Friday, February 10, 2012

Interview with Janey Fraser

Today I am delighted to welcome Janey Fraser to the blog. A journalist and novelist her debut novel THE PLAYGROUP, is published by Arrow. But as Sophie King she has written five novels including THE WEDDING PARTY, short listed for Love Story of The Year. She has also written nine non-fiction books and numerous magazine stories. For three years, she was writer in residence of HMP Grendon, a high security male prison. Janey/Sophie is also a past winner of the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy and a runner up in the Harry Bowling Prize. 

Janey, you are clearly a very talented lady, do tell us about your latest book and what inspired you to write it. 

It’s called THE PLAYGROUP and is published by Arrow £6.99. Aimed at mums and grans of all ages, it’s a pacy contemporary women’s fiction novel about the complex lives and loves of staff and parents with lots of twists and humour – although it has its dark side too. Fay Weldon described it as ‘unputdownable’ and Katie Fforde said it was a ‘must for anyone who knows small children’. I was inspired to write it because I love subjects with an umbrella appeal, that rope in all kinds of characters in different situations. I also look for topics that can bring in humour and sadness at the same time because that’s what life is all about.

Are you involved in social networking and blogs?Any tips for other writers? 

I’m involved now – but I wasn’t! I’ve just spent three weeks, forcing myself to get acquainted with Twitter, Facebook, blogging and updating my website. At times I felt I was going mad, especially as it interfered with my writing time. But I think I’m there now! The best tip I’d pass on, is to find one person to help you with all these different aspects. Also keep a big red notebook and write down all your different passwords etc . I found this particularly complicated as my previous novels were under the name Sophie King so I need two lots of social media. Still, each might be able to help the other!

You seem to be a busy and versatile writer, what do you enjoy most about this particular genre? And tell us more about your other personas. 

I write multi-viewpoint contemporary women’s fiction. I learned, after some false starts, that I have to write a story from different points of view. That’s because it moves the plot along and allows you to get into different people’s heads. My subjects need to be funny and sad as well as reflecting modern lives.

However, for many years, I’ve had an historical in my head so last year I wrote it. It’s called THE PEARLS and my agent took it to Frankfurt where there was a fierce bidding war. It sold for a six figure sum and is coming out in Germany this year. It also sold to Italy last year where it was number eight in the translation chart. So it shows you can write different genres.

Sometimes I wonder who I am! I started as a journalist at the age of 22 which was when I got married the first time round. My name then was Jane Bidder. However, when my first novel THE SCHOOL RUN was accepted in 2005, my then agent suggested I changed my name so readers wouldn’t think my books were non-fiction like my articles. Then last year, Random House took me on and were keen to have a change of name so I was part of their ‘stable’. In fact, my close friends and family call me ‘Janey’ so at least I will turn my head when I am called! I wrote THE PEARLS under Jane Corry because my agent said I had to have another name for a different genre. This is actually my new married name.

The RNA is famous for its New Writer Scheme. Were you ever a part of it, and what advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

I bless the RNA! Hilary Johnson first introduced me when we lived near each other in Buckinghamshire. I knew her through a friend of a friend so we could so easily not have met. What an awful thought! I was lucky enough to be short listed for the New Writers Award about seven years ago. It was a great honour and a big confidence booster.

The advice I would give to an aspiring writer is to write about what you feel passionate about. Write every day to keep the plot rolling. Act out the characters in your head and across the room (what is the result of someone saying something; how do they walk?). Make sure something significant happens in each chapter. Don’t bombard the reader with too many characters at once. Intersperse dialogue with action. Be clear about viewpoint. Present it properly on the page (correct grammar; double line spacing etc). Don’t talk about the story to many other people (if any) until you’ve finished as it takes away the need to put it on paper.

I’m sure lots of aspiring authors will lap up your advice for their latest wip. Can you tell us something of what you are working on now?

I’ve just delivered THE AU PAIR which is the second of the two book deal I got with Random House. Luckily Teresa Chris, my agent loves it although I’m still waiting for my editor to read it as I delivered early. It’s about a mother who starts an au pair agency around her kitchen table; a French au pair who comes to England to find her lost father; and a widower whose daughter keeps driving au pairs away until she finds the perfect match. Wickedly funny and partly based on a terrible two years with five different au pairs. Don’t ask. Now for some lighter questions:.

And now for some lighter questions:
What was your most embarrassing moment at an RNA event?
In 2003 when a reporter thrust a feather duster mike under my nose. I explained I wasn’t published and probably not worth interviewing. Then he said ‘Jane, don’t you recognise me?’ It turned out that he was one of the very few boyfriends I’d had before getting married. He broke my heart and I married my first husband very soon afterwards. And no, I didn’t recognize him. That says it all.

What is the craziest ambition you ever fulfilled?
Not sure if it’s crazy but I’ve always wanted to go to Ronnie Scott’s. My newish husband and I went last year with my sister and her man but we got told off for talking.

Do your family and friends get any sense out of you when you’re writing a book? 

Not at all. This is one reason why my second marriage works. My new husband understands this.

Are you good at ignoring the ironing? 
What’s that?

Who is your favourite hero?
My new husband. He’s funny; eccentric; kind. And he gives me space.

How to Write Your First Novel is published by How To Books at £9.99
The Wedding Party is published by Hodder at £6.99
The Playgroup is published by Arrow at £6.99
That was fascinating, Janey, and we wish you continuing success with your new books. Do come back and talk to us again when the historical is coming out.
Best wishes,

To find about more about Janey Fraser and her books, you can find her here:

Interviews on the RNA Blog are for RNA members, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact me:


Jan Jones said...

Nice interview, Jane. Hope the new book does well.

Paula Martin said...

Enjoyed this interview, Jane! Your advice is great for all writers, not just aspiring ones. And I agree with you about ironing!

Beth Elliott said...

Great writing advice - and I am all admiration for your imagination and energy. Agree about not ironing!!

Anna Jacobs said...

Hope the new book does well!

Did you ever find out what ironing is? I don't understand this word at all - and never intend to.

Gwen Kirkwood said...

My last comment disappeared into the ether so I shall be brief. I really enjoyed this interview. Good luck with the new persona.

Susan Bergen said...

I have to write down passwords too (and look them up practically every time!) I'll never understand how my children can remember dozens of mobile phone numbers and passwords. I must have my head full of more interesting things...
Fascinating interview.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Great to hear about all your different genres and personae - interesting interview!