Name Jane Yates
Where are you from? I live in Oxford, UK, but was born in Aldershot in Hampshire, and also lived in Wales for a number of years.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I am a mum of three grown up children: James, Marie and Emily. I have two spaniels: Buster and Mandy, who appear in my first three books.
I am dyslexic and although I did get a degree in archaeology and the environment later in life, I never thought I could write a novel and did not until I was 50 years old.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Garden has come out thanks to Autumn Orchard. I am thrilled that it is a huge success.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I am badly dyslexic and never used to think of myself as a writer at all. I have always been creative and an artist and it was my art that indirectly lead me to the path to becoming a successful writer. In fact, it’s all because of my fat spaniel and an incredible editor called Sarah Edwards from a local paper who believed everybody can be a writer, that changed my life.
A few years ago, I was drawing a cartoon about my then overweight spaniel, Mandy. My dream was simple and just to get my cartoon published, but I did not have a clue where to start. I emailed my very first cartoon to Sarah, the editor of Ley’s News, a community paper in Oxford, which is delivered to thousands of homes in the area and reaches and even larger online audience. Sarah published my cartoon and asked me to write more. I cannot tell you the thrill I got when I first held a copy of the Leys News with my cartoon and name printed in it. It was such an adrenalin rush and quite additive. I drew more cartoons, and was delighted to see each of them in print. I sent copies of the paper around the UK to my family and friends and took extra copies and left them in various takeaway shops and even launderettes around Oxford City.
One day Sarah told me about a free course in community journalism that she was running and encouraged me to come along. The course was sponsored by Brookes University and was highly structured and Sarah told me that she would be teaching it herself, so I would have a friendly face.
At first I was reluctant to go and I did not want to be a writer. I was happy in this safe made up world drawing my cartoons. I realise now in hindsight that a large part of myreluctance was not only because of my dyslexia but also because I suffered from low self-esteem. Plus if I am honest I was a little scared. I mean what if I had to read something out, or worse, write answers down on a board in front of other people who had come on that course to be writers.
I sat at home in real fear and I was transported back to a classroom setting where as a teenager I had read out a passage in front of my classmates. Shakily holding the book, sweeting and feeling my skin burn red on my face. Recalling how I had stammered and stumbled with the short passage and had to listen to the laughs and jeers of the class, and worse return to my seat to the patronising glare of my teacher held fast on my back.
So a course in journalism, no that wasn’t something for people like me. By chance that day I came across a nice quote, which goes something like, ‘you’re not brave in life, unless you’re scared.’ Something clicked inside me, perhaps everyone was going to be scared at the course, well at the very least I was sure I was not going to be the only one. Plus Sarah had told me that she was going to be teaching it, plus she had said, there would be free tea and biscuits to boot!
So I went on the course partly because Sarah would be there and partly because of free tea and biscuits, also partly because I was curious about writing, but mostly because I wanted my cartoons to continue to be published.
Sarah was an inspirational teacher and the other people on the course were friendly. We got to learn not only about writing for a paper but also about how the paper was laid out and the importance of images. When the course finished Sarah encouraged everyone who attended to write a short piece for the next edition. So to fast forward a bit, I started to write regularly for the Leys News. Happily Sarah printed just about everything I wrote and I still got to keep going my precious fat spaniel cartoon. Mostly I wrote about myself, funny stuff like attempting to get fit to run a half marathon. (Calling that column, ‘Wonder Woman’ was all Sarah’s idea,) but I went with the flow.
Things really began to kick off for me when I wrote a yearlong column called ‘Life begins at 50.’ For this I tried all manner of new things, such as sewing, archery and indoor sky diving. Someone in my sewing class told me about National Novel Writing Month, where you agree to write 50,000 words in the month of November and then submit the words to their website to be counted. The writers meet up regularly though out November and help and encourage each other and talk about their work.
I have to be honest with you, still lacking in confidence at that point, I did not go to one of the National Novel Writing Month meetings, even although they were free and local to me. However I did write the 50,000 words and after a long period of editing, self-published Paradox child, which was to be the first of three books. The third book again written in National Novel Writing Month, but that time I did go to the meetings and found them friendly and helpful.
Paradox Child was not what I had planned to write, as right up to the night before I started I was going to write in a completely different genre. Paradox Child is about a girl who is a dreamer, as I am and set in the 1980s and is heavily influenced by the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, where I work. I think mostly as I had to carry on working while I wrote it and also because I was surrounded by the most amazing and magical objects that were in the museum daily.
But as you see I have no short stories! and may have gone slightly off the question of the subject ‘why I write,’ so in brief, I started writing purely because of Sarah’s passion for writing and her continued encouragement and support that she freely gave me. I continue because of the wonderful feedback I got from my readers. I know I have inspired others to write and I hope I will be able to have a more hands on inspiration for dyslexic and new writers in the future.
It only took one person’s view of writers to steer me onto the path of becoming a successful and well respected writer. So I am hoping that I can follow Sarah’s lead and change someone’s life for the better. Maybe if you’re reading this it could be you?
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Oh that is a good question, I am not sure when exactly. I always told people I am a painter first, then a writer. But now I really don’t paint much anymore.
I guess I have an allotment, and seem to do that even more than I paint now. I guess it must have been last November that I really started to think of myself a writer more than an artist.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My daughter Emily helped me with this. I was going to write a horror story first. Right up to the night before I started that’s what it was going to be about. But then a series of events happened and, to cut a long story short, I had to come up with a new idea. Emily said, why don’t I write a children’s book, as she said I was always making up stories for her as a child on the spot and never wrote them down. So that’s what I did. Also as I had to work still the museum and its objects got worked into the stories.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Yes, young adult and steampunk
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I ask Emily, and also I think of several titles and then I look them up on Amazon. And google them too. I kind of regret calling my second book Therianthropy.
As I can’t spell it!!
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes! Garden has a message of hope for people who may feel in a place in their life where hope seems to be past their grasp. I hope Garden gives hope, or at very lease makes people smile.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Oh golly, what good questions.
I did also study science with the Open University and do have an interest in physics. I think I use a lot of theory in the plot. I think it’s mostly theoretical physics. I a pretty sure about some things, like plants and mold, which appear in the book.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Yes, oh yes.
Maisy, who the character Maisy is based on and who I met by chance when she visited the museum. She helped and read each chapter as it was written, and offered ideas and inspiration.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I think Sarah as I said above has been the most inspirational in my writing. Being a mother, I think my children have been influential. Emily who is the youngest, and a steampunk artist at university, certainly influenced my writing steampunk. The winged badges and the vanity flower in my Paradox Child books were some of her ideas.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Unusually for me, I am reading two books.
Not of Our Sky (Sky Song trilogy #3) by Sharon Sant and Six Short Stories by Jack Croxall.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I love the two Dan’s: Dan Thompson and Dan Burton and Sharon Sant, Amy Good, Jack Croxall, Ed Drury, Meghann Doyle.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I am writing the Octopus Pirate and looking for a publisher for it. Clip here
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, now I do. I would love to be able to travel to India and Japan. And travel by steam train if possible and write about it.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Nope, love it as Dan’s edits made it first class.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Years ago as a child, my mother would have her church friend and neighbours around for fund raising coffee mornings. She would let me write short plays to amuse the old ladies while they drank their tea.
I remember once writing a really deadly serious one were a character died a horrible death; stabbed with a sword.
I bribed my neighbours children with chocolate to perform it with you.
They did the short play as I had written it. But instead of tears the old ladies roared with laughter, so much so that I thought a couple of them might wee themselves or loose their teeth. One even said to me that that was the funniest thing they had ever seen. I remember being very upset, being a young child, my little child ego was crushed.
So all in all it’s just as well I did not write that horror story. LOL
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Autumn Orchard have the first chapter available to read on their website/
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Old writer – Roald Dahl as his work is easy to read, and nice to read out loud
New writer – Amy Good who wrote Rooted, it was so exciting to read.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
The Paradox Child series travels in time. I looked at my favourite objects and use them for the time travel in the stories. For Garden, I watched youtubes of space travel. Sadly I could not go. Here is my fav one I watched which Emily sent me the link for.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Autumn Orchard handpicked Ravven for the Garden cover and I love what she did. Aberdeen looks exactly as imagined her to be.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Oh easy… that is because I’m dyslexic all my ideas tend to come at once. If I don’t write it down on my computer straight away, I’ll loose it as I often can’t read my notes. Also I write so quickly I tend to forget what I have written – may be that’s age also. LOL. Plus I am not great at saving things in order, so have overwritten and also lost things when I saved them to a cloud, and it floated away!
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Yes, Dan would edit bits and send them back. He improved sentences with poetic words, so I think I learned from that and became more descriptive.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
I always listen to Dan, he’s so clever and a great writer. So what I mean by that is always listen to your editor, they know best.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you. I am a new writer. If I ever get any nice comments or a nice review, I have a huge smile on my face. It makes my whole day. So thank you
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
My mother was an infant school teacher, so there were always loads of books, but I liked to read Ant and Bee. I still have these books J
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Just about everything, I am a sensitive soul. I still have not managed to watch the end of Babe.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
Oprah. She is so wise.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
I like the head stone of Spike Milligan that says:
‘I told you I was ill’
I am going to be cremated and so no head stone.
So I guess it would have to say, ‘not at this address’.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Art, gardening, sewing, crafting, flower arrangement, woodwork, reading, visiting old buildings and museums.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Nature and history shows.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Colour green, love sushi, like a wide range of music from rap to classical
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I have a group and a blog on goodreads
Garden NOW OUT
Some of my art work
Jane and her dog
Thanks for the great questions, Fiona. It was a great pleasure to answer them.