Who’s cooler than Jana DeLeon? (Apparently, no one.)

Jana DeLeon is touring the Girlfriend Cyber Circuit this week with her sophomore novel Unlucky . Her debut, Rumble on the Bayou, enjoyed brisk sales and plenty of review love. A tough act to follow. But with a fresh spin on a unique setting, Unlucky buzz is building. We caught up with Jana for a few minutes of conversation with an author whose lousy luck might turn into her big break.

First things first. Tell us about the book and where it came from.
Unlucky is about a woman with luck so bad it’s a statistical improbability. She’s using her bad luck to her favor by working as a “cooler” at her uncle’s casino during a private poker tournament of criminals. (A cooler is a person so unlucky that casinos hire them to sit at a hot table and shut the other players down.) The inspiration for my heroine was easy – she’s me. I have absolutely, positively no luck at cards. In fact, it’s so bad that if I sit down at a table to play, not only do I lose, but everyone at the table does also.

My husband and I got married in Vegas in 2000. Before we left, I studied and studied blackjack combinations, determined to beat the house. Unfortunately, I have absolutely, positively NO LUCK. In fact, my luck is so bad that when I sit down at a table, not only don’t I win, everyone else starts losing too. So I came up with Mallory Devereaux, the unluckiest woman in the world, who needs to make some money fast and decides to do it by “cooling” cards at a poker tournament of criminals.

While writing Unlucky, I contacted several casinos, both in Louisiana and Las Vegas. None of them would confirm or deny the existence of coolers.

Were you always a writer? And did you always know it?
I’ve written stories ever since elementary school but I “decided” I was going to be a writer at my grandma’s funeral. I took one look at my odd, southern, interestingly funny family gathered there and figured, if Evanovich can do it in New Jersey, then by God, I can do it in Louisiana.

Growing up in Louisiana is the reason I write. Without the culture and the fascinating people to draw from, I don’t think I’d have any stories to tell. I plan on setting all my books in small bayou towns. I try to create settings so large they become a character and the characters, well, some of them are already walking among us. I think a lot of people are fascinated by the bayou culture and I’m thrilled to be able to give them a little taste of that.

You were definitely lucky with your first novel. Tell us about your publishing journey so far.
I did my first novel the old-fashioned way. I wrote the book, edited the ever-living heck out of it, queried agents, got/accepted an offer for representation, got a list of edits from my agent (13 pages – yikes), made revisions, my agent submitted and we got an offer. I studied the industry a lot before selling so I wasn’t really surprised about the business end of things, but I was mega-surprised to find out my debut novel had made it in to WalMart. I didn’t even hope for that kind of distribution.

The second book was so much harder. My debut novel did well and garnered great reviews and public accolades, which is great, but that means the next book has to be better. When you write humor, you’ve got to be very careful not to spend too much time thinking about all the pressure or you don’t relax enough for the funny dialogue to flow. Unlucky was a difficult book for me to write, but I worked it out and in writing my proposal for the next book, I didn’t have the difficulties I did writing Unlucky at all. Unlucky was a huge growth process for me and I’m really glad it happened. Now, I believe in myself and my ability to put out a great book, under a deadline, AND still be funny. The most satisfying part is definitely the letters/emails from fans. That’s what it’s all about. My least favorite part has got to be the waiting. The entire business is hurry up and wait, and wait, and wait.

What do you love about the creative process?
My absolute favorite part of the writing process is when I’ve finished the rough draft and start my first pass on edits. It’s then that I read something I forgot I wrote and think “that was funny” or “oh my god, you can write.” It’s then that I realize all the pain of the rough draft was worth it.


Christie Craig said…
It's so nice to see familiar faces.

Enjoyed reading more about you, Jana.


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