Wednesday 11 June 2014

Getting to know … Jan Jones

What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?
I write in several different genres: Cosy mystery (Penny Plain series), Regency Romance (Newmarket Regency series), romantic suspense... All of them have mystery, romance and humour in different proportions.

What made you choose that genre?
I enjoy reading a wide range of genres, so I suppose it never occurred to me that I should limit myself to only writing one type. Each has different challenges and a different focus. Swapping between them keeps my writing fresh.

How long does it take you to write a book?
Oh, goodness, how long is a piece of string? My standard-length Regencies took around four months for the first draft, then another four to edit and edit and polish and polish. My short novels take perhaps three months, perhaps longer. The trouble is that there is just as much work involved in creating a world for a short novel as there is for a long one. Getting all the details right is what takes the time. Short stories (magazine-shorts) can take a week or two.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I write every spare moment. But like everyone else, I have a life as well. The days are one long juggle. I write new stuff best late at night when I don’t get interrupted. I edit best during the day when I can work in short snatches of time.

Where do you get your ideas for your books?
In general, I start every book with the main character and the situation. Once I begin to really think about her and her background and her life and what makes her tick, the story develops. I do a lot of free-fall thinking and a vast amount of scribbling on scraps of paper before I start writing.

The starting points for the ideas themselves are all around. Bursts of conversation. Glimpses of places through windows or in photographs. The look of a person – their expression, dress or mannerisms. The problem is to limit them!

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I made up stories for my brother as soon as he was old enough to listen. My first written down story was in an exercise book when I was seven or eight. I soon realised that the act of writing it down made the whole process much, much slower, so I went back to spinning them out of the air until I was in my twenties!

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Reading, losing myself in someone else’s world. Also researching and finding out new things that might come in useful one day.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Oh, that you have to trust your own characters and your own instincts. If you’ve got the characters right, things happen as you are writing that is very much like magic.

How many books have you written?
A lot! But if you mean published, there have been eleven or twelve of various lengths. Some are out of print, so I am gradually putting them up on Amazon Kindle myself.

Which is your favourite and why?
When I am writing, my favourite is always ‘the next one’ (the one I haven’t written yet), because it is full of bright promise. I do actually like all my books, but I am especially fond of my most recent one FAIRLIGHTS, because it is romantic suspense with a mystery, which I love, and it was inspired by Mary Stewart, who I have adored ever since I first turned her pages. I am also very pleased with FAIRLIGHTS because when I originally wrote it, it was to a much shorter remit (for a magazine) which chafed at me. I always knew it should be longer, so I am really delighted that I revisited it and took the time and care to let it grow to the length and shape that it always should have been.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to be a teacher, and an actor, and a singer … and a storyteller. Which I now am.

What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a prequelly-spinoff idea that evolved at the back of my mind when I was writing FAIRLIGHTS. I wrote a long description of the various parts of the house, and when I got to the Regency wing I thought “Ooh, there’s a story in this” -- so I’m writing it.

Twitter: @janjonesauthor

Jan’s Novels
Contemporary romantic comedy:
Stage by Stage

Newmarket Regency series:
The Kydd Inheritance
Fair Deception
Fortunate Wager also available as e-book

The Penny Plain Mysteries (novellas):
The Jigsaw Puzzle also available as e-book
Just Desserts also available as an e-book
Local Secrets
The Christmas Present

Contemporary mysteries with paranormal elements (novellas):
An Ordinary Gift
Written on the Wind also available as e-book
Fairlights also available as e-book

Critique Service for Writers

Flash 500 Home Page: Flash Fiction, Humour Verse
and Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competitions

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