Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Interview with Janice Horton

Janice Horton lives in Scotland and writes entertaining and humorous contemporary women's fiction novels which are, for the most part, inspired by the romantic beauty of the heather-filled glens around her country cottage. When she’s not writing novels she writes lifestyle articles and has had work published in national magazines and regional newspapers. She’s also been involved in BBC Scotland's ‘Write Here Write Now’ project. Have you always been interested in writing, Janice? Tell us how you got started.

When I was growing up, we didn’t have many books at home, so my favourite place was the local library. Reading inspired me to write creatively from an early age. I remember getting into terrible trouble with my teacher at school, when she discovered that all the letters I’d written to my American pen-pal were complete fiction. As a young adult with a career, my writing had to take a back seat. When I started writing again, married and with three small children, I wrote freelance lifestyle articles for magazines and reviews for the local paper. Eventually, I realised that if I wanted to write the novel I’d always promised myself I would write one day, I’d better make a start. So I wrote while the children slept and eventually finished a full length contemporary novel. I sent it to a small publisher from The Writer’s Handbook and it was accepted straight away. Now that might sound unusual and amazingly lucky, but I didn’t realise it at the time. Unfortunately, just as I finished writing my second novel, my publisher went out of business. So, it wasn’t getting published I found difficult, but staying published.

Where is your favourite place to work?
My favourite place to write is at the kitchen table with my back to the Aga and the dogs snoozing by my feet. If the kids are home (raiding the fridge and being terribly noisy) then I’ll choose the sitting room, by the fire, with my laptop on my, um, lap. I actually do have a proper desk in a small book lined study but my husband is self employed and has a desk there too, so if he’s on the phone or working, you’ll find me anywhere it’s quiet and warm!

Do you have to juggle writing with the day job? What is your work schedule?
I work in admin and accounts for my husband’s business. I run a small graphic design business of my own, and I work as a part time legal secretary four afternoons a week. So I don’t write every day, I write in spurts when I’m not tired, which means it might take me longer than I’d like to finish a project. Although I never lose motivation for my writing as it is always such a joy, a real treat, for me to get back to my writing.

To plot or not to plot? Are you a planner or do you just dive in?
I’m a pantser. I start with a contemporary setting and two main characters and then, as if by magic, a few supporting characters will pop along just as my main characters need them. The positive side of writing this way is that I’m often surprised by my characters’ behaviour and that’s when I get really excited about the story. Of course, if you try to explain how this happens to a non-writer, they think you are completely mad. The negative side of working this way is that things can often go astray. I’ll often write myself into huge plot holes or dead ends. For example, when I finally finish the manuscript I’m working on at the moment, my conflicts will be resolved and my characters will have their happy endings, but I will be left with a ‘dumped ms’ file longer than the finished novel. Not a very efficient way of working! I recently brought up the subject of plotting for discussion on my blog. I’ve decided to try my hand at an outline before starting on my next novel to see if it saves time and angst.

What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
Undoubtedly, it’s the first draft. I find I’m constantly going back over old ground, sewing in new plot threads and getting disgruntled. Things can get very messy. Once I get past that stage, however, I’ve got so much to play with that I’m suddenly having fun and it all seems a lot easier.

Do you enjoy research, and how do you set about it?
I love to do lots of research in preparation for a novel and I always do it in advance of the actual writing. Usually, I research and create characters for the next WIP while I’m writing the current one, which is the case at the moment. As I write contemporary novels, the research I do gives me a real feel for the setting, any practical issues, and possible conflicts my characters might face. First of all I get the background information I need from biographies, film, and studying anything relevant. Next I find people to interview who are doing the job my protagonists will do, or I actually go and get a temporary job working in the industry myself. In my next book, not yet written, the female protagonist is a lawyer, so I have been working part time at a local firm of solicitors as a legal secretary to get a handle on her world. In my current novel, which is set in the world of top chefs, I didn’t go so far as working in a restaurant but I did get permission to spend some time observing top chefs in their kitchens. On this occasion, I inadvertently attracted the interest of local media and had an ITV film crew following me around, who then made a short film about my writing and my research methods. Great publicity for my forthcoming book!

I must emphasise at this point that only a tiny fraction of the factual information I glean ever makes it into the novel. The meticulous research I do goes into groundwork - creating a realistic sense of place. I feel it’s particularly important in books where humour can make characters seem far larger than in real life.

How do you promote your books, and what tips can you offer other writers?
In the past, I’ve hosted book launches and signings in bookshops but when Bagpipes & Bullshot came out as an e-book on Amazon Kindle, I had to completely rethink promotion. I asked my writer friends for ideas (promotional tip #1) and was advised to do a blog tour, to host a virtual launch, and to advertise the event on social networks. Not easy when all I had to start off with was a neglected website. Undaunted, I set up a blog, subscribed to Twitter and Facebook (promotional tip #2), and gave myself six weeks to prepare. Then, having attracted a modest following, I hosted the event from my bagpipe playing blog and went ‘on tour’. Throughout the event I held prize draws for those who commented, retweeted, or who were just jolly good sports (promotional tip #3). Thanks to all this support, Bagpipes & Bullshot reached number nineteen in Amazon bestselling women's fiction and twenty-four in Kindle’s Top 100 bestselling romance list on launch day.

Are you into social networking, and in what way do you feel it helps your career?
Whether you are published in paper or e-formats, I feel it is essential to have some kind of social networking platform. Not only are forums and blogs a really good way to get your product (book) out there and establish yourself as a brand (author), they are really good fun. I have met some really nice people through Twitter and Facebook. My latest online venture is an exciting and innovative writer/reader website that I’m involved with called loveahappyending.com which is launching on 29th June.

Tell us about your latest book, and how you got the idea for it.
Bagpipes & Bullshot twists an everyday love story with a whole cast of village eccentrics into an entertaining play on rural life. When handsome Scottish Laird Innes Buchanan meets beautiful Texan cowgirl, Orley McKenna, and brings her over to his impoverished estate in Scotland, it's for more than her expertise with cattle. But before their romance can properly begin, Orley has to contend with a run-down country mansion, a frosty Lady of the manor, and a vengeful ex-girlfriend.

Now, you may think a contemporary novel with a cowgirl and a laird is a little far removed from what it is to be American or Scottish today, and you would be right. However, the premise of the story is about opposites attracting and the emotional, cultural, and geographical differences between two people who come from opposite sides of an ocean. It is intentionally larger than life and that’s what makes it entertaining and fun. I’m told there are many laugh out loud moments in Bagpipes & Bullshot!

I got the idea for this novel while I was in America, standing on a Gulf Coast beach at sunset, thinking of how the warm breezes, blue waters, and southern lifestyle, were a world away from my own life in Scotland.

Can you tell us something of your work in progress?
I’m busy writing a novel with a backdrop of fine food and steamy kitchens entitled ‘Reaching For The Stars’. It's the story of a disillusioned celebrity chef who gives up his hard won accolades, three Golden Stars, and fearful of marauding paparazzi goes into a self imposed exile. The heroine of the tale is a rising star in the culinary world. So, when these two characters get together, the knives are out and the heat is on. ETA Autumn/Winter 2011.

Bagpipes & Bullshot is available to download from Amazon.co.uk at the fabulous price of £1.38. “It’s Monarch of the Glen meets Miss Read...”

For more information on Jancie visit her blog at: http://www.janicehortonwriter.blogspot.com
and you can follow her on Twitter @JaniceHorton

Interviews on the RNA Blog are conducted by Freda Lightfoot and Kate Jackson. If you would like an interview, please contact me at: freda@fredalightfoot.co.uk


Rosemary Gemmell said...

Great interview, Janice - and I loved Bagpies & Bullshot. A real tonic of a book to brighten the day, and with such a lovely setting!

Carol said...

Oh wow! I love the fact that your penpal letters were fiction..you had the making for a writing career.

Great research, actually working in the industry, getting paid to research, good thinking :)


Linn B Halton said...

Love the interview Janice - lots of info about you I didn't know! Bagpipes and Bullshot is a MUST READ - congratulations and can't wait for the next one.....

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

Thanks for the great interview.

I've bought Bagpipes & Bullshot and can't wait to read it. I've had a sneaky peak and it looks fabulous.

Unknown said...

Lovely interview and Bagpipes and Bullshot sounds like a great read. It's on my TBR list.

Janice said...

Hi everyone - I can't tell you how wonderful it is - not just to be a member of the RNA but also to appear on the RNA Blog! Thank you for your lovely comments and remarks on Bagpipes & Bullshot. Janice x

Wendy Soliman said...

Great interview, Janice, and congratulations on the book.

myraduffy said...

You come over so well in interview,Janice and your novel was a most enjoyable read.

Henriette said...

Excellent interview, Janice, and I've got "Bagpipes & Bullshots" on my to-be-read pile.

Melanie said...

Great interview Janice. I bought Bagpipes & Bullshot on your launch day and read it right away. Loved it!

Looking forward to your next novel.

Joan Fleming said...

Great interview Janice. I loved Bagpipes & Bullshot - a book to raise the spirits. Your tips on promotion are really helpful.

Karen said...

I constantly write myself into a dead end, but still can't get into the habit of plotting them out first!

The books both sound great :o)

Margaret Morton Kirk said...

Fascinating blog, very enjoyable :)

maddy said...

Yea!!! Just blogger about your awesome giveaway! Emailing now!! Thanks!


Hywela Lyn said...

Sorry to come in here late, Janice. I enjoyed reading your interview very much - and I agree, part of the fun of writing is when your characters surprise you!

Best of luck with 'Bagpipes and Bullshot' - great title and sounds like a brilliant read. Looking forward to hosting you on our blog Author Roast and Toast in September!