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Virtual Book Club: JD Smith

Today, I’m delighted to welcome JD Smith to Virtual Book Club, a series in which I put questions to authors about their latest releases. If there’s anything else you’d like to know, you’ll have the opportunity to post your questions at the end.

To the world of all things design and literary she is JD Smith, to everyone else she’s just plain Jane. Not too plain though, she loves books and stories after all.

She is the author of several historical fiction novels, a member of the Triskele Books collective, and editor of the writers’ ezine Words with JAM and the readers’ review site Bookmuse. 

Her first novel, Tristan and Iseult is an Historical Novel Society Book of the Year Finalist 2015.

She is also an award-winning book cover designer. She loves books, both the physical and the words contained within. So it’s no surprise she ended up immersing herself in the world of book design rather than marketing materials for corporate companies.

Her office door is always open, although she warns that in its current state you will have to sit on a box of books if you wish to join her for a cup of tea.

And she loves cake, lemon drizzle being her favourite. Just in case you were wondering.

On writing…

Q: Jane, you write Historical Fiction. What can readers who have yet to discover your work expect?

My first novel, Tristan and Iseult, is a tragedy. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to write typical romance, but I love exploring the thoughts and feelings of relationships. It’s quite lyrical. My later work, The Rise of Zenobia, The Fate of an Emperor and The Better of Two Men are a little more military. I think of Zenobia as a real-life Daenerys Targaryen.

Q: How did you start writing in the first place?

I started writing seriously about twelve years ago. I was a graphic designer at the time and working on marketing material. I wrote an intro for a brochure and a colleague said, ‘You can really write, you should be a writer!’ and I thought, why not? That was it. I started writing in my spare time and eventually finished my first book. It took a long time and I was no Shakespeare. I swore I’d never write another. A few months later and the bug bit. I’ve not been able to stop since.

Q: So what was your first recognition or success as an author?

I had a few small recognitions, small indie awards and the like which are given out to several hundred authors a month, but the first one that truly surprised me was being one of the Historical Novel Society Indie Book of the Year Award 2015 four finalists.

Jane Dixon-Smith Tristan and Iseult Cover MEDIUM
                                                        Click here to look inside or buy Tristan and Iseult

Q: 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?

Sort of. I say the same thing when I’m designing book covers. You can’t teach someone that something is good, they have to see it for themselves. You can explain it, but they’ll just look and perhaps agree, which isn’t the same as understanding. Of course, with writing, there are many obvious errors people make, which can be pointed out and remedied, and there are exercises to hone skill, but the real talent can’t be taught, I don’t think.

Q: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?

First person, present tense. There’s something so immediate about it, especially when bringing the past to life.

Q: ‘I’ve always said there are two kinds of writers. There are architects and gardeners. Architects do blueprints before they drive the first nail, they design the entire house, where the pipes are running and how many rooms there are going to be, how high the roof will be. But the gardeners just dig a hole and plant the seed and see what comes up.’ (George R R Martin) Which are you?

Gardener. History is my architect. I like it that way. It means I have the benefit of both aspects.

Q: Would you say that being a parent heavily influences your writing?

Not particularly. I certainly use experiences that I’ve had, but I think they are more experiences that have happened because of time and really opening my eyes to what’s going on around me than because I’m a parent. Having twins turning off your router and asking for a biscuit every two minutes doesn’t provide much in the way of peaceful writing time …

On her brand new release…

Jane Dixon-Smith The Better of Two Men Cover SMALL

                                                        Click here to look inside or buy The Better of Two Men

Q: Let’s talk about The Better of Two Men. It’s the third in the series of books based on the Palmyrene (Syria) Queen Zenobia.

Yes, Queen Zenobia is Syria’s Boudicca, another woman who rebelled against the Roman Empire. Zenobia was a real queen, although what little we know of her history is documented by the Romans. The overall storyline and much of what happens throughout the series hangs on the framework of that documentation.

Q: Did you deliberately time the release of your book with the current threat to the World Heritage Site in Palmyra?

No, this book (and the series) have been in the pipeline for a long time. The settings were very much dictated by the story, the descriptions of the sands and marble palaces. The release, if anything, is delayed only by my own determination to finish the book in a way that I feel the characters and the events deserve.

Q: At what point in writing the book did you come up with its title?

The title came about long before the book was actually written, one of a few that I picked out based on phrases and descriptions I discovered during my years of research. “The better of two men” refers to Zenobia and her husband, King Odenathus. In truth, I’ve bent the original context in which it was used for the story, but this book definitely suits the title.

Jane Dixon-Smith The Fate of an Emperor Cover SMALL

                                                Click here to look inside or buy The Fate of an Emperor (Overlord Book 2)

On being an indie author…

Q: What were the key factors that influenced your decision to become an indie author?

I like control … I love the fact that I can choose what I want to publish, edit how I like, have full input in every aspect. I enjoy that part as much as I enjoy the writing. As a professional designer I do my own book covers. I love that part of the creative process. And unlike most people’s theories, I am actually my best client. 

Q: Do you have any celebrity followers?

Loads, but I can’t reveal their identities … 😉

Q: One of the key stories of 2013 was the revelation that The Cuckoo’s Calling had been penned by J K Rowling. Do you write under a pseudonym? Do you think they make a difference to an author’s profile?

I don’t. I write under JD Smith but it’s just a shortened version of my own name. It was originally invented when I joined an online writing group but didn’t want to disclose my full name. It sort of stuck.

Q: Do any of your books have dedications? If so, to whom and (if appropriate) why?

All of them. I love dedicating them. When I’ve spent so long working on something it feels worthwhile. Tristan and Iseult is dedicated to my first little boy and reads as follows: For Marcus, a great reader, who may one day read this. Rest assured that, although it is a story of love, it also has swords.

Q: If there is one recurring theme you find yourself returning to in your writing, what is it? And are you any closer to finding an answer?

How life is complicated. At least I feel like I keep coming back to that theme and wanting to explore it. The most engaging stories, be they books or television or whatever, are of people who are complicated and in complicated situations. Nothing is ever straight forward and the decisions we make aren’t black and white. There’s always a choice to be made and sometimes it’s not an easy one.

Want to find out more?

You can visit Jane’s author website, like her on Facebook, follow her on Goodreads or Twitter or learn more about her design at

Remember, if you enjoyed this post please share it. If there’s anything else you’d like to ask Jane, leave a comment.

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And if you’re an author and would like to appear on Virtual Book Club, please fill in a contact form.










One comment

  1. J.D has great ( and enviable) clarity, both about herself and her books. A bit like a mug of fresh spring water. I enjoyed this interview.

    Comment by Philippa Rees on July 15, 2015 at 11:41 am