Monday, May 7, 2012

Interview with Anna Jacobs

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.

I like writing about lively women, and Bram’s sister is as appealing as he was. He’s ‘the trader’, main hero of #1, THE TRADER’S WIFE, but he also appears in every book in the series. His sister Ismay wants to join him in Australia, but her father has other ideas and will go to any lengths to prevent her leaving Ireland. She has to run away to make her dream come true, and that leads her into a series of adventures as she travels via Suez and Sri Lanka, with a detour to Singapore, to join her brother.

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.

I live in a country town south of the capital Perth, and I’ve set most of my books in the south-west of our state, which is not the outback but a place of forests, cattle and wine. I was fortunate to be selected to do a project for one country town ie write about strong pioneering women. They provided a lot of information during my time spent there and I used it afterwards in FREEDOM’S LAND, another book that burned out of me white hot.

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?

I’d like to go back to writing historical romances as well, which is where I started. I’ve reissued my early historical romances, such as MISTRESS OF MARYMOOR, as ebooks and they’re selling so well that if I had the time, I’d write more. But sadly, I need to sleep every single night, so I can’t fit any more books in.

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?

I think it’s strange that I’ve written in planes, because I loathe flying. However, twice a year I have to face long flights as we move to the UK and then come back home to Australia again. I’ve started several books on planes that have gone on to do well. I think it’s desperation to distract myself from being shut up in a metal tube filled with stale air. I can’t always lose myself in my writing on a plane, but sometimes it happens. And wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, I always have something to write with handy. You never know when you’ll get an idea, or ‘see’ an important scene. Even on planes!
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.

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. 
Best wishes, 

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: 


Susan Bergen said...

You've brought back old memories of my 3 consecutive summers following the sun from Britain to Oz and back again. Sheer bliss. Oh and the dreaded cockroaches...eek!
I, too, hate flying with a passion. I'm never truly happy until those wheels are on the ground again! Flying again in 3 wks and dreading it.
I'm a 2-3 books a week gal myself. 'The Trader's Wife' was a joy to read. Must crack on with the rest of the series. What a lovely informative interview,Anna.

Noelene said...

Anna, I always love hearing you chat about your writing. I have The Trader's Wife on my TBR but after "listening" to you, I can see I will need to order No.1 and Freedom's Land, and get No.3 on pre order. :) Loving genealogy as I do, I also have a book in the planning - one of many, of course - that draws on all my family history.
Enjoy your time in the UK. DH and I visited Wales and the south east last year. Compared to Oz, it's always so GREEN.

Beth Elliott said...

Thank you for sharing that with us, Anna. I love the way your imagination is developing the family links you feel were kept hidden. And you have such iron discipline with your writing. Cockroaches aside, do you ever make use of scary creatures in a plot?

Anna Jacobs said...

Susan, it's nice to know I'm not the only one to hate flying and cockroaches.Thank you for your kind words about The Trader's Wife. I'm still thrilled to bits that it's shortlisted for an award (Australian Romantic Book of the Year) but have to wait till August to find out who won.

Anna Jacobs said...

Noelene, The Trader's Wife is
#1 in the Traders series. I think it'll be four books long. Freedom's Land is a stand alone set in 1920s Australia to which I will definitely one day write a sequel, but not yet.

Beth, thanks for your kind words. I've only used scary creatures in my fantasy novels, written as Shannah Jay, now out again as ebooks.

One person's 'scary' is another person's enjoyment/fun.