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Interview with Jan Foster


By day, Jan juggles consultancy work with her family, but by night she sneaks off, into the past. Her penchant for sprinkling history with magic is fueled by coffee and Cadburys. When not writing, Jan takes her dogs and small monsters into the countryside, especially if there is a castle or historic building there with a cozy coffee shop in which to escape the rain of Manchester, England.


Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
A.
I’m 50% sure magic is real, I just can’t prove it.

Q.2 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
A.
I’m just finalizing Book 2 in the series (Prequel and Book 1 already published!) which is called Anarchic Destiny and will be available at the end of February. It’s set in 1553-17 years on from Disrupting Destiny, but time moves differently for immortals. It’s a continuation of the Naturae Series and follows on from what happened at the end of Disrupting Destiny - the challenges of the ruling, and the threats which come from all sides. 

It’s a story about loyalty, the ties which bind, and also has a romance element with a new antagonist - Henry Fitzroy - who is struggling to find his place, and a throne! I’ve also got a joint endeavor in the works with another historical writer, and another prequel (a love story) planned for early 2022. Lots to keep me busy!

Q.3 What inspired you to write The Naturae series?
A.
I’m a forest person, so any fantasy setting just had to include the magic of the woods! I find that there’s a beautiful mystery about trees, especially ancient ones which have witnessed so much history. The secrets they keep remind me of a lost past, waiting to be discovered. I’m also drawn to the lessons which looking at the past can inspire. 

I’m the one who asks those awkward questions to the guides about how something worked, how people lived, and I wanted to take my readers back there and hope that it can inspire that same curiosity in them also. My settings are real places, most that I’ve been to, and I try and be as accurate as I can about describing them, so my readers can visualize what it was like.

Q.4 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
A.
I think getting into a male mindset is definitely challenging! Probably without realizing it, my male characters are more of a mishmash of people I know well, so I ask myself how they would behave, and if you know their drivers, that makes it easier. I do have to flesh out the male characters a little more before writing them because the male thought process isn’t quite the same as a woman’s.

Q.5 How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
A.
I do, and I don’t! I’m not one for sticking to a trope, but I research a lot around the time period beforehand, looking for events that are of significance. A bit like watching the news, what is happening around you does affect how you react to things, and that is true of my characters. 

In Anarchic Destiny, for example, Henry witnesses the rise of Mary I, his half-sister, and goes to put down Wyatt’s Rebellion (which was in response to her wanting to marry Philip of Spain), which teaches him more about leading, and the nature of mankind. He then struggles with the effects of Mary’s campaign to purge England of Protestants, and that has a profound effect on him. For me, these events drive the plot forward as much as the characters want to achieve their aims or complete their character arc. 

In Disrupting Destiny, Joshua is struggling with his faith - it's 1535 and England has just separated from Rome because of Anne Boleyn. He’s already lost his way a bit because he’s become something which ‘shouldn’t be’ according to his catholic beliefs, so he is on a journey of acceptance of who he is, reconciliation with that, and a finding of his place with his love.

Q.6 Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
A.
It’s a thing, definitely. I’ve learned not to beat myself up about missing a target word count for the day, and I remind myself that I write because I love to, not because I have to. I’m very fortunate in that this isn’t my main income stream (yet) so the pressure is off in that regard, which I think can be a problem for some authors. 

If I’m struggling, I stop, go for a walk, mull over the issue I’m facing, and if I can’t find an immediate solution to it (usually a plot issue!) then I’ll work on something else for a while and come back to it.

Q.7 What was the hardest part of writing this series?
A.
Stretching a long story arc over a century of turmoil whilst making the reader feel the immediacy of it. My books take place in certain years (chosen because of what is happening then) and sometimes it can be difficult within a book to jump to several months later for the next plot point. I hope that I’ve achieved this seamlessly for the reader, but it isn’t easy to write that without descending into the pitfall of ‘After some months….’

Q.8 Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
A.
That is the trickiest of questions! Probably I’d read a LOT more. I need the escape even if I could no longer write it for others.

Q.9 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
A.
Four so far completed, and my favorite is always the one I’m working on right now! If you don’t love what you are writing, then what’s the point? If you can’t get excited about it then will your readers?

Q.10 Is it vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing, tell us about your marketing campaign?
A.
Marketing is hard, let’s make no bones about it! Getting exposure is tricky enough, and getting it to the readers who want to read your kind of work is even harder. The explosion of social media is both a blessing - in that it’s a new route to market - and a distraction. I think I underestimated how much time I would spend having to be active on social media vs writing to be successful. It’s a huge learning curve as well, to jump on the platforms and make them work for you. I’m also usually quite a private, possibly shy, person, so putting myself out there is fraught with nerves! The very last thing I would want to be is a ‘celebrity’ but, in order to reach people with your work, you have to share something of yourself.

My marketing campaign, such that it is, is about trying to position myself on social media as someone who is interested in the details of Tudor life - I use a #TudorTuesday hashtag to post a fun fact I’ve learned on a regular basis; I’m looking at TikTok and how that could work for my genre and other posts about writing life as an indie author. 

The other side of my marketing - for my Mitch and Mooch Series - is writing thought-provoking blog pieces about children’s books I’ve discovered with my kids (to help promote my children’s book). They review the books with me, and I’ve got a website with all kinds of free resources on it to help support children with trying new activities. You can check it out on www.mitchandmooch.com

Q.11 If you could be a member of any fantasy race, which would you choose and why?
A.
Tough question! I think probably a fairy (fae in my series) as I’d love to fly!

Q.12 What is one stereotype about fantasy writers is absolutely wrong? What one stereotype is dead on?
A.
Wrong - we all conveniently use magic to get us out of any given situation! Creating a magic system means you also have to create all the rules around it. Absolutely dead on - we bend the rules.

Q.13 If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
A.
It is possible to have your dreams come true. Believe.

Q.14 Do you ever research real events, legends, or myths to get ideas?
A.
Absolutely - my books are solidly based in reality - the past reality that is! I also love to weave some lore and legends into them - not stereotypes but I look at how people came to believe these stories, and most often, it comes down to that’s how they chose to make sense of the world. 

If you look at Ancient Greece for example, a lot of the legends they told around the fireplace were ways to explain things which they didn’t understand like how the world was created, how it’s governed, how to explain away the inexplicable.

Q.15 Who designed your book cover? How do you select him/her?
A.
I am totally enamored with my designer - JL Wilson Designs. I found her through some of the articles she wrote about cover design, what goes into it and why, and we started a conversation about how she would impart the essence of my books in a way to appeal to readers and give them a sense of the drama inside. 

I absolutely recommend using a professional - your cover is the first thing which readers see, if it doesn’t grab their attention and tell them something which resonates with them within that first second of seeing it, getting them to open the book and read it is a lot harder!

Q.16 How do you select the name of your characters?
A.
Some of my names are (were) real people, so that’s easier! Others - Aioffe for example (pronounced Eeefa) I chose because of its connotations and meaning. Because my genre is historical, the names have to be ones that would have been around at the time also, so nothing modern!

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
A.
I do read them, they usually fill me with pleasure that someone has enjoyed escaping into my world. It's really hard to resist replying at times - I want to jump up and down and tell them how much I appreciate their time and how happy it makes me that they enjoyed it!

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
A. Anne Boleyn
. She fascinates me - and the fact that there is so little actually known about her makes me want to meet her and find out what she was really like. All we can do is infer it from what happened around her, the letters she wrote and were written to her. 

I do think she’s been a victim in many ways - the object of many people’s vilification and unfairly blamed. People tend to think of her as a marriage wrecker, the woman who caused the break with the Catholic church, an obsession of Henry VIII’s. But, they forget that he was in love with her for 13+ years, that’s a long time! What was it about her that kept him, a notorious and serial womanizer, interested for that long?

Q.19 What is your favorite book from other authors and why?
A.
My comfort read is Jean M Auel - The Clan of the Cave Bear series. It’s not my favorite book but it’s a great story - there are too many to list here - but it’s what I retreat into myself when I just need something familiar to hide away into.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
A.
I would never have dreamed I’d be a published author a few years ago - it seemed out of reach, impossible. But, if you don’t try, you can never succeed.


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Website - https://escapeintoatale.com/
Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20093349.Jan_Foster


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