Jane was born in England, and grew up exploring the history and culture of London and surrounding counties. After some time spent in Germany in the 1990’s she immigrated to Detroit, USA, eventually settling in South West Florida. She returned to England after a fifteen-year absence, to spend six years in the South West of England living on Exmoor. Here, inspired by the atmosphere, beautiful scenery and the ancient history of the place, she began writing.
Jane is a trained horticulturist, and also spent time working and volunteering for Britain's National Trust at Exmoor's 1000-year-old Dunster Castle. Gaining more insight into the history and mysteries surrounding these ancient places, and having always been intrigued by the supernatural, inspiration came for her fourth novel, The Beekeeper's Daughter, a supernatural thriller.
Jane Returned to Florida in 2013, and lives in Sarasota.
Thanks for letting us interrogate you! Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?
J.J.: Because I had a story that just had to be told. If I had not written it down it would have gone around and around my mind, and drove me completely insane.
That was in 2004 and once I started to write, I was hooked. That first story started out as a stand- alone book, but it grew into a trilogy. Since then, I have completed my current novel, The Beekeeper’s Daughter, and I am well on my way to finishing my fifth book.
Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be? I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?
J.J.: The perks of being a writer is you are not bound by a nine to five regime. I write when I can, and I try to write most afternoons, but that is not always possible. Some of my best writing has come in the middle of the night, when an idea comes to me and the house is quiet and there are no interruptions.
Seeing all your hard work come to fruition, when you finally get a copy of your book in print is an amazing feeling of satisfaction. I have had readers take the time to write to me and tell me how much they enjoyed my novel, and that makes the whole process, no matter how long or painful, completely worthwhile.
Mostly the demands are what I place on myself. I often write short stories, while I am writing my novel, sometimes another book is also on the back burner. I have only had to write to a deadline, when I wrote an article for a magazine.
If my publisher requests any information I make sure I focus my attention on responding as soon as possible. I believe it is important to be conscientious and professional at all times. It makes people want to work with you again.
Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?
J.J.: With my first book, Ravens Deep, I had a meeting with a London agent, but she could not compare my work to anything else on the market at that time. She told me she didn’t think she could sell it to a publisher, that was in 2007. My first book was dark romance. It combined a complex modern love story with vampire superstition.
Of course, a few months later, ‘Twilight and True Blood’, saturated the market and every writer was trying to write vampire romance. I knew then that my work would not be seen as it should have been, a new fresh idea. Instead, I would just be another author trying to jump on the band wagon of what was becoming a saturated market.
So I decided to self-publish, my next two books, Blood & Ashes and A Memoir of Carl, completed the trilogy. This was while I went to live back in England for a few years.
I moved back to America in 2013 and signed a publishing contract in 2014, for, The Beekeeper’s Daughter’. Only to have this turn into a nightmare. Partly my own fault as I should have been more thorough in my research of this Publisher. If I had done so, I would have read many other authors horror stories.
In the end, I had to engage the services of a publishing attorney to have my rights reassigned to me. I put that episode down to a bad experience and moved on. I found my current publisher, Black Opal Books, who liked my novel enough to want to publish it. By contrast, they have been very professional to deal with.
Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?
J.J.: My family are very supportive of my writing. At first they thought it was just a hobby, but they saw it was a serious endeavor for me especially when I went ahead and I self-published my first novels and did a couple of book signings and was a guest speaker for a literary festival on Exmoor in England.
I try to divide my time between my family commitments and my writing. That is why I like to write in the middle of the night, no one expects you to do anything then.
This is for pet lovers. If you don’t own a pet, skip this question, but do your pets actually get their food on time or do they have to wait until you type just one more word?
J.J.: I have three cats, one is particularly vocal. So when dinner time comes around he will sit in my office and cry. How can I ignore that? So, yes they all get their food on time.
This is for plant lovers. If you don’t own a plant, skip this question, but if you do, are they actually still alive?
J.J.: I love plants and gardening is one of my real passions. I collect plants all the time, and they are all alive. Although, occasionally I realize that I have forgotten to water them as their leaves are wilting, then, I feel hugely guilty to have stressed them so much.
In writing your book, how did you deal with the phone ringing, your family needing dinner or your boss calling you saying you’re late?
J.J.: I work in the mornings for my husband’s company, so I never write in the mornings. Although, I do sometimes research obscure things if I get time while at work.
When I am in my own office at home, I will ignore the phone, or food requirements until I can leave whatever I am working on. I try to wrap up what I am doing by late afternoon, again trying to divide my time between my writing and my family.
What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?
J.J.: It was probably the nightmare scenario of my previous publisher. Now, I am able to look back, the lies she told me seem unbelievable. She broke every agreement we had, and her excuses ranged from her computer breaking down, sickness, vacation and even death. As much as I tried to believe that just maybe bad things kept happening to this person for real, part of me knew I was being lied to.
When I finally lost patience after nine months of this nonsense, and questioned her, she became really abusive. Accusing me of impatience and hounding her even though it was the first time I had contacted her in over six weeks.
It was an insane episode, and I am so thankful that she never published my book and I did not have to deal with her again.
How about the social networks? Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?
J.J.: The trouble with most social networks is no one actually cares about anyone else’s work. It’s very narcissistic. Everyone wants post their novel on social networks and say, “Hey, look at me, I am a published author, buy my book.” But in reality not many people will buy your book that way, only your friends or family.
Genre groups are better, at least you might have a chance of appealing to a group of people that might actually want to read your book.
Book sales. Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)? How are you making the sales happen for you?
J.J.: My first three books sold in various independent book stores in England, as well as various online sites. Since the recession hit England a few years ago, all the small bookstores closed, so now my trilogy sells mainly through online sites such as Amazon. I am hoping to renew interest in them, as interest grows for The Beekeepers Daughter, and people become interested to read what else I have written.
The Beekeeper’s Daughter sales reports are not available yet.
What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?
Celebrities that have books published, and know nothing about writing. They don’t have a clue about the heartache and hard work that goes into writing. They only get a publishing contract because of who they are. I suspect that most don’t even write their books, but employ a ghost writer.
Then, there are people who got a publishing deal because they know the right people in the industry. They can write a book or three and even though the writing is not that great, the repetition is truly shocking. Regardless, it becomes a best seller. But when characters roll their eyes more than forty times, and bite their lip more than thirty times, I have to wonder if this author has ever opened a thesaurus. And just where was her editor?
This example shows there is one rule for the majority or writers and another rule for a few people that get a publishing contract, because of who they are or who they know. It’s got nothing to do with talent.
Okay, too much sugar for you today! Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in. Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?
J.J.: I love that I have a publishing contract. It was one of the best moments of my life. It made all the anguish, hard work and dealing with people that ultimately let me down, recede into the past. Ultimately, these experiences made me stronger, and more determined to become a published author in the end.
I have learnt a lot on my writing journey. I used to listen to experienced authors say, “never give up, keep writing, keep trying to get that contract,” and think, it’s easy for you to say that, you’re a successful author.
But what they said was true. If you believe in your writing and make it the best it can possibly be, then sooner or later, someone else is going to see the merit in your work.