Florence Low / Bee file

Author Eileen Rendahl of Davis writes in several distinctive genres. "I've always wanted to be entertaining," she said.

Davis' Eileen Rendahl writes to entertain in three genres

Published: Sunday, May. 12, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 12AANDE
Last Modified: Sunday, May. 12, 2013 - 7:50 am

Most authors specialize in one genre, but not Davis-based novelist Eileen Rendahl.

Her 10-title bibliography consists of four chick-lit titles; two romantic- suspense thrillers written under the name Eileen Carr; three urban-fantasy stories (the "Messenger" series); and one contemporary gothic ("Petals on the Pillow," out of print but being converted into an e-book).

Most of them are set in the Sacramento-Davis area.

In Rendahl's new book, "Dead Letter Day" (Ace, $7.99, 304 pages), "messenger for the underworld" Melina Markowitz searches for her missing werewolf friend, Paul, and along the way discovers a mermaid splashing around in the Delta.

Rendahl, 50, is a 5-foot-9 Gemini who is quick with a laugh, collects snow globes and Elvis figurines, doesn't think practical jokes are funny, wears lots of bling, "loves to get takeout from the Nugget deli" and favors Monterey as a weekend getaway.

She will participate in the University of the Pacific's inaugural creative writing conference, June 14-16 (www.pacific.edu).

Visit her at www. eileenrendahl.com and check out her shared blog at http://drunkwritertalk.blogspot.com.

How do you characterize your books?

I've always wanted to be entertaining. I love it when people tell me, "Oh, my gosh, I couldn't put it down; I read it in three days," and I'm like, "It took seven months to write; you could slow down."

I want my books to be page-turners, but I also want them to have substance and (give readers) something to think about. It's not enough just to laugh. There's always something in them to chew on.

Why publish in three genres?

My agent refers to me as her chameleon because I can blend into a genre. I'm more interested in story than genre, so I can choose a genre to fit the story I'm working on at the time. It keeps me fresh, and if chick-lit dies beneath me, my career isn't over. But I need to rein myself in because (this method) isn't necessarily the best way to build name recognition.

Which genre do you enjoy the most?

The chick-lit and the urban fantasy are written in the first person. I've become so comfortable with that (point of view) it's like slipping into my coziest pair of jeans. When I get stuck, I say, "How would I tell a friend this story in first person if it happened to me?" Third person (in the romantic suspense books) is more challenging. It's not as easy to find the voices for each character, but when you challenge yourself like that it's more fun.

How autobiographical are the books?

It varies. The chick-lit and urban fantasy have my voice, and the main characters have a little bit of my personality and worldview. That said, I have never vanquished vampires, or been a lawyer or hairdresser.

My first chick-lit book, "Do Me, Do My Roots," was heavily autobiographical. My husband passed away in 1999, leaving me with two boys to raise. Writing the book was cathartic because I needed to come to grips with survivor's guilt. The idea that I would find love again seemed like a betrayal of him. Writing it was healing.

Would you hang out with your characters?

Absolutely. I tend to get really attached to them, which sometimes isn't good because I don't want to do bad things to them.

Where did you get your sense of humor?

It's a survival mechanism. My sisters and I have incredibly inappropriate senses of humor, which have gotten us through some hideous times. Without laughter, we would have sat there and cried. There are things I've written about that still make me cry, but if I can laugh instead I will go there in a New York minute.

Why use a pseudonym for the romantic-suspense books?

While I did deal with issues that were important, the four chick-lit novels were funny beach-reads. Then "Hold Back the Dark" was so gritty that we wanted to be very clear to anyone picking it up that it wasn't going to be a frothy girls-talking-and-eating novel. The best way to do that was to use a pseudonym.

How romantic are things around the house these days?

I'm an empty-nester, so they're pretty darn romantic. My (significant other) and I have been engaged longer than anybody we know.

Your day job is working in a private investigator's firm. Does that help with writing?

Everybody says, "You must get so much material."

Not really, because there are confidentiality issues, and worker's comp stuff isn't interesting enough to build a novel around. But I do meet a lot of people I wouldn't meet otherwise. I write very dialogue-heavy, so hearing different rhythms of speech and jargon is helpful.

Urban fantasy is a unique genre in that anything goes, no matter how fantastic.

If you want to put it in there, just do it. People have come to Northern California from all over the world for 200 years, so every ethnicity is represented. If you start with the idea that they brought their beliefs and gods and demons with them, then you can have anything you want. I've written about voodoo, Chinese vampires, gnomes, werewolves and characters from Norse mythology (in the "Messenger" series).

It's so freeing.

Call The Bee's Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128.

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