Photo courtesy of Marc Von Borstel
Photo courtesy of Marc Von Borstel

Picking up a Jayne Ann Krentz book entices one into the world of contemporary romance. Reading an Amanda Quick book rewinds time into historical romance. Flipping through a Jayne Castle book beams one to a romantic paranormal or futuristic world. All of these books come from one person.

Krentz is an alumnus of UC Santa Cruz who writes romantic-suspense fiction under the above names, each name for a different romance sub-genre.

Krentz has written more than 30 New York Times bestsellers and had 23 million books in print as of 2003. She and her husband Frank Krentz established the Castle Humanities Fund at UCSC in 1996 — a UCSC library supplemental fund which has so far provided 145 additional books that library funding could not cover.

Krentz corresponded with City on a Hill Press over email, answering questions aimed at addressing similarities and differences between the romance of the fictional and real worlds.

CHP: Why do you gravitate toward writing romantic-suspense fiction?

Jayne Ann Krentz: I think I was born to write romantic-suspense. I grew up on Nancy Drew. The only thing wrong with those books as far as I was concerned was that there wasn’t enough romance. Every author has a core story. The combination of danger and romance is key to my core story.

CHP: Do your real-life love experiences find their place in the romance novels you write?

Krentz: I don’t write real-life. I write fiction. I deal in archetypes and I work from the heroic tradition of storytelling. We all know how heroes and heroines are supposed to act. No matter how flawed or how wounded, they can be counted on to do the right thing when the chips are down.

CHP: One of your known pillars as a writer is a strong work ethic. In the relationships in your novels, and in real-life relationships, is a similarly strong work ethic needed to maintain the relationship?

Krentz: All good relationships — friendships, family, love, etc. — take work. Period.

CHP: As young-adult drama, fantasy and romance novels gain popularity, what are some of the important lessons that this speculative fiction genre presents for college-aged readers?

Krentz: I’ve been writing fiction for a long time and I can tell you that the popular fiction genres — romance, suspense, science-fiction, fantasy, westerns, etc., never disappear. They simply get reinvented for each generation. At the moment the paranormal is hot across a lot of genres but there is nothing new about the paranormal in fiction. It was a hugely popular element of the Gothic novels of the early 1800s, for example. In fiction, what goes around comes around. What matters are the archetypes and the virtues and values at the heart of the story.

CHP: Does your writing in otherworldly and magical settings project the “magical” feeling of romance? In other words, why is the futuristic/paranormal setting so applicable for what is at the core a romance novel?

Krentz: Romantic-suspense fits into any fictional landscape. I work with historical, contemporary and futuristic backdrops. Sometimes I use paranormal elements, sometimes I don’t. I often infuse my stories with a psychic twist because it gives me another way to develop the bond between the hero and heroine. I think the psychic element works for my readers because it is just one step beyond intuition. Most people are okay with the concept of intuition.

CHP: As an author you have written on hundreds of fictional relationships. How do you twist around the norms of a relationship to make it fresh and new? What advice do you have for our readers to adopt this skill and reinvigorate their own relationships?

Krentz: Romantic fiction mirrors what we all know in our hearts are the true heroic values and virtues — honor matters in popular fiction. Integrity matters. So does kindness, courage and determination. Practicing those values and virtues in real-life may not get you a date or save a relationship but it will go a long way toward building self-respect and self-confidence which, according to a lot of sociologists and advice columnists, are traits that other people find very attractive.

CHP: From your experience writing romance-suspense and as a person, what makes love “worth it?”

Krentz: I do not think that humans were meant to live alone. Like it or not, most of us do better when we are bonded with some version of a family. It may be a family by birth or a family of the heart or a mix of both. In my experience, the strongest families are built on a foundation of love and commitment — and that starts with two people.”