Please don’t stop the writing
Monday 23 July 2012 ~ Romance Matters
Jane Lovering is a regular mum. She gets the kids off to school, walks the two dogs on the North York Moors and five mornings a week goes to work in a local school as a biology research technician. Then she sorts the kids out when they come home from school, organises the evening meal, feeds the four cats and five hens and gives the dogs another work out. What sets Jane apart from most regular mums, however, is that every afternoon, she settles down on her bed with her lap top and writes award-winning novels.
But Jane’s story is a lesson in persistence, for it has taken twenty-five years of constant writing to achieve her seeming ‘overnight success’!
‘I’ve written all my life only stopping when the kids were small – I was a single mum with five kids under the age of ten. But when the youngest started school I wrote my first novel. It wasn’t very good but it proved to me I could actually write a full length book.’ She then charged herself to submit some piece of writing, such as a letter to a newspaper or a poem, every month. ‘I can’t not write or I get twitchy.’ And she did show promise even then, coming runner up in several competitions.
Once the children were able to look after themselves Jane travelled one day a week to Hull University where she gained a first class degree in Creative Writing. There she met Steve Wade, who recommended she join the RNA, and Cathy Wade (Kate Walker) who persuaded her to attend her first conference in 2005. ‘People in the RNA have been wonderfully supportive. They have been so friendly and have helped me over difficult times, like when my husband suddenly announced he was leaving.’
It was in 2006 that Samhain published Jane’s first saleable novel, Reversing over Liberace. in e- and paperback format. They published her second novel too, Slightly Foxed. But they rejected her third submission, Please Don’t Stop the Music. So did every other publisher it was submitted to. Then, thanks to the suggestion of her determined agent, writer and RNA member Kate Allen, she submitted it to Choc Lit – ‘and they rejected it too, because it was written in the first person and didn’t have a male point of view.’ But Jane found a way of changing that, and it was finally accepted for publication. ‘The rest, as they say, is history.’
Jane is philosophical about all the rejections. ‘It’s a very subjective business and you have to understand it just means it wasn’t right for that person on that day. Getting published is really a lesson in persistence with a certain element of luck. And of course if you write any form of comedy they have to like your sense of humour as well.’ Jane likes to look at reviews and tries to learn from what others have to say about her work. ‘If they all say the same thing, it’s time to do something about it.’
So, are her books ‘rom com’? ‘No, I classify them as “dark psychological romance with jokes”. Humour is often our way of dealing with dark and difficult subjects. I write about people and their reactions and the comedy comes from my observational style of humour, rather like a stand-up comic.’
Jane is also on this year’s short list for the Melissa Nathan prize for comedy fiction. ‘I have to feel my characters are real – so they appear with all their imperfections. After all, short-sighted men deserve love too. But the heroine needs to be a bit like me because I’m imperfect and I need the hero to fall in love with me.’
Jane has a vernacular writing style that ‘sounds like me speaking’. She wrote TV scripts with a collaborator for Thames TV and found the script-writing training invaluable. ‘But they lost their franchise before any of our scripts could be broadcast.’ However, Jane recommends all writers sharpen their dialogue by listening carefully to how people speak.
The awards day was a memorable one for Jane. Not only did she win the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year award but one of her daughters celebrated her 16th birthday and, as she travelled into London, Jane heard she had become a grandmother for the first time, to baby Phoenix. So what does the family make of her success? ‘I think they are quietly proud, though none of the children read my books, they don’t have enough life experience to understand repeated romantic disappointment.’
Her next book, the first of a paranormal trilogy, Vampire State of Mind, in which she ‘tries to find out what makes them human,’ will be published by Choc Lit in August. Is there any other kind of book she would like to write? ‘I would like to think I could write one hard science fiction book – but I’m afraid my sense of humour would get in the way.’ She currently satisfies her interest in science by studying quantum physics for fun.
Jane never makes excuses that she doesn’t have the time to write. ‘I don’t have a daily word target because I won’t set myself up for failure. Life has a way of intervening some days that could stop me writing a requisite number of words. So whatever I do, whether it’s social networking, research or actual writing, I consider it “work” regardless of the context. After all, nothing is wasted.’
Any advice for new writers? ‘Keep on writing. Hang in there. Believe. And it will happen. But when people ask me how I find the time my answer is, “I don’t watch TV.” If you’ve got time to watch East Enders you’ve got time to write a novel.’