Oct 27, 2011

Janet Edwards - Author Interview: Debut Novelist

What kinds of fiction did you read as a child and teenager, and did you have some favourites?

My favourites were science fiction, fantasy and comedy, but I was a fast and avid reader, who read any, and every, book that I could get my hands on.

Would you say your childhood and teenage reading has had a distinct influence on how you write fiction now, and why?

Since I’m now writing science fiction and fantasy, I think my childhood reading had a strong influence. I also remember being frustrated as a teenager by books that had amazing worlds and dramatic events but paid too little attention to the characters. I suppose that’s why I’m writing character-driven novels.

What did you do before you became a published novelist, and how did you come to write your first novel and get it published?

My job in IT involved a lot of tedious technical writing. When the company ship sailed off into takeover land, I jumped overboard and headed for freedom. In the autumn of 2007, I finally had the time, energy and bravery to go to a weekly creative writing class, write a short story, and read it in front of other people. More short stories and a ‘practice’ novel followed. Two years later, I started writing ‘Earth Girl’. In 2010, my creative writing teacher, Chris, persuaded me to go along to a science fiction group meeting where there was an agent and an editor giving a talk. After the talk finished, I tried to make a run for the door, but was grabbed, introduced, and forced to make what was probably the most embarrassingly incompetent book pitch in history. Incredibly, that led to me signing with my agent and getting my publishing deal.

How would you describe your style of fiction or your approach to writing fiction?

I’m not one of those writers who can plot a novel in detail before writing it. I start with a concept, a character, and a destination. I discover things about the character and their world as they take me on the journey to either the destination I expected, or somewhere totally different and often more interesting. Afterwards I take a hatchet to the book to remove the bits where we got lost and went three times round the same roundabout.

Is your first published novel standalone or part of a series, and what advantages or disadvantages does this present for you?

Earth Girl is a complete story in itself, but also part of a series. Earth Girl is due to be published in June 2012. Books two and three should be out in 2013 and 2014 respectively. There are obvious advantages in a three book contract, and the opportunity to spend more time with the world and the characters. I suppose the only disadvantage is that other books and ideas have to wait their turn. One difference with sequels is that I already know the world and characters so I can come up with a vague synopsis in advance, though I still can’t stick rigidly to it.

Have you found writing your second novel easier or more challenging than writing your first novel and why?

Since I have plenty of ideas, it is great fun riding along as Jarra creates yet more chaos. There is the one difficult question, which I expect everyone has when writing a series, of how much to explain about previous events.

Who is another novelist whose fiction writing you admire and why?

Terry Pratchett, because of the many Discworld novels that brilliantly combine fantasy, detective fiction, and comedy.

How would you summarise your debut novel in one paragraph?

One paragraph! Aagh!


In the year 2788, only the Handicapped live on Earth. While everyone else portals between worlds, 18-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. She can’t travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She’s an ‘ape’, a ‘throwback’, but this is one ape girl who won’t give in. Jarra makes up a fake background for herself and joins a class of ‘norm’ history students. They’re on Earth to excavate the dangerous ruins of its ancient cities, but they don’t expect to actually meet any apes. Jarra plans to prove to them she’s more than just an Earth girl, but the deception is more difficult than she expected. When ancient skyscrapers collapse, she has lives to save, and she’s complicating everything by falling in love with a norm.

How would you describe the appeal of this novel to readers?

The main appeal is Jarra, her character, and her battle to prove her value to the normal humans and to herself.

How would you summarise a chapter from your debut novel in one paragraph?

In the first chapter, you meet Jarra as she decides what to do when she becomes eighteen and has to leave institutional care. She could dutifully conform like everyone else, but Jarra isn’t that sort of person. She makes the crazy decision to lie her way into one of the classes of normal history students who come from other worlds to study Earth’s ancient ruined cities.

How would you describe the contribution this chapter makes to the novel?

This introduces Jarra, her problem, and the decision that will ultimately change far more than just her own life.

Author website: www.janetedwards.com

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