Today we sit down with author and blogger Jane Dougherty. Jane started writing at a very early age and continues to create wonderful work today. She is here to tell us about her work, her inspiration and to share a bit about herself. Please enjoy this installment of 20 Questions.
Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
My first job after leaving university was with a wine merchant. When I’d been with them a few months, one of the managers took me on one side and asked me where did I see my career in the wine trade going. I told him I didn’t want to sell wine at all; I wanted to write about it. I surprised myself. I realised then that I really meant not that I wanted to write about wine, but that I would even write about wine—what I wanted was to write period.
Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?
How long is a piece of string? It takes me months to write a first draught and I rewrite several times. How many times depends on whether it’s lined up for publication. Unless I have a deadline, I don’t stick at the novel for hours on end—I mess about writing poetry and short fiction too. Until somebody takes it away from me by force, I’ll keep tinkering with a book forever.
Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I write all the time and fit the inessentials in around it.
Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t know that I have one. I’m pretty mainstream. I do tend to stick blackbirds, foxes and roses into stories as often as possible, if that’s a quirk. And I kill off nice characters.
Q5) How are your books published?
My first YA fantasy series, The Green Woman, is self-published. The second series, The Pathfinders, which is more sci-fantasy, will be published by Finch books. The first volume was published in March.
Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?
I have a very lively imagination. It feeds on strange newspaper stories, strange bits of the Bible, myths, legends and family history.
Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book and how old were you?
I was six years old. It was a biography of King Hedwood the First and I also illustrated it.
Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Sleep. Chance would be a fine thing. Seriously, I walk the dog. I enjoy his company. We go and talk to the river, meet a few canine friends, listen to the birds and smell the sea air.
Q9) What is your favorite book?
Either John Masefield’s The Box of Delights or Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum.
Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?
They think it’s tremendous. One or two of them have even read some of the books.
Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I learned how hard it is to write a character who is likeable without being cheesy, and how the different shades of evil are so much more interesting to write about than the totally evil character who just ends up being predictable.
Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?
Nothing, unless you count not being able to concentrate on more than one writing project at a time. I have several novels started but have to choose one to work on at a time. Living in a fantasy world is a full time occupation, for me anyway. I can’t dip in and out of different words and write sensibly.
Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I have finished ten novels. My favorite is probably the one that’s furthest away from being published. It’s a fantasy epic set in an alternate tenth century northern Europe. With sea monsters.
Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?
I think I’d make the same suggestion any literate reader would give. Don’t ruin your story by writing sloppy, ungrammatical sentences, using the wrong words, or too many of them. I read a lot of stories written by would-be authors and often they are messy and badly written. Writing flash fiction is good discipline. If you can get a short piece of fiction to read perfectly, with polish, brio and economy of words, chances are you can do the same with a novel.
Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?
I get feedback from friends and reviewers. Mainly positive, even though the YA label has led some readers to expect something less dark and violent, and written in short, snappy easily digested sentences. I hope I don’t try to write down to my readers. The stories aren’t straightforward and linear, and I like to build worlds with as many layers as possible. So far, most readers have said they have enjoyed the experience.
Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?
I’m aiming for young people who enjoy a complex story but are really not interested in the nitty gritty of everyday life. I suppose I come from the generation for whom adult novels were realistic, with mortgages, utility bills and divorce, and anything fantastical and escapist was for kids. I’m writing for the people who don’t want to be adult yet and still like their reading to take them into a world unlike our own. I’m not a techy person; don’t know how magical stuff like electricity works or internal combustion engines, so I tend to skim over the technicalities. I’d hate to write for an audience who was going to call me out because I’d used the wrong kind of gears, or the wrong colour lasers. Kids like to be carried by the story. They can buy technical manuals if they really want to know how things work.
Q17) What do you think makes a good story?
A story that makes you care about the characters, want to follow them to the end, believe in their world, laugh and cry with them, and keep you thinking about their story long after you’ve finished the book.
Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to be either an archaeologist or a naturalist.
Q19) Where can we find your books?
The Green Woman series is available through Amazon only. The Pathfinders will be available from all online retailers.
Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your favorite works?
This is a bit from Abomination, the first volume of The Pathfinders. After spending three volumes with Carla and Tully, I’ve grown very fond of them both.
“Gabriella!” Carla shouted and banged on the door. She fumbled for her keys, dropping her bag, not caring about the books that spilled over the landing. The door finally swung open and they sensed instantly that the apartment was empty. Everything was tidy, freshly vacuumed and a pleasant smell of beeswax came from the polished parquet of the salon. Carla looked at her watch and her features contracted.
“Merde, I forgot! Oh, God, what can we do now? She’s at her driving lesson. Of all the bloody stupid things, on the eve of the end of the world, Gabriella decides she needs to learn to drive!”
Carla buried her face in her hands and cried, all her pent up grief surfacing in the tranquil, familiar surroundings of her home. She only stopped when an equally familiar furry head rubbed against her leg. “Tattoo,” she sobbed and grabbed the sleek, stripy cat before he sloped off again. “Thank goodness! I’ll just grab a few things then we’ll get his traveling basket. It’s in the cellar.”
Tully hovered in the doorway of Carla’s room, absorbing the stillness of it, the familiar smell of perfume, clean laundry and wax polish. It was so much a part of Carla, he had learned it by heart, every inch of it. He felt at home here, more even than in his own, shabby, untidy room, where the bed was rarely made and there was always a cat asleep somewhere in the folds of the sheets.
Carla’s room was where they both felt their lives touched, where the world stood still, shrank to a mere background noise. They snatched their moments of intimacy here, lazy afternoons when nothing mattered more than a kiss or a touch, and their disjointed half phrases, secrets and longings were more important and meaningful than anything discussed at international summit meetings.
Tully looked around the room and took a deep breath. It pained him to think that he might never see it again. The empty apartment echoed with a sense of finality, as if the life that had been lived within its walls had left for good. Something was ending, he was sure. How much and what would remain were the only unknowns. Impulsively he pulled Carla to him and kissed her. She hung onto him for an instant then wiped away a tear with the back of her hand.
“I know,” was all she said.
“I’ll see what I can scrounge in the kitchen.” He tried to smile back, but felt closer to tears himself.
About Jane Dougherty
Jane Dougherty writes stories where the magical and the apocalyptic mesh, where horror and romance meet, and the real and the imaginary cohabit on the same page.
Jame was born and grew to her present height in Yorkshire then was dragged into the sleazy underbelly of existence–work–in London. Even though it involved drinking lots of wine and getting paid for it, she rebelled. She escaped to Paris, fell under a powerful enchantment and has been wandering from French pillar to French post ever since. In the strange world she inhabits, she writes the rules, creates the landscapes, the people and the magic. She also bends the rules of physics, plays Cupid and hands out happy endings to deserving characters.
Links to The Dark Citadel, first in The Green Woman series
Abomination, first in The Pathfinders series