10Q’s With Joanna Penn

Today I am truly honored to welcome the fantastic Joanna Penn! Joanna is very well known in the world of book marketing. Her website The Creative Penn pointed me in the direction of what to do to market my book when I just started out.  It is my go to site on all things book marketing and I frequently direct authors to that site. She has tons of free stuff to guide you. I even bought her book How To Market A Book which is my bible for marketing. I am a religious listener to her podcast. Seriously I cannot sing enough praises about her. Joanna is a straight-forward, honest gal that tells you like it is.

She has been featured on 

I became aware of Joanna in the book marketing world, but there is also another side to her. As J.F. Penn, she is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of one of my favorite book series The Arkane Series: Pentecost | Prophecy | Exodus | One Day in Budapest | Day of The Vikings and the soon to be released Gates of Hell.

The London Psychic Series: Desecration | Diliarium 

A Thousand Fiendish Angels | Day of the Viking (free for a limited time)

Joanna has spent over 5 years carving a name for herself, she puts out a weekly podcast, travels to exotic locations to research facts for her novels, writes, markets, consults, speaks and yet she still made time to stop by my blog, so again I am honored.

I got to ask Joanna aka J.F. Penn a 10 questions regarding her series. Here goes!

How did the ARKANE series come about?

I have a Masters degree in Theology from Oxford University and have always been interested in the supernatural and religious side of things. I wanted to be able to write about the things which fascinate me personally. ARKANE is a secret agency that investigates supernatural mysteries, and I wanted to be able to have a series of stand-alone adventures that were loosely tied together, so the books were born mainly from my own needs as a reader, I suppose! The books I love all have this supernatural element to them – I keep a list here if other such readers are interested: http://www.jfpenn.com/books-i-love/

How do you invent your characters?

Morgan Sierra is my kick-ass alter-ego! She is ex-Israeli military with Krav Maga skills which is not like me at all, but many of her travels and reactions are my own. I cast my characters from the movies and Angelina Jolie in Mr & Mrs Smith and the Lara Croft films was always going to be Morgan. Jake Timber is Hugh Jackman. Jamie Brooke is Jennifer Connolly and Blake Daniel, from the London Psychic series, is based on Jesse Williams from ER, a mixed race character with darker skin and blue eyes. My women are always strong, independent characters, whether heroines or villains like Natasha El-Behery. My writing is my fun escape so again, I write what I love to read! My characters emerge from how I want to experience the adventure.

What is your writing process?

I am often inspired by places first. PENTECOST opens with a murder on the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi, India. I visited the burning ghats there years ago and that opening scene ‘marinated’ long before I wrote it. I have travelled to 90% of the places mentioned in my books. I also do a lot of research into the various mysteries that I base the books on before I start to write. PROPHECY was based on my own research into obedience in religion, and the story of Abraham taking his son Isaac for sacrifice when God asked it of him. DESECRATION was written after I visited a medical history museum and wanted to find out more about the people behind the specimen jars.After I have the idea of theme and setting, I tend to write the opening scene and end scene, and have a vague idea about the rest before I start writing the first draft. I don’t outline as such, I just have a lot of notes and I never write in order, so using Scrivener software is great as I can reorder things later. With the two series books, I don’t need to reinvent characters, but I have a couple of new series in mind for 2015 and the characters for those take a while to emerge. I trust they will arrive at some point!

Do your characters ever visit your dreams?

No, and I sleep very well despite the dark themes I write about. I think I exorcize my own demons on the page!

Your books all have a dark spiritual undertone, has anything “strange” or of that nature ever happened to you, or have you ever witnessed anything like that?

I’ve been to a number of spiritual places where I feel like the ‘veil’ between physical and spiritual realm is thin. Jerusalem is one of those places – I’ve been 11 times and one of my dreams is to live there. It appears in a number of my books and will no doubt keep popping up! I have felt closest to God (or the Universe or whatever you call that) when I’ve been scuba diving, and I describe that in PENTECOST when Morgan and Jake are in St Mark’s Basilica in Venice. I’m also influenced by a lot of the fiction I read as a teenager, and all have demons and dark things. Good vs evil is the overarching theme of all my books so these things will always come through in my writing.

Favorite heroine from your novels, Morgan Sierra or Jamie Brooks?

I’m fond of them both, of course, but Morgan will always my favorite as she helped me start writing fiction. If I want to travel somewhere or do something exciting, I am always thinking of how Morgan would experience it. She is based more closely on me than Jamie is. I’m actually writing a new book from Jake’s perspective for 2015, so that will be a new approach too. He’s in New York without Morgan, but of course, he just happens to meet a new kick-ass female character … 🙂

One of the many things I love about your novels, is that you build up sexual tension between your characters, yet you never let them “go there” is there a reason why you do that?

The main reason is that after the characters ‘get together,’ a series can lose something. I’ve seen it happen with two series I enjoyed – Bones, and also Castle, which both lost something after the couples entered a relationship. Morgan gets some action in EXODUS with a gorgeous Egyptian archaeologist, but whether she ever gets together with Jake is an open question!

What is the best compliment you’ve ever received from a fan?

That the London Psychic series is like “the love-child of Stephen King and PD James.” I love King and The Stand is my favorite novel and the epitome of something I would like to achieve in my body of work.

What do you do when you feel like you’ve hit a brick wall in a story? How do you overcome that?

I will do some more research, or do a visit to a place that will inspire me. For example, in EXODUS, the main theme is the hunt for the Ark of the Covenant but I also wanted to include aspects of psychology which fascinates me. I visited Sigmund Freud’s house in London, with his famous couch and on the wall was a painting that gave me the final showdown of the book. No spoilers but it’s pretty cool!

Do you double write i.e. write 2 novels at the same time or do you complete one novel then begin another?

I generally have to finish one before starting the first draft of another, although I start researching other books while writing. I have several ideas composting at the moment for books in 2015

You can find J.F.Penn’s books in ebook, print and audio at all online stores. You can also get DAY OF THE VIKINGS as a free ebook here.

I cannot wait to read the rest of J.F. Penn’s novels. I am making my way through the series (s). Here are my reviews for the books that I have read. I am currently reading Gates of Hell.

DesecrationDesecration by J.F. Penn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is not for the squeamish or faint of heart. There is blood gore and some hedonistic rituals. It freaked me out and I loved it! The heroine Jamie Brooks takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions. I began to wonder how much more is J.F going to put this poor woman through before she gives her a break? True to life, bad things happen to break us and either it does or we come out stronger in the end.

The thing about J.F. Penn novels is that she always makes her heroine strong and imperfect which makes for a great read. I love that she hints of romantic intentions but restrains from going there. She paints a brilliant picture of scenes and characters that puts the reader right into the thick of things. When you think that things are going to get better they get a whole lot worse in ways you couldn’t imagine.

I really appreciate all the research that went into writing this novel. This is the 2nd novel by J.F I’ve read and at the end I am always wondering if there could be some truth to what she has written. She tends to blur the line between fiction and reality, which I completely enjoy.

I can’t wait to read her other books. My dilemma now is that I can’t decide who is my favorite heroine Jamie Brooks or Morgan Sierra. I hope J.F. Penn keeps writing forever. Her books are a treat for readers.

Pentecost (Arkane, #1)Pentecost by J.F. Penn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I LOVED this book. The story was a cross between Supernatural, Tomb Raider and DaVinci Code. Our heroine was brave, assertive and fun. Expect to go globe trekking with the two leads as they pursue ancient stones as time runs out. Lives are at stake heck the world is at stake if those stones fall into the hands of the baddies and there are tons of baddies. I loved how Joanna tied in recent events of climate change into this novel making me question if any of this is real. I will definitely read the others in the series. If you love action/adventure and mystery coupled with a kick-ass female lead then you will enjoy this book.

Joanna Penn has proven that not only is she a fantastic non-fiction author she also plans to dominate the fiction world as well. I can’t believe that I read this book in only 3 days! It pulled me through the pages and and had me dying to find out what’s next.

Prophecy (Arkane, #2)Prophecy by J.F. Penn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love the adventures this series by JF Penn takes me on. Joanna certainly has a way with words. Her writing is easy to follow, her characters well developed and I truly appreciate the time and work put into the research that goes into these books. It makes is more authentic and makes me question if this could be real or not. I love that!

This series is not for the faint at heart, expect satanic rituals, cannibalism and edge of your seat moments in exotic locations. There were a lot of characters but their storylines were easy to follow and they were not wasted. I would have liked to find out what happens to Morgan’s friend but that was never concluded. There were a couple of slow moments for me and storylines that I felt dragged on the story but overall it was a good read.

I am excited to read book 3 in the Arkane series.

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