Writer Wednesday Interview: Jane Lovering
Today I'm delighted to be welcoming Jane Lovering to my blog. Jane won the Romantic Novel of the Year award for her wonderful love story, 'Please Don't Stop the Music', and after I heard her talk to the Romantic Novelists' Association about her success, I managed to persuade her to answer some follow-up questions for me.
Humour in writing obviously comes naturally to you, but what advice would you give someone who’s not a naturally funny writer?
Firstly I would say, think very carefully about whether or not you want to write humour, because people expect you to live up to their expectations of being ‘a funny person’. If your natural bent is to be slightly depressive, you may have to cultivate a new persona when appearing in public (just remember, if you are old enough, how disappointed the public used to be in comedians like Tony Hancock, a depressive man but a funny performer – all right, he didn’t write his own material, but the comparison is valid here. Because I say so, all right?)
Don’t just decide you are going to write humour ‘because it sells’, particularly not what is pejoratively called ‘chick lit’. You must believe in what you’re writing, and if it isn’t truly what you feel and how you are, it won’t carry through in your writing.
If you are certain that you really want to write humour, then all I can suggest is that you read, read, read humorous fiction and remember that a sense of humour is subjective. What some people find funny will leave others absolutely cold, you really cannot please all of the people all of the time. I know, I’ve tried.
As well as being very funny, your stories are also often touching, dealing with wounded and imperfect characters finding healing through love. How would you sum up the philosophy, or message, behind your books?
Well, firstly, thank you for finding them funny! I’d probably say that my message would be ‘you don’t have to be perfect to find love’. Not perfect in body or mind, actually – I get a bit annoyed that, in some books, a huge point is made of the heroine’s attractiveness (even if she can’t see it herself) and the hero’s enormous...what I am, for the sake of decency, going to call ‘manliness’. I’ve always felt that this gives the readers the message that, if one isn’t a size 10, pert-nosed-and-breasted, flicky-haired vision of leggy loveliness, one has no business falling in love, particularly with a man who isn’t a billionaire doctor with an enormous....manliness.
You mentioned ‘Man Finds Cheese’ as an example of a headline that could have been more exciting. What headline would sum up your writing career so far?
‘Chaos - far more fun than knowing what you’re doing!’
Writers often advise writing about what you know, but I’m hoping you don’t know too many vampires. What kind of research did you do for ‘Vampire State of Mind’, and did it differ much from the research you do for your more real-world stories?
I do hate to disappoint, and I’d love to have loads of ‘research’ stories..but, in fact, I do none at all. Or, nearly none, anyway. Nothing more difficult than reading, really. I am so shockingly lazy.
Do you have a favourite hero and heroine from your books, and who would you like to see them played by in a film of the book?
I couldn’t really say that I have ‘favourites’ any more than I have favourite children. I suppose the ones that are most recent tend to be uppermost in my mind, and therefore easier to think about...err..I’m talking about heroes and heroines there, not children, but you knew that, right? And the most recent would be Holly and Kai from ‘Hubble Bubble’, but as to who would play them..eeek. Holly is very practical and caring, so someone like Jenna-Louise Coleman, possibly? And Ben Barnes, with a Welsh accent can be Kai. If he wants, you know, I’m not going to beg or anything...
You mentioned learning to type so that you could type up your stories. What else did you do to learn your craft, and what would you recommend for new writers (apart from cutting out every other chapter!)?
To learn to write I did what anyone must do, I read. Everything. Every genre, even those I thought were a bit...suspect, far-future murder mystery suspense romance with a horror twist, I am looking at you. So for anyone with any ambitions to write, first you must read. And get objective advice on your work by whatever means necessary – pay for it, join a writers’ group (but one that gives honest feedback, not one of those where everyone says everything is ‘lovely, dear’), find a buddy in the same position who will trade critique for critique. Absolutely never rely on your mother, your partner, or anyone who will die by your hand if they tell you your writing is rubbish. Sometimes everyone needs to hear that they’ve just written a stinky pile of pooh. Oh, but only if they have, obviously, not just because someone on Amazon has taken the hump.
Your Amazon biography mentions your fondness for words beginning with ‘b’, (including, presumably, ‘biography’). Do you have a favourite ‘b’-word? Or any other words you tend to overuse in your writing?
Bismuth, botulism, bombastic.... there’s something so lovely and positive about words that begin with ‘b’, isn’t there? None of this philandering about with soft sounds, it hits you right in the ears in the way it means to go on. You can really trust a word that begins with ‘b’, I think. And overused words? Oh, just. Just cannot stop using ‘just’. After I’ve written something, I go through and find all the occasions where I’ve used ‘just’ and take most of them out. And, do you know, you can’t even tell they were once there, that’s how useless the word is!
It’s so easy for writers to spend more time on social media than on writing. Which is your favourite online distraction – facebook, twitter, or something else? And where should we go to find out more about your books?
I’m a Facebook fan, not so much for Twitter, although I do tweet every so often, when I’ve had a really interesting quiche for lunch or something. I don’t get out much... Although my real, favourite, best way of wasting time...I mean, of social networking is the Fortean Times Message Board. It Happened To Me, in particular. I love those weird happenings, those little glitches in the matrix... And, if you really want to find out more about me, my books and other things like that, you can try Twitter, where I am @janelovering, or my blog, where you will find out more than you could ever want to know about big knickers, chickens, trout-lips and other things like that, at www.janelovering.co.uk. For my books, go to choc-lit.co.uk, where I, and my fellow Choc Liteers are to be found, loitering around running our fingers along the shelves to check for dust, that sort of thing.
You’ve said you wish the general public were aware that most writers aren’t earning megabucks like J.K.Rowling, but let’s suppose for a moment that the millions do start rolling in. What would be your first big purchase? (After the dog food, that is).
My car has started to make a strange grinding sound, which I fear may well signal the beginning of the end, so my first splash of the bucks would be on a new car. I fancy a convertible Mini, like the one I used to have in my younger days. All right, that one wasn’t so much convertible as had a roof that was largely rusted out, but, hey, I can afford it, right? So, yes, a new car. Brand new, so it didn’t have a previous owner’s strange smell in, and those mysterious stains on the seats you always get with old cars. Mmmm, new car smell....
Since you write for ChocLit, I have to ask, if you were a chocolate bar, which one would you be?
I’d like to think I’d be something dark and sophisticated, a 90% cocoa-solids bar of plain chocolate, single source, from somewhere like Nicaragua. All mysterious and complicated and multi-layered. Whereas in fact I’d probably be a Flake. Simple, goes to pieces at nothing, and covers everyone in the fallout. Also leaves you with mysterious stains...
And finally, what’s the most interesting question you’ve been asked in an interview, and what’s the question that you haven’t been asked but wish you had?
On the Romaniacs blog I was asked if I were a cheese, what kind of cheese would I be, which was interesting, although, given my blue veiny appearance and odd smell, fairly easy to answer.
And the question I’ve never been asked? ‘Why do you do it?'
I'll try to remember to ask you that one day, although I suspect everyone who writes has a pretty good idea of the answer.
Thanks, Jane. It's been a pleasure, as always, and I hope your writing continues to go from strength to strength. Roll on more bureaucratic vampires, say I!