Exclusive Q&A with Jeneva Rose, author of The Perfect Marriage and upcoming novel One of Us is Dead (out 4/26).
By Madison Thompson
Could you tell us about your latest novel, One of Us is Dead?
One of Us is Dead is about a salon owner who gets entangled in the lives of her elite, wealthy clients. When one of them ends up dead, it’s only her and her accumulation of town gossip that can help the police solve the murder. Told from multiple points of view and switching between past and present, the reader doesn’t know who’s dead, who killed them, or why.
What inspired you to write One of Us is Dead?
A small exchange between myself and my hairstylist inspired this story. I came up with the idea when I was sitting in a salon chair back in Wisconsin. My hairstylist mentioned something I had previously told her, something personal, that I didn’t even remember saying. I looked to her and said, “Wait. I told you that!? I can’t believe I told you that!” She responded, “Oh, yes. You wouldn’t believe the things that people say when they’re sitting in this chair.” It was a lightbulb moment, and I thought a salon would be the perfect setting for a thriller, especially with a hairstylist at the center of it all—because they hear and see everything.
In your book, the women of Buckhead have a complicated and competitive friendship dynamic, and you show that through five different points of view. What was it like writing five distinct female voices and their complex relationships?
It was difficult to write five distinct female voices. It took a lot of finessing to ensure they each brought their own perspective and that readers wouldn’t be confused by the multiple points of view but would also appreciate having each woman’s viewpoint. Thankfully, early reviews have been glowing and readers love that they’re able to get a peek into each character’s head. Although difficult, I had a lot of fun writing this story. Having five points of view allowed me to really detail how complex their relationships are. These women will get together for a gala or all be at the salon, and you’ll think they’re getting along, until you hop heads and realize they’re not.
What is your writing process like? Do you outline or write the story as you go along?
I come from a marketing background, so I won’t start drafting a story until I can summarize into a sentence or two. Then, I write the marketing copy—essentially the paragraph on the back of a book. From there, I write setting and character sketches. This is where a lot of my initial research comes in as I select the perfect location, and I look at everything—weather, Google maps, types of houses in the area, etc.… I also think about each potential scene and write up a short paragraph describing the setting. So, I’ll have one for the town, maybe the main house, maybe a business, etc. For character sketches, those include names, age, physical description, backstory, personality traits, and more. For some novels, my outline is barebones and for others it’s more detailed. I am a mix of a plotter and a pantser. When all this is ready, I start drafting. Because I have so much information to refer to, I’m able to write very quickly. On average, I can have a first draft finished in three months.
You have written both thrillers and a women’s fiction novel. Is your writing process different between the two?
My women’s fiction novel, The Girl I Was, was the first book I ever wrote, so that process was very different as I had just started writing books and was learning what worked for me. It was also a story I initially wrote for myself, and it helped me deal with a lot of grief that I was going through. I never thought it would see the light of day, but I ended up rewriting it in 2019 and in 2021. My first readers loved it and encouraged me to get it published, even though it was outside of the thriller genre that I was becoming known for. Since writing it helped me work through my own grief, I thought that it had the potential of helping readers too. It was a project that was very close to my heart, and it’s been amazing getting messages from readers telling me that the book has had an impact on them and then thanking me for writing it.
What made you interested in writing thrillers?
Thrillers are my favorite genre to read, so when I set out to draft my second book, I knew that was the genre for me. I enjoy fast-paced stories, short chapters, and plenty of reveals and twists, so that is what I write. The second novel I wrote (The Perfect Marriage) was actually my debut.
You’re on social media like TikTok and Instagram, platforms where audience engagement is quite high and quick. That of course comes with the good and the bad. What are your thoughts- do you enjoy that connection to your audience?
I credit TikTok with my author career as several of my videos marketing my debut went viral and made it a bestseller. The bookstagram community on Instagram has been so supportive of me from the very beginning. Without social media, I would not be in the position I am today working as a full-time author, and I wouldn’t have the readership that I do. I’ve also made real friendships thanks to engaging with my readers and I am extremely grateful for both communities. It’s a lot of work creating content and keeping that connection with my audience, but I really do enjoy it. At times, it can be very overwhelming and when it is, I take a step back and return when I’m feeling better.
Of your characters who- do you relate to or like the most? Who was the most fun to write?
I feel like I can relate to Karen and Crystal the most. Karen is driven, loyal, and tries to stay out of the drama. Crystal is new to Buckhead, but she has a strength to her due to a difficult past. She’s also compassionate—even to those that aren’t kind to her. Olivia, my mean girl, was the most fun to write because she’s so wicked and cunning. I also had a lot of fun writing Shannon, the scorned ex-wife, because she brought plenty of cringey and embarrassing humor to the story, but she also has a wonderful character arc.
What are you currently reading?
Currently I’m reading/listening to an advanced copy of Young Rich Widows by Kimberly Belle, Layne Fargo, Cate Holahan, and Vanessa Lillie.
What do you love most about being an author?
I love that every day is different. Some days I’m drafting, some I’m editing, some I’m creating marketing content, and some I’m reading. I love that I can work from anywhere, and I can make my own schedule (unless there’s a looming deadline or events). Primarily, I love that I get to do what I love for a living, so most days I don’t feel like I’m working.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
My advice to aspiring authors is to just keep writing. I had written five books before my first was published, and I endured hundreds of rejections. But I didn’t let any of that stop me. I just kept writing.
Finally, if you could have dinner with any five people from history or literature, living or dead, who would they be?
- My mom. She passed away when I was eighteen, and she was the biggest champion of my writing, so I have a lot I’d want to tell her.
- Chris Farley because he was hilarious, also from Wisconsin, and I know I’d spend the whole dinner laughing.
- Agatha Christie because she’s the queen of mystery, and I feel like I could learn so much from her as a writer in just one dinner.
- Marilyn Monroe because she lived such a fascinating life, and I think she would have a lot of secrets to share.
- Sarah Michelle Gellar because I was obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer growing up (literally, I had posters, action figures, books, DVDs, everything). I’d probably fan girl as well because she was my childhood/teen idol, but I would just love to hear all the behind-the-scenes tidbits and about her experience on the show.
About the Author:
Jeneva Rose is the Amazon Charts, Apple Books, and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author of The Perfect Marriage. It’s been translated into a dozen languages, and the film/tv rights were optioned by Picture Perfect Federation. Her new suspense novel, One of Us is Dead is out today–April 26, 2022.