Sunday, May 20, 2012

Interview with Cross-Genre Author Extraordinaire, Jane Toombs!

Bio: Jane Toombs, her Viking from the past and their calico grandcat, Kinko, live across the road from Lake Superior in Michigan's beautiful Upper Peninsula wilderness. Jane's writing her eightieth-something book , already promised to a publisher, and hopes to reach one hundred. Though she writes in most genres, her favorite is paranormal. Website:

The Interview:

GRACIE: I’m excited to have you here at The G-Spot, Jane! Please tell us a little about yourself (or a lot J) and how and when you got into writing?

JANE:  I’m happy to be here at the G-spot.  I was born in California, but my mother brought me back to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula wilderness when I was nine months old. Since I was conceived here, though, that makes me a genuine Yooper.  My father was published as a non-fiction writer and critiqued all my early efforts at fiction, always first telling me what I’d written was good before showing me ways it could be improved.  I’ve always tried to critique other writers in the same way because it worked so well for me.  Spent a year at Michigan State before joining the Cadet Nurse Corps when I was 17 ½.   Did what many nurses do, married a doctor after I got my RN. We had five children before the writing bug came back and bit me permanently.  He was so threatened by my writing that we finally divorced. I was certain I was off men forever, but I met a guy in a writing class and we finally married, adding his two children to my five.   Just after that I sold my first book, Tule Witch, to Avon. He sold his first one, also a gothic like mine shortly after that.  We had the same agent and sold quite a few books before he died.  Then I met—or to be exact, remet—a guy I‘d gone all through school with.  Eventually we got together and have been with each other for going on eighteen years now as Life Partners, spending the last twelve of them back in our old home town. All though this I’ve been writing and he thinks that’s just great. 

GRACIE: With over eighty books published you are, to say the least, a prolific author. How do you account for your output and longevity in such an unpredictable industry as publishing?

JANE: I wrote for the NY pubs for a long time, but had to tailor my Harlequin books to what they felt readers wanted.  Since I tend to add paranormal elements to stories, that was difficult for me, because the rule at that time was no paranormal—so I had to take even the hint out..  Remember these were the days before paranormal found its own niche.  So when electronic books first began I leaped on the bandwagon, while still writing for Harlequin and Kensington.  But finally gave that up, writing just for epubs now.   

GRACIE: Is there any one thing or person in your life that inspired your writing? Any one thing or person that influenced the genres you write in?

JANE:  My father was my main influence, but so were the books I read as a child, mostly E. A. Poe. 

GRACIE: When did you get The Call and what was your first published book?

JANE:  I had recently gone through that divorce and finally remarried when the call came in.  My agent had sold my first gothic, Tule Witch to Avon—actually the first novel I’d ever finished.  There was no one at home but I could hear the thump of a basketball out back and raced out there. Mikel, my stepson, was shooting baskets.  He’d been very reserved toward me but I was so excited I hugged him, shouting in his ear that I’d sold a book!  He stiffened, but finally hugged me back and told me ‘That’s great!”  Selling that book markedly improved our relationship.

GRACIE: What do you know now about writing and the publishing industry that you wish you’d known before you started?

JANE: I learned that just like any enterprise they're out to make a profit and so they want selling authors. This sometimes gives an author problems, because publishers also firmly believe they know what sells books and this may conflict with what the author is writing.

GRACIE: Please, give us a little story behind the story and what inspired your California saga, Golden Chances books.

JANE: I come from a Scottish background and was horrified when I found out that in the old days over there a bastard was not allowed to own land, which meant he couldn’t own a house either.  Many years later living in California, I learned during the gold rush, the US government slowly rid itself of the Californios and acquired  their large ranchos.  Because this sort of reminded me of Scotland’s one-time attitude toward bastards,  I made my protagonist  a Scottish immigrant who was a bastard and would do anything to acquire land. I gave him second sight as well.  Diarmid Burwash lived at the right time and was in the right place to acquire the land he craved. Land he would do anything to own.  But as I wrote the book it became a saga so massive it was too long for even a historical novel.  But then ebooks came along .  Books We Love Ltd. had already made two ebooks from one of my rights-back historicals, splitting it into two parts because it was too long. The Golden Chances saga  was even longer.  We had the bright idea of dividing it into seven novellas and the book actually split up this way almost like magic. Readers seem to like this idea as well.

GRACIE: You write in so many different genres and sub-genres—from romance, to mystery, to fantasy and horror—and under several different pseudonyms, slipping seamlessly from one category of fiction to the next. How do you keep everything straight without succumbing to multiple personality disorder J?

JANE: Well I think all authors are a bit crazy. Why else would we write books that we have no idea will ever sell or readers read?

GRACIE: Good point! Of all the stories you’ve written, which is your favorite and why?

JANE: Under The Shadow, the first book of my MOONRUNNER TRILOGY.  The character of Sergei and what happened to him utterly fascinated me.  The fact that for years he didn’t know who he was--or worse, what he was--and yet managed to stay alive made me marvel. 

GRACIE: I know this is like asking a mother which is her favorite child, and you do have so many to chose from, but which of your characters is your favorite and why?

JANE: Again, that would be Sergei.  He was an extremely complex character who was really tortured by what he was.

GRACIE: What about your characters makes them unique?

JANE: What they reveal to me as I write about them.  I don’t know everything abut a character when I first begin a book.  I have a general conception, yes, but as I keep writing I learn more and more about him or her as I go on.  They often surprise me.

GRACIE: What is your favorite aspect of the writing process? Your least favorite?

JANE: Writing a synopsis is easy and I enjoy doing them.  But writing the story itself is much harder, especially when I find I have to repeatedly depart in places from the synopsis., which often occurs.   

GRACIE: Are you a pantser or do you outline?

JANE:  I simply set down and wrote my first two gothics, which both sold.  The third gothic did not. Revision didn’t help.  I was still struggling with it when my agent called and asked if I wanted to do a partial--three chapters and a synopsis for a packager who need a Sagittarius gothic for his Zodiac Series.   I asked what a synopsis was.  He told me   Write the story in a very short form?  I thought I could do that, so I said yes.   So I wrote my first synopsis and the three chapters. Not long after he called and said the packager was going to contract on the partial.  Up until then I thought you had to write an entire book to make a sale.   So this synopsis stuff sounded really good to me.  I sold several more books on partials and began to realize how helpful the synopsis was in writing the rest of the book.  So I became  a dedicated plotter. Only my first two books were pantser-written.  At some point I took that third never-sold book and tried to write a synopsis from it.  What I discovered was it wandered all over the place.  A coherent synopsis solved that problem and the book sold.  Now I never attempt a book without first doing a synopsis.

GRACIE: If you weren’t a writer, what other profession would you have chosen to pursue?

JANE:  Actually For a long time as a nurse and busy mother, I didn’t write.  But finally the characters in my head forced me into writing about them in my meager spare time.

GRACIE: Who are some of your favorite authors and why? Name some of your favorite books and why they’re your favorites.

JANE: At the moment my two favorite characters are Lee Child’s Reacher and James Connally’s Harry Bosch.  Reacher and Bosch are nothing alike except for being the best at what they do.  This appeals to me, plus the brilliance of the two writers in keeping these characters always interesting is certainly a part of it. 

GRACIE: What are you working on now and what should readers be looking forward to from you in the future?

JANE: I’m fascinated with paranormal so most of my current books have paranormal added to suspense romance.  In 2009 I made a New Year’s resolution that I was not allowed to create any more series until I finished the first book in every series I’d ever outlined and thought still viable.  The count came to ten.  Okay, I started off with the Darkness Of Dragons Trilogy.  The first book sold immediately and then the epub wanted the other two as fast as I could write them.  I hadn’t foreseen this, so that slowed me down.  Currently I‘m up to the fourth and last book, Stranger On The Shore of  my Dangerous Darkness Series, have written the first book of The Dagon House Trilogy, Taken In.   Also a publisher has taken my Raffin Family Series, but I haven’t yet finished the first book.  And the reason I haven’t yet finished it is because I’m busy writing Uncanny, the third book in my Underworld Series.   I also have yet to finish the last book, Forever, of my Temple Of Time Series.  Yikes--I’ll never finish them all…

GRACIE: Do you have a website and/or how can readers contact you?

JANE: Buy links for all my books are available there.  Most are also on Amazon.

GRACIE: Where and how can readers purchase and/or read samples of your work?

JANE:  Amazon often has one or another of my ebooks free.  My website has excerpts of all my recent books.

GRACIE: What advice do you have for beginning writers?

JANE: Believe in yourself and finish everything you begin to write.  Every time you finish a work, you learn something about writing.  Find a good critique group or partner.   Never be crushed by someone trashing your work--that person is not interested in helping you.   Whoever that person is, he or she is a bad critic.  A good critic can find something to like in almost anyone’s writing, and will try to  point out ways to improve it. 

GRACIE: Anything else about yourself or your writing you’d like to share with your readers?

JANE: Writing is hard work and takes dedication.  All good writers know better than to believe a best seller can be dashed off in a couple of weeks.  Or even months. Work hard to finish everything you write no matter how long it takes you. 

GRACIE: Jane, thanks so much for taking time from your busy schedule to share yourself and your work with us at The G-Spot and giving us a little insight into your writing and the writing process! We’ll let you get back to writing those wonderful books you write! All the best!


Mary Corrales said...

Wonderful interview, ladies. I love the paranormal genre. It's the most fun both to read and write.

Jane, do you forsee Dragon stories to be the new paranormal trend?

Thanks for your time.

Sydell Voeller said...

Congratulations, Jane, for all your publishing successes! (From one former nurse-mother to another...)