Today I'm delighted to welcome best-selling author Anna Jacobs to WKDN. I came to know of Anna's work through the Romantic Novelists' Association, and was incredibly impressed to learn that she publishes three books a year with a mix of historical and contemporary subjects. I set out to write a book a year, and that's pretty challenging with the amount of research and promotion that goes into each novel. So how do you write three books a year? Over to Anna to find out ...
Kate has kindly invited me to talk about my writing, with the focus on the fact that I write 3 novels a year.
She wants to know how I do it. Well, it all stems from the way I developed as a writer . . .
In the mid-1980s I was working full-time, we had two teenage daughters and I was studying for my Master of Business – the worst possible time to get serious about writing. I’d been writing novels for fun for a year or two, but suddenly I found myself longing to write full time.
I started getting up at 4am and writing before I went to work. Lovely, peaceful house, no interruptions . . . bliss! I only had a limited time to write, and there was no such thing as emails then, so I didn’t fiddle around. I wrote steadily on our brand new computer.
It was early days in the technology. We had a Kaypro, with one floppy disk to run the word processing program (Wordstar), one floppy to write on, and you couldn’t fit more than one chapter to a disk.
My early attempts at novels didn’t get published but writing them taught me so much. And as my skills improved, the rejections got more encouraging.
The turning point was learning to get better tension into the stories. I decided to write something to practise that, not trying to get it published but keen to improve my skills. It turned into a science fiction story that was a psychodrama cum ripping adventure yarn.
‘Envoy’ was such fun to write. I’d wake in the night with an idea for another plot twist and creep into the ensuite to note it down. Later, it became my fifth novel published, under my Shannah Jay fantasy writing name.
It’s been out of print for a while, but is available as an ebook. It’s recently had a film option taken out on it by someone who’d remembered it for ten years. Fingers and toes crossed here! Film projects don’t always get funding. You can see ‘Envoy’ on Amazon or on my website at:
Back to my first book published - I entered a big writing competition in 1991, winning a $10,000 prize and publication. ‘Persons of Rank’ was a historical romance in the Jane Austen style, great fun to write. I’d had a month’s leave from work in which to write it. No time to waste.
The next year I fell ill with chronic fatigue syndrome, and could no longer work. I could write for an hour or two, then I’d have to take a nap. Again, fate was training me to ‘seize the moment’.
After a dreadful year in 1992, I started to get better, and in 1993 I had six novels accepted for publication. Talk about feast or famine.
I was now writing historical sagas for one publisher and fantasy novels for the other, so I had to write two novels a year.
I never did go back to work, because I still wasn’t fully recovered physically, so I took early retirement. I was so happy writing!
After a few years, the Australian fantasy line closed down (these things happen to writers!) so I concentrated on writing historical sagas, which were earning me a lot more money anyway. But I had some spare historical romances left from my early days and I re-wrote them in between contracted sagas. I was not only speeding up as a writer, but understood my craft better and could see how to make them more gripping.
My agent sold a couple of the historical romances to another publisher, so I was back to writing for two publishers. I continued to speed up at writing and became more addicted to story telling, which is what drives me most of all.
After a few years I decided to extend my skills by writing a modern relationships novel. I found it stimulating to write something different. However, I had to write it fast to fit it in between contracted books. (Story of my writing life, grab what time you have and use it.) My agent sold it to the first publisher he showed it to, who then wanted more modern stories.
I have over 60 novels published now, with more on the way. I have ideas bouncing about for attention in my mind and I’m writing for three publishers.
I still get up early. I still write the ‘dirty draft’ of a story as fast as I can, then I polish it. I stay focused and don’t fritter away my time.
MY RECENT BOOKS
I’d like to end by telling you about my recent books. I’ve been writing a series of historical novels about a trading family based in Western Australia (where I live for half the year) and set in the 1860-70 era.
I didn’t intend to write this series but a character in the previous series started walking through my dreams and wouldn’t go away. So I had to write Bram’s tale. Western Australia had trading links with Singapore and India in those days, very interesting to research.
Bram is my favourite of all the heroes: a man of medium height, Irish, scrawny and definitely not handsome, but with a great big loving heart. And he has some interesting family members who’ve featured as central characters in the other books in what will be a five-part series.
I’ve just finished writing No 5 and I’m grieving at having to leave Bram. Maybe one day I’ll come back to him . . .
You can read about ‘The Trader’s Wife’ and try the first chapter on my website at:
Or if you prefer modern novels, try ‘Winds of Change’, a coming of age story about a woman getting a new life. I so enjoyed writing it! There aren’t enough older heroines around.
Now, I have to get back to work . . . I’m writing Book 2 of the Greyladies series, set in Wiltshire in the early 1900s, with one of the nicest covers ever:
Thank you, Anna, and all best for your new publication at the end of October.
So, do you think you could follow Anna's example? Hope you are all feeling prolific and inspired - happy writing!