Interview with Anna Jacobs

Jen: This weekend we welcome Anna Jacobs to Book Talk. Anna, will you please share a short bio with us?
Anna: Anna Jacobs grew up in the UK, but now lives in Australia. She currently writes historical romantic novels for one publisher (Hodder & Stoughton UK) and modern family relationships novels for another (Severn House). She’s had 44 novels published and has others in the pipeline and contracted. She’s No 10 on the list of Most Borrowed Authors of Adult Fiction in the UK.

She has an abiding passion for her own particular hero/husband (of course!), and also for telling stories, women’s history and reading other authors’ novels. She doesn’t have any housework genes, but happily works long hours at her writing, producing three novels a year. Visit her web site for more information – http://www.annajacobs.com

Jen: Tell us about your recent releases and where they are available.

Anna: There are two releases, if you don’t mind two, one in each genre. My historical novel Yesterday’s Girl is out now. It’s set in 1919, one of a series about what happened to women after the end of the First World War. The war had opened up an exciting new career for Vi in London. But that was yesterday. Now, the war’s over, her husband is dead and she needs to make a new life for herself – but doing what? Read more at http://www.annajacobs.com/book.asp?pageID=57

My modern novel Chestnut Lane came out in January in paperback. When novelist Sophie Carr rescues a man hiding in her garden from a group of paparazzi, she finds her new neighbour is aging pop star Jez Winter. He’s had a tough time lately, with an intruder slashing his face, then car accident injuries putting his ability to play music at risk. He’s also just discovered that he’s a grandfather – scary stuff. She’s not had it easy, either, losing her husband just as she was taking off as a novelist, and having difficulties with her control-freak son William and her daughter Andi, who has lost her way in life since her father’s death. And Sophie has a secret to hide, a secret that makes her wary of getting involved with Jez, a man who’s already had two failed marriages. But they can’t help falling in love, even though their families continue to complicate their lives. Money hasn’t made Jez happy but people can, if he’ll only trust them. Read more at http://www.annajacobs.com/book.asp?pageID=59

The easiest way for people not in the UK to find my books is from http://www.bookdepository.co.uk who don’t charge postage anywhere in the world.

Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.

Anna: I was first published writing French textbooks – in desperation to make learning French more interesting. For fiction, I wrote for several years, tossed one manuscript into a nation-wide competition and forgot about it. Months later I picked up the phone at work and a voice said, ‘I’m ringing to tell you you’re one of the three finalists in the Australian Fiction Prize.’ I knew the finalists from the previous year had been published, so realized this was it. The call! Tears of joy started rolling down my cheeks. My colleagues looked at me in alarm, thinking it was bad news, so I covered the receiver and sobbed, ‘It’s good news’. The publisher flew me to the other side of Australia (as far as west to east of the US), put me up in a suite at a very posh hotel – I’d never even been in a suite before – and the prizes were presented at a glittering dinner. I didn’t win first prize, but I came second ($10,000) and what mattered most to me was that my first novel (a regency romance) was published. After the ceremony I lay in bed beaming all night long, far too happy to sleep.

Jen: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?

Anna: I do my background research first to get a better handle on the idea that’s caught my fancy. Then I picture my heroine and start writing, after which things ‘happen’ as if by magic. I know the starting incident only when I begin, the fact that she’ll fall in love with the hero, and that they’ll have a happy ending. It’s a wonderful adventure to find out what happens.

Jen: What is it about the romance genre that appeals to you?

Anna: Happy endings! And love. Without it, the human race would soon be extinct. I won’t even try a book with an unhappy ending. And how could I not love romances when I’ve been happily married to the same man for decades? He’s definitely a keeper! I also enjoy the variety in the romance genre.

Jen: Describe a typical writing day.

Anna: I wake at dawn – not by design but because that’s what my body does – creep out of the bedroom to leave my husband more sleeping time, grab a glass of cordial then go and answer my emails. Since many of these come from overseas it’s a mixture of business, networking and friendly emails. After breakfast and a shower, I start writing in earnest. I work about ten hours most days, not sitting at my computer all that time, but nipping out occasionally to move my body and keep up (reluctantly) with the household chores. In the later afternoon, I do research, answer reader emails, all the bitty stuff that goes with writing.

Jen: Do you do anything special to celebrate a sale, new contract, or release?

Anna: So far I’ve been lucky to have contracts for several books at a time from both publishers. I’m always delighted when a new contract is signed, so my husband and I will probably open a bottle of chardonnay to celebrate, or go out to our favourite Chinese restaurant.

Jen: Is there a genre that you’d like to write?

Anna: I’m published in historical and modern romance, SF/F, historical sagas and modern family relationships novels, as well as short stories, how-to books, and poetry. I think I’ve written in most of the genres I enjoy reading. I’m not writing in all of them at the moment, so maybe I’d like to go back to writing some fantasy. It was great fun.

Jen: Where do you draw your inspiration?

Anna: I have this weird brain full of ‘people’ who seem to pop up out of nowhere to tell me their stories. I find plot ideas for historical novels when I’m doing research, I keep an eye on news stories for ideas for my modern novels . . . What if? And I’m off, writing. I guess the imagination is more like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it grows. I have a lot of plot ideas filed away, waiting for their day to come. I once tried slimming tablets. The first one cut off my imagination instantly. I never took any more. I enjoy having company inside my imagination, would be lost without stories trickling through my mind all the time!

Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one that you identify most with?

Anna: I’m afraid I don’t. While I’m writing, I’m standing right next to this heroine mentally and she’s in high focus in my inner life. But once that story is finished, another heroine rises to take her place. They’re not ‘characters’ to me, but ‘people’.

Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?

Anna: I read three novels a week, am absolutely addicted to reading as well as writing. I love Nora Roberts – but not her gruesome books, as they give me nightmares. I love CJ Cherryh, Jude Deveraux, Susan Wiggs, Katie Fforde, Georgette Heyer, PG Wodehouse. One of my all-time favourite books is Kelly Park by Jean Stubbs. I re-read it about once every two years. I had a chuckle last time. I don’t usually enjoy first-person stories, but on the sixth reading I suddenly realized Kelly Park was told in the first person. I hadn’t even noticed the first five times I read it!

At the moment I’ve just started Nella Last’s Peace a factual book. In 1937 a Mass Observation group was formed in the UK, to encourage ordinary people to keep diaries and chronicle their lives and times for posterity. It’s still going on. One woman’s diaries are outstanding is Nella Last. They made a film of her war diaries Housewife, 49 (that was her age when she started). I’ve already read Nella Last’s War and found her diaries gripping. So I’m really thrilled that they’ve now produced a sequel of her postwar diaries.

Jen: What do you do in your free time?

Anna: I chat to my husband, watch TV, see my daughters and our one-year-old grandson, who is (naturally) gorgeous, see my friends. In the northern hemisphere summers we go to England, where we have a holiday home. I still have family in the UK, and of course many of my books are set there, so the trips are both business and pleasure for us.

I also have to cook because I’ve got multiple food intolerances so can’t buy many made-up foods like chutneys and pickles. It’s not that I adore cooking, but I want to stay well, and with bought foods they can have ingredients that make me ill, like wheat/maize (and others). I have an excellent recipe for apple and apricot chutney if anyone’s interested!

Jen: What’s next for you?

Anna: Finishing the current story, which has had too many interruptions because my husband has just had a major operation. He’s recovering nicely, and I expect my writing to do the same now!

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?

Anna: http://www.annajacobs.com

I don’t do a blog, because I’d rather write stories than blog. I do have a readers’ email newsletter, which I send out about every 4-6 weeks. I have some delightful readers.

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?

Anna: (I’m presuming they’re mainly in the USA) Firstly the 90 million dollar question: What attracts you to a new author? Secondly: Do you enjoy reading about women in other countries as much as I do? If so, what sort of backgrounds do you enjoy most? I read books set in Australia, New Zealand, the USA, the UK, and love to read about the everyday life of other women, not the rich and famous. If you look at my list of favourite authors, you’ll see that I have quite a mixture.

Jen: Anna, thanks so much for being our guest this week. Readers, Anna is giving a random commenter one of her books. If you live outside Australia, the winner can choose between The Wishing Well, a modern story, paperback, or Tomorrow’s Promises, a historical saga set in 1919. Inside Australia, Anna can send Tomorrow’s Promises or Family Connections, signed. So, to enter, please answer Anna’s questions or as a question of her. The contest will end on Thursday, January 29 around 5pm PDT.