Welcome, Jane, and thanks for agreeing to the interview. Can you tell us when you first realised you wanted a career as a writer?
A career? I haven’t got into that way of thinking yet. I might do if I ever earn any money at it.
Creative people are born that way but they are also shaped by various outside influences. Were you influenced by any particular authors, alive or dead? Does music or some other medium inspire you to write what you do?
I suppose we are all influenced by what we most enjoy reading. The writing I loved as a child was often magical but tempered with darkness and ambiguity, like The Box of Delights, The Little White Horse, all of Alan Garner’s books, and of course the Moomin books. They all have in common an element of danger within the magic, deep forests, nightmares, or in the case of the Moomin stories, the sadness and sorrows of the human condition. Music doesn’t inspire me that I am aware of, but I do tend to see stories in orchestral music.
Do you recall the moment when you got the idea for your first book?
I was sitting on the sofa with the youngest on my knee, trying to read over her head. It was a fantasy story one of the older children had abandoned in frustration. I picked up on one of the threads that had turned him off the story and decided how I would have written it differently. Deborah in her dingy classroom and nightmare world was born.
Of all the characters you have created, do you have a favourite; and, if so, why?
No, I don’t have a favourite. They all appeal in one way or another. Some I would like enormously if I met them, others I would hate. It depends on which book I am working on too as I get immersed in different characters, their world and their problems. For example, in The Green Woman series I love the character of Jonah—he is such a good human being, full of life and love. But I also like Selene as a creation even though I would detest her I’m sure if I ever met her.
Why this genre? Do you write in another genre? Is it something you might consider in the future?
I started off writing fictionalised autobiography. Most people do, I think. I gave that up because it was too personal. I enjoy the fantastical. Not so much the idea of magic in our own familiar world, but the creation of a completely different world where things happen differently and the same laws of physics don’t apply. Maybe I have a touch of the Peter Pans, still hankering after a child’s ability to believe in the unbelievable.
If someone asked you for one tip to improve their writing, what would it be?
That would depend very much on what their writing was like. Everybody has a different style. I suppose you have to decide what type of writer you are and what style you want to use to get your story across, and then you have to stick to it. There’s a tendency in contemporary YA fiction to avoid description and rely on snappy dialogue to carry the story. That’s fair enough but your dialogue has to be faultlessly realistic. It dates too, so you have to beware of using too much contemporary slang. Difficult.
These days being an author is like running a business. The writing itself is time-consuming and requires concentrated effort. You need stamina and self-discipline for all the rewriting and editing you must do to make your product the best it can be. Then, when you think the hard part is over, comes the selling part: all the promoting, blogging, networking, reviews, interviews, etc. It can seem relentless. How do you switch off? What helps you to recharge your batteries?
I don’t ever switch off entirely but I do change register. I write a lot of poetry, some ‘proper’ poems that I blog, and lots of short images that I tweet. That’s great fun and great practice putting an idea or an emotion across in 140 characters.
Many authors have certain recurring themes or messages in their work. Do you see any in your own books?
I do have a thing about utopias. It has always been one of my favourite dreams, inventing worlds close to perfection. There’s always a utopian, humanist striving in my books.
It is said of writers, don’t make them angry or you might end up horribly slaughtered in their next novel. Have you taken revenge on anyone in this way?
No. The only one of my characters who resembles anyone remotely real is the Protector in The Green Woman series who I imagine exactly like Captain Mainwaring in the BBC comedy series Dad’s Army. And the resemblance is only skin deep.
What advice would you give to aspiring, young writers who are seeking publication but don’t know where to start?
I’m not really the best person to ask that particular question. Publication is a lottery and you could hit the jackpot or you could get lumbered with the agent/publisher from hell. I did it wrong so I suppose my advice would be don’t do what I did. I was so convinced that The Green Woman series would be hard to sell that I accepted the first publishing offer I received. It was completely the wrong thing to do, was completely the wrong publisher and just caused me a lot of grief. Do your homework well, only submit your best (really best) work to reputable agents and reputable small presses and see what happens. If you get a bite go to somebody sensible like the team at Absolute Write and find out as much as you can before signing anything.
Is there a work in progress you’d like to tell us about?
I am just finishing the last revision (for the moment) on a historical fantasy that I am determined to find a publisher for. It’s set in an alternate tenth century northern Europe and it combines Norse and Celtic history with the Atlantis myth, Revelation and childhood nightmares from Doctor Who. This one is for adults with a strong constitution and it’s going to be really hard to sell.
What do you most – and least – like about being an author?
Most—it has made me aware of what I can do with my creative urge and talent and has given my life a definite direction.
Least—it has taken over my life!
You can read more about Jane on her Amazon (UK) author page – http://tinyurl.com/lubu5va
And at Amazon. com – http://tinyurl.com/k7ad3vm
Also check out Jane’s blogs at – http://janedougherty.wordpress.com/