Welcome to the two hundred and ninety-seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with novelist, soap blogger and article writer Jane Reynolds. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Jane. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Jane: I’m based in Swindon, Wiltshire in the UK and had wanted to be a writer my whole life, but only finally took the plunge and gave up work five years ago to write my first novel.
Morgen: Oh good. I’m not the only mad one then (the day job (finally) goes next Friday). What genre do you write?
kJane: I’d describe my writing as ‘Chicklit’ but with a little added surprise, and would like to think of it as something along the Jackie Collins line, but without the Hollywood glamour or the crazed stalker!
Morgen: What have you had published to-date?
Jane: I Self-Published my debut novel “Just Good Friends?” in 2010 and also write a big weekly Soap / TV blog / magazine.
Morgen: Very popular. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Jane: Have I? Oh, yes. My life has been nothing BUT rejections (and not just literary ones)! Most of my days are spent wondering how I manage to cope, but the one thing that keeps me going is the blind hope / belief that maybe tomorrow will be the day when it all comes good.
Morgen: A successful writer is one who didn’t give up. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions?
Jane: I won £10 in a National Short Story competition when I was 11, and got third prize in the Daz ‘Soap Blogger of the Year’ Award 2011 (having been invited to apply and after having only been blogging for six months).
Morgen: Wow. They’re both to be very proud of, I’d say. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Jane: I got an Agent almost as soon as I started submitting, but (story of my life), it didn’t work out and that’s how I came to end up Self-Publishing.
Morgen: (I’m debating here whether to mention that an agent told me last summer – when presented with my 105K chick lit – that chick lit is dead!) You’ve self-published, does this mean your book is available as an eBook?
Jane: Yes. My book is available on Amazon and Kindle, but making it happen almost drove me crazy (and often drove me to drink!). I wasted several hundred hours during the process and felt like giving up many, many times along the way.
Morgen: But you didn’t because it’s all you want to do (snap). Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Jane: I like a ‘proper’ book, but I’m sure that when I do try eBooks I’ll love them and wish I’d done it sooner!
Morgen: I’ve had my Kindle just over a month and I love it but it’s not changed my life. It just means that for the size and weight of a paperback I have 400+ books in my bag. Other than for my Short Story Saturday reviews and new books I’ve downloaded it’s still paper books all the way at home. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Jane: I started the website / blog simply as a way of promoting my book, but it’s evolved dramatically, and the Soap-blogging part has sort-of ‘taken over’.
Morgen: Oh, I know all about blogs taking over.
Jane: The best part of my time is spent doing things connected with that at the moment, but I do all my own marketing for every aspect of my work and also have regular spots on several radio shows locally – where I talk ‘Soaps’, but usually manage to get a quick plug in for the book somewhere along the line too!
Morgen: Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If your book was made into a film, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Jane: I love the character of Ruth. The agony she goes through (in trying to deny her feelings for another woman), was just a joy to write. I don’t have any thoughts on who’d play the roles as I daren’t even dream about it being made into a film!
Morgen: Presumably you chose the title of your book, did you do the cover too? How important do you think they are?
Jane: It’s all my own work. If I’d had lots of money I’d have had a photo / cover done specially, but I’m very proud of having found a picture I liked online and then designing the whole thing myself. A cover is SO important. Of all the millions of books out there, you need that special something to catch someone’s eye and make them want to pick it up. It’s a bit like dating: ‘First Impressions’ and all that!
Morgen: The title of a story I’ve just submitted for a charity anthology (woop woop!). There’s been a debate on LinkedIn about how much covers matter and some saying they don’t at all but if you have a dull one and a beautiful one side-by-side, a reader’s going to go for the attractive one first aren’t they? If they like the rest of the ‘package’ they’ll buy it and probably ignore the dull one if that’s their money spent. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Jane: My blogging / marketing takes up most of my time. I’m desperate to start my sequel (it’s written in my head!), and am doing as much as I can to create awareness of my book, but unless I start earning money from it all I’ll be forced back to ‘work’ work before too long, so am trying to get some freelance jobs (and would love to do some paid Soap blogging / writing for a magazine etc).
Morgen: ‘work’ work? No! Stay away from the light. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Jane: I can’t write unless I know I have nothing else to do. That was why I had to give up my job. I could never just spend an hour here and there like some people do; I just can’t work that way. I haven’t had writer’s block (yet!), but wonder if I’ll get it when I finally get down to it again, as everyone says it’s harder to write the second book than the first, and (although I’ve got the story written in my head), actually getting it down on paper might prove to be a challenge!
Morgen: I actually found my second one easier. Up to late 2008 (NaNoWriMo) I’d never written anything over 3,000 words (although I’d thought it was much more until I checked) and plotted novel no.1 quite heavily but then when I started writing the characters took over and it changed. For next one (Jan to October 2009) I had an idea (inspiration from a real event) and only jotted notes. For the third (2009 NaNo) I’d not a clue what to write until a couple of days before and was looking through a (large) Word document of notes when I came across all these characters (weird and wonderful men) then decided how they’d figure and got my main character (journalist Izzy) and 30 (actually I think it was 28) days later I had a 117,540-word first draft chick-lit. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Jane: The climax of “Just Good Friends?” came to me in a dream, and I wrote the book ‘backwards’ from there, in effect. I wrote the first draft cover-to-cover in three months. It was the most exciting thing I’ve ever done!
Morgen: Isn’t it wonderful. There’s nothing quite like it. We’ve touched on characters, do you have a method for creating yours?
Jane: I’d like to think my characters are just people like you or me, and tried to imagine them as people I might know – or would like to know.
Morgen: They certainly think they’re real. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Jane: I revised it twice before publication, but – like all writers – could probably work on it forever and still find things I feel I could do better!
Morgen: With hindsight everyone would change things but we just have to let it go, and hope no-one spots anything untoward (no-one’s told me yet but then my editor does a wonderful job ). Do you have to do much research?
Jane: Luckily, it wasn’t the sort of book that needed a lot, but it was such a blessing to have the Internet to be able to check facts along the way. We’re so lucky these days!
Morgen: Aren’t we! I adore being a writer now. With the internet and eBooking we’re so lucky. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Jane: I’ve written a radio play. It’s on my ‘to do’ list to get it tweaked and sent off!
Morgen: Oh do! The BBC (Writers’ Room) is always looking for them. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Jane: My favourite bit is not having to go ‘to work’ every day. I love what I do. My least favourite bit is living hand-to-mouth and never being able to afford to take even one day off (both time and money-wise).
What’s surprised me is the sheer amount of work you have to put in (especially if you’re self-published). Writing the book was the easy part!
Morgen: Isn’t it. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Jane: You have to keep going. Most days are disappointing, and rejections can soon make you lose heart, but if you really want it you have to believe in yourself and just keep at it.
Morgen: Absolutely. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Jane: After sitting mulling this one over for ten minutes I figured that I’d still be sat here after ten hours trying to decide, so don’t actually have an answer for you!
Morgen: That’s OK. Fortunately I don’t have to ask myself and I’d probably be stuck too (although I’ve often said that Roald Dahl and Kate Atkinson are my favourite authors so I’d probably choose them and my father as third – which would be fun and he use to do some photography for Roald!). Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Jane: Never give up. Die trying.
Morgen: Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Jane: I’ve recently done my first paid freelance work (writing a couple of articles for a website), and would love to do more.
Morgen: Let’s hope the right people are reading this (and have room for you and I ). What do you do when you’re not writing?
Jane: I rarely do anything else now. I barely have any income at present (I go cleaning one day a week), so cannot afford not to be working at it!
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Jane: Yours has been a real help to me.
Morgen: :*) Thank you. I like to pack it with loads of information and have loads more to put up – again it’s a time thing.
Jane: I find most help via Twitter. It’s the most fantastic business tool if you use it well, and I’ve found a lot of great writing / marketing advice / sites. I’d highly recommend Nick Daws (@nickdaws on Twitter), and the Write This Moment site, (@WriteThisMoment on Twitter), for writing jobs / advice.
Wanna be a writer we’ve heard of? by Jane Wenham-Jones is very funny and gave me some really good advice.
Morgen: Yay! Jane will be chuffed. I met her at Winchester Writers Conference last July and had a wonderful chat. She’s my 249th interviewee. And we regularly chat on her Wednesday evening / Sunday morning forum. She’s running a course down in Kent on 20th May so it’ll be lovely to see her (and fellow chatroomers) again. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Jane: I’ve tried, but they’re all different and it takes so long to try and navigate my way around a site (or I end up spending ages reading stuff when I should be working) that it’s simply too time-consuming for me!
Morgen: I have one (http://morgenbailey.freeforums.org/index.php) but it’s just getting going so maybe wouldn’t be too time-consuming for you at the moment. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Jane: Hopefully I’ll actually have one! Self-publication is no longer seen as the vain, last resort of the ‘failed’ writer, but I can’t deny that it’s still my dream to see my book in bookshops and to be able to say those magic words: “My Agent” to people!
Morgen: As Harper Collins / Friday Project Scott Pack said to me early last year “you’re doing all the right things – just keep doing them”. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Jane: My website is www.janereynolds.co.uk
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Jane: Only that – even now – there’s still a huge gap in the mainstream market for love stories / relationships between women. ‘Lipstick lesbianism’ is highly marketable and is BIG business in every aspect of the media except women’s fiction. My book is a romance between two women who we’d all recognise as not being lesbians as such, but simply two wives / mothers who just happened to fall in love with each other …
Morgen: I’ve interviewed a handful of authors writing male:male (including Tristram La Roche, Kiran Hunter, Erastes, John M Daniel and Bob Frey) but just two writing female:female before you (Catherine Lundoff and Ellen Dean) so it would be nice to have more of a balance out there. Maybe it just needs a kick up the posterior? Things are changing so let’s hope so. Thank you, Jane.
Every decision she ever made turned out to be the wrong one.
That pretty-much sums up the life of Jane Reynolds to date. Throwing away the last bit of security she had (and the roof over her head), by leaving her job to finally become ‘A Writer’ might yet prove to have been another one of those wrong decisions, but – five years ago – that’s exactly what she did.
She now lives like a hermit and spends most of her days working in her little rented office trying to market her book. Peeling herself out of her chair at night, she drives home to sit upstairs in her bedroom at her elderly father’s house where she watches Soaps for her weekly ‘Soapy Corner’ blogs, then gets up the next day and does it all again. Now, THAT’S what you call dedication!
The eldest child of two professional jazz musicians; Jane Reynolds lived most of her early life in Wiltshire. She won a prize in a National Short Story competition when she was twelve and had been keen to pursue a journalistic career, but the missed opportunities and bad luck that have dogged Jane her whole life saw her going off instead to study music in Leeds, where she spent rather a lot of her time writing reviews for student magazines when she really should have been practising her flute!
After finally breaking it to her parents that the life of a musician wasn’t really for her, she embarked down a rather different career path: Retail Management. Jane’s work took her around the country, and over the years led to a move into Training: work she really enjoyed as it encompassed both her love of public speaking and writing (having had to develop and write many training manuals on a variety of subjects during that period).
Jane (and her partner at that time), bought and sold a lot of properties during the 80s housing boom, and she was just about to leave work to become Self-employed (as a way of being able to finally start writing), when a dramatic change of circumstances turned her life upside down.
It was the most challenging period of Jane’s life, but eventually (and unexpectedly), resulted in nine happy years spent in London as devoted Nanny / Housekeeper to a lovely couple and their three gorgeous little boys.
On Thursday 12th January 2006 though, she went to bed and had a dream which jolted her awake. So vivid was the dream that she jumped up and scribbled it down, and when she looked at her notes again the next morning she quickly realised that it was the plot of a book!
Even though she loved her job (and lived-in), the urge to write became increasingly overpowering. It broke her heart to leave her ‘family’ (and the home that went with it), but four months later, Jane took a leap of faith and moved back to Wiltshire, where she wrote the first draft of “Just Good Friends?” cover-to-cover in only three months.
After getting an Agent almost immediately, it seemed as if – for the first time in her life – something was finally going right, but … it wasn’t to be, and when she then found herself un-Agented, needed all her reserves of strength to deal with yet-another round of bad luck.
Jane’s always been fighter though, and knew that there was (and still is), a big gap in the market for a love story like “Just Good Friends?” This all coincided with Self-publishing’s rise in popularity, and so – in 2010 – published her novel via one of the host of new Companies who were entering the market.
In an attempt to bring potential customers to her website, she began blogging. Eighteen months on: the blog (and marketing/publicity in general), has taken over, and currently seem to swallow most of Jane’s time, but she’s desperate to start on her second book (a sequel), as well as finish a radio play and several children’s stories which are also work in progress, and just awaiting a final tweak.
She’s currently living with her father (who’s just been diagnosed with terminal cancer), and works one day a week cleaning in order to keep herself in pasta and red wine. The other six days are spent pretty-much sitting in front of her computer screen (apart from escaping to do a couple of regular weekly ‘Soap’ spots on the radio)!
It’s not much of a existence, but lack of income tends to focus the mind extremely well (as does the dream of achieving success for her writing), and it’s that single-minded dedication which is what gets Jane up every morning.
Pushing yourself as hard as you can – and then even harder – often determines our success or failure, and Jane’s just about as determined as you can get!
And now a bit about ‘Just Good Friends’…
Beautiful, popular and with a husband at the very top of the corporate ladder, Eleanor Geddes has it all, but behind closed doors she’s a remote and deeply insecure woman with a secret fear which is about to be realised, as her husband is busy making plans which are set to blow her perfect life apart.
Eleanor’s friend Ruth Palmer doesn’t know it yet, but she’s got a problem too. Her marriage feels stale and her husband’s working long hours at the office … or is he?
But Ruth’s got bigger problems. A drunken kiss with her good friend Helen sets Ruth’s life on a downward spiral of sexual frustration, denial and guilt. She turns to drink in a desperate attempt to fight her feelings, but a shocking declaration suddenly changes the course of three families’ lives forever.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
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