reader will be bored, too. So, I work intensely on a book and can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen next.

As for practical issues, I’m a morning person and my creativity is greatest from seven until about noon. Then, in the afternoon, there are phone calls and email, and I may do some editing or research, or go shopping at Nordstrom’s. I call that retail therapy [Laughter].

If you could meet any one fictional character in real life, who would it be?

It would be the character I’m working on at that moment because I would want to ask him why he’s going off script. [Laughter].

Will you complete this sentence: Writing novels has taught me______________.

Writing novels has taught me about the unlimited reaches of imagination. I think we sometimes take imagination for granted. Imagination is intimately connected to creativity. I think reading expands imagination, which in turn expands creativity. And creativity is what makes us different from the other animals. Writing has taught me how to organize and use my imagination better, but I find myself applying it to other things in life. It’s changed the way I think.

What’s coming next from Jayne Ann Krentz?

Another Amanda Quick novel called The Other Lady Vanishes.

Congratulations on writing ‘Promise Not to Tell’, a suspense-filled mystery/thriller that vividly captures the long-lasting effects of psychological trauma on the psyche and the enduring meaning of family for the human soul.

Mark Rubinstein’s latest novel is ‘Mad Dog Vengeance’, a psychological suspense-thriller.

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