Interview & Giveaway: Jennifer Estep “Spider’s Bite”

January 24, 2010 Giveaways, Guests 50

I’m thrilled today to welcome Jennifer Estep, author of the new Elemental Assassin series to All Things Urban Fantasy. I’ve had Jennifer’s first book in that series, Spider’s Bite, under my Can’t Wait For sidebar taunting me with its unavailability (it releases on January 26th), and as I told Jennifer, this interview only made the wait worse.  Get ready to suffer along with me in the hurts-so-good sense, because this book sounds awesome!  And Jennifer is giving away a copy of Spider’s Bite at the end of this interview.

Jennifer Estep

Jennifer Estep writes the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series. Jennifer is also the author of the Bigtime paranormal romance series for Berkley. By day, Jennifer is an award-winning features page designer for a daily newspaper with a wide range of media and journalism experience. She’s also a certifiable fangirl and an authority on fantasy literature and culture. Jennifer is a member of Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and other writing groups. Jennifer’s books have been featured in Cosmopolitan, Entertainment Weekly, Southern Living, and a variety of other publications.

Spider’s Bite (Elemental Assassin, Book 1) releases January 26, 2010


Book Description: "My name is Gin, and I kill people." My name is Gin Blanco. They call me the Spider — the most feared assassin in the South (and a part-time cook at the Pork Pit BBQ joint.) As a Stone elemental, I can hear the whispers of the gravel beneath my feet and feel the vibrations of the soaring mountains above me, though I don’t use my powers on the job unless I absolutely have to. Call it professional pride.
After a ruthless Air elemental double-crossed me and killed my handler, I’m out for revenge. And I’ll exterminate anyone who gets in my way. I may look hot in a miniskirt, but I’m still one of the bad guys. Which is why I’m in trouble when irresistibly rugged Detective Donovan Caine agrees to help. The last thing a coldhearted killer needs when she’s battling a magic more powerful than her own is a sexy distraction … especially when he wants her dead just as much as the enemy.


ATUF: For readers new to your books, specifically your new urban fantasy debut Spider’s Bite, what can we expect from this series?

JE: Spider’s Bite is the first book in my new Elemental Assassin series. The book focuses on Gin Blanco, an assassin codenamed the Spider. When she’s not busy killing people and righting wrongs, Gin runs a barbecue restaurant called the Pork Pit in the fictional southern metropolis of Ashland. The city is also home to giants, dwarves, vampires, and elementals – Air, Fire, Ice, and Stone. Gin is an elemental herself with the rare ability to control two elements – Ice and Stone in her case.

In Spider’s Bite, Gin gets double-crossed on her latest hit, and her mentor/handler ends up being murdered. So Gin sets out to avenge his death and find out who set her up and why. Along the way, she teams up with Donovan Caine, a sexy detective. Donovan hates Gin for killing his partner but finds himself drawn to her despite his best intentions. There’s lots of action, lots of magic, and more than a little romance.

ATUF: Can you explain the elemental magic system you created in the Elemental Assassin series?

image JE: Basically, in the Elemental Assassin series, elementals are people who can create, control, and manipulate one of the four elements – Air, Fire, Ice, and Stone. Some folks can also use offshoots of these four areas. For example, water would be an offshoot of Ice, while metal would be one of Stone. Elementals can do a variety of things with their magic, everything from creating Ice sculptures to using oxygen and other Air molecules to heal wounds. Another example would be Gin’s Stone magic, which lets her make her own skin as hard as marble, among other things.

There’s a lot of duality in my magic system, since two of the elements compliment each other (like Air and Fire or Ice and Stone) and two elements oppose each other (like Ice vs. Fire or Air vs. Stone).

ATUF: There is also a rune system employed.  Can you tell us a little about that?

JE: In Spider’s Bite, many of the characters use runes as a way to identify their powers, their family connections, and even their businesses to others. A few folks imbue their runes with magic to do certain things (like to serve as warnings/alarms), but really, they are just cool symbols more than anything else.

imageFor example, Gin had a rune when she was a little girl – a spider rune that she wore like a medallion on a chain around her neck. The rune is shaped like a circle surrounded by eight thin rays and is the symbol for patience – something that an assassin like Gin needs a lot of. Other runes in the book include a cloud (used by an Air elemental healer) and a heart with an arrow through it (which is a symbol for a local nightclub where anything goes).

ATUF: Ashland is the fiction setting you created for the EA series.  How did you conceive this alternate world and what is unique about it?

JE: I’m a Southern girl, and I thought it would be really cool to create this dark, gritty, urban fantasy world that also had a heavy Southern flavor to it. There’s something really dark and gothic about the South anyway, especially if you’ve ever been to any of the older towns like Savannah, Ga., or Charleston, S.C. There’s a lot of history, a lot of tragedy, and a lot of ghosts in the South.

Once I decided to make Ashland a Southern metropolis, I started thinking about some of the places that I could have Gin hang out – and a barbecue restaurant came to mind. I don’t think there’s anything more Southern than great barbecue, and I eventually created Gin’s restaurant, the Pork Pit, with that idea in mind.

In many ways, Ashland is just like any other Southern city – only much, much darker and more violent. It’s just a place where anything can happen, which often leads to a world of trouble for Gin.

ATUF: You wrote three books in Bigtime series about “sexy superheroes, evil ubervillains, and smart, sassy gals looking for love.” Are there any elements (no pun intended) from that series that you’re bringing over to the Elemental Assassin series?

image JE: Well, the Elemental Assassin series is much, much darker than my Bigtime books, and there are no superheroes or spandex. But I think both of my series have a lot of the same elements in common – a strong, kick-butt heroine, a cool fantasy world, lots of action scenes, and some sizzling romance. And Gin is definitely the sassiest heroine that I’ve written so far!

Everything is just darker and grittier in the Elemental Assassin series, including the humor. But I hope folks who enjoyed my Bigtime series will give Spider’s Bite and the rest of the Elemental Assassin books a chance.

ATUF: I love the titles for the first three Elemental Assassin books:  Spider’s Bite (Jan. 26, 2010), Web of Lies (June 2010), Venom (October 2010). Do you have any rejected arachnid themed titles you could share with us?

imageJE: Spider’s Bite was actually titled “Gin on the Rocks” when I submitted it. I envisioned all the books having the word “Gin” in the title – “Bitter Gin,” “Gin with a Twist,” etc. But we decided to go in a different direction, so I brainstormed some spider-related titles with folks in my writers’ group, my editor, and my agent, among others.

We threw around a lot of different titles – “Death Weaver,” “The Deadly Web She Weaves,” etc. We also came up with some real groaners, but I think the worst one of those was “Eight Legs of Justice.” That’s the one I remember!

ATUF: On your website you mention that you “wanted to write a different kind of book with the Elemental Assassin series – a dark, gritty urban fantasy full of magic, power, and danger.” What prompted that desire?

JE: I’ve always been fascinated by assassin characters, especially those in fantasy books. Assassins can be everything from fun to sexy to dangerous to just downright creepy. I had been trying to write an epic fantasy assassin book for a couple of years, but it just wasn’t working the way that I wanted it too.

imageMy Bigtime books are light, fun, zany, comic book spoofs, but dark urban fantasy and paranormal romance has really taken off in popularity in recent years. So I decided to try writing a much darker book – an urban fantasy with my long-percolating assassin character/world. And it finally started clicking for me.

So part of it was looking at the marketplace and seeing what was on the shelves, and part of it was me finally finding the right way to tackle this story that I had been wanting to tell for so long.

Plus, writing a darker book really let me stretch myself as a writer. I think that people who write the exact same kind of books over and over again can become bored or just stagnate and not keep growing as a writer. Besides, I have too many different story ideas in my head to just write one type of book for the rest of my career. I think that I’ve done some of my best work to date in the Elemental Assassin series. I hope readers will agree!

ATUF: Spider Bite’s main character, Gin is a part-time cook, who moonlights as an assassin, and there are recipes mentioned in the book (which we can find on your website – the Chocolate Chip Pound Cake sounds yummy).  Is this an example of art imitating life with your own culinary skills?

imageJE: I do enjoy cooking, and I love watching the Food Network, but I’m no skilled, gourmet chef by any stretch of the imagination! When I cook, I like to keep things quick, easy, and simple – mix-and-stir recipes, I jokingly call them. Mix some stuff together, put it in a baking dish, and throw it in the oven. Those are my kind of recipes.

And the Chocolate Chip Pound Cake recipe is yummy – it’s so simple to make and so chocolatey. The cake turns out perfect every single time!

ATUF: What are some of your favorite urban fantasy books past, present, or future?

image JE: Hmm, this is a toughie just because there are so many great books out there, and I can’t mention them all! I like the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher and the Hollows/Rachel Morgan series by Kim Harrison. Those are some of the first urban fantasy books that I read.

I also read a lot of epic and young adult fantasy and paranormal romance. I’ve recently enjoyed reading “The Lies of Locke Lamora” by Scott Lynch; “The Sword-Edged Blonde” by Alex Bledsoe; “Graceling” by Kristin Cashore; and “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins. For paranormal romance, I enjoy reading folks like Kresley Cole, Jeaniene Frost, Sherrilyn Kenyon. I could go on and on … Too many great books, too little time!

ATUF: Do you have a dream cast in mind if Spider’s Bite were to be made into a movie?

image JE : I think Jennifer Garner would be great as my main character/assassin Gin Blanco. I really loved Garner on the TV show Alias, and she can be tough and vulnerable at the same time, just like Gin is. I also think that Hugh Jackman would be great as Finnegan Lane, Gin’s foster brother/partner in crime. Jackman is sexy and mischievous at the same time, just like Finn is.

Thank you so much for stopping by Jennifer!

Excerpt from chapter one of Spider’s Bite:

In order to kill people, you have to get close to them. Put yourself in their world. Make their likes your likes. Their habits your habits. Their thoughts your thoughts.

For this job, putting myself in Evelyn Edwards’s world had meant getting tossed into Ashland Asylum. To Evelyn and her orderly underlings, I was just another schizo dragged off the streets, driven crazy by elemental magic, drugs, or a combination of the two. Another poor, lost ward of the state who wasn’t worth their time, attention, consideration, or sympathy.

I’d spent the last few days locked up in the asylum convincing Evelyn and the others I was just as June-bug crazy as the rest of the babbling psychos. Spouting nonsense about being an assassin. Drooling. Finger-painting with the moldy peas they served for lunch. I’d even hacked off gobs of my long, bleached blond hair during craft time to keep up the pretense. The orderlies on call had taken the scissors away from me, but not before I’d used them to pry a screw loose from the rec room table.

The same screw I’d sharpened to a two-inch-long, dartlike point. The same screw I had palmed in my hand. The same screw I was going to shove into Evelyn’s throat. The weapon rested on my palm, and the steel felt rough against my scarred skin. Hard. Substantial. Cold. Comforting.

Of course, I didn’t really need a weapon to kill the shrink. I could have offed Evelyn with my Stone magic. Could have reached for the elemental power flowing through my veins. Could have tapped into the acres of granite the asylum was constructed out of and made the whole building come crashing down on her head. Using my Stone magic was easier than breathing.

Call it professional pride, but I didn’t use my elemental power to kill unless I absolutely had to, unless there was no other way to get the job done. Just too easy otherwise. But even more important, magic got you noticed in these parts. Especially elemental magic. If I started collapsing buildings on people or braining them with bricks, the police and other, more unsavory characters would be sure to take note—and an unhealthy interest in me. I’d made more than my share of enemies over the years, and the only reason I’d stayed alive this long was by keeping to the shadows. By creeping in and out of places completely unnoticed, just the way my namesake did.

Besides, there were plenty of ways to make someone quit breathing. I didn’t need my magic to help me with that…

Read the first chapter of Spider’s Bite in its entirety by clicking here.

Want to read more from the Elemental Assassin series?

Spider’s Bargain: This is a short story that takes place before the events of Spider’s Bite, the first book in the Elemental Assassin series. In Spider’s Bargain, Gin Blanco takes on a corrupt cop, but only one of them will be left standing in the end. Click here to read it.


A copy of Spider’s Bite (Elemental Assassin, book 1) by Jennifer Estep


  1. Open US residents only
  2. Must be a follower or subscribe via email (right sidebar)
  3. You must include your email – [at] is fine
  4. Leave a comment about this interview OR answer the question: What kind of elemental would you like to be?
  5. Entries must be received by Midnight MST on January 30th

50 Responses to “Interview & Giveaway: Jennifer Estep “Spider’s Bite””

  1. RKCharron


    Hi 🙂
    Thank you for the interview with Jennifer Estep and thank you to Jennifer for sharing here. I liked the conversational tone and the indepth responses. I'm looking forward to reading SPIDER'S BITE (I'm glad she went with Spider-related titles, they sound so intriguing). It's awesome the trilogy will be released this year.
    Thanks also for the excellent excerpt.
    All the best,

  2. Ladytink_534

    I'm a follower! I love this author! I have all of her 3 of her Bigtime books. I think I'd want to be a fire or air elemental.


  3. jenniferestep

    RK — Thanks! I think the spider-related titles are pretty cool myself. They really convey the darker, gritter tone of the Elemental Assassin books.

    And I'm excited that the first three books will be coming out this year. I know I always hate when there's a big lag between books for authors that I like/read.

    Ladytink — Thanks so much for the nice words about the Bigitme books. I appreciate them and hope you enjoy Spider's Bite as well. 😉

    And being a fire elemental would be awesome. No worries about ever getting cold then!

  4. Emily

    "Eight Legs of Justice" sounds like a Chuck Norris movie, I'm glad it didn't end up being the title!

    whatbookisthat at gmail dot com and I am indeed a follower

    Great interview!

    What Book is That?

  5. jacabur1

    Having only found out about Jennifer Estep through blog reviews in the last week or so thank you ladies for the amazingly informative interview and the in depth answers from Jennifer. I love the fact that the main character Gin is a part time cook moonlighting as an assassin, what a juxtaposition of opposites a person who creates as a hobby and destroys as a profession!
    I would like to be a Stone elemental so if ever needed "body armor" would have access to it at a moments notice. Second choice would be Fire elemental as I am kind of cold blooded in winter, be nice to have my own ever present heating source!
    Jennifer has the dream cast down as well with Garner and Jackman, it would be cool if that could ever come to pass.

    I am a US resident, Follower on email subscription updates, google friend connect and RSS feed on my email

    jackie b central texas

  6. Virginia C

    Hi, Jennifer! Thanks for the great interview and excerpt. I would choose "Ice" since it also involves water, one of the most powerful forces in the universe!

    U.S Resident, Follower & Subscriber

    gcwhiskas at aol dot com

  7. jenniferestep

    Hi, everyone! Thanks for leaving a comment about which kind of elemental you would be.

    Emily — That's too funny! Me too, now that you put it like that. Although I think Chuck would make a great bad guy in a movie. 😉

    Jacabur — No problem. And that's an interesting way to look at Gin — as both a creator and a destroyer.

  8. van_pham

    I would be an ice elemental 🙂

    -U.S. resident
    -blog follower
    -email subscriber


    thanks for the giveway!

  9. heatwave16

    Hi Jennifer!!! Great interview. I think I would be a stone/metal elemental. I work as a steel engineer, so what a great ability to make work easier. 🙂

    The book sounds great, and I can't wait to read it.

    I am a follower.

  10. misskallie2000

    I was fasinated by the info that Jennifer gave us re: her books. Sounds like great reading. As far as elemental, fire or water would be my choice. Great giveaway. Thanks

    I am a
    -U.S. resident
    -blog follower
    -email subscriber

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

  11. ginnn7

    I would be stone, i have always loved the beauty and color in rocks, always picking them up everywhere.

    U.S. resident
    i follow
    i subscribe email


  12. CC

    The Elemental Assassin Books sound great. I believe I'd like to be an Air element; I would be able to blow storms where I wanted.

    I'm a Follower.


  13. Abigail [All Things Urban Fantasy]

    Thanks again Jennifer for stopping by, obviously I'm not entering my own giveaway I just wanted to chime in. I'm also a huge Alias fan. Any character like Sidney gets my vote. And I'd pick Air for my elemental. Being able to heal people…what's better than that?

  14. jenniferestep

    Kathy — I'm jealous! I looked at my local Books-A-Million but it wasn't out yet.

    Abigail — Alias is one of my favorite shows ever. I think Garner is just a really great actress no matter what she's in.

  15. cait045

    I think Jennifer Garner would be a kick ass assasin. Can't wait to read this series


  16. Bethie

    Please count me in. I follow. Thanks for the chance. I think water would be th element for me!

    lizzi0915 at aol dot com

  17. Amanda Leigh

    I've just recently started hearing about Jennifer's books and am looking forward to reading Spider's Bite.
    I think I would most like to be a fire elemental, that or water.

    I'm a follower in the US.


  18. ChiChai Hana

    This book sounds amazing! I was hooked after reading the interview. I'd definitely love to be a stone or wind element.

    I'm a subscriber in the US

    Thanks for the contest!
    chichai_hana at hotmail dot com

  19. Jamie

    Thanks for the great interview!! I am adding this book to my TBR list. I think if I had to pick I would be a air or earth element.

    I am a follower and subscriber
    jbbird [at] duo-county [dot] com

  20. Melissa (My World)

    This book does sound fabulous! I would love the chance to read this one.

    If I had to pick an element I would pick… stone. Although air would be a close second.

    I am a follower and would love to win this book. Please enter me. Thank you!


  21. Patti

    I'm a US follower. I love the names you came up with for the book – "Eight Legs of Justice" *snort*!

    pspinney AT cox DOT net

  22. Lexie

    I'm a follower 🙂

    I think I'd want to be a Fire elemental. I like things hot–ask my family, I like to keep my room around 85 year round, ah personal space heaters–and I've always held a fascination with fire.

    [email protected]

  23. Daelith

    I'm a sucker for a paranormal in the South. Thank you for this interview and giving us a little insight into the characters and book.

    I would like to be an air elemental. Be fun manipulating air currents especially if you can "glide" like Aereon in Chronicles of Riddick.

    cheleooc at yahoo dot com

    Thank you!

  24. angel28140

    Thanks Jennifer for the great giveaway and interview!

    I am a follower (Lisa M. Basso)

    If I could be any elemental, I would be a fire elemental. That would be so hot (ha!)

    angel28140 (AT) yahoo (DOT) com

  25. donnas

    Great interview. Congrats on the release! I am looking forward to reading Spiders Bite.

    I think I would pick a night light floating air elemental.

    I am a follower.

    bacchus76 at myself dot com

  26. cathy

    I'm a follower. cathydalek at gmail dot com.

    The chocolate chip poundcake recipe is one I'm going to have to try. The recipe looks like one I can cope with.

    I'd like to be a water elemental. I think the ability to pull water towards me could be useful. Since humans are basically "ugly bags of mostly water" to quote ST:TNG, the ability to pull all the water out of a person and leave a dessicated corpse would be pretty awesome.


  27. CrystalGB

    Hi Jennifer. Great interview. Loved the excerpt. Spider's Bite sounds so good.
    I would want to be a fire or air elemental.

    I am a follower.


  28. Marianna

    Cool contest! My element would absolutely be Fire! But according to my astrological sign it should be Water, but Fire is so much more fun (and no I am not a pyromaniac, haha!).

    I'm a follower

    patronus89013 at yahoo dot com

  29. Kimberly B.

    Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer! I love the Bigtime series, but I like darker fantasy, too, so I'm sure I'll love this series as well! I've always been partial to both thieves and assassins!
    If I had an elemental power, it would probably be air. The wind just speaks to me, somehow.
    Thanks for the great giveaway!
    beax0002 (at) umn (dot) edu

  30. Kindle Vixen

    This new series sounds so awesome!

    I too love both the Dresden Files and the Hollows series. I have such a girl crush on Harry *sigh*

    blog |at| kindlevixen. com

  31. Anne J

    I subscribe by email. If I was an elemental I'd want to control FIRE, that seems best to me.

    ajolly1456 at gmail dot com

  32. ddurance

    US resident

    follower & subscribe via email

    deidre_durance at hotmail dot com

    I would want to be a stone elemental and therefore control metal as well. Imagine all the places you could go if you could manipulate stone and metal.

  33. Lisa R

    alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com

    I like the darker urban fantasy and this one sounds like a great read.

    I'm a follower
    As an avid gardener, I would love to be an earth elemental

  34. SandyG265

    I've been wanting to read this book. I'd like to be an air elemental. You could go anyplace.

    sgiden @ verizon DOT net

  35. Linda Henderson

    I enjoyed the interview very much. You are a new author to me, but I would love to read your books. I think I would want to be earth or air elemental.

    I am a follower

    seriousreader at live dot com

  36. Barbara E.

    I'd love to read Spider's Bite, and I'm going to be picking it up next chance I get. I'd like to be a fire elemental.

    I'm a follower.