I am delighted to welcome Jane Isaac to the blog for this week’s author interview. I first met Jane last year at a local library event she was doing with Glyn Timmins, and, believe it or not, she only lives 3 miles from me. Or in her words, ‘too close for comfort’. Okay, she hasn’t actually said that, but, you know, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Jane lives with her husband and daughter in rural Northamptonshire, UK where she can often be found trudging over the fields with her Labrador, Bollo. Her first novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.’ The sequel, The Truth Will Out, was selected as a ‘Thriller of the Month –April 2014’ by E-Thriller.com. Her latest book, Before It’s Too Late, is published by Legend Press on 1st June 2015.
Jane was runner up ‘Writers Bureau Writer of the Year 2013’ and her short stories have appeared in several anthologies. When she is not writing, Jane loves to travel and spend time with her family. She believes life should be an adventure.
Hi, neighbour Jane, and welcome to the blog.
Can you tell us a little about your path to becoming a published author?
Like many writers, I’ve had rather a rollercoaster ride to publication. When I finished my first book I was still studying creative writing with the Writers Bureau, and my tutor read the sample chapters and recommended that I send it to a small publisher called Crème De La Crime who accepted submissions from unpublished writers. They responded within a week to say that they couldn’t accept new submissions, having just been taken over by a large publisher, but they enjoyed the piece and suggested I send it to a couple of agents who were interested in new crime writers. I really didn’t expect to hear anything, you get so many rejections in this industry, so I was stunned when they both wanted to sign it!
To cut a long story short, after a lovely day at their Kensington offices I signed up with one of the agents and they submitted the novel to the big publishing houses. The result was disappointing: We had lovely feedback, they all seemed to like the work, but nobody offered to sign the novel. My agent suggested I submit to the independent publishers and I signed with US based Rainstorm Press within a month.
Rainstorm Press were only able to distribute books online in the UK, so when I finished my second book, The Truth Will Out, I decided to throw myself back into the slush pile and try for a British publisher. Luckily I signed with Legend Press who have now released my third too.
I’m fascinated by putting ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances and watching how they react. When I created Helen I wanted her to be someone that readers could easily relate to, someone you would recognise if you walked down a street or saw in a supermarket. Helen is an ordinary woman, a single mother of teenage boys, but she also manages homicide investigations, arguably one of the most difficult and taxing jobs in the police force. What makes her stand out is that she is not ambitious is the material sense, she really cares about the victims which often makes her go out on a limb in search of the truth.
Before It’s Too Late, features a new lead, and this time it’s a bloke, DI Will Jackman. Why the change of protagonist, and why a man this time?
It’s no secret that the idea for a male lead first started as a bit of banter between my husband and I – he gave me the challenge to see if I could manage it. He was teasing me really, but the conversation sewed a seed and suddenly the idea of writing a lead character through the eyes of a man was a very interesting prospect, so I thought I’d give it a go and try something different this time.
And did you find it different to get in the head of a man – my wife says we’re quite different?
Yes, very different! For me, it’s essential to get to know a character, a lead especially, so that they come to life on the page. Writing through the eyes of DCI Helen Lavery in my first two novels was like second nature. While Helen is very different from me, she is a working mother who juggles her home and work life balance. I could relate to that.
In order to create Jackman, I had to go back to basics. First, I pulled on my favourite male fictional characters and analysed their behaviour; writing down the elements I liked and that fitted with what I was trying to achieve, disregarding the ones that didn’t. I considered the male influences in my own life: my father, my brother, my husband, my friends. I spoke to a lot of serving police officers and detectives to see what their working/home life was like. And slowly the foundations of Jackman’s character were laid. But even then, as I was writing I was constantly saying to my husband, “How would you react to … What would you say to…” for validation that I’d got it somewhere near.
Wow, that’s much more research than I was expecting! A question about the writing process. Are you a plotter, or do you write by the seat of your pants?
When I first started out I was a complete ‘panster’ and with my first book the story just unfolded as I wrote. When I started my second, particularly as it was an ongoing series, I felt I needed more direction. I’ve now started to draft short outlines of the story before I begin, although often characters do unexpected things, or plot twists and turns jump in and surprise me along the way.
Characters often have minds of their own! Can you tell us anything about what you’re working on at the moment?
I’m working on a new DI Jackman novel and will shortly be back off to Stratford upon Avon for research – well that’s my excuse for another trip away.
Ah, great, so we’ll be meeting Will Jackman again. Are there any books that have had a strong influence on your own writing?
I love the psychological suspense of Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson and Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes. I also enjoy police procedurals like Peter James’ Roy Grace series. I try to combine both elements in my own writing.
I’m a big fan and user of Twitter, but tend to read Facebook much more than I ever post anything on there. Social media is seen as a must for the majority of authors nowadays – what’s your relationship with it?
Social media is a wonderful medium to meet new friends and share writing tips and information on books. It can be addictive though and since I’m particularly prone to procrastination (I’m sure I have a gene!) I have to force myself to switch off every now and then to make sure I make time for writing too.
We might actually share that gene. Finally, are you able to give us a weird or unusual fact about yourself that not many people will know?
I rode a horse, bareback on a ranch in Australia. Not a glamorous experience!
I’m picturing it now! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Jane, and good luck with Before It’s Too Late, which is out on Monday.