Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Author Interview: Jan Hurst-Nicholson

Jan Hurst-Nicholson has written Mystery At Ocean Drive, Something To Read On The Plane and But Can You Drink The Water? among others.

1. What is your name and where do you call home?
My name is Janet Hurst-Nicholson and I live in sub-tropical Durban, South Africa, but I’m originally from the UK.

2. Do you have a pen name?
I use Janet Hurst-Nicholson for my children’s books. But I was told that some men don’t read books written by women. JK Rowling’s publishers suggested she use her initials because they felt that teenage boys wouldn’t read books written by a female - but I guess that secret’s out! (and the publishers were wrong in this instance), so I use the gender-neutral Jan Hurst-Nicholson for my YA books and novels.

3. What is the name of your most recent book and if you had to sum it up in 20 or less words, what would you say?
I still have a number of books that I haven’t yet published. But the most recently published one (as an e-book) is Mystery at Ocean Drive. It is a YA action adventure in the style of the Hardy Boys and is set in South Africa.

4. Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
This book isn’t part of a series, but I do have a series of children’s books - Leon Chameleon PI and the case of the missing canary eggs, and Leon Chameleon PI and the case of the kidnapped mouse have been published as paperbacks and as e-books. The ‘case of the bottled bat’ is waiting to be illustrated, and I have other Leon stories in the pipeline.

5. What or who inspired you to start writing? And how long have you been writing?
I always wanted to write, and my first story in print was in the school magazine (sadly lost in an over-zealous clear out), but I knew nothing about plot development, characterisation and the actual craft of writing. I thought novelists were all very clever people with university degrees in writing, and it never occurred to me that I could actually become a writer, so I didn’t pursue it.  But about 30 yrs ago I submitted a humorous article to a magazine. It was single-spaced, no margins, no headers, no author name – very much beginner writer. I was thrilled when the magazine said they were going to publish it – and pay me. I was then hooked on writing and sent my next article to Cosmopolitan. It too, was accepted, but unfortunately a spate of rejections soon followed, so I took a writing course, joined a writers’ circle and bought lots of books and magazines on writing. Slowly I began to sell articles, short stories, and the occasional poem. I then tackled a couple of novels (using two very different writing styles). Although one of them was runner-up in a novel competition I couldn’t find a publisher.  I then tried my hand at children’s books and found success with Penguin, Cambridge University Press, and Gecko Books. The internet opened up a whole new world of publishing possibilities, so that is when I resurrected my novels and published them as digital books on Amazon’s KDP.

6. Do you gift books to readers for book reviews?
I have gifted pdf versions, and I have PRCs of my Leon Chameleon books, but if I try to gift a book through Amazon they charge me an extra $2 for the whispernet charge because I live outside the US, which makes it a bit expensive.

7. How did you come up with the cover? Who designed the cover of your book?
I originally had an illustrated cover for Mystery at Ocean Drive, but readers said it made the book seem ‘juvenile’ so I had another cover made. The basic idea was mine and I got Dafeenah from to do it for me.

8. How did you come up with the title for your book?
I think many readers are intrigued by a mystery, so I incorporated ‘mystery’ into the title.

9. Is there anything you would change about your book? And why?
I went to great lengths to make sure the research of the flying of the plane was correct, and even went to an airfield and sat in the plane while the owner explained all the instruments, and then I had him read the relevant paragraphs to check for any mistakes. But a couple of people who read the paragraph in the page 99 test claimed it was incorrect. I’ve subsequently discovered that there are several models of the plane I described and they have different configurations. I am now going to change those paragraphs and omit the actual type of plane so that no one can complain!

10. Do you prefer e-books, paperbacks, hardcovers or audiobooks?
I haven’t got an e-reader and have never read an e-book except on my computer (and that’s not much fun). When I’m reading I don’t mind if it’s a hardcover or a paperback, but for storage, shelf space and taking on holiday I think a paperback is easier (and an e-reader ideal!) And e-books don’t suffer from bookworm, which can be a problem in Durban.

11. Are you a self-published / Indie author?
I have been traditionally published by Penguin, Cambridge University Press, and Gecko Books, but these books are now out of print so I’ve now Indie e-published them. I have also self-published Something to Read on the Plane in paperback and as an e-book, and Indie e-published The Breadwinners (a family saga) and But Can You Drink The Water? (humorous fiction - a light-hearted look at emigration).

12. Have you ever read a book more than once? And if so what was it?
I read very few books more than once, but I do make an exception with Monica Dickens and I’ve read The Fancy several times.

13. What books are you reading at the moment? And in what format?
I’ve just finished a hardcover of The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith. I’m presently reading a paperback of a Sue Grafton novel, and also a paperback of The Secret Life of the English Language. I also act as a depository for people who donate books to the SPCA, so I always have a box of paperbacks to choose from (not always to my liking, but it does encourage me to try different authors and genres.)

14. Do you have any advice for other writers? And what’s the best advice that you have been given when it comes to writing?
My advice to writers would be: learn your craft, be prepared to take advice, edit and re-edit, don’t publish until you are quite sure the book is the best you can make it, persevere – and develop a thick skin in preparation for rejections and poor reviews.
The best advice I had was, “If you want to learn about characterization read Monica Dickens”. She has been the biggest influence on my writing ‘voice’. 

15. Where can your readers follow you?

Twitter: just4kixbooks

Thankyou so much for taking the time to do this interview and allowing us a glimpse into your writing world!

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