We're delighted to have the fabulous Anna Jacobs visiting us on LoveCats DownUnder today.
Please tell us a little
about your journey to first getting published?
It was in the pre-Internet
days. I was in Australia, aiming at the UK market, because my books were set
there, and I was restricted to snail mail. I sent out the first two or three
novels several times and got increasingly nice rejections over the years. But I
had no one to talk to about it, so I was flying half-blind.
I’d probably have got
published more quickly nowadays because of the improved information flows.
Also, I had a full-time job and teenage children. My concerned husband once
asked gently, after a few years of this, ‘What will you do if you don’t get
accepted? I said fiercely, ‘I will get
published.’ I was thoroughly addicted to story-telling by now.
I joined the Romantic
Novelists Association of England, because they had (and still have) a New
Writers’ Scheme, where you could get your novel critiqued by published
novelists. When I was in London, I went to a talk given by a well-known agent,
Bob Tanner. So at least I knew the name of one agent now.
I kept submitting and entered
one book into a competition run by an Australian magazine and publisher. I’d
forgotten about the competition until I got a phone call a few months later to
say I was one of the three finalists and they’d like to fly me to Melbourne for
the presentation night. My husband came too. Naturally. He’s my soul mate.
I came second, with a prize
of $10,000 and publication. I don’t think I stopped smiling for a month. I
cared far more about the getting published than the money. The bright joy didn’t last. I
then came down with chronic fatigue syndrome, new management at the publisher
abandoned the competition and its previous winners, so I had to start again.
But that’s another story . . . Suffice it to say that the agent who’d given the
UK talk took me on, and I’m still with Hodder & Stoughton who bought the
first book he submitted for me.
Basically, I haven’t let
anything stop me writing.
How many books have you
had published so far in your career?
64 novels (as of July 2013), plus
9 French textbooks, two how-to books, a lot of short stories and about 20
poems. I’m producing three novels a year now. Practice might not make perfect,
but it makes you faster, that’s for sure.
The world of publishing is
ever evolving, how have you stayed on top of trends and continued to give your
readers what they want?
I keep an eye on the world
and I do have a Master of Business which helps in the decision making sometimes.
In the late 90s I abandoned my fantasy novels written as Shannah Jay and
concentrated on my historical novels, which sold far more copies. After a few
years, I started writing modern novels as well.
I tried ebook publishing in
the late 1990s, but it didn’t take off then. I made more money by writing an
article about it than by selling ebooks. In the past few years, I’ve gone back into
epublishing with my early novels, to which I have the rights back. I’ve established myself now
as a writer of longer romantic novels, whether historical or modern. They deal
with relationships, families as well as lovers, always with heart warming,
happy endings. There are often two or more romances in a novel, because I like
to write longer, complex tales.
As they say these days, I’ve
developed a ‘brand’. I don’t write sexy or gruesome novels, because there is a
solid core of readers who don’t want to read that sort of book, and anyway, I
tried writing sex scenes and didn’t enjoy it at all. I like to enjoy what I do.
You only have one life.
What has been the
highlight of your publishing career so far?
The highlight of my career
was and is giving pleasure to readers. That comes before everything else.
Novelists don’t write in isolation. We like to be read by people. I’ve always been open to
readers contacting me, well before this current promote yourself like crazy era.
It gives me great joy to hear from them, especially the ones who’ve emailed to
say that my books have helped them through bereavements or other bad times, or the
ones who say that I’ve have been the first novelist they’ve ever managed to
read and they now love reading. Some particularly touching emails have brought
tears to my eyes.
Winning the prize and getting
my first novel published was wonderful, of course. I already had several textbooks
published but who reads them willingly? Winning and getting short-listed several
for the Romantic Book of the Year awarded by the Romance Writers of Australia
was great too. And let’s not forget the
story-telling. I just love telling stories.
Which of your books is
your favourite, and why?
I’ve been thinking about this
recently in another context. I couldn’t single out one book, but a few have
been special to me. My favourite books aren’t always the books that sell best,
‘Envoy’ – fantasy novel, written as Shannah Jay, taught
me so much about tension, and is still a cracking tale that I’m proud of.
‘Salem Street’ – my first historical saga – went on to
a 5 book series and is still reprinting from 1994.
‘Change of Season’ – my first ever modern novel, how I
enjoyed writing it.
‘The Trader’s Wife’ – the series I didn’t intend to
write till Bram, the hero, haunted my
dreams and nagged me into telling his story.
‘Replenish the Earth’ – a quiet, 18th
century rural tale, very gentle yet telling.
‘The Corrigan Legacy’ – modern, the nearest I’ve come
to writing a literary novel.
Are you a plotter or a
I can plot a story, but I find
it hard to stick to the plot, especially if I get a better idea of how things
happen. I usually develop the setup situation and agree it with my editor, then
do the research. I write and rewrite the first two chapters till I know my
characters, then I just go for it. It’s they who pull me through a tale.
Lately, I’ve been writing for
a third publisher, where they insist on me providing a synopsis. So I’ve had to
plot – sort of. I’ve found that with all the practice I’ve had at writing
novels over the years, I can half stick to their synopses – but not fully. Again,
if I get a better idea for how the story works out, I use it. They don’t seem
to mind. So maybe I’m now a hybrid
writer? In writing, as in publishing/self-publishing.
What’s the one piece of
advice you would give aspiring authors?
Do not sling your first novel
out for sale on the Internet as an ebook. You will regret it one day. Write two
or three novels (or more!) before you do that, as you’ll learn so much and be
able to polish your first novel to make it a more professional standard. This is a very complex craft
and one novel does not a novelist make! I practise what I preach. I
have an early novel that I haven’t tried to rewrite because it was just too
trite a plot. It was well worth writing because it taught me so much, but RIP
What do you love most
about being a romance author?
I love bringing my hero and
heroine gradually together and letting them find happiness, after sorting out some
problem or other. I feel I understand what
makes a happy marriage because I’ve been married for 51 years to my own hero,
who is both husband and best friend. (We got married young.) We don’t live in
each other’s pockets, but our love runs deep. I try to get something of that
togetherness into my romance stories.
I don’t usually stick to one
hero and heroine per book, either, and I like that. There
are often two or three romances in my stories, so the supporting cast of
characters can go away happy too. You can’t have too much love.
I love writing the epilogue
or final chapter. Warm, fuzzy endings are an Anna Jacobs trademark and if I
don’t bring happy tears to my own eyes as I write, I haven’t done the ending
well enough and I go back to it and rewrite it.
It’s also pretty nice having
such warm, supportive romance writers’ organisations and fellow writers.
Thank you Anna for joining us today and sharing your wonderful journey!
Leave a comment and go into the draw to win a paperback copy of The Traders Wife!
For more information about Anna and her wonderful books please visit her at www.annajacobs.com
We'll be highlighting another Legend in November!