An Author in Two Worlds
As my part of my Around the World book tour, I want to introduce you to Author, Anna Jacobs.
Welcome Anna to my blog.
It seems you are a bit of a globe trotter. You have a life in Australia and another in the UK. What a great idea, you get the best of both summers. Would you like to share some of your experiences with travelling in this way. What are your personal benefits?
It’s a great lifestyle and a surprising number of older people are adopting it. As you say, we don’t get winters. That doesn’t matter too much in Western Australia, where the winters are quite mild most of the time, but I’m so glad to avoid the UK snow and this year, floods.
The best things we get from our travel are interesting people and stimulating experiences. My husband and I both have siblings in England, and it’s lovely to see them every year. Letters and phone calls were never enough.
The other interesting people were something we didn’t plan. We bought a house in a leisure village attached to a golf club, where we found ourselves with globe-trotting neighbours who are as nice as they’re interesting. What a bonus!
There are some downsides to this lifestyle. It takes several days to prepare a house for leaving. You can’t just walk out for 5 months and hope it’ll be OK. Among the many tasks, you have to clear out fridge and freezer, clean everything in sight, divert mail, arrange house surveillance, and make preparations for returning ie emergency food. As well as organise the travel. And then there’s the flight itself, from Oz to UK. Ugh! It’s horridly long, even in business class. It takes me two and a half novels (on average) to fill in the time, since I can’t sleep on planes.
I hear you have a new book coming out soon Anna, how exciting! Would you like to tell us more?
With three books a year coming out from three publishers, I’m always looking forward to either a new book or a new edition of a book (eg paperbacks come out a few months after hardbacks). I enjoy that.
At the moment I’m very excited and yet a little sad that ‘The Trader’s Reward’ Book 5 and final in my Traders series, will be coming out in April. The series is set in Western Australia, Singapore and in England or on ships going between these countries in the late 1860s and early 1870s.
My favourite situation among the many fascinating events in that series is the opening of the Suez Canal in ‘The Trader’s Dream’. That was so interesting to research. In fact, the whole series was a pleasure to write.
After that, the next book is about July, ‘Mistress of Greyladies’, the second book in the Greyladies series set just before and after World War I in Wiltshire. I avoid taking my characters to the trenches in the war, because I think that’s been done to death. My heroine is a VAD (Voluntary aide Detachment) who is a sort of trained nurse’s helper. But VADs also acted as drivers or did any jobs necessary, mostly in the UK, though some went overseas. Greyladies is a spooky old house with a long history in the same family. It’s as much a character as the people in the books.
How long have you been writing and what is your genre?
I’ve been published since the 1970s, when I had several French textbooks published. My main genre is historical fiction, UK style sagas (with a poor woman facing and overcoming the odds, and a big cast of characters) and I’ve written some historical romances as well. I also write modern novels, and in the past I wrote fantasy novels as Shannah Jay. My old historical romances and fantasy novels are all available now as ebooks, and the romances as trade paperbacks.
How many books do you have published and which was your first?
I have 65 novels published. My first was a Jane Austen style historical romance (Persons of Rank) which won a $10,000 prize and publication in Australia in 1991. It was such fun to write that I did a second one (The Northern Lady). This was first published as Forbidden Embrace, a title the publisher gave it which I never liked it, so changed it back to my original title when I got the rights back and republished it.
After that I found my own writing style and didn’t write any more regency romances. I write warm books with happy endings (whatever bad things happen in the middle) and no overt sex or gruesome violence. I call my characters ‘people’ and they are, to me. They walk through my dreams as I’m writing.
I’m writing three novels a year and really enjoy what I do. Luckily I was born without the housework gene and pay someone else to do that.
What research have you found most difficult for your books?
I enjoy doing nearly all research but the most difficult thing is when two sources give different views of the same event. For instance, Sylvia Pankhurst wrote a book about women’s lives on the home front in WWI, and paints a terrible picture of women working in munition factories. I also found the memoirs of a woman who did that job and went on to become a union official (very advanced for those days). She found a spirit of camaraderie and the experience helped her after the war. I chose to believe the woman who’d actually worked in a munitions factory.
Are you a member of a writing association and what benefits do you gain from being a member?
I’m a member of several different writing organisations, the Romantic Novelists’ Association of the UK, the Romance Writers of Australia, Novelists Inc and the Australian Society of Authors. They’re all wonderful, supportive groups and I wouldn’t be without them.
Novelists Inc isn’t well known but it’s an international organisation (based in the USA) for multi-published authors. There are authors there with over 100 or even over 200 novels published, and a wealth of information to be shared. You can find them at: www.ninc.com
Do you prefer to read a paperback or a Kindle?
When I’m reading a good story, I don’t care which form it’s in, though I prefer paperback for my favourite authors, whose books I’m likely to keep and re-read. I don’t trust electronic devices to last as long as paper books. I’m still re-reading Georgette Heyer books I bought in the 1960s, or using research books published in the 19th century. Where will the Kindle be in 50 years’ time?
I read three novels a week – what can I say, I’m addicted to stories? Kindle has the advantage of allowing you to download another book by a particularly good author, or try a story by an author you’ve not read before.
How did you learn to be a writer? Did you attend creative writing classes or have you always loved writing from leaving school – Tell us more
I’ve never attended creative writing classes or courses. When I started writing, there was no Internet and few writing classes. I just wrote, wrote and wrote some more. You learn to tell stories (which is how I think of it rather than as ‘writing’) by doing it, ie telling stories, just as athletes learn their skills by practising and training. You couldn’t learn to throw a javelin by going to a class and watching someone else do it, could you?
I was always good at telling stories, but didn’t settle down to do it seriously till the most important business in my life was completed ie finding and marrying my wonderful husband, and starting a family. I wouldn’t be without my daughters and their ‘attachments’ for anything. And it’s important for my writing to understand the cycles of life, I feel.
I did use a few how-to books in the early days, and picked out of them the advice that helped me. There is no single way to write. You have to experiment till you find the way that’s best for you. And no one in the world can tell you that you must do it one way. You do it your way.
The proof of the pudding for a would-be novelist is a publishable story of a professional standard. And that takes longer to reach than today’s ‘instant’ generation realise. I truly believe it takes years and several books written to make a good writer – unless you’re a genius and there are few of those. I was told half a million words written at least are needed to make a writer, and that’s a good guide. After all, when you’ve developed your skills, you can come back to your early works and rewrite them ‘properly’.
How do you prefer to promote your books?
I don’t prefer to promote my books. It interrupts my story-telling. I do enjoy meeting readers eg at library talks. I don’t do Twitter, but am on Facebook as Anna Jacobs Books. And I send out a monthly newsletter. I get such appreciative responses from readers that I enjoy doing that.
The main thing is reaching readers and letting them reach me, because I learn so much from their comments. I’m always striving to become a better writer. Much more important than going mad on promotion at all costs. If you write good books, readers tell each other about them. Word of mouth is still the most effective form of promotion long-term.
What kind of books do you read?
Not historical sagas/romantic stories, which I write for two publishers. I spend two-thirds of the year with them and that’s enough.
I enjoy modern family relationships novels, cosy mysteries, fantasy novels, and I enjoy good research books, especially ordinary people’s memoirs published by amateurs or their families. You can really get the taste of the past from those, a taste not filtered through a historian’s eyes, however good the historian. I just read a collection of comments on the aftermath of WWI by people who’d been in the war. It was fascinating.
And I’ve read several ‘Mass Observation’ compilations. They’re wonderful. Before, during and after World War II, the government funded a small organisation to collect people’s thoughts about their daily lives – and sometimes do surveys. The best I’ve found of these are ‘Nella Last’s War’ and ‘Nella Last’s Peace’. They made a film of the first ‘Housewife 49) which was very true to her book. And Nella could certainly write in an engaging and easy to read way!
Who is your favourite author and why?
Georgette Heyer, whose books made me love history when teachers at school had bored me to tears with lists (eg Causes of the Industrial Revolution). Her stories also taught me how wonderful minor characters can be. But I have several other authors whose books I buy automatically:
In no particular order, my favourite authors of today are:
Lillian Stewart Carl (gentle archaeological murder mysteries set in Scotland)
Robyn Carr (complex modern stories of relationships set in the USA)
Ann Cleeves (murder mysteries, particularly her ‘Vera’ series which were made into a brilliant TV series, set in Northumberland)
Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher mysteries, set in Australia in 1930, with some of the most brilliant visuals and costumes I’ve ever enjoyed
Bronwyn Parry’s Australian series of rural mysteries, very tense and gripping
Emilie Richards’ family/relationships stories set in the USA
I could go on, but don’t want to bore people.
Where do you see your writing life within the next ten years?
I’d like to continue writing several books a year, in at least two genres, and one of the most important things to me it to improve what I do. I’m very passionate about quality of writing – my own and other people’s work. If I read a brilliant book, I say quietly, ‘That was a top quality read.’ It’s my highest compliment and what I aim for myself.
The publishing industry has been in turmoil for several years and it’d be a rash person who predicted anything confidently.
Basically, I just want to tell stories that people enjoy reading.
Have you any advice for ‘wannabe’ writers?
Yes. Learn your craft by writing several books and do not hurl them out as self-published books until you’ve done your training. Truly, one book does not a novelist make. It’s like saying your first cake (or even your tenth) will be of of professional bakery standard, good enough for a wedding cake. Not going to happen.
My first novel is still on file and it’d need a complete re-write before it could be published – and even then, I won’t do it, because it’s a trite plot idea. No, RIP, dear story. But it taught me so much, it was well worth writing.
Anna Jacobs: Historical stories: ‘The Trader’s Gift, ‘Heir to Greyladies’, ‘The Trader’s Reward’ (4/14) Modern stories: ‘Winds of Change’, ‘A Place of Hope’, ‘In Search of Hope’ http://www.annajacobs.com
I wish Anna every success for the future and hope to meet her on her next visit to the UK when I come over from my other life in Holland
If you have any questions for Anna Jacobs please write them in the comments box below and feel free to share on Facebook and Twitter.