Friday, June 17, 2016

Bestselling author Anna Jacobs on her writing career and the release of her 75th novel

We are absolutely delighted to welcome author Anna Jacobs to the RNA blog today and to join her in celebrating the release of her 75th novel.

First of all, Anna, congratulations! What an awe-inspiring achievement. Please could you tell us a little about your first ever novel? What year was it published?
Persons of Rank was published in 1992 by Random House Australia, after winning a $10,000 prize in a big Australian writing competition. It’s a regency romance, because at that stage I was trying to write like Georgette Heyer, my favourite novelist. I’m still very proud of the book, but I only ever wrote two regency romances, because I found my own voice and style

Have you always wanted to be a writer? And did you have an occupation before you turned to full-time writing?
I wanted to be a novelist from the age of 10 when I figured out that someone had a job writing the stories I loved. I’d call myself a storyteller more than anything else these days. I was a teacher, lecturer and equal opportunity officer before I became a full-time novelist.

What are the biggest changes in publishing that you’ve seen since your first novel was published?
The Internet, of course. It wasn’t even around in 1992, well it was but not in high focus, so I never noticed. I don’t know how we’d manage without it now. One big impact is that it’s helped reduce the loneliness for authors because they can get on line and ‘talk’ to other authors in a variety of ways. For an author as isolated as I am – Western Australia is far away even from the rest of Australia! – it’s a lifesaver. Other changes are the number of books published annually, fewer publishers, ebooks, more independence for authors to self publish if they wish, so many things.

You have published under two names. Please could you tell us about your alter ego, Shannah Jay, who writes fantasy and sci fi?
I’m not writing as Shannah Jay these days and haven’t for a good many years, though I’ve self-published my backlist and there is a film option that’s just been renewed on one Shannah Jay book (Envoy). I cross my fingers and toes every time I think about it. LOL. I don’t do any PR for Shannah Jay these days. I’m flat out busy with Anna Jacobs.

Do you find there is one particular theme that you are fond of developing in your novels?
I like to write about people, especially women, overcoming adversity - in both my historical novels and my modern stories. In the modern tales I like to focus on older women making a new start in life, as indeed I did myself when I turned into a novelist - my first novel was published when I was 51. And I’m very fond of featuring large old houses, again in both types of novel. Houses can have such a huge influence on the lives of the people who live in them.

Many writers get asked this question, but after 75 novels we’re even more intrigued to know…where do you get your ideas??
I only have to go out among people to get ideas – or watch the TV – or read research books – or dream. There are ideas everywhere for people with a ‘what if’ attitude to life and a keen interest in their fellow human beings. I have a long list of story ideas noted down for future use. I just hope I live long enough to use them!

Whereabouts do you live? And is there any particular place you’ve lived – or that you love to visit – that you most enjoy using as a setting?
We live half the year in Western Australia and half in the UK, which makes life complicated but enriches it greatly, as we love both countries. I’m published in the UK, so it’s important to come here and touch base with my editors and agent. I particularly love to write about Lancashire where I was born and whose history is amazing. Since we bought our UK house in Wiltshire, I’ve been researching that beautiful county and using my part of it in some stories. But my favourite place of all is ‘the tops’ ie the moors  between Lancashire and Yorkshire. When I talk about ‘the border country’ I’m not talking about Scotland!

How do you spend your spare time when not writing?
With my lovely husband mostly. We’ve been married for 53 years and haven’t run out of conversation yet! We watch TV together and we’re both interested in history and big picture analysis of the world and cultures around us. We like to be with our family as well, two grown-up daughters and one grandson in Australia and siblings in the UK. My husband does have another love – golf! And I read a lot for pleasure, usually 3 novels a week.

What is your favourite romance novel of all time?
I don’t just have one after all the reading I’ve done. I love Heyer’s ‘Friday’s Child’, Nora Roberts’ ‘Born in Fire’ and Anne McCaffrey’s ‘Restoree’, probably the first SF romance ever. Heyer taught me so much about vivid minor characters, Roberts about pace and Anne McCaffrey about letting your imagination fly.

What’s your next writing project?
I write at least three novels a year, so there’s always something on the go. I’m currently writing the second book in a new series which hasn’t debuted yet. The Ellindale stories are set in the Lancashire Pennines and they’re loosely linked to the Rivenshaw series. The latter is set just after WW2, and the Ellindale stories are set from 1930 onwards. Book 1, One Quiet Woman, comes out later next year. You know how far ahead we work in the publishing industry. The final book of the Rivenshaw series (Gifts For Our Time) doesn’t come out till January 2017. It’s a wonder we writers manage to hold things together in our heads, we are so often to-ing and fro-ing between stories to edit or proof read or (bliss!) simply to tell a new tale.

Thanks so much for dropping in to answer our questions, Anna. Your writing career is an inspiration for many of us. We wish you all the best with your seventy-sixth novel!

It’s already written, and I’m working on the 79th at the moment.

A Time to Rejoice, Anna’s latest novel, is the third in the four-part Rivenshaw series, set mainly in Lancashire just after World War 2. Francis Brady is working day and night to salvage what he can from his bombed home in Hertfordshire before joining war-time friends as chief electrician in their new dream building firm in Lancashire.
But things are not going to plan: his chief partner, Mayne, isn't answering any of his letters and Francis' wife is having a change of heart about moving up north, while her parents seem set on destroying his reputation and marriage. Francis doesn’t want to break up with Diana, but how can he turn down the opportunity for a new life?
Meanwhile in Rivenshaw, newly married Mayne and Judith's plans to convert Esherwood house into flats have come to an abrupt halt. While clearing out the house in readiness for the rebuild, they've discovered that someone has been stealing valuables and hiding them in the old Nissen hut. Are they planning to return for them? And a gruesome discovery brings in the military police, causing further delays

Buy link

About Anna Jacobs
Anna Jacobs has had 75 novels published, plus short stories, poems and articles. She lives in both Western Australia and England, and produces powerfully written modern and historical novels that span the world. Her readers most commonly tell her that they can’t put down her novels! She doesn’t mind at all.

Anna is the fifth most borrowed author of adult fiction in the UK library service in 2014-15 and is equally popular in Australia.

You can find Anna on Facebook and on her website

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wannabe a writer said...

What a fantastic insight into such a prolific writer's life. Thank you!

Natalie Kleinman said...

Inspirational, Anna. You make it sound as if you take the whole thing in your stride, as if it's a walk in the park, and we all know it isn't that. A book doesn't write itself and to have been so prolific you are obviously dedicated to your craft. Thank you

Rosemary Morris said...


I'm one of your many fans, and like you, as well as writing, reading three novels a week and historical non fiction for research, I wanted to write like one of my favourite authors, Georgette Heyer. I'm not a prolific writer like you - how do you manage to write so much? - but at least I'm published. So many people have dreams and both of us are very fortunate to be published, although my achievements don't match yours.

All the best,
Rosemary Rach,
Writing as Rosemry Morris

Julie Stock said...

Goodness, what an inspiration! I self-published my first novel last year at the grand old age of 50 and this interview has given me hope that I might one day achieve what Anna has too. Thank you for the boost and I hope you write many more books.

lilacinfotech said...

Good to read. Thanks for sharing

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