Nancy Janes lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina with her husband Richard. She writes science fiction/fantasy, short stories in the Americana vein, and when the muse is present she scribbles poetry.
Author Interview with Nancy Janes
What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book(s), but nobody has? Write it out here, and then answer it.
Is writing a gift, and/or can it be learned?
Imagination and a habit of observing people and the world about one may be pertinent to the individual writer. But writing can be learned as any other profession. Usually there is a 4-7 years, or more, of study before practicing a profession, so a writer needs to learn how to write a literate sentence either formally or informally by practice. Tenacity of purpose and determination will be the base upon which one will practice writing as a profession.
What is the message that you convey in your writings?
An important message I want to convey is that no matter the circumstance of our life, past or present, it is possible through faith to master the troubles and thrive victoriously.
What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine or do you have any weird, funny, or unusual habits while writing and what are they?
I don’t follow an everyday routine of writing. Some days are taken up with editing and revising. As a slow writer I revise as the material takes on form. Coffee and tea see me through the day. I do stop writing at 5 pm. Any weirdness seems to be in my characters, not in my conventional life.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
Some days the words won’t flow or the characters won’t do what they are supposed to do. If we fret and fume in the attempt to write it only worsens the anxiety. I take a break for a week or so. At times a weekend trip to the beach or a visit to foreign climes creates new visions for story material.
What is the single most important piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Discipline is required for the writing process. Establish a routine for writing and stick to it. Make it as important as sleeping, exercising, and eating.
What are your current/future projects?
I am slowly writing a series of humorous short stories about ordinary people in trying circumstances. The project will be occupy the foreseeable future. After the project is finished a sequel to my present novella, Night Rumbles might be a possibility.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I love symbols and allegories. Fantasy/Sc/fiction is the best way to incorporate them into an intelligible book. The study of astronomy is fascinating and when one can travel the heavens in imagination it would be dull indeed to stay fixed to the earth.
I write short stories of the ordinary person who goes through the minutiae of everyday troubles. Balancing doesn’t seem to be a problem. Fantasy characters and real-life people live through the same circumstances, more or less.
What do you think is the future for independent authors and do you think it will continue to be easy for anyone to be a published author?
The future of independent publishing may change to a certain degree since entrepreneurs are always coming up with something new, but I don’t envision independent publishing vanishing. There may one day be groups that publish under one imprint. As long as companies such as Amazon exists self-publishing will persist.
Are you traditional or self-published, and what process did you go through to get your book published?
I am an older author, returning to the field after a career in Psychotherapy. The tasks of obtaining a traditional publisher seemed daunting, and prolonged, for a new author. After considering these factors, I decided to publish my own material. Though I did obtain professional help in editing, cover design, promotional material, and publishing the final manuscript.
Have you ever changed a title, book cover, or even the content of your book after it was published? What was that process like?
Yes, to book cover and revision of the manuscript after publication. Inadvertently, I utilized the services of a company who wanted payment for any changes to my book. I am in the process of addressing those issues.
What are some events you have attended or participated in that has been a positive experience/influence on/for your writing?
Not one in particular. My ideas come mostly from my background in literature or ideas picked up from subjects I’m interested. My profession gave lots of opportunity to observe human behaviors.
What are your marketing, advertising, promotion strategies and which one(s) have worked the best for you? If you had to share your most valuable promotion tip, what would that be?
The IA does not have the resources of an established publishing house. Join local writing groups and network with online author’s groups. There are hundreds of online groups dedicated to the author craft, many free and others at modest cost to the more pricey ones. Attend local writing events and take advantage of the groups you belong to, Church, work and family. Facebook and Twitter are valuable resources.
If you are a self-published author, which platform do you prefer? (Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu, Author House, or something not mentioned), and why?
Amazon’s Createspace is my preferred publishing site. They have access to the world’s book markets and all the relevant marketers. It is easy to scatter one’s book around the different publishing companies, but I rather find it’s best to focus on one source.
What field or genre would you classify your book(s) and what attracted you to write in that field or genre?
Fantasy and Sc/fiction give reign to the imagination which frees the writer, within certain limits, to write of the future or the present. Galaxies and planets galore can live in fantasy with qualities human or non-human.
What do you do if inspiration strikes in an inconvenient place like (car, restaurant, bathroom/shower, etc..) and how do you capture that moment before it gets away from you?
Often it does get away. If I don’t make notes at once the idea flits into the ether. Ideas come primarily at night to me. A notepad by the bed is helpful.
Do you have a target amount of words/pages for each of your books or do you just know when enough is enough?
I don’t have an exact amount of words in mind when I start writing. A vague idea surfaces as I get to the middle of the book. The characters take over leading me to place them in conflictual situation that then demand a resolution. When I have exhausted the factors that pertain to the characters’ circumstances and approach the ending I will have someone read the book to determine if it needs more content. For example, Night Rumbles was read by an editor and he commented that the ending seemed hurried. I re-read, determined he was right, and wrote a longer ending, which was much better.
How do you think you have evolved as a person/author because of your writing and do you believe your writing has helped others, how/why?
I’m a better writer after writing two books. The revising is lessened, faster, and the editing needs less corrections. The reviewers feedback on whether the message conveyed has been helpful is the measure I use for the question on whether my writing has influenced another person’s well-being.
How much influence do you believe a title, cover, content, page numbers have in purchasing decisions of potential buyers/readers?
The title and the front cover attracts the eye if one is browsing for a book to read. The back cover content would then lure the reader to purchase the book. The price of a book is a factor also in the purchase, especially if the writer is unknown.
Do you believe there is value in a Press Release, have you used any press release service, and what have your experiences been?
Press releases are helpful in your own community. Press releases can be utilized to inform friends or reader in a former community.
Do you believe there is value in a review? Do you believe they are under rated, over rated, or don’t matter at all?
Reviews are important to coax the potential reader to buy your book. Beyond a certain number, perhaps ten-twenty, I have doubts that reviews are important. They are overrated only when the reviews are all five stars and not a mixture of one to five.
What are your thoughts on authors doing review swaps, paying for reviews, or reviews that just don’t seem right for the book?
A first time author may have problems in getting reviews from the general public. Turning to friends is a limited affair. Family is an alternative though Amazon considers the practice in a dubious light. Exchange reviews can be useful, but I have experienced negative effects from the practice. Two reviewers were angry with my review of their books even though I gave them a good rating. I no longer do exchanges except with authors I trust.
Reviewers that are paid to review books are perfectly legitimate in my view. Although firmly stated that they are not paid reviews, Kirkus, Clarion, Midwest Book Review, and Publishers Weekly are a pricy source for reviews.
Do you believe there are competitors or general readers out to sabotage authors with bad reviews and what are your experiences with this?
As a general rule, I would be hesitant to malign readers with the epithet of saboteur. Most readers are honest in their review. Some, however, give a book a bad review when it is evident they haven’t read the book or understood the message of the author. Others are vindictive over a perceived slight or disagreement with the author’s stance. Yes, I have encountered this type of reader. It is difficult to separate oneself from the incident but it is absolutely necessary to do so. Through writing we have engaged the public and the public is not in the business of soothing our ego, but to take in what we have given them. That may be negative or positive according to the perceptions of the individual reader. A bad review can lead to a more effective writing style, and to a correction of our own faults. For we all need correction at times.
Have you ever had an interesting, funny, or even bad experience during a live interview, reading, event, or autograph session?
Maybe an interesting and funny incident.
At a local Bookfest affair one weekend I was accosted by a man searching for a Nancy Janes. When I said that I was she, he held on to me and kept me involved in his story for a long while. At the end of his spiel he said he had to have my book. I was so pleased to be free of him I didn’t get his name, but I did sell a book. This tidbit of fame taught me I’m not very fame inclined.
With self-publishing being so easy these days, do you believe there is an over abundance of books out there and how do you sort through all the hype or copycats?
I would not deny others what I have accomplished for my self through self publishing. I’ll leave Father Time to sort out any books of merit.
What is your biggest fear about having a book published?
Writing is hard work. The finished product over which one has labored so long is now going out to a public where it might be ignored, or heaven forbid, looked upon with derision.
If you have multiple books published what do you feel is your greatest work, why?
I have two completed novels, or better novellas. One is about the Kingdom of Light and the other about the Kingdom of Darkness. They are one in essence, so I can better answer the question when I have completed the next book which will be quite different in content.
What is the intended audience for you book?
I write allegorical stories and the audience ranges from young children to adults of all ages.
Give us a fun fact about your book.
Laughter and amusement amid the trials and troubles of life is a theme throughout both books.
If you had the chance to get one message out there to reach readers all over the world, what would that message be?
It is possible to master life’s circumstance through faith and a resilient spirit.
Do you find it easier to connect with your readers with the advances in technology we have today like social media? What platform do you prefer, and why?
It is much easier these days to connect with readers as technology has grown. Blogging is probably the one best activity. Blocking out time to connect is the problem if funds necessary to pay someone to do the task isn’t available. Facebook requires a lot of time if the author is to engage with the audience. I prefer Twitter because the time is less and the message goes out to more people.
What makes a good story, why?
Everyone has a story and often it’s the way the storyteller uses language that makes it interesting. A story must resonate with a universal theme, that is, making it personal for the reader who can relate to the circumstances of the characters portrayed in the book.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
The naming of characters in my first book flowed from my love of old names. I like the names found in genealogical records, e.g., Louisa Victoria, Alifair… specifically taken from census records readily available on the internet. In my latest book, the names were given mostly by the individual’s characteristics.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I do read my reviews, not often, however. If a friend’s review is spotted I might note it with a private email thank you. If a reviewer relates to the book’s intended message I will then comment on their understanding of the author’s intent in writing the book.
What are some events you have attended or participated in that has been a positive experience/influence on/for your writing?
I belong to a writers-readers group that has been helpful in obtaining feedback on my writing. Professional editors are extremely valuable in giving corrective feedback during the book’s completion. Attendance and participation in formal book fairs are helpful.
What is the easiest/hardest scene for you to write, why? (Love, action, fight, death, racy, controversial, etc…)
The setting of the conflict relationships is difficult for me. Once it is set up, however, I enjoy having the hero maneuver his way through it.
What would you like to write about that you have never written about before?
A story of a love relationship. Loss and grief, its aftermath and resolution.
Have you ever had a book idea or characters come to you in a dream? What did you do about it afterwards?
I do have a vivid dream life of journeys and tough situations in which I have to attempt an escape. No character has yet impressed me to the point I write about him/her.
Do you have any characters you would like to introduce in other books or a combination of characters from multiple books you would like to write about in one book?
The two books I have written are based loosely on each other. I may in the future let the characters roam about in another book.
Were your characters based off real life people/events or did you make it all up?
The characters are fictional, completely imaginative. I am writing a series of short stories based on ‘real people’.
What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?
Some writers like to outline and I’m sure it’s helpful to follow one. I don’t seem to have the gift of outlining. I have the idea in my mind, flesh it out, and begin writing a paragraph, and then the words flow from there. I like to be as succinct as possible with the text. There is no one way to become an author, each person is unique and brings their uniqueness to the craft of writing.
Rewrite, revise numerous times until the words are in the acceptable form. 2. Discipline and diligence are the two essential words if a book is to be a finished product.
What book(s), author(s), or significant life event(s) have had a positive or negative influence in your life that inspired you to begin writing?
The classics are a mine of inspiration. The Bible and literature were my first teachers and gave me a fascinating glimpse into human behavior. Dickens, Dostoevsky, Hugo, Conrad are but four authors who impacted my life. Human behavior intrigued me and I became a psychotherapist. I wrote during those years, but retirement afforded the opportunity to be a creative writer.
What are your thoughts about eBooks vs. print books?
There is no vs. for me. I love both, and have hopes the print book will last forever.
Do you view writing as a career, labor of love, hobby, creative outlet, therapy, or something else?
I don’t view my writing as a career. I had that. It is both a labor of love and a taskmaster. It is certainly a creative outlet, and therapy in a sense. Most of all, it is a streaming outlet for the issues that I consider relevant to the situations we humans face in everyday life.
Were there any challenges (research, literary, psychological, or logistical) in bringing your book to life?
If an issue isn’t clearly understood I will research the subject. Psychological factors play a great part in my writing, which is understandable because psychology was the basis of my career.
Do you proofread/edit your own books or do you send them off to an editor? If you send them off to an editor, who/what have you had the best experience with?
I send manuscript off to an editor. Different editors are hired. Diane Donovan a Midwest Book Review’s senior editor and Adele Brinkley have been helpful. They are professional and work with the author on any concerns with a kind manner.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of self or traditional publishing?
A first time author has a tough sell with the traditional publisher. It takes years to find an agent and then wait for the manuscript to sell, if at all. Time was a factor in my case. I’m an older author and with the thought I might never have my work published I took the self publishing route.
Do you have a subject/genre you would never write about, why?
Erotica and violent books in any genre are not subjects I can ever write. Both belong to the destructive forces of life and it necessary that writers shine light on the subjects. We know they are part of life and happen every day, but we know also they do not support the good that we wish for ourselves and our children. I prefer to write about the constructive forces of life.
What motivates you to write and where does your inspiration come from?
My faith is the basis of inspiration in my writing. It manages to keep me at the task day by day.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
Each author is unique and has their own way of writing. One’s perspective makes the difference. My fantasy writing is a distinct way of viewing events in science/fiction and speculative fiction. It’s not the usual paranormal or fantasy book. That may be a detriment instead of a benefit.
Do you design your own cover? If not who does, why?
No, I don’t design my covers. I hire gifted people. Ronnel Porter designed the Night Rumbles cover and unique design from the U.K. did the cover for the Boy Who Walked A Way.
What is your most/least favorite part of the writing process, why?
The least favorite task in writing is the final editing when I have to go over the finished manuscript with a fine tooth comb looking for any missed errors. Inevitably even though I’ve gone over it a hundred times, there are errors that the editor or I have missed.