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AUTHOR VIP

Jane Porter

March 2016

 

WG:   Welcome and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.

JP:   I am a small town California girl and grew up in Visalia, which is near the base of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and just forty-five minutes from the entrance to Sequoia National Forest. I loved the simplicity of growing up in a small town where everyone knew you, giving you a sense of security. My dad taught history and poly sci at the local community college and served on the city council for eight years, including 2 stints as the mayor.

I lived overseas in Europe with my family while in 8th grade, and then spent another year in South Africa during high school, and spent more time studying overseas while in college (Japan and Ireland) so travel is in my blood. I have a thirst for adventure and change but always love coming home. I really like people but need tons of alone time and it took me years to understand that being introverted wasn't bad, its how I world build and create. Fortunately my three sons and husband all know "mom is kind of out there" and they know I'm a passionate, emotional, fierce creative and they let me be me.

My boys were all born and raised in Greater Seattle but we moved to Orange County August 2012 and now live near the beach in San Clemente. I was divorced at 40 and met a younger guy later that year that was a professional surfer. I fell for him hard and he inspired a book called "Flirting with Forty" which became a Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear. Ty and I got married a couple years back in Las Vega-married by Elvis no less-and we love our historic home near the beach filled with dogs and boys and surfboards and all my books. Life is messy and complicated and layered and rumbling with testosterone but I've discovered I'm a full on Alpha female so I can manage the chaos alright. (However, thank God, for my sense of humor and my ability to escape into fiction when reality is waaaaay too much!)


WG:   Let's talk about your own personal road to publication: Is there some individual, group or event that you can point to as the catalyst/impetus that set you on the road to becoming a writer?

JP:   Because both my parents were educators, I was an early reader and devoured everything I could get my hands on. Some of my favorite books when I was in first through fourth grade were the books by Louisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder. What I loved about Louisa and Laura was that while they wrote books for little girls, their stories featured aspiring writers, and they modeled literary success and provided a road map for me by creating a career out of their passion. I wanted the same thing, and since my father wrote in his free time, writing was something that 'real people' did.

My dad died at 43, when I was 15, but I'm very lucky that I had him as a role model. He encouraged me with my writing from the time I was young, going over my poems or stories and talking to me about my choices. He also found places for me to publish, and then after he was gone, my maternal grandmother, would share publishing opportunities that she came across. Looking back, it was definitely an advantage having a parent make writing seem like the most normal of activities, and having someone believe in you. It might be why I had such focus in the 14 years it took me to finally get my first sale. I wrote over 13 rejected manuscripts and it's a long time to be rejected-nearly a decade and a half-but I couldn't quit.


WG:   Tell us about your journey.

JP:   I wrote my first story in pre-school. I was four or five and I've written stories ever since. I loved romance and I was reading it through middle school and high school (Kathleen Woodiwiss, Danielle Steele, Barbara Cartland and then all those amazing Harlequin romances.) By the time I left for college I was already trying to write my first Harlequin romance, and then targeted Silhouette and Loveswept, too. It took nearly fifteen years and many, many rejection letters to sell my first book. Definitely grueling.


WG:   How many books did you complete before you sold your first? Have all/any of them sold since?

JP:   I had over thirteen rejected manuscripts before I finally sold my first book to the Harlequin Mills & Boon office in London in January 2000. Only 1 of those rejected 13 books has been published, and that one book was a medieval (nearly 900 pages!) and under a different name since it's not how I write now and I didn't want to confuse my brand.


WG:   Can you tell us something about your experience in getting 'the call'?

JP:   I remember I'd checked my emails on January 20th, around 7 am that morning and when I saw the note from the HM&B office saying they were interested in buying my first Harlequin Presents, THE ITALIAN GROOM. I remember that I screamed and fell to my knees. I remember the sheer amazement and intense joy that washed over me. It was a moment out of time. I hadn't even thought about coffee yet, or even dressed or started to think about my day. The news from Tessa Shapcott wasn't just a dream come true; it was the answer to 15 years work. I was over the moon. Literally. That first sale changed me. It validated me in a way nothing else ever had.


WG:   How has being a published author impacted your life?

JP:   It's changed everything about me. It gave me a massive boost in confidence. It made me respect myself. I didn't give up-despite it being a very, very difficult journey-and there were times I was pretty close to heartbroken when I thought I had a first sale, and then the editor abruptly left and the next editor cleared the former editor's desk and both books came flying back to me. But I learned to take hits, and I learned to get up, and I learned to grow a thick skin, and I learned not to take everything personally, and I learned to yield, and/or push, and to be patient, and to be fierce. Publishing made me the woman I am-a woman I am really proud of being.


WG:   What aspect of life as a 'published author' surprised you the most - either in a good or bad way?

JP:   How hard it is after the first sale. I thought once you got the book out there, it'd become easier, the battle was won. Ha! The battle was just starting.

I know now that every book can be challenging, and that some books come together neatly and others you chisel from stone, word by word, hurting the whole way through. And outside of craft, is the business. I have such respect for 'career authors', writers that have weathered decades and a changing industry and are still writing. The business can be physically and emotionally grueling, so it's important to remember it's a business---have goals, be focused, make a plan,

After 50 books, I know, too, it's not just a question of coming up with a new plot and story and getting it written to the end. I have to have a marketing plan, and be comfortable with social media, and balance time and energy so I'm protecting the writing time but still good for my family.


WG:   What about your writing process? Do you maintain a set schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?

JP:   I write pretty much Monday-Friday, half days when I just start a book, because I pace and fuss so much over finding the right way to start a story, and all day/all night the last two-three weeks before a book is due. But I do work almost every day and a typical day consists of business writing and emails in morning, work out at noon, and then while I'm out I'll find a Starbucks café and write for a couple hours until I go home and become a mom again.


WG:   Do you set writing goals for yourself?

JP:   I have career goals, and book goals. I usually write 3-5 books a year, and one of those is often a women's fiction novel and the rest are romances. I try to write 8-10 pages a day, every day M-F, but some days the words flow better than others, and some days are revising and editing and brainstorming a better way to handle a scene or start a story. I'd love to be a calm, methodical writer but I'm not. Towards the end of the book I do "crazy writing", but it works. I get immersed in the story and the characters take over and I become a stage hand on the side of the set watching the play unfold, so those days I write 12-16 hours, but the rest of the time, I try to wrap up when my 6 year old comes home from school.


WG:   Do you have a 'mood setter', something (music, ritual, environment, etc) you use to get you going when you sit down to write?

JP:   I am really into Brain.fm right now for focus. It's been a huge boon to focus and motivation, and it seems to de-stress the process, so I don't feel as if I am having as hard as I might otherwise. I also write to music, and frequently compile a playlist that suits my mood and the tone of my current work in progress. My daily ritual is making a hot green tea, light a delicious Mango or vanilla candle, plug in the pretty pink fairy lights on my desk for a warm glow, put on my headphones, and turn on Brain.fm or my music, and get busy.


WG:   Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?

JP:   I'm not a huge outliner. I have a strong idea-conflict, characters, motivation, and what I think is a good launch point, along with a few key turning points-and start. But I always think I know more than I do and have to back off the story and do more plotting and sorting through motivation before returning to the scene/chapter.


WG:   Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?

JP:   Characters totally drive the story, and sometimes the characters come to me in the story/conflict and it's all a good fit. Other times I have to finesse one of the characters and figure out why he or she isn't showing up on the page the way I'd expected. My characters become very real to me. They feel like friends, people I live with and know intimately. I have conversations with them-or more accurately, they have conversations with me. While I'm writing a book I never feel alone as the characters are living in me, just waiting until I start writing again to finish getting their story told. I worry about some of them…know there are characters who desperately need a good, happy ending and I'm anxious to give it to them, anxious for them to have some resolution…in their lives as well as mine!


WG:   Do you find certain themes or character archetypes making recurring appearances in your stories?

JP:   It depends if its romance or women's fiction, but almost always I love writing stories with themes of grace, redemption, and second chances.

I also love in romance what I call "the Jane Porter fairy tale"---a story about an ordinary woman, who is at the same time a very good woman, who hasn't had the happy ever after and I want to give her a fairy tale. I want to give her everything she deserves.

In terms of women's fiction, I love writing stories where the good girl has to find herself, and own herself, and become stronger and braver and discover that she is the princess already...she doesn't need a man to make her a princess, but that her worth is already there.

All my stories have a theme of acceptance and empowerment. Maybe it's because I didn't realize until my mid to late 30's that always trying to be a nice girl or a good girl had hurt me in some ways. By trying so hard to please others, I'd given away my 'power', somehow thinking that others would make me complete and that the same others would have better answers than the ones I came up with myself. I was wrong, of course. No one knows what we should do but us. No one can tell us what to do, either. It is a matter of trusting yourself, listening to your gut, and maybe not taking the easy path, but the right path, whatever that the right path might be. I love to try and get that message across in my stories. Women empower women.


WG:   What do you see as your own personal strengths as a writer?

JP:   I'm inspired by real people and everyday situations. I love to take just a slice of what I read or come across and spin a new story around that situation or person. I thrive on asking 'What If'? The act of creating, as well as answering questions could be one of the best things to keep me going. I am always asking myself, "what if….?" Those what ifs become books and the books I write help me understand life. It's like being a poet and a scientist all rolled into one!


WG:   Are there any obstacles/conflicts, specific to your particular lifestyle, that get in the way of your writing? If so, how do you try and overcome them?

JP:   I think it would be family time. It's a continued struggle because the same part of me that wants to be a good mom and wife wants to also be a great writer and business woman. It's hard sometimes when both sides of me need attention and there's only so many hours in a day. But working isn't a death sentence. It's a gift and a challenge. That's a part of the magic that helps me be a writer and pushes me to strive to be a good mother and wife. And each side brings great rewards too - a wonderful email from a reader who loved my story or a tight hug and cuddle from my boys who love to have me around and participating in their daily schedule. The lack of leisure time makes it all the more sweeter and a good sense of humor helps get it all done.


WG:   Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your process?

JP:   When I first started out, I was writing most of my books in 6-8 weeks. I'd agonize for 4 weeks wondering what in God's-name-am-I-going-to-say-this-time, and then dive in. Now that I'm in my early 50's I need more time. My hands don't like pounding away at the keyboard as long so I shoot for 2,000 words a day, and more downtime between books. My oldest son is almost 21, the next one is 17, and my youngest son is 6. I do need long breaks after I turn in a book just to cuddle with the little guy. I miss him so much when I'm on deadline and love my long weekends and evenings when I can just sit and read and play with him. I am not as fast writer as I once was. I struggle more. I pace more. And panic (even after 50 books). But I don't give up. I just keep sitting back down and forcing myself to get the words out, and eventually the words do come. The key is to just hang in there and not give up.


WG:   Do you have a favorite sub-genre as a writer? as a reader?

JP:   Historical Romances! I love, love, love to read historical romance. I'm a huge fan girl of authors like Mary Balogh, Loretta Chase, Lorraine Heath, Joanna Bourne, Georgette Heyer, Elizabeth Hoyt, and more. Those are the stories I stockpile for vacation reading or just when I need to unwind. Nothing 'takes me away' as quickly or as beautifully as a historical romance by a wonderful author.


WG:   Is there a genre you haven't been published in yet that you'd like to try your hand at someday?

JP:   I have given some thought to possibly writing YA / fantasy but it's an idea that's still percolating!


WG:   Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?

JP:   Don't give up. Don't accept defeat. Keep writing and keep learning the craft. Apply it to what you're writing. Writing is a muscle and the more you use it, the better you'll get. It takes time to learn to write well so don't be discouraged easily. Writing is really not for the faint of heart. You've got to have patience and perseverance and at times, a thick skin. But if you hang in there, you'll achieve your dreams one day. Anything is possible if we keep trying.


WG:   Is there a specific 'ah-ha' moment you've had as a writer that you would like to share with us?

JP:   I know what my readers want from me. I want to do what I know I do best, and that readers turn to me for. I don't try to follow trends or grab an audience or market that isn't mine. So my aha moment is really that I'd rather have less of the market, and be 100% me, then try to please too many people and dilute who I am and what I do best.


WG:   Rejections, less than stellar reviews and notes from unhappy readers are all part of this business. What is your own method for dealing with these and moving on?

JP:   Before I got my first sale, in those years where I was very close to selling but couldn't quite get that first manuscript bought, I took rejection really hard because I was getting worn down. I'd spent over 10 years writing and being rejected, but developing tenacity in those 14 years of rejections helped prepare me for publishing realities, and then growing thick skin as a newbie author helped handle the roller coaster industry. I also focus on what I do best and know that I am not trying to have anyone's career but mine, and that I don't want to be anyone but me. I focus on my goals, my vision, my themes and being as authentic a writer and woman as I can possibly be. I write the themes I live by...and I cherish my readers who are real authentic women, too. The greatest joy of my career is forming a community with women and being part of this community of like-minded "book girls".


WG:   Is there some piece of advice you received or bit of 'conventional wisdom' that you wish you had ignored?

JP:   I don't think so. I think I am good at what I do now because I didn't have an easy path to publishing. I had to work very very hard and I took a ton of criticism and learned that I don't write for the naysayers, I wrote for those that love my voice and themes. I am not supposed to please every reader. I am supposed to please my fans.


WG:   What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a writer? What aspect do you struggle with the most?

JP:   The hardest part for me is sitting still, and alone, day after day after day when I want to be spending time with my family or having coffee with a friend. I do get lonely at times and feel isolated, but a lot of that is self-imposed. I can't write if I'm running around being social. And the easiest part of being a writer? The ideas. I used to struggle with ideas and yet maybe because I'm writing so much now, I've built up the idea muscle, because I keep getting ideas of stories I want to write and I've file folders filled with scraps and pictures and articles for my "next" book.


WG:   When you're not writing, what do you do for fun or what is your favorite self-indulgence?

JP:   Travel and reading. I love to travel and read. I also love anything to do with my boys, especially my youngest--movies, sports, school plays and other such activities. I know being a mom isn't supposed to be a hobby but it's wonderful to escape from the intense writing world in my head and just wrestle with him and hug them and laugh and sit around to watch some TV.


WG:   When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

JP:   A princess, a ballerina, a warrior… but really, I've been writing for as long as I remember. I wrote my first story in Kindergarten, my first illustrated book in second grade, and my first novel in fourth grade. My dad was a writer, too, so I just think it's in my blood. I knew I wanted to write romance back in my teens!


WG:   What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?

JP:   That I have a great sense of humor, and I love comedy and love to laugh. I also like to talk about myself (the author) in 3rd person, and say "Jane Porter needs this" or "Jane Porter believes..." and my close writer friends always look at me sideways and go um, Jane....hello...and that makes me laugh.


WG:   What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?

JP:   I love singing and dancing reality shows, (American Idol, The Voice, So You Think You Can Dance, etc.) and I also love musicals. I love to feel, and really embrace stories-both books and movies---that take me on an emotional journey and leave me feeling exhilarated. Maybe that's why I prefer romance over fiction...romance in my mind is far more exhilarating.


WG:   I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share. (Feel free to expound (or not) on what it means to you and/or why you selected this particular quote)

JP:   I live by Corinthians: "love is patient, love is kind". But also this one really resonated within me: "love never fails". Bi-polar runs in my family and I have two close family members with it and I've learned to be fierce about love, and to commit to a very present honest love, that is forgiving and understanding and supportive. People are not perfect. People need love that is patient, kind and yet strong.

But I'm also a little firecracker so I personally also live by, "Life is short, live hard." Maybe it's because my dad died so young, but I believe we can't put off our dreams until tomorrow. We have to start reaching for them today.


WG:   Please tell us about your current project. (Brief overview, when available, any tidbits about your inspiration or interesting behind-the-scenes notes you care to share)

JP:   I am wrapping up a Harlequin Presents-classic fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast kind of story-which is very much my thing and then writing the 6th and final Taming of the Sheenan story, The Lost Sheenan's Bride, which is for Tule's Montana Born imprint.


WG:   Tell us about your upcoming plans. (your next work(s), whether you are contracted for more, when the next one might be released, etc.)

JP:   I have a film project in the works (can't say too much about yet but hopeful I can share more details soon!) which is really exciting and then I am starting a new series for Montana Born that launches this Christmas with a historical holiday story that gives a saga like feel to the new contemporary series.


WG:   And before we close, tell us how readers can get in touch with you.

JP:   Through my website, www.janeporter.com, my email addy, jane@janeporter.com, on Facebook, or Twitter.


WG:   Thanks so much for spending time with me and my readers this month. It was fun 'chatting' with you, as always!

 

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