Name: Jan Edwards
Where are you from:
I am from Sussex originally, but spent my teens in South London. Welsh mother, Geordie/Midlander father so I’m a bit of a mongrel roots-wise. Currently living in Staffordshire Moorlands with my husband, Peter Coleborn, three cats and a few elderly chickens.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
Jan: That is epic in itself. Let me see— I left school at 15 and had many and varied jobs from stable girl to librarian to motorcycle sales via marker gardener, civil servant and book seller. There were other jobs but life is too short to list them all. Spent almost twenty years as a Master Locksmith (first woman in UK to qualify). I am now a reiki master and meditational healer when not writing or editing.
I gained a BA in English lit later in life; gained a C&G in Locksmithing; BTec Media and diplomas in a wide range of complimentary therapies! There has never been a plan to my life, I always went where the opportunities took me. But being a master locksmith and reiki master in usui and celtic reiki is great because, given my chequered career path, nobody can ever say I am a Jan of all trades – but master of none! (:-)) ‘Cos I am.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Jan: Just up in the next few weeks in a collection of short fiction titles Leinster Gardens and Other Subtleties published by The Alchemy Press. A collection of 14 supernatural tales from my back catalogue, including Otterburn, which was short listed for a BFA for Best Short Fiction. I edit anthologies such as Urban Mythic for Alchemy Press and also Fox Spirit with Wicked Women. I am busy promoting my main stream novel Sussex Tales through library events etc.
Lastest short published was just this month with ‘Drawing Down the Moon’, appearing in The Grimorium Verum: Volume 3 of Tres Librorum Prohibitorum. All about a Witch of Thessaly living on Canvey Island.
There are several more shorts due out later this year for various anthologies. I was also part of the script team for a Dr. Who DVD with Reeltime, called White Witch of Devil’s End, which, with luck, should be out in the autumn.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Jan: I know people say it often, and it sounds a little trite, but I honestly cannot recall a time when I was not making stories in my head, any more than I can recall learning to read. I suspect the latter was due to being the youngest of the family I probably learned by osmosis through elder siblings.
I remember having my leg pulled by the family for using indirect speech in replies to unexpected question. It would go something like: ‘Yes, mother,’ she said.’ I was brought up on a rather isolated farm and suffered a great deal of illness for my first seven or eight years. As TV had just two channels back then (with no weekday afternoon tv other than schools broadcasts and horse racing), and no home computer technology, I learned to amuse myself through books. I also got to know a fair bit about horse racing but that is another story!
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Jan: I have always seen myself as a writer. What kind of a writer is another question…
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Jan: See above. I lived in my head a great deal as a child, so fiction was part of my reality. I wish I still had those early books penned with such dedication! But we moved house when I was 12 and my mother jettisoned anything non essential in her eyes. She did it again when I married my first husband. Hence all of my early attempts went up in smoke!
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Jan: I am told I do, but I could not for the life of me tell you what it is. Probably a question to ask of a reader.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Jan: The Leinster Gardens title was taken from the first story in the book: Concerning Events at Leinster Gardens, first published in The 13 Ghosts of Christmas. It is a take on the urban myths surrounding the false-fronted houses in Leinster Gardens, London.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Jan: I never identify my messages. If people get them then good, if no then I’ve not done my job. One of my pet peeves in fiction is agenda-driven polemicals of the kind that whack you over the head again and again until you want to scream ‘Okay. I get it! Stop it already!’ The message should never be the book.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Jan: All fiction should feel realistic. Even off the wall weird fiction or steampunk, containing “six impossible things before breakfast” should have verisimilitude within its own reality.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Jan: ‘Leinster Gardens and Other Subtleties’ relates several events lifted and fictionalised from family history. My episodic novel Sussex Tales (out last october with Penkhull Press) draws on a lot of incidents amongst family and neighbours; again fictionalised and so not directly attributable to specific events but certainly influenced by reality. Writers draw from the facts that surround them and regurgitate them as a fantasy. Not verbatim of course, but those influences are inevitable.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? A mentor?
Jan: The list would be far too long as regards books. If I have an out and out favourite book it is probably Pride and Prejudice, but as I write supernatural fiction that may not an influence most people would see.
My husband Peter is, if not my mentor, then certainly the person who gave me the support I needed to get my arse into gear and find publication. The name ‘Peter’ means rock, and he has been just that in the (almost) twenty years that we have been together. I have also been fortunate in attending writing groups that give honest constructive critiques. Currently that is Renegade Writers, whose input is invaluable.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Jan: ‘A’ book? I always have umpteen on the go!
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Jan: I have several short stories with editors, but none I can mention by name as yet. There is a commissioned Sherlock Holmes pastiche has been awaiting the editor’s attention for a while now (coming up for two years … the wheels of some publishers move slow enough to be viewed as static at times!). I have an urban fantasy series set in Brighton, which I hope will get out there very soon.
Current on my writing desk is a crime novel set in 1941, and a few other fledgling projects, including a second collection of short fiction. All busy, busy.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Jan: Writing groups. Renegade Writers are a fantastic group who pull no punches but always give opinions in the best possible manner. More than one support mentioned I know but there is also the British Fantasy Society for its networking opportunities. Not as active there as I was, but when writing is such an insular occupation we all need to get out and talk it over with like-minded people.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Jan: ‘Leinster Gardens and Other Subtleties’ was published in many places over several years, so hard to say there. Every editor/anthologist has their own quirks and foibles, so learning to be flexible and to listen to opinions – especially from professionals in the field – is a good pointer for all writers.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Jan: Write – a lot – and read even more.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Jan: I was four! A half century and some tends to put the old memory in a blender!
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Jan: I don’t like slapstick, nor the crueler of stand-up comics. I find humour in the everyday; Billy Connolly’s meandering explorations of the human condition will get me every time, and that same brand of observational humour in Pride and Prejudice tickles my senses. What makes me cry? I don’t weep at sad books/films if that is what you mean, so can’t really answer that one. Not a weeper by nature.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Jan: Jane Austen, perhaps. There are a lot of authors who would be great to chat with. Going to conventions and writing conferences does mean you get the chance to talk with a great many of the current crop.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Jan: I garden and indulge in ‘craftish’ things now and then. But writing and reading have always taken up most of my ‘spare’ time.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Jan: I don’t have specific favourites. West Wing was great, and Buffy of course. The recent Happy Valley crime series was excellent. Basically those films and programmes that are plot and character driven. SFX movies leave me cold, and I have no time for those gore or skin fests that rely solely on imagined ‘shock’ images to sell themselves.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Jan: I’ve done a lot of different things already! I like jobs where I could do my own thing. I get bored with routine tasks.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
Jan: ‘I’m sleeping – sod off.’ Why? Because being woken up makes me REALLY grouchy!
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Jan: I have a blog site at https://janedwardsblog.wordpress.com/ a facebook page under Jan Edwards and Twitter @jancoledwards