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Jane Green: a Blast from the Past

Author Jane Green

Author Jane Green 

Once upon a time and several decades ago, perhaps even in a country far away, I was a web developer. In those days, I think you called us HTMLers or possibly web monkeys, maybe even new media people – you know those angsty people in black who smoked and bitched outside of some London pub about how slow people were to get on this thing we called “the web”. Sheesh, we didn’t spend all day hand coding those pages just so we were the only ones to look at them . . .

Anyhow, I was in my twenties living in London, wearing black, and working at what I can only describe (looking back at it), as an extremely wacky and creative new media house called Online Magic. Our first office was located in Kennington (not to be confused with Kensington), one stop from Elephant & Castle. We were all hipsters and oddly enough, surprisingly functional for a group of ambitious go getters fresh out of university. Even today, I still keep in touch with the majority of them through FB even though we’ve scattered to the four corners of the globe. But before I start to get super nostalgic and wax poetic about days of playing Quake and making desks, I’ll say that this is only meant to set the setting of what’s to come.

You see, anyone who’s lived and worked in London will tell you that you spend a lot of time on public transport. I mean A LOT. I didn’t live close enough to the OM offices to take a bus so more often than not I’d have to get the train to Waterloo, change for the Northern line (before the Jubilee extension) and make my way as best as possible to Kennington. That meant dallying in Waterloo station many a night waiting for that elusive Platform number to come up.

I’m not a patient person on the best of days so I would inevitably wander into the WH Smith’s kiosk under the pretense of buying a paper, but more often than not, perusing books that I had no business buying. This was in the days before Amazon where, God forbid, you paid full sticker price for a book. So on like £15K a year, books were a luxury that I couldn’t really afford when making a flat payment. That didn’t keep me from buying them, of course, and one of the first books I bought from WH Smith’s was Jane Green’s Jemima J.

Wow. I couldn’t get enough of Jane Green.

I think I literally bought every book she had through that kiosk, sort of stealth-like, but not really (you don’t get goth points for reading Jane Green). I was blown away, really. Here was something that had some of the elements of a romance, but had a fiesty yet realistically neurotic female protagonist. It wasn’t your grandma’s large print romance novels where some heroine’s pining away in the top of a god forsaken castle waiting for an overly aggressive Prince Charming. No way. This was a sassy modern working girl who had problems in love, which we all could relate to. Man, I ate that crap up.

And Jane’s success spawned a bunch of other authors to write books in the same vein, much like the ’90s version of Twilight. Between Helen Fielding and Jane Green, a whole slew of authors picked up on that best seller’s formula and ran with it and that’s how we ended up with the Chick Lit genre. (ed. – At least it’s not vampires, right?)

Well, recently Jane and I ended up being FB friends.* That’s kinda surreal in its own way, but what it ended up doing was making me very aware of how Jane’s early books had an impact on my psyche. I can even see that now as I try to make Poesy more accessible to a younger audience like I was when I first read Jane’s books, but hopefully not making her so neurotic that people can’t deal with her hang ups. It’s a fine line and I’m still learning. Trust me.

That aside, I wanted to take a moment to re-live my early Jane Green days and thank her in my own person way (through this blog) for keeping me entertained as I trudged through tube station after tube station and for making it okay to read romance again.

So Jane, thank you.

* It only takes one author friend in common to set off the whole six degrees of separation thing although sadly, Kevin Bacon is nowhere near this chain of events. I did go to UVa which may or may not count on that front.

 

Good news. Bad news.

Dear Friend/Reader/Fan:

I’ve got some good news and bad news.

The good news is that I’ve got one chapter to go and the Protector draft is finished. It’s taken longer than expected (as it normally does), but 8 1/2 months later and we’re finally there. Phew. It’s been a crazy ride, 2012.

Now for the bad news. I’ve decided to pull Watcher down and hold off on launching Protector. I don’t know if this is a good idea or not, but after getting feedback from my editor on Watcher, I think it needs to be done. My current plan is to go back to Watcher and do some major re-writes – and I mean major – some characters may even disappear forever. I have mixed feelings about this, but I think my editor is right on some points, which aren’t worth going into here.

It’s an easy mistake to make as a new author. Everything seems so precious even after you hack the crap out of your original 128,000 word manuscript. The lesson here is that I should’ve had an editor in place a long time ago. I accept that mistake and am now going to remedy it.

It also means that I’m likely to query for an agent. I think it’s the right thing for me to do because I never queried Watcher. I never sent out even one groveling email to any agent to represent me and I think that was also a mistake. I like to do everything myself and so I was over-confident in my abilities. It’s hard to be everything every day and keep your sanity. I get that now. Sometimes it makes sense to have a little help. Indie authors everywhere are probably screaming at me right about now, but I need to be a scab even if it’s just for six months of trying. I may query and have no luck or I might get fed up, who knows? What I do know is that there’s no point to putting out Protector until I resolve my issues with Watcher – for this, I apologize to all of you.

And I’m also trying to do this: http://clarionwest.org/workshop

Pretty scary stuff, and I don’t know if I have a shot or not. Writing under pressure and on things that I’m not necessarily comfortable with is a wee bit scary. Plus, I’m pretty stubborn – I like to finish things before I start a new project, hence, the reason I haven’t started on my new book idea, which is gnawing out my brain right now. I’m stuck in the Watcher world for better or worse until I see the ending come true. I want Poesy and Adam, and hell, all of the Paddy crew to have the closure they deserve. We’ve come so far already . . .

So that’s my news.

I’m still around if you wanna talk and no doubt you’ll be hearing from me via here as things progress.

shawnee

 

 

Is it Friday yet?

Yes, it is. Thank God. Well mostly. At least . . . Ugh. Okay, not really.

It is Friday, the very first Friday of the new year, which means it should be an auspicious start, right?

Well, it’s funny that. I’m getting mixed reviews on how people are faring the New Year and we’re only four days in. On one hand, I’ve got FB friends who have proliferated their Facebook pages with pictures of weird looking cats and sage wisdoms for the start of 2013, things like “Whatever you dreamed yesterday, you can dream tomorrow,” and “Start off the new year on the right track with these 10 organizational tips.” You get the drift. Pages of overflowing optimisim and niceness. On the other hand, I’ve realized I’m also friends with a large group of cynical pragmatists.  They’ve got things like, “The glass is half full. Who are you kidding?” or “2013: Why did the Mayans have to be wrong?” Yep. I’m telling you, these people make my day every day.

So why is today downer Friday? What’s in the air that makes some people so, you know, down?

The one thing you can say about the first week of a new year is that it makes people think. Hell, you can’t swing a dead cat around here without someone asking you what your new year’s resolutions are (ed. – please don’t swing cats, dead or otherwise). The ending of a year and the beginning of a new one is a time of reflection, of introspection, and some of us just don’t like what we see. Some people think about all the stuff they didn’t accomplish in 2012 or all the crap that came their way that they’re still dealing with. Others freak out completely and start wondering “What does it all mean and what’s it got to do with me?” I don’t know if it’s something particular to our age – most of my friends are in their 30s and 40s – or if it’s just part of the human condition to feel that little bit uneasy when a new year starts.

I like to think of it as performance anxiety. It’s not just a man’s problem. I think we all suffer from it even if it’s just a little tiny itsy weeny bit.

My personal case in point. As I finish Protector and start working with my new editor, I have this distinct feeling of discomfort that I didn’t do enough for Watcher. I stood by my guns that I wasn’t going to do any promotion on Watcher at all until I completed Protector. Why you may ask? Well, I had two very good reasons in my mind:

1) I would lose momentum as people waited around for Protector
2) What if I couldn’t write a second book?

Both are very real fears in my head. I guess I should say were now. Protector is just about finished, thank God, praise be to Allah, Mazel Tov, etc. . . But that aside, I’m lamenting the fact that I didn’t do something about Watcher reviews before now, that I didn’t plug into the PR machine. Now that I’m ramping up to Protector launch, I’m having to start on this now while I really should be enjoying my “honeymoon period” with my editor. I would be lying if I didn’t say it kinda sucks. Now I see why publicists get the big bucks cause frankly being a one man shop is like a time sucking vortex of the Dr. Who variety. No one has time to do everything (ed. – I can turn anything into a Dr. Who reference, trust me).

So back to the New Year, right?

I can see why people are stressed out. A new year means a new expectation plus all the old crap you were dealing with any way. Not that I want to end this blog post on a negative vibe – last thing I need is bad juju here. No, what I wanted to say is that it’s okay to be a stress monkey, it’s almost expected. If you’re not a little stressed out about another year going by then I’m not sure you’re doing it right.

And on that note:

Happy New Year and remember to breathe. It’s going to be a hell of a ride.

Real Life and Writing

I’m a day early on a blog post. I know, like anyone has any time to read anything so close to the holidays, but this thought has been stuck in my brain all week and I had to write about it somewhere.

So here it is:

It’s funny how real life can crop up in your writing. What I mean by that is that no writer is an island onto himself. Everything we experience, everything that moves us – both good and bad – has an effect on what we send out into the world in our books. I know that we all write the little blurb in the front of our novels that say “blah, blah, blah, purely fictional, blah, blah, not based on real people,” and that’s mostly true, but not 100%.

I had my own art-imitates-life-then-life-imitates-art moment this week.

I’ve been having a hell of a time getting the last couple of chapters of Protector finished this week. Nevermind that I have an editor deadline for January 7th. Oh no, I’m gonna be having some late nights between now and then. That aside, I experienced the same thing with Watcher so it’s not a new feeling. There’s something paralyzing and terrifying about tying up the loose ends into a pretty package (ed.- gratuitous holiday reference). I mean you’ve got almost 400 pages in and now all eyes are on you as resolve all the angst, the tensions, and of course, the murders. Plus for me, there’s always that chapter or two that happens right before the big reveal that has gaps – I mean seriously big holes where you think, “Where’s the plot to fill that?”

And so that sends me into a spiral of panic. For the most part.

But you know what? It’s also a magical moment. Some of the biggest “Uh uh, you didn’t!” moments came at the end of Watcher, which ties back into my original thought about real life.

At the end of Watcher, I was seriously addicted to Dr. Who, specifically the The Doctor and Rose timeline. That whole “Bad Wolf Bay” thing nearly killed me. I literally had tears in my eyes with that good bye scene. There have been few times that I have emoted in such a strong way to fiction. Even now, I think I was a wee bit silly with Dr. Who, but if I go back and re-watch it, I still get that feeling. It takes a lot for me to buy in, but when I do, I buy in big.

So as I enter the last phases of Protector, I find myself once again addicted to yet another televisual experience – this time in the guise of Sons of Anarchy.

Oh yes. Man, I am seriously hooked on this crazy show.

Bear with me for a minute here as I digress . . . I have a deep love for everything Russell T Davies. Not that Russell has anything to actually do with the SOA, but when I found out that little ol’ Geordie Charlie Hunnam was playing a biker boy in a US drama for FX, my intrigued was piqued. Any Brit or gay man for that matter will remember Charlie playing Nathan, a coming of age gay adolescent in Davies’ Queer as Folk. (Hell, I can’t get the images of his gay sex scene out of my head ever.) So how does a quintessential gay icon become a burly extremely heterosexual biker gangster?

Easier than you imagine for a Brit star who’s been trying to break out in the US. Wow.


Where’s Nathan?

Anyhow, the point is that I’m finding it having an influence on the ending of Protector. Just like Dr. Who did on the end of Watcher. All of a sudden plot holes are starting to fill, things are clicking into place, and I have a new love for men with facial hair, tattoos, and big Harleys. Thank you SOA for the inspiration.

I won’t say more because otherwise it’ll give away what’s brewing for Betrayer, Book 3, but you get my drift. Sometimes art imitates life or vice versa, but sometimes art imitates art, too, whether we’re conscious of it or not.

 

 

7 Months

Tomorrow, it will be exactly seven months since I started writing Protector, Book 2 of the Shining Ones series.

Wow.

Has it only been seven months? Yep, afraid so. What feels like an agonizing lifetime has in fact only been about the same length of time it’s taken me to get four hair cuts. Or to put 5,000 miles on my car. Or the same time it’s taken me to gain about 5 pounds.

I’d like to say that that sort of stuff puts it in perspective, but really it doesn’t. As I get older, time seems to speed up exponentially to my age. My husband tries to give me some sort of scientific explanation for this, but more often than not, I don’t understand it. Happily, it doesn’t change the facts.

Seven months.

Holy Moley. But in a good way.

Even though I had originally planned to finish Protector at the end of August, I can see now that that goal was highly unrealistic. After all, it had taken me over a year maybe even two to write the first book. I’m not 100% sure because I didn’t keep a developer/writer journal during that time. I’m just doing an estimate here. Still, even if I said eighteen months as a compromise, that means I’ve cut 50% out of my timeline.

Whoa. That’s pretty crazy. Imagine if I was a manufacturing plant making widgets. Would I get a bonus for the increase in production?

Anyhow, it’s a nice way to end a very bad week . . . seventeen chapters down and only a few more to go.