Today we sit down with author Wendy Janes. Wendy shares with us her motivation, inspiration and a bit of her work.
Please enjoy this installment of 20 Questions:
Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I was fourteen, a brilliant English teacher arrived at my school. She encouraged us to read widely and she created an atmosphere in the classroom where we were encouraged to experiment with words and share our writing. At that age I had a vague romantic notion that in a far-off time, say, in my twenties, my writing was going to be ‘discovered’ and fame and fortune would beckon. Now my teens and twenties are long gone, I love that my fourteen-year-old self had that dream.
Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?
I can spend years thinking about a storyline and making a few notes. The actual writing of a novel can take me between eighteen months and two years. Yes, I’m a slow writer by many people’s standards. This is mainly due to the amount of redrafting and tinkering I do. When I’ve been working very closely on a piece of writing, I find it hard to let it go. Cue for a song, anyone?
Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
While plotting and completing my early drafts, my writing has to fit in between my day jobs and family life. When it comes to later drafts, I set aside whole days for weeks at a time, and only stop for meals and maybe a little chat with family now and then.
Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
It’s not exactly a quirk, but I do need to write in longhand in notebooks prior to transferring those words to my PC. I have a lot of notebooks at the back of the wardrobe. I’m not sure why I’m keeping them, because their contents really shouldn’t see the light of day.
Q5) How are your books published? (traditional, indie, etc.)
I’m an indie author.
Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?
Similar to many others, I get my ideas from family, friends, and my own experience. When I was a teacher of drama and English at a London secondary school I used to be on the alert for lesson ideas wherever I went. These days I have a similar mindset regarding story ideas.
When we’re out, my husband has become used to seeing that glint in my eye when someone is telling an anecdote (it doesn’t matter if it’s someone telling it directly to me, or I’m overhearing it in the queue at the supermarket) and he knows I’ve discovered a gem to polish into a story. Listening to one side of a mobile phone conversation on the bus often has my imagination sparking.
Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book?
I published my first book four years ago. I co-wrote it with a friend, and we had a brilliant time writing it. Picture two middle-aged women sitting at a dining room table creating characters and improbable things for them to do. Then add laughter – lots of it! While we’re still very good friends, the book is best left in the past. Luckily we wrote it under a pen name!
Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I have a couple of day jobs. One is as a freelance proofreader and the other is as a caseworker for The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service. Both jobs are really fulfilling – the former because I like to help authors make their books the best they can be, the latter because helping people secure the right education for their children is incredibly rewarding.
I read a lot. I always have a book on the go. I review the books I enjoy, although I tend not to review a book that already has hundreds of reviews unless I’m strongly motivated to say something about it.
I’m also a granny, so playing with my two granddaughters is a wonderful treat.
Q9) What is your favorite book?
My favorite book changes with my mood. Sometimes I feel nostalgic for the books of my adolescence. The End of the Affair or Howards End top that list. Other times more modern works take precedence. I love A Suitable Boy for its sweeping all-encompassing experience and The Vanishing of Esme Lennox for the poignancy and elegance of the storytelling.
Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?
They’re really supportive. Although I am learning to spot that moment when their eyes glaze over when I’m obsessing somewhat about my latest character or story idea.
Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
How difficult it is for me to come up with a title. It took ages and ages to come up with a title for What Jennifer Knows.
Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?
Writing a synopsis. When my friend and I were querying agents and publishers with the co-written book, the synopsis almost defeated us.
Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’ve written two novels, a collection of short stories, and a number of individual short stories that appear in anthologies. Do I have to choose a favorite? Really? Sorry, can’t do it. I don’t think I have sufficient distance from my work to choose.
Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?
My suggestion is to read a lot. Your own genre and others. As a writer of contemporary women’s fiction I’ve learned ever so much about plotting from reading thrillers.
Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?
I have a lovely group of beta readers who provide me with excellent constructive criticism. I’ve also received some great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and from bloggers. Other readers have emailed me directly to say they enjoyed reading my books. A few readers have mentioned that a particular scene has made them cry, which I always feel is praise indeed.
Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?
I think my books probably appeal to women more than men, and more mature readers than younger ones. However, I’ve had wonderful feedback from men and from people in their teens and early twenties (and I’m not just talking about my husband and my youngest son!).
Q17) What do you think makes a good story?
Good writing + intriguing plot + compelling characters.
Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to be a librarian or an actress.
Q19) Where can we find your books?
My books are available on Amazon.
Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your favorite works?
Yes, thank you for giving me the opportunity to share the opening scene from ‘What Tim Knows,’ the title work from my collection of short stories:
“Bye, Tim. See you in a couple of hours, darling,” said Mummy, giving Tim a gentle push through the back door and into the garden.
She’d given him a big hug when he’d brought home an invitation to Tallulah’s eighth birthday party. He didn’t get any invitations when he was in the Infants. He was in the Juniors now. His little sisters Mia and Ava often went to parties, even his little brother Victor had been to one. Mummy had stayed at the party with Victor, because she said three-year-olds needed a firm hand. Tim agreed. He’d always thought Victor’s hands looked a bit floppy and fat, not firm at all.
In the garden he held on to the present Mummy had bought and wrapped for Tallulah – a book about princesses. Yuk. He looked down and saw his writing on the envelope, which was stuck to the wrapping paper with see-through tape. Tallulah’s name began with the same letter as his, but her name had more letters in it. It had taken him a long time to copy her name from the invitation, and it went a bit wonky at the end. Mummy had said, “Good writing,” even though he knew it wasn’t really. Mia’s writing was much neater than his and she was a year younger. She seemed to know more than he did, too. Like where the remote control for the television was and how to eat spaghetti without it dripping down your chin.
A girl bumped into him as she ran past and nearly knocked the present out of his hand. Mummy had told him that the first thing he had to do at the party was give the present to Tallulah, but he couldn’t see where she was. Everyone was moving too much. The noise of laughter and shouting was too loud. The sunshine felt hot on his head and arms. The mixy feeling in his head started, so he closed his eyes.
Suddenly someone took the present out of his hands. He opened his eyes and saw Tallulah’s huge, pale blue eyes and pink-framed glasses. His eyes did lots of blinking.
“Thank you, Tim,” she said, and ran away. There was a big green bow at the back of her dress that flapped up and down as she ran.
Two sets of trainers made a smack, smack noise along the path beside him. They stopped at a group of boys who were kicking footballs into a net. The boys shouted, “Goal!” every time they scored. Some girls were opening their mouths wide and going “Aaggghhh!” as they took it in turns to whizz down a slide. Everyone was doing that thing called playing, like at playtime at school. How did they know what to do?
Tim stood in the garden, exactly where his mummy had left him, and waited for someone to tell him what to do. Usually, if you stood still long enough, someone would tell you what to do. Sometimes you had to wait a long time and that made your tummy feel a bit poorly.
He couldn’t remember what Mummy had told him would happen after he’d given Tallulah her present. He did remember that she’d told him to be polite and answer questions. Maybe there was going to be a test, like in school. Tim liked some tests, especially the ones where you copied the sums from the whiteboard and wrote down the answers in your blue maths book. He didn’t like the ones where his teacher Mrs Roth called out the questions and you had to put your hand up and tell the whole class. He couldn’t think quickly enough, and some children wouldn’t follow the rules and they’d shout out their answers. That made Tim’s tummy feel poorly too.
A grown-up clapped her hands and used her outdoor voice: “Follow me, everyone. Tallulah’s granny has lots of lovely party games for us to play indoors.”
About Wendy Janes:
Wendy Janes spends her time writing novels and short stories, running her freelance proofreading business, and volunteering for The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service. She is the author of the novel, What Jennifer Knows and a collection of short stories, What Tim Knows, and other stories. She loves to take real life and turn it into fiction. You can connect with Wendy online and discover more about her via Twitter, her Facebook author page, her Website, and Amazon author pages (UK/US).
Find Wendy’s Books:
What Jennifer Knows on Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B016IPN8W2
What Jennifer Knows on Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B016IPN8W2
What Tim Knows on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/What-Tim-Knows-other-stories-ebook/dp/B01IKYOJLS
What Tim Knows on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/What-Tim-Knows-other-stories-ebook/dp/B01IKYOJLS