I’m delighted to welcome Jane Lark to my blog. Jane is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional Historical and New Adult Romances and author of a No.1 bestselling Historical Romance, ‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan’, which rocketed to No. 22 in the American Kindle chart in February 2014.
She began her first novel at the age of sixteen, but a life full of difficulty derailed her as she lives with the restrictions of Ankylosing Spondylitis.
When she finally completed a novel it was because she was determined to be able to say, ‘I’m a writer.’
Now Jane is thrilled to be giving her characters life in others’ imaginations at last.
Jane is also a Chartered Member of the Institute of Personnel and Development, and uses her knowledge of psychology to bring her characters to life.
‘Basically I’m a sucker for a love story. I love the feeling of falling in love and it’s wonderful to be able to do it time and time again in fiction, plus my understanding of people helps me write the really intense relationships I enjoy creating.’
Jane, please tell us who first encouraged you with your writing?
I have always loved storytelling and the first person to encourage my talent for it was a teacher who spotted my gift when I was eight. She told me I would write a book one day. Then I had written a ten page long science-fiction story about giant crabs.
You generally write in the genre of Historical Romance and New Adult Romance. What can readers expect?
I began writing Historical Romance when I was sixteen, and when I actually knuckled down and wrote a full novel, it was still very much this genre that captured my imagination. But then my publisher at that time, Sapphire Star Publishing, suggested that my voice would suit a New Adult novel, and so I have stepped across into the contemporary world, and I do love the complete difference of writing in first person, and capturing those just start out full of angst relationships young people have.
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The constants that run across both series, are my desire to portray very real characters you will be able to quickly slip into, with heart-wrenching stories and lots of passion.
The protagonist in your latest novel in ‘The Scandalous Love of a Duke’ (the third book in the Marlow Intrigues series) is John. What can we expect from him?
John is a bitter, angry soul, who is harbouring issues from his youth, and seeking explanations, but I think you will forgive him that and fall for him anyway, he has a good heart.
John Irving says that you can’t teach writing. You can only recognise what’s good and say ‘keep doing that.’ Do you think that’s true?
I’d say that’s true, having received a lot of advice about how I should write, and phrase sentences, etc… etc… and been told not to do an awful lot of things that I’ve then seen in very successful books. Why? Because actually all readers want is a really good story. The most important thing as an author is nourishing your authentic voice, and it may not obey all the literary rules, but that doesn’t seem to matter to readers. They just want a good story that really captures their attention and suck them into the pages.
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Do you think literary agents are vital to an author’s success?
You may think this a little odd, but I don’t have an agent. I remember someone telling me six years ago it is harder to get an agent than a publisher. That is so true. Most of my rejections came from agents. I tried three different books, and applied to agents here in the UK and in America. No one was interested. But go me… I landed a contract with Harper Collins on my own. Now having hit the US charts though, it will get awkward not having an agent. I do think they are valuable. So many traditional publishers will only accept submissions from agents, and they can take the pressure off when managing contract negotiations and appointments at conferences, which without an agent you generally don’t get paid for. But having said that, I know people writing for Harper Impulse and who have agents, are on the same contract as I am, but just have agents’ fees deducted. So right now, I am happy with my lot.
How did the deal with Harper Collins come about?
They started up a new Romance eBook imprint, Harper Impulse, in the UK,
following Carina and others, and in the same format as the others in the big six
groups. The difference was that authors could submit their work directly, without having to go through an agent. The establishment of Harper Impulse was all oddly
timed with the fact that ‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan’ was initially released
through an American Independent publisher, Sapphire Star Publishing, who, two
weeks after its release, decided not to publish any new books for a
while. As mine was the first of a series they offered me the rights back, so I was free to persue other options. I’m a member of the Romance Novelists Association in the UK. I’d joined years ago because someone had said about half of success was the luck of being in the right place at the right time, and I wanted to hear when new agencies were set up. I’d got my Sapphire contract through being in this network, and two other friends in this network, had already achieved contracts with Harper Impulse. So I applied to go to the RNA conference to be able to pitch. I pitched to the Harper Impulse editor there, but she had also started following me on Twitter. I didn’t actually pitch ‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan’ to her as I thought they wouldn’t want work that had already been published. I pitched my contemporary novel, ‘I Found You,’ which she said was the best first New Adult chapter she’d ever read. But then I heard that they had started publishing all the back work of another author who was transferring rights over to them. So I offered them the Marlow Intrigues series, and she snatched my hand off for it. Having said that, they said they weren’t surprised that it had sat on slush piles, because publishers generally take on very few new authors. My editor had bought it herself and read it, having seen the reviews I was publishing via Twitter, so she literally said ‘yes’ to the series the same day. Right place, right time.
But you only found yourself in the right place at the right time because you persisted.
Harper Impulse’s author list is pretty full now, so they aren’t taking on many new authors anymore. If I had applied now, maybe it would still never have been read, and there would have been no reply…
What was your first recognition/success as an author?
The first thing I celebrated was when Mills and Book asked for a full manuscript about seven years ago. They then sat on it for two years, before telling me they didn’t want it. But getting that ‘yes’ letter had me running around the house, and I knew it was a big deal to take a first step off a slush pile.
You’ve already mentioned that before you landed your current deal, you had to deal with rejections.
Yes, I received over seventy rejections through all the years I was trying to get published. They are extremely demoralising, but that is the thing about becoming an author, the key criteria is determination. As Nicola Cornick said to me, ‘You will never be published if you are not trying.’
Can I ask, what are you working on at the moment?
I have two projects I am finishing off, a novella, telling the story of two characters from my debut contemporary novella, ‘I Found You,’ which will be out in May 2014––and the prequel to ‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan,’ which should be out early in the summer 2014.
What is your ‘writing routine’ – if such a thing exists?
Write every spare moment, wherever, ha, ha, ha. That is the only way you will write the novel you have always wanted. The perfect time and place will not come along––just begin.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
For the historical romances, from real history, I love reading letters and memoirs and discovering family stories when I visit historical houses. Real life is so brilliant I gain so many ideas. The whole concept of ‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan’ span from the memoirs of a real Regency courtesan, Harriette Wilson, from a scene when she told her love story. I have been sharing her real story on my history blog.
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For the New Adults, my ideas tend to germinate from real-life experiences of my own, but I research the settings and details, then I use modern-day memoirs, and search for blogs on subjects. The internet is a wonderful thing.
Khaled Hosseini says that he feels he is discovering a story rather than creating it. Are you an avid plotter or do you start with a single idea and let the novel develop organically?
My characters are the only thing I really plan. Usually my stories start with one image, a moment in the story, and from this I get a sense of what that character is feeling and thinking, what is motivating them in that moment. As a people management professional, I have a lot of knowledge about personality traits and I use this to develop characters. I don’t want them to be samey though. Some people say Edward in ‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan’ and Jason in ‘I Found You’ are too nice, although most people love that. Believe me, they then start getting darker. But they will vary in personality. I like mixing things up. Beyond making sure I get the personality right in the beginning though, I don’t plot a story, it has always just flowed, so I agree with Khaled that the story creates itself. If I am not sure where it’s going next, I just stop writing, and then usually the idea of where to go next comes when I am just nodding off to sleep and my brain is really relaxed.
Some writers like quiet, others the noise of a coffee shop or the rumble of a train. Do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
I usually write with the TV on, but don’t look at it. I am stumped if the programme is foreign and subtitled. I rarely write in complete quiet, but my personality trait in Myers Briggs is extravert and this is a key element of that. We like noise and talking. Introverts, in a Myers Briggs definition, like to work in a quiet space and focus. I couldn’t work with music playing though, I’d want to dance 😀
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
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