Tuesday, October 2, 2012

An Interview with Janet S. Fox

As promised, here is our interview with Janet S. Fox, the first author announced for the 2013 Montgomery County Book Festival. Enjoy!

Q:  Patty Campbell talks about the germ for a piece of writing being like the sand in the oyster.  What is your grain of sand?  Do you begin with character or setting or something else?
A: I love this question, and I really love the metaphor. I almost always begin with a character – with a voice. I can hear the voice of my main character long before I know where the story will go, and that voice is crucial to my “falling in love” with my character. I might have the germ of an idea (but usually not) and I write ten or twenty pages and if it feels right, I run with it.
I’m a very seat-of-the-pants writer, so I almost never plan. Once the grain of sand (the character) gets in there, I write about and around that character, learning and pushing and trying to decipher what it is that character has to say.
Occasionally I’ll have an idea that is a core idea for my plot. For example, with FORGIVEN, my second novel, I knew I wanted to set it in San Francisco during the Great Earthquake of 1906. But it was Kula who led the way through the plot to the earthquake, and not the other way around.

So the pearl grows around my character and her/his voice and personality and needs.
Q: Why do you write for Young Adults?
A: I write for young adults because I am still, in my heart, the young adult who fell in love with reading. The saying is that we each find ourselves arrested at a certain age, and for me that age is around 15. At 15 I read classics (that was about all there was for young adults at the time) but I also found books by Ian Fleming, and Agatha Christie; I found Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra series. So mysteries, fantasies and science fiction became the literary currency of my youth, in addition to the “historical” novels of Austen and Fitzgerald.

This is why it’s no accident that my novels often incorporate mystery, that my first novels are historical romances, and that I’m currently working on several fantasy and science fiction novels.
Q: What is one thing you would like your readers to know about you?
A: I have a former life that not too many people are aware of – I have an MS in marine geology. While I was studying, I had several opportunities to go to sea on research cruises, including a cruise that utilized the submersible Alvin. I dove to the bottom of the Cayman Trough in the Caribbean, and it was an astonishing experience. The oceans are full of life that no one can see unless they have the ability to dive – tiny organisms that are bioluminescent and that form complex structures that move or float through the darkest depths under extreme pressure.

Along the way to my MS, I also spent 3 months on a very small Chilean boat (definitely not a ship! – it was only 15 feet long) in the fjords of southern Chile. There was no bathroom on board and only a few cots for sleeping, and it was an amazing and life-changing experience to study science under primitive conditions.
Q:  In high school, where did you fall? (Prom Queen/King, Gamer Geek, Brainy/Book Nerd, Jock, Shy/Quiet Scholar, Skate Rat, Stoner, Class Clown, etc.)
A: Oh so definitely Brainy/Book Nerd. My friends and I used to sing “We’re in with the out crowd” and we had the back corner table cornered. We were also the ones who made the grades and got into the best colleges.

Now, the interesting part of this is that once out of high school my persona completely changed. I went total hippie. It was as if, in college, I had to find out who I really was, underneath the insecurity that high school is so famous for invoking. I tried out for a rock band; I marched for civil rights; I fought for women’s rights.

But my dreams and certainly my reading and writing habits were formed in high school, and that’s the place I return to when I pull characters out from deep inside.
Q:How often do you dream about the writing you are working on?
A: Speaking of dreams...I dream all the time about my writing. I often work out my plots in my sleep. In fact, my favorite way to fall asleep is to ask myself about my current work. To think about the next scene, to take my characters there...and often I wake up with ideas and new plot lines.
In fact, once I woke up at about four in the morning with the most perfect sentence for a particular spot. I had to memorize it, reciting it over and over, so I wouldn’t wake up my hubby. But it was with me when I got up!
I see this “night work” as getting the internal editor out of the way. There’s a little monster inside every writer, a monstrous internal editor, always telling the writer, “you’re not good enough”. A wonderful way to silence the editorial monster is to put it to sleep while you keep on working, in your subconscious.
So, yes, I often dream about my work, my characters, my plot.
Thank you for your time, Janet. We look forward to seeing you at the festival! 

Find out more about Janet at her website: www.janetsfox.com and on her blog: http://kidswriterjfox.blogspot.com/

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