Over the last few months and into July I’ll be chatting with authors who, like me, write Family Sagas, (#familysaga) a genre that can cover many countries, years and cultures.I am thrilled that so many excellent writers have agreed to meet here with me. I’m sure you’ll find them as fascinating as I do. All I can say is watch this space. Your TBR list of books will be toppling over!!
Welcome Jane, thank you for being here today.
Thank you for the chance to chat here, Judith
Tell us, about your writing; does writing energise or exhaust you?
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
To think it is easy!
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
No, but confidence helps.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want? Perhaps a bit of both.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly? No. Emotions and imagination are the tools you can’t do without.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I know several, but one writer in particular has helped me and become my mentor. (Stephen Carver)
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Both – in the family saga there was a link between each of the three books. My next book stands on its own.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Re-write and don’t be afraid of making major changes or cuts.
What is the first book that made you cry? Jane Eyre – the death of Helen Burns.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I came to writing fiction very late after a career of writing and directing in the theatre – so it was difficult to change to fiction. Once the first book was published I knew I was on the right lines.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? Paid advice (TLC)
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
When reading “The Forsyte Saga” and quickly moved into that world.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
A great deal – but I have been lucky enough to meet some fascinating people. However – general observation of people around you is vital to building characters.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
At this moment, only one.
What does literary success look like to you?
Interest and appreciation from readers.
What’s the best way to market your books?
I wish I knew. I’m hopeless.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
If the book has a specific background I do a great deal research. If it from my imagination I don’t need to – except to check facts.
Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice? Anything creative has a spiritual element.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? I’m never quite sure I have got into the male head!
How many hours a day do you write? This varies – depending on how the writing is going.
How do you select the names of your characters? This is something I take great trouble with and enjoy. I try and make the name fit the character.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
So far I have been lucky and had mainly good reviews. I try to be fair and if a bad review is valid I want to learn from it.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Maybe only recognition of traits in a character that a few people will see.
What was your hardest scene to write?
I think those that were nearest to me emotionally, i.e. someone dying in the last book of the Trilogy.
What is your favourite childhood book?
A little unknown book called “Groundsel and Necklaces” written and illustrated by Cicely Mary Barker. It still moves me to tears.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process? Making an actual start. Once the first paragraph is written, I’m off.
Does your family support your career as a writer?
Yes they do, in that they take an interest.
How long on average does it take you to write a book? It really depends on the sort of book but on average about 6 months.
Jane has been quite conservative with her answers so I thought I would add a little more about her here:
Since leaving the Central School of Speech and Drama – a long time ago – I have worked as a writer, playwright, librettist – and theatre and opera director.
After a long association with London’s famous Old Vic Theatre I formed a company of my own, The English Chamber Theatre. Dame Judi Dench is the President.
Since its formation I have written, devised and directed over thirty works – many of them biographical in content.-and because of the nature of chamber work they had small casts and I have been lucky enough to have worked with some of our greatest actors including Sir Derek Jacobi, Fenella Fielding, James Bolam, Timothy West and many others.
In 2005 I moved from theatre to opera directing and for the company Opera UK I wrote several English versions of the librettos including ‘The Merry Widow’, ‘Carmen’ and ‘La Traviata’.
I also wrote the libretto for an Easter Oratorio ‘The People’s Passion’ which was televised for BBC1 with Jessye Norman and Sir Thomas Allen heading the cast.
I wrote an original opera for children ‘Hello Mr Darwin’ and a Christmas carol, ‘This Christmastide’ which was sung first by Jessye Norman and has since become very popular both in the States and the UK.
My writing work also includes, work for the radio, television and recording studio.
Now I seem to be concentrating on novels. My first, ‘Parallel Lines’ was published in January 2015. It is the first in a family saga trilogy. The second book, ‘Triangles in Squares will be published later this year. The last in the trilogy, ‘Full Circle’ will be published in 2016.
And a teasing taster of Jane’s new book to come; publishing date to follow soon
Find Jane here: http://amzn.to/2pLqN8O
What an interesting background Jane has. Having so much experience in theatre must be a huge bonus when it comes to writing! Thanks for the post, Judith.
Thanks for dropping by, Sara. Jane certainly has had a lot f writing experience.x
A fun interview, Judith and Jane, and I agree with Sara – what an interesting resume of experience. I had to laugh at Jane’s response to the best way to market her books. I think many of us feel equally clueless. 🙂
Yes, I laughed at that, Diane; I think most of us are in the same boat. Thanks for dropping by.x
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What a fascinating list of career paths Jane has taken. I’m so glad you added those biographical details, Judith. And, I too, would love to know how to market successfully!
Ah, Mary, the marketing!! Difficult. Only way I succeed is getting out there and giving talks. Not a clue how much social media does for me but I keep plodding on. I think Jane was well and truly hiding her light under a bushel. Thanks for dropping by, much appreciate all your support – always.