An interview with Jane Davis (and free novel offer!)

jdbench034I first ran into Jane when someone recommended her historical novel ‘I Stopped Time’ which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I also loved ‘An Unchoreographed Life’, a contemporary novel about a dancer and single mother. But as well as being a great writer with seven published novels to her name, Jane is an example to all ‘indie’ authors in the absolute professionalism of everything she produces.  If you haven’t set eyes on one of Jane’s novels, I can guarantee you won’t be able to tell it apart from anything produced by a big publishing house – and there will almost certainly be fewer typos! She has won several awards and ‘An Unknown Woman’ has just won self-published book of the year. With ‘MMy counterfeit Self covery Counterfeit Self’ – set mainly in the fifties and very much redolent of my own childhood – hot off the press, what better time to have Jane along for an interview?

How would you describe your latest protagonist?

Lucy Forrester is a radical poet and political activist who is a cross between two great British eccentrics, Edith Sitwell and Vivienne Westwood. Having been anti-establishment all of her life, she’s horrified to find that she’s been featured on the New Year’s Honours list. During the book we find out what has shaped Lucy. At the age of nine, she contracted childhood polio. Staring death in the face defines a person. It alters their perception of life, whatever age they happen to be. Lucy has that same stubborn determined streak that Roosevelt displayed when he refused to accept the limitations of his disease. The refusal to wear leg braces, to face the world sitting down. She also resents overhearing her father say that not much is expected of her, and it makes her want to defy him. She becomes totally driven. And then her parents behave so shockingly that it releases her from feeling under any obligation to live up to their expectations for her, and so she adopts a bohemian lifestyle. And into this new life she’s leading walks the man who became her literary critique and on/off lover for the next 50 years.

What is one thing you love about your main character and one thing that drives you crazy?

I love Lucy’s unconventionality, her defiance, her eccentricity, and especially her dress-sense. (Think Ari Seth Cohen’s Advanced Style.) One of my early reviewers called her fiercely moral, which I rather like. She’s my rebel with a cause. Because of the time she was born in, her fear of the Nuclear Bomb is a hangover from childhood. She takes part in the first of the CND rallies and marches from Trafalgar Square to Aldermaston to protest about the nuclear threat, and, later, she takes up the cause of the British Nuclear Veterans. As for what drives me crazy… she can be quick to judge others but she’s blinkered when it comes to her own faults. In fact, that’s her downfall.

It’s the first time you’ve written about another writer, isn’t it?

 Yes, in some ways it’s my most personal novel to date. To bring Lucy to life, I had to draw on all of my insecurities, doubts and fears, writing about how it feels when you show your work to someone for the first time. How you manage to convince yourself that people will like you less when they understand what’s going on inside your head. Lucy’s formal schooling was curtailed by illness, and when she finally goes to school thinking that writing poetry is the one thing she’s good at, she’s told she doesn’t have the basic tools for job. That’s very much me. Someone who left school at sixteen, worked her way up in a company to Deputy MD and then had the audacity to attempt to write novels. I am the person who used to make up an answer on the spot when asked which university I went to! And of course, I’ve through the submission process. I know all about rejection – and I also know how overwhelming winning can be. How part of you never feels you deserve it, and how others will be quick to tell you that they didn’t think you deserved it, that it was a fix, or that you must have been related to the judges, and so how, when you fall from grace, it’s almost a relief. Order has been restored.

My Counterfeit Self is your seventh book. Does it get easier to write and publish over time, or is every process a “birthing” experience?

Getting a new novel out of the ground is always tough. It’s possible I make it tougher by not outlining or plotting. I like George R R Martin’s quote: ‘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 gardeners just dig a hole and plant the seed and see what comes up.’ It takes me a good three months to get to know my characters. By the time I reach the 50,000-word milestone I think to myself, ‘I might just have a book on my hands’, but by 75,000 words I’m back to wallowing in self-doubt, unsure how to fight myself out of a corner. At 100,000 I may have an inkling of how it ends, but that doesn’t mean I’ll know how to get there. Every time you introduce a new angle, each ‘what if?’ question has to be pushed to its limits. Once the structure is in place, you go back and make every page shine.

That aside, certain parts of the publishing process are easier. I used to tackle all of the interior formatting and the creating of eBooks myself, but now I outsource and concentrate on making sure the proofs are as clean as they can be. The mechanics of publishing are far simpler than they were in 2012, because the process is familiar and technology is vastly improved, and getting better all the time.

Your novel, ‘An Unknown Woman’, was named Self-Published Book of the Year by Writing Magazine. Did that put extra pressure on your new release?

an-unknown-woman-finalDefinitely. The editor of Writing Magazine said that ‘An Unknown Woman’ would happily sit on any of the Big 5 publishers’ lists, that the writing was exemplary and that my production standards were outstanding. And I only found out about the win when ‘My Counterfeit Self’ was going into production! So yes, it caused some extra nail biting. The first edition of An Unknown Woman was (as far as I know) error free, something I had never achieved before. With a 120,000 word novel, a few typos usually past even the most eagle-eyed proof-readers (and I know there’s one in My Counterfeit Self).

Like most writers, I want to show progression from one book to another and so I try to do something a bit different, but not so different that it won’t appeal to my readers. You know what it’s like waiting for those first few reviews!  But I’m learning. All the time, I’m learning.

Thanks Jane for showing us so much of the book and yourself.

Here are all Jane’s Social Media links and a special offer for anyone who signs up to her newsletter.

Social Media Links:

Universal Buy Link:
My website:
Google Plus:

Amazon Author Page:

halftruthsandwhiteliesReaders who sign up to Jane’s newsletter will receive a free copy of her novel, ‘I Stopped Time’.

Jane promises not to bombard subscribers with junk! She only issues a newsletter when she has something genuinely newsworthy to report.



Selling your books – two great resources

It is a truth universally acknowledged that in our brave new world of publishing  (sorry, mixing my literary allusions here) the author has to sell as well as write.  This is particularly the case if you are self or indie published, but I know for a fact that even friends signed up by the ‘big six’ are expected to play just as big a part in their own marketing. Very few of us have the  time skills or even enthusiasm to go about it in anything resembling a professional manner, and I’m all too aware my own efforts (even though I’m no shrinking violet!)  have been sorely lacking in focus or overall planning.

Sell Your Books coverJust as well then that for the rest of you help is at hand. Debbie Young’s Sell your Books is a manual for authors that covers everything from getting a website to writing and sending out a press release, with advice along the way on using social media, book launches and all the ways of getting your book ‘out there’. But it’s not just a list of tips. It has a clear structure that begins with a useful assessment of the publishing industry and advice on identifying your target market. It ends with some home truths on getting your product right before you venture into the market at all. The intervening chapters are detailed enough for the author to get a feel for what do or not do without being overly technical. For me the chapters on real world book launches and dealing with the media were the most useful; the section radio interviews was particularly illuminating!

If I have a criticism of Debbie’s book, it might be that it’s a bit thin on using social media. I would also have liked a contents page and/or index in the Kindle version so that I can dip in and out. But I still wish I had bumped into Debbie and read her book a year ago!

How to Party Online coverThen, just as I was writing this review, up popped   Janice Horton (of LAHE fame) with an invitation to her online launch party for her own new book How to Party Online. Completely different in tone and approach to Sell Your Books, this is an account of how Janice has used virtual parties to dramatically boost her sales. Interestingly she takes as a starting point how she organised a ‘real’ book launch some years ago and compares the process (and outcome) to running both Facebook and blog parties with detailed accounts of the planning and execution in a style that’s chatty but very informative.

Partying - not that hard!
Partying – how hard can it be?

I can imagine that very many of you out there will be squirming (or simply at a loss!) at the thought of a party on Facebook or a blog, but trust me, if you are prepared to get into the vibe, it really is quite entertaining to go along to one (I am quite proud of being mentioned as a visitor as the Voodoo Wedding event!) and you don’t need to stay long (but might find that you do). Participants are usually invited to submit photos or ideas in keeping with the party theme which can spark off lots of interaction. Janice also backs up her advice by analysing the success of each event, which shows that they really have worked for her.This book is much more limited in its scope than Debbie’s but taken together these could both be very useful additions to our armoury as writers, publishers and entrepreneurs, which Janice reminds us we have to be. And if I’ve missed the first boat in putting any of this advice into practice, as Debbie says, it’s not all about the launch. As time goes on I should still be promoting my book  and future books –   and who knows, I might even find an excuse for a party.

Ta-da! A day out brings a happy beginning

love a happy end summer audienceSo what is Love a Happy Ending exactly? An online community, a marketing venture, an author network? Even when I had bought my ticket for the Summer Audience (just up the road in picturesque Tetbury and £25 a ticket with lunch – I mean, what’s not to like?) I’m not sure I could have told you.  Having spent a day in their very convivial company, it’s still hard to put into words except to say it’s all of the above but with an energy that makes it more than the sum of its parts.

Here’s the deal. Members fall into two main groups – authors (by invitation only and restricted to around 30) and associate readers (currently 15) who support authors by posting reviews on their established book blogs (look out, some members are in both groups!) From among these there are a handful of hard-working editors who  keep the lahe website fresh and interesting by posting regular columns on writing and publishing topics. There may be more I haven’t discovered yet, but bearing in mind that some of these members are professional publishers, editors, artists (and artistes) as well as writers, we are talking strength in depth. Maybe it’s a business model for the brave new world of pubishing. If so, it’s working well; several of the featured authors have recently won publishing deals.

I was originally cautious about how/if I would fit in (if given the option!) because of an initial impression that this was for chick lit and genre romance writers rather than mainstream (?) types like me. But today brought ample proof that the group is widening its appeal with an ever bigger variety of writers ( ahem, there are even men!) And today, dear readers – this is the TADA bit – I was delighted to find I’ve been selected to join their ranks, i.e. I have a bunch of new friends and a host of new opportunities all in one go. Result!

In fact today’s speakers, workshops and readings sparked off so many thoughts (you know how it is when the solitary writer gets out) that I now have ideas for a shedload of blog posts and other activities. But something else occurred to me, possibly not before time.  I stood in that hall yesterday by dint of being a writer, and writing is what I should be doing. So although you’ll still be seeing me here, there and everywhere, I shall also be knuckling down to a bit of serious keyboard-bashing of the solitary kind.

Meanwhile, it’s time to raise a glass to the good people of lahe, with an extra glug in honour of Tricia Jones whose excerpt from Bull at the Gate (unashamedly raunchy romance) won the best book comp and  also to the two other writers admitted to ‘the fellowship’ on the day (aagh, in my excitement I missed the names). I do hope I’ll get to know everyone better soon.