Anna Jacobs writes historical and modern novels. She’s had 57 novels published so far, with others in the pipeline. She spends half the year in Australia and half in the UK, which nicely avoids facing any winters. (She is so not into snow!)
In Australia, she lives in a waterside home where dolphins swim regularly past her door. In the UK, she lives in Wiltshire, which she has grown to love, it’s such a beautiful county.
Anna is currently the 8th Most Borrowed Author of Adult Fiction in the UK. Good to have you on the RNA Blog again Anna, tell us about your latest book, and what inspired you to write it
My latest book is THE TRADER’S SISTER, #2 in the series - all readable on their own, though. It’s set in Western Australia, the Middle East and Singapore during the late 1860s. I can’t get these stories down fast enough and my characters keep waking me up to show me scenes. The series has gone from three to four books. Just wait till #3 comes out in October (The Trader’s Dream). I’ve waited ten years to write a story with a certain incident in it. No, I’m not telling you what.
Many of your stories have an Australian setting. How do set about your research, and yet manage to avoid the stereotype Aussie-pioneer-outback story.
I write about Western Australia, where I live, which has a different history from the better known eastern states, which are 2,000 miles away from the west. I’ve loved doing the research and most of it has been via books, especially minor or very old books by obscure or tiny publishers. These show glimpses of life in the ‘Cinderella colony’ which you don’t find on line.
I’m also lucky that Australia has a wonderful library service, which offers research help. I’ve used that many times to find information. They’ve sent rare books to my local library, ones I wasn’t allowed to take home but had to study and photocopy in the library. They’ve photocopied articles and extracts from journals for me at a very reasonable price. And I also have a nautical mentor, Eric Hare, who has taught me so much about sailing ships.
You are very strong on family relationship stories, do you study human psychology or are you just very observant?
I’ve always loved watching people. They’re endlessly varied and fascinating. My first degree was partly in psychology, which has helped to give me a better understanding of what makes people tick. I also did psych units as part of my postgraduate and masters studies. But it’s my own family which was the most help. My maternal grandma was one of 12 children, and the other grandma was one of four. I grew up surrounded by cousins, aunts, great-aunts and family stories. I didn’t realise it at the time, but it was excellent preparation for my writing. I met very few of one grandfather’s relatives and it’d have been none if my father had had his way. My father wouldn’t talk about them or tell me why, but one day I’ll make up a tale about that. The other grandfather was one of 7 children, but I only ever knew three of them. Strange again. I still don’t know why they weren’t around. Maybe I’ll have to write a book about that too.
I know you also write contemporary fiction, is there a different type of novel you are still yearning to write?
What do you do when the going gets tough?
If a story isn’t flowing, I sit in front of my computer and give myself permission to write rubbish, which I can polish later. It never turns out to be rubbish, but it does sometimes need more polishing than normal And if I’m overloaded with work, as sometimes happens, I just get down to it and work hard till I’m over the hump. I prefer to be ahead of my publishing schedule, and don’t enjoy last minute dashes, so normally stay ahead, but sometimes life hits your schedule.
What is the strangest place you’ve ever written in?
Anna's home in Western Australia.
Which long-lost childhood cuddly toy did you love the most?
I grew up just after WWII, so I didn’t have many toys. No one did. It was books I loved and I have some of my childhood books still. Well, I did have, but one daughter has pinched them because she collects children’s books, but she’s looking after them for me. My favourite author was Enid Blyton. Oh, how that woman set my imagination flying! I wish I could thank her for such a precious gift.
What’s your most irrational fear, and have you ever written about it?
Cockroaches. You can’t avoid them in a warm climate, however clean your house is. I run shrieking in terror from them and my personal hero comes running to save me. He says he recognises the tone of the ‘cockroach scream’. It’s ridiculous, really, as they’re only beetles. But there you are. I definitely do not like them. Give me a mouse or spider any day! I’d never even seen a cockroach till we migrated to Australia. I’m certainly not including them in my books. That’s a step too far.
So what next? Can you tell us something of what you are working on now?
I’m writing a modern novel and enjoying it very much, about a group of older people. (Not decrepit! And not past falling in love. Just older.) I have a three book a week reading habit, and find a lack of stories with older protagonists, so I write about people over 50 quite often - as well as about younger people. After all, life is full of people of all ages. Considering the fact that older women are the biggest readers and buyers of books, I think publishers are missing a trick with so few older heroines. I’m also mentally working on the fourth Traders book. I like to keep busy. When I’m actually writing one book, I’m often visualising another. I do a lot of visualisation. It’s like watching TV in my head.
THE TRADER’S SISTER
Ismay Deagan has one wish in the world – to leave Ireland and join her brother, Bram, in Australia. But her father has other ideas and orders her to marry their vicious neighbour Rory Flynn. Ismay runs away, disguising herself as an impoverished young widow. When she meets Adam Tregear on the ship, she finally starts to believe her dreams may come true. Before she reaches Australia, however, she’s flung into adventures in Suez, Ceylon and Singapore. Dare she tell Adam the truth about who she really is? Does he have secrets of his own? Or will her past catch up with her and ruin her new-found happiness?
That was fascinating Anna, thank you for taking time off from your busy schedule to talk to us today. We wish you continuing success with your books.
For more about Anna and her books, visit her website.
Interviews on the RNA Blog are for full RNA members, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org