Today I’m interviewing Jane Andrews, who writes in a variety of genres.
Jane was born in the north of England – which is why she used it as the setting for her YA trilogy – and then studied at Birmingham University in the 1980s. A lot of her writing recaptures life in the 1980s or 1990s, but she also enjoys examining human relationships, whether romantic, family- or friends-centred.
Tell us something about your books.
I write in a variety of genres – YA, fantasy, chick-lit/rom-com, literary fiction, Bildungsroman, sci-fi.
Rather than being genre-specific when I sit down to write a story, I usually start with a single idea – sometimes a quotation from a poem or play – and just see where it goes.
My first YA novel – ‘I’ll Be There For You’ (set in the 1990s) was originally a stand-alone novel, tracing the friendship of four teenagers after GCSEs but became a trilogy after some readers commented that I would have to write a sequel to show what happened to the main characters, Sarah and Steve.
There’s a lot of me in Sarah, but I’d like to think that I’ve enabled her to be tougher and feistier than I was at her age (16 in the first novel and 20 by the end of the third one).
What inspires you to write? Who are your favourite writers?
I love the fantasy writer Robin Hobb because she manages to combine plot, character and style – although I’d never try to copy what she does. I also enjoy classic Victorian authors, such as Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens and George Eliot. Hardy’s annoying at times when he tries to shoehorn in classical references just to prove he’s as good as all the writers with a university education, but he’s very good at tapping into the female psyche.
I think most of what I write myself tends to ‘get inside the characters’ heads’ because I’m interested in how people think and what makes them the way they are.
How do you start writing? Do you have a process or do you fly by the seat of your pants?
I normally have a pretty clear idea before I start writing of where the story will go, but I jot down a brief story arc in a notebook and add any particular lines or scenes that I’ve already thought of – even if they’re things that don’t happen until the end of the story.
I wrote the second ‘Sarah and Steve’ book in eight days because I was already ‘in the zone’ from just finishing the first book and had storylined Books 2 and 3 as well, so found Book 2 just flowed. I still found myself surprised by certain characters who decided to gatecrash the story, though, leading to additional scenes I hadn’t anticipated.
How has your writing process changed since you started writing?
One of the things that’s changed over the past few years is that I’m now more aware of needing to include descriptive passages from time to time instead of relying mostly on dialogue.
I teach English at GCSE level and part of my job description is to produce model answers for the creative writing part of the English exam – although we teach our pupils a specific formula for doing this (which is a million miles away from how I write myself), producing at least one piece of high quality descriptive writing every week has meant that my own writing has improved. I’m now much more aware of how to build atmosphere through time, light and colour, for example.
How long does it normally take you to write, and what proportion of the time is spent doing what?
I tend to write quite quickly – mostly because I have to meet so many tight deadlines with work and because I have to make maximum use of the time I have. Fitting writing around full time teaching means that a complete novel can take around 3 months or more; although in school holidays, if I manage to sit down without being interrupted too much, I can complete a novel from start to finish in 8-14 days.
My time is spent predominantly writing, with maybe a bit of editing and redrafting at the end of one session or start of the next. I tend to get so lost in the story I’m working on that I forget to eat or drink, so I try to take time out to do something with at least one family member at least once a day. I’m afraid I’m very obsessive once I get going.
What is your favourite part of the writing process?
Writing the parts that I can imagine the best.
Do you involve other people in your writing, as collaborators or editors? How do you make this work?
I recently joined the Birmingham Writers’ Group and have consumer-tested a few things there. It’s a good way to try out chapters or short stories to see if they work: people will always give constructive feedback. Apart from that, I don’t really involve anyone else at the moment.
Do you have any writing tips you’d like to share with readers?
Carry a notebook at all times so you can jot down anything you overhear that might be worthy of inclusion in a scene in your own writing or anything that inspires you with ideas.
Anything else I haven’t asked you about?
I’m currently in the process of republishing my first eight books so that my fantasy series is published under my married name of J N Lidsey and my chick-lit/rom-com as Daisy Jenel (anagram of my married name). I hadn’t realised before how important it is for readers to associate a particular name with a specific genre, so thank you to Rachel McWrites for that suggestion!
Thanks Jane for sharing your experiences as a writer. You can find out more about Jane on her website, which she recently created after reading my book WordPress For Writers. Here’s what she said about the process:
“Instant feedback on WordPress For Writers: if someone as IT-illiterate as I am can manage to set up a website, you must be doing something right! I have managed to create a static home page, a page with a little more detail and a blog post – and add images of six of my books. It’s taken hours but I felt confident, thanks to your step by step guide. A huge improvement, so thank you.”
Thanks Jane! I’m glad you found the book useful.