Hello Jan, lovely to have you here at Romaniac HQ, please do take a seat – it’s clean, I promise!
Thanks, that’s splendid. Oh, and a big pot of tea, how wonderful.
So, Jan, where are you writing-wise at the moment?
*takes deep breath* Currently… my third Woman’s Weekly serial (about ‘a house on a cliff in the mist’) starts in the 12th February issue, my third ‘Penny Plain Mysteries’ serial will be in People’s Friend in June. I’ve just had a stand-alone long mystery story accepted by People’s Friend, I’m writing a fourth serial for Woman’s Weekly at the moment and in my spare time (slight choking sound) I’m working on my fourth Regency romance. And there are always short stories along the way.
Writing across such a broad spectrum, do you favour one genre or story length over another?
I have a terribly low boredom threshold, so I like the variety thrown up by the change of genre – although even my mysteries have more than a touch of romance to them – and length. It keeps me on my toes and stops me getting stale. I also like the sheer challenge of writing serials, of crafting the essence of the story into a very few words. That said, I do love writing novels, because they give me the head space to develop my characters properly. It’s lovely being able to relax into the longer length and stretch my narrative muscles properly. Unfortunately, they don’t pay as much in the short term as the serials, so the novels are having to queue up on the back burner for the moment.
How do you research your historical novels and is there an era you would like to live in?
I’d have liked to live during the Regency because it was a time of change. The arts and sciences were flowering, society was expanding. The clothes were fabulous for those of us with a bust to make the most of and hips to conceal. As for research, I read books of that time, newspapers, letters and periodicals. I also visit the locations and bump into people because I’m walking around looking upwards at the buildings all the time. Imagination is all very well, but it doesn’t take the place of being there, shutting your eyes and breathing in history.
What brought you to writing in the first place and is there an end goal?
Oh, goodness. I’ve always been a storyteller. From before I could write, even. I always used to say that my ambition was for some unknown person to browse along a library shelf, notice my name on the spine of a book and think, “Oh, Jan Jones. I like her.” And borrow the book without even looking to see what it was about, because they trusted me to have written them a good story. I guess that’s still it, really.
Well, I have news for you, Jan. Some of us do that already! 🙂
With regards to the RNA and organising their events and the annual Conference, how did you become involved in this?
I’d been in the NWS for a while before I ran away to my first conference. I was thrilled to find myself in company with so many people who understood. Writers who were just like me. That was York 2000 – and I loved it so much that as soon as I was able to, I wanted to put something back. I believe if you are good at something, then you should use that gift. I’m good at organising and I couldn’t think of a more life-affirming thing than the conference to help with. I’ve made some of my best friends through the RNA, and will be forever grateful.
With such a lot to organise, do you find this takes a lot out of your writing time or are you one of those super organised people?
Ah. I am organised (on good days), but yes, it takes a fair amount of time. On the other hand, organising a conf is the best procrastination ever, and by the time I’ve done a full couple of days on the business side, I’m bursting to get back to writing.
Us Romaniacs are very grateful for your organisational skills. Getting us under one roof at the last conference was down to you. Thank you!
What is the most random item that has been left behind at one of the RNA events?
Oh my goodness, I’m just trying to think. Someone left a pair of gala dinner shoes behind once. Fancy that, abandoning a posh pair of shoes at an RNA Conference…
Do you have a favourite RNA ‘moment’? I’m sure there’s plenty, but one that you could share with us (we won’t tell anyone, honest!)
Well… promise you won’t tell?
Really and truly.
Okay then. Apart from watching in amazement as Liz Bailey got everyone to climb into bin bags during a drama session, and laughing until I cried at Jenny Haddon (with prompts from Annie Ashurst) reciting ‘Albert and the Lion’, my favourite conf memory is of giving an impromptu performance of ‘Hey, Big Spender’ with Katie Fforde in our Chichester conference kitchen after the bar refused to open for us on the Sunday night. We were jolly good too. I would send you the photo but one must protect the innocent. You understand. We will negotiate this off-line 😉
Thanks so much for dropping by Jan, it’s been lovely chatting to you. See you at conference this year!