|Jennifer Harlow earned a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Virginia. She has been a bookseller, radio DJ, lab assistant, and government investigator. She lives in Northern Virginia and is hard at work on her next book.
Jennifer Harlow spent her restless childhood fighting with her three brothers and scaring the heck out of herself with horror movies and books. She grew up to earn a degree at the University of Virginia which she put to use as a radio DJ, crisis hotline volunteer, bookseller, lab assistant, wedding coordinator, and government investigator. Currently she calls Northern Virgina home but that restless itch is ever present. In her free time she continues to scare the beejepers out of herself watching scary movies and opening her credit card bills.
I love your badass profile picture with you holding a sword. Is it real?
Actually it’s a machete, and yes it is real. It’s actually hanging over my desk right now below my Audrey Hepburn print. There is a reason for it besides my need to scare the crud out of anyone who meets me. In Mind Over Monsters my main character Beatrice uses a machete to fight off an army of zombies. She names it Bette, after Bette Davis, and later paints the name and flowers on it, so I did that too. I gave my mom a matching one for Mother’s Day last year. Just one of my many weapons as I live in the jungles of Northern Virginia and you can never be too careful. Those darn commuters are vicious.
I see from your profile you’re a horror buff. What is your favorite scary movie and book?
That’s like asking someone if they have a favorite child! I can’t. Okay, yes I can. For years my favorite movie of all time was The Omen. I was obsessed with demons and the devil (I was a strange child), and loved the fact that a little boy could bring about the end of times. (I should mention I have three younger brothers so that could have factored into it.) Right now my favorites are the staples, Night of the Living Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and I just rediscovered the original Fright Night. I love the blending of humor and horror, as my book will show. As for books, I suppose Carrie though Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton is a close second. I owe a lot to those two books.
You’ve worn many hats in your professional life. How did you make the transition into writing?
I like that, “Worn many hats.” Much nicer than “was restless and changed jobs like socks” as my father says. Well, I’ve always been a writer. It’s like a calling, something I always wanted to do even though it took years for me to admit it to myself. I used to fake sick when I was a kid so I could stay home and make up stories with my Barbie dolls. I wrote my first screenplay in high school Geometry, my first book right before I went to college, so in some form I’ve been a writer all my life. When I was working or at school all my free time was spent writing books or trying to get an agent and publisher. So I’ve always been a writer, now I’m an author. The only distinction is I reach a wider audience outside my friends and family and make money at it.
Did you do anything special the day your book came out? Bake a cake? Toast? Dance around the house?
I should have thrown a party or something, right? Get a tattoo? But us Harlow’s aren’t big celebrators. My grandma is from England so “Keep Calm and Carry on” is in my blood. It was just a day like any other. I got up, went to the gym, worked on the book I’m writing now, watched crap TV, and had some wine. Everyone else is so excited for me, yet I’m oddly calm. I think it’s been such a long, arduous journey I’m a little overwhelmed. I haven’t seen it in bookstores yet, so I’m hoping that when I see it on the shelves I’ll burst into tears or do a happy dance. Though when my editor put the ARC in my hands, the first time I’d seen it in bound book form, I did get teary eyed. It was like someone showing me my baby for the first time.
Who is to blame for your sense of humor?
What can I say, my ass has always been wise, even as a kid. We moved around a lot when I was growing up, so I learned to be an entertainer to survive. Nothing cuts someone down or defuses a situation more than a well placed one-liner. If you can make them laugh, you’re golden. And there’s so much about life that is so bloody ridiculous you can either cry or laugh, I choose the latter.
The acronym for Mind Over Monsters is “MOM”. Mommy issues?
Hell to the no. My mom is my best friend, my biggest supporter, and my hero. No, I didn’t chose the title, the publisher did. At first I wanted the series to be a play on old movie titles because my main character Bea loves them. It was called “Angels with Bloody Faces” and then “My Fair Psychic” but both of those were nixed. I didn’t really love either of them so I gave up without much of a fight.
Which song would you pick on your Mind Over Monsters soundtrack to be the book’s theme?
The book actually does have a soundtrack. If you go to my website www.jenniferharlowbooks.com you can find it there. But to answer the question, the theme song has to be “Magic to Do” from the musical Pippin. It’s all about enticing someone into this carnival where magical creatures are. I love that song.
Your cover is amazing! Who is responsible for its beauty?
Mostly moi. One thing I love about my publisher, Midnight Ink, is that they really listen to their authors. One of my many hats was at Borders as a bookseller, so I knew how important covers are to selling, so for years I thought about what it would look like. I knew the biggest visual draw were zombies, so I insisted that they be represented on the cover. I also know how interesting a machete is, so I suggested they put that on there too. I loved it when I first saw it too. They did such a fantastic job I can’t wait to see what the next cover looks like.
I’m a new member to the Zombie fan club, but everyone’s approach is different. What’s yours? Dumb as doornails or clever as foxes?
I actually had to consider this when I was writing the book. You can get away with anything in books like this as long as you’re consistent and logical. In my view there are two types of zombies: viral and magical. If you’re a viral zombie, a quick shot to the head where the virus lives and controls the brain dispatches them. With magical zombies, like the ones animated by a necromancer or other magical being like in my book, you need full dismemberment and incineration. Every cell of the corpse is infused with a magical command, so their limbs can function without the brain. Nothing stops them. Either way they’re brains are mush, only the basics remain. They can’t run or think unless they are alive or extremely fresh and even then that will go away as they decay. Yes, I have put far too much thought into this.
Tell me more about the “cute former detective werewolf.”
His name is Will Price, he’s the F.R.E.A.K.S. team leader, and I so have a crush on him. He was a detective in Washington D.C. before his wife was killed on a camping trip. The same werewolf turned him. He has a tragic past that he still hasn’t come to terms with. He’s gruff, shy, and hates what he is. He and Bea have that in common, so the sparks fly right off the bat. He’s the good boy to my vampire Oliver’s bad one.
What’s in your zombie survival kit?
I come from a weird family so at least once a month we have a “What if a zombie apocalypse happened?” discussion. I’m so ready. I have a machete, I’ve practiced head shots at the gun range with my brothers, and I’ve read and seen far too many zombie books and movies I know to avoid large cities (Walking Dead), military bases (Brian Keene books), and to only join a small group if there is no other choice (George Romero movies). IT WILL HAPPEN!
Any news on the next F.R.E.A.K.S. installment? Title, outline, first pages?
It’s all done. I wrote it and the third in the series before I even sold them. I have a contract for those two, titles not chosen yet, and they’ll be out Oct 2012 and 2013, though that can change at any time. I even have all the rest of the series mapped out in my brain, so I pray I never get amnesia and people read the first ones so I can keep playing with my favorite imaginary friends for years to come.
5 print copies of Mind Over Monsters will be given away to 5 lucky readers. Open to US shipping addresses. Enter by filling out This Form.
Thanks Jennifer for the great interview and good luck to everyone who enters the giveaway!
About the Blogger
I review Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance books with a focus all things werewolf. Based out of Ottawa, Canada