My apologies for not posting an author interview last week. It was a bit of a hectic week for me one way or another, but I’m back on the case now and would like to extend a very warm welcome to Janet Hopton. Janet’s fast paced thriller ‘Strange Days’ was published towards the end of 2012, and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to catch up with her and bombard her with questions.
Novel: STRANGE DAYS
Purchase Strange Days on Amazon
Alison – Hello Janet, welcome to my blog and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Let’s start with your debut novel Strange Days. In your own words, please tell us more about the book and its launch.
Janet – Strange Days is Crime/Thriller Fiction. It is my debut novel and it tells the story of a young barmaid whose life is changed for ever when she gets herself involved, after witnessing a car accident.
Since the launch of Strange Days on the 29th of November 2012, I have done two book signings, one at Waterstone’s in Derby and another at Waterstone’s in Burton-on-Trent. Both signings went very well resulting in 45 books been sold altogether. Unfortunately, since then I have had a fall resulting in some injuries, which has meant that I haven’t been unable to do anymore promotion but I hope to get back on track very soon. I intend to arrange more signings and talks at Women’s Institutes and Townswomen’s Guilds.
Alison – I’m sorry to hear about your accident, and hope you are on the mend now. I’m sure you’re looking forward to getting back to the business of promoting Strange Days. What inspired you to become an author in the first place?
Janet – Since being a teenager I have had it on my mind that I would like to write but for some reason never got started, other than writing a few poems. It wasn’t until I was married and with teenagers of my own, did I decide to have a go. It has always been in the back of my mind that I wanted to achieve something, to be recognised in someway, to leave something behind after I am gone. Maybe that is my driving force!
Alison – I can’t think of anything better than books to leave behind for generations to come! Looking to authors from the past, do you feel that anyone in particular has influenced your writing?
Janet – I don’t think my writing has been influenced by any other authors. I think it is entirely me, or am I being naive thinking that? You ask which authors I like. To be honest, I think I like the books rather than the authors. A good book makes a good author and you have to be a good author to write a good book and there are many who fit that category. I particularly like the classics, such as Dickens, The Brontes, Jane Austen but any good book will do!
Alison – I’m a big fan of Dickens myself, I love his turn of phrase. Was there anything in particular that gave you inspiration for Strange Days itself?
Janet – My inspiration for Strange Days was when I worked behind the bar in our local pub. It came from observing the clientele and getting intrigued by them and wondering what their lives must be like.
Alison – People watching is something I guess all authors must do. Our characters would be a little boring otherwise! Going back to the subject of books in general, what are you reading at the moment, and what is your opinion?
Janet – The book that I am reading at the moment is Small Island by Andrea Levy. I am enjoying reading it. I thought at first that she was taking too long to get to the plot and going into too much detail about the characters in it but as I have read further I have found that she has brought the characters to life for me in a very interesting way. I am only two thirds through it at the moment, therefore cannot give my full opinion on it.
Alison – I recently read a highly entertaining blog in which an author describes the rituals she has to perform before she begins writing for the day. A second author commented that she has to be wearing certain jewellery when she writes. Do you have any idiosyncrasies when you’re writing?
Janet – None in particular, other than that I like to be alone in the house when I write and nobody can see it until I am happy that it is finished.
Alison – I can relate to that. My poor partner gets snarled at if he so much as glances at my unedited work! As I’ve mentioned I’m reading a lot of excellent blogs by fellow authors, and one thing that intrigues me is the different writing styles each one has. Do you like to plan your work, or do you just see where the story takes you?
Janet – I didn’t plan Strange Days. I had an idea and worked on it. I let my imagination run away with me as I typed.
Alison – That’s very much how I write too. Once I get to know my characters the story becomes theirs and I just follow along to write it all down. I remember hearing an author speaking on a radio show, saying his characters told him when they considered it the right time to finish their story. Do you find your characters talk to you?
Janet – I haven’t noticed my characters talking to me, if they did I would worry that I was Schizophrenic, but I will say that I do become my main characters as I write.
Alison – That’s very interesting. My characters chat away to me all the time, but I’ve never felt that I was one of them. It just goes to show we all have our own unique ways of writing. It must be very exciting, and quite daunting, once your book is published and you know people are reading it, especially when those people start to write reviews. Has Strange Days received any reviews, and were you happy with them?
Janet – I have had some favourable reviews, the ones on Amazon giving Strange Days 4* status and some on my Facebook Site – Fans of Strange Days, all very favourable.
Alison – Do you feel you have learnt anything throughout the publishing of Strange Days?
Janet – I think I learnt a lot from my publishing experience. The way the process is done from the editing, through the proof reading and artwork stages. I looked at self publishing at first but felt out of my depth, so I went through an independent publisher, Book Guild. I was glad that I did, as when it came to promoting my book at Waterstones, I was told that they wouldn’t have been interested in it, if I had self-published. I am not sure whether that is always the case!
On reflection I think I might have benefited from a more local publisher, the only reason I say this is that Book Guild Publishing is in Brighton and I am in Derby. There were occasions that I thought maybe they would have attended promotional events if they had been closer and that I could perhaps have attended promotional events that they are involved with.
Alison – I think bookshops are becoming very wary of promoting unknown authors now, with all the competition from e-books making it harder and harder for them to survive. I’m convinced Waterstones would never have agreed to hosting my book launch had I not had the support of an established publishing firm. Aside from book signings, have you joined any book clubs or writers groups while promoting Strange Days?
Janet – I am not involved with any book clubs, but having said that I recently joined Vixen Fiction, a small group of ladies who like to write and meet at our local library once a month. We have a trip to D H Lawrence’s House and Museum in Nottinghamshire coming up soon.
Alison – I’ve found networking with authors, editors and book lovers very useful as I approach the publication date of my novel. At the very least we can bounce ideas off one another, and I’ve made some useful contacts for when the time comes to get reviews rolling in. I’ve mentioned editing here; would any writing other than fiction, such as editing or script writing, appeal to you?
Janet – I would be interested in other writing ideas, such has writing plays but I am not sure how good I would be at it. As for writing reviews, I don’t think that I am eloquent enough to do a good job, especially when there is so much at stake. Editing is very specialist, I think one must need a degree in English Grammar to be able to do it.
Alison – I’m not so sure about that. Obviously, an editor needs a high standard of grammar and a good command of the language in general, as well as an eye for storylines and characterisation, but I think one can learn all that from being a voracious reader. You’re right about script writing, which I think is very different to writing a novel. As for reviewing, I think you do yourself a disservice! Anyone who can write a book deemed worthy of publication is eloquent enough to write a review. Revisiting the subject of editing again, do you think authors need to get their work professionally edited and proof read, or is it something they can do themselves?
Janet – I do think that professional editing and proof reading is essential for the publishing process for most of us. I hope that someone edits and proof-reads this before it goes out!
Alison – Just me I’m afraid, although I may be able to persuade one of the lovely people at Book Guild to cast their expert eyes over it too! It’s no disrespect to an author’s talent, but I don’t believe anyone can successfully edit and proof read their own novel, and it’s a shame that some authors think a DIY job is a good way to save some money. Apart from employing the professionals to edit and proof read, is there any other advice you would give to a budding author?
Janet – My advice to any budding authors out there is to give it a go, what can you lose? You will never know, unless you try!
Alison – I’ve recently received the first copies of my debut novel, which I found immensely exciting. What a great feeling it was to hold my book in my hands for the first time. How did you feel when the initial copies of Strange Days arrived?
Janet – I felt a bit overwhelmed when my book arrived all done and dusted. In fact I made my husband open the box and look at it first. My first reaction when I got my hands on it was ‘WOW’, it was a lovely book and nicely presented. My only gripe was that I thought it would be thicker. The strangest feeling was seeing it being advertised in Waterstones for my signing. I then expected to see it everywhere, on bookshop shelves, in libraries, I guess that only happens, every blue moon! Not giving up hope though!
When in London I called into The British Library and asked for it, only to be told I was too early as it takes more than six months to get there. Must try again!
Alison – Are you planning a sequel to Strange Days?
Janet – I haven’t planned a sequel to Strange Days but it isn’t out of the question, especially as friends tell me that they need to know what happens next to some of my characters.
I do have another novel nearly finished and hope that my publisher will like it.
Alison – I shall keep my eyes open for that. Would you ever consider ghost writing a novel for a celebrity ‘author’?
Janet – Ghost Writing for a celebrity author – I think that if I was younger that would be a great idea. I am not sure what the celebrity author would think of me doing it though.
Alison – Have you ever thought about Strange Days being made into a film or television drama? If so, would you like to appear in it?
Janet – Some have said that Strange Days would make a good television drama, as for me starring in it; I think that would be best left to the actors. Maybe an extra on set would be good!
Alison – Just a couple of general questions to round off the interview. What are your top five books, if you can narrow it down to five?
Janet – My five top books are:
- Papillon – Henri Charierre
- Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
- Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
- The Blind Miller (I like a good cry) – Catherine Cookson
- The Secret Garden (Childhood Inspiration) – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Oh yes, I did like Puckoon (I also like a good laugh) – Spike Milligan
Alison – I loved The Secret Garden as a child too, I must have read it dozens of times. I do love my Kindle for its convenience, but I don’t think it will ever replace the pleasure of opening a brand new book and smelling the print before I delve into the story. Do you think there is a future for physical books, or will the e-book eventually take over completely?
Janet – I do hope that the future is okay for real, touchable, smellable books, however I think that there is a place for e-books to. Perhaps everyone who purchases an e-book should buy a real book to make amends. I can’t see readers loaning out their e-books, can you?
Alison – No, I can’t see that happening either; but, on the plus side for us authors, it means everyone will buy their own copy for their e-reader and we make more sales. Kerr-ching! Thank you very much Janet for taking part in this interview. It has been a real pleasure to chat and hear your news and views.
Janet – Thank you Alison, I think this is a great idea!
Author: JANET HOPTON