Saturday 26 November 2011


1.            What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now? Hi, I’m  Janet Hurst-Nicholson. I was born in Cheshire in the UK, but have lived in sub-tropical Durban, South Africa since 1972
2.            Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be? I always liked telling stories and as a child I loved playing ‘libraries’ with my books, but I never considered becoming a writer (I thought all writers had university degrees in English). However, I knew I wanted to do something creative and I trained as a bakery technologist.
3.            When did you first consider yourself as a "writer"? When Cosmopolitan magazine phoned to say they were going to use my article and asked if I could change the final paragraph.
4.            Did it take a long time to get your first book published? Yes. My first novel was The Breadwinners, a family saga, which I wrote over 20 years ago. It had a lot of near misses with publishers, but I eventually e-published it myself last year, so you could say 20 years was a lengthy birth process. However, my first children’s book, Leon Chameleon PI and the case of the missing canary eggs  did find a trad publisher and I went on to have several children’s books published.
5.            How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it? It depends on the book. I did a lot of research for The Breadwinners (this was pre-Google and it meant trips to the library, museums, and interviewing people). It probably took about 18 months as it is 120 000 words. I also do a lot of research for my children’s books, but because they are much shorter it usually takes about eight months to finish the first draft.
6.            Which of your books were easier/harder to write than the others? No book is ‘easy’ to write, but I had fun writing the Leon Chameleon PI books, and being shorter they take less time, so you can see the finish post much quicker. Something to Read on the Plane is a compilation of my published humorous articles and short stories, so it should have been a simple task to put them all together into book form, but my colleague and I did 14 drafts before we were happy with the format and illustrations for the printed version. Jake, a children’s picture book commissioned by Cambridge University Press, is very short with only one or two sentences per page, but this went through a lengthy process of workshopping, going first to readers, then to schools to gauge the children’s reactions, and was discussed in detail before finally being accepted.
7.            What can we expect from you in the future?  i.e. More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre? I have written several children’s books that still need illustrations, so I’m hoping the new Kindle will attract buyers of illustrated children’s books and then it will be worthwhile paying an illustrator and I can e-publish.
8.            What genre would you place your books into? I write in several genres (a marketing nightmare) - humorous fiction, humour, family saga, YA, and children’s.
9.            Do you have a favourite out of the books you have written? If so why is it your favourite? They are all my children, so I can’t pick a favourite J .
10.          Do you have a favourite character from your books, and why are they your favourite? I’m very fond of Leon Chameleon. As I write more books in the series I’m finding I’m getting to know him better.
11.          How long have you been writing, and who or what inspired you to write? I was inspired by the ‘back page’ humour spots in magazines and decided to give it a try. My first attempt was published, and I was hooked on writing. That was 25 years ago, and I then took writing courses and studied the craft before moving on to short stories, children’s books, and then novels. 
12.          Where do you get your book plot ideas from? When I arrived in South Africa I worked in the Research & Development Department of a large bakery. It was managed by the sons of its founder and had grown from a small family bakery into a factory operation. There were two other rival bakeries, also run by the sons of the founders. When I left my job several years later the three bakeries had amalgamated. This one bakery was finally taken over by a large corporation. Somebody remarked, “Clogs to clogs in three generations” and this set me thinking how family dynasties grow and then crumble, and why it happens (the underlying theme of the story). I was fortunate that all three families willingly assisted me with background information on the growth of the baking industry in Durban, and could remember the days when bread was delivered by horse and cart. This gave me the basis for the plot for The Breadwinners
In But Can You Drink the Water? I drew (very loosely) on some of my own experiences, and those of fellow expats.  It began as a sit-com, but when that fell through I turned it into a novel. Immersing into a new, and often very different culture, can be traumatic, especially for the spouse left at home to cope on her own while the husband quickly adapts to a new working life. The theme is: Is home more than where the heart is?
13.          Do you gift books to readers to do reviews? I have done Giveaway’s of my paperbacks on Goodreads, and I can supply PRC’s of my Leon books, but the rest I can only supply as PDFs
14.          Do you read all the reviews of your book/books? Yes – including the bad ones.
15.          What was the toughest/best review you have ever had? The review I’m most proud of is the Publishers Weekly Review for But Can You Drink The Water? which describes the book as ‘droll, witty and utterly British’ but ironically only appears on the  US Amazon page. It got me to the semi-finals of the 2010 ABNA award and gave me the confidence to e-publish.
16.          How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book/books? Who designed the Cover of your books? The Breadwinners is about three families of bakers vying to become the top bakery, so the title works on two levels. But Can You Drink the Water? is a fairly common phrase used by British holidaymakers who are often suspicious of foreign food, and also wary of drinking the water (this was borne out during the 2010 soccer world cup held in SA when my website had a few hits from people asking ‘can you drink the water?’).  I came up with Something to Read on the Plane after  overhearing bookshop customers asking for ‘something to read on the plane’. The covers designs were basically my idea, but I had to get help with implementing them. The publisher’s illustrator did the covers for my children’s books.
17.          How do you market/promote your books? By doing author interviews 
18.          What do you think makes a book a really good/bestseller? I wish I knew the answer to that one J
19.          Have you ever based characters on people you know or based events on things that have happened to you? I took great delight in naming one of my least likeable characters after someone who was mean to me at college. A few of the events in The Breadwinners were based on things that actually happened. Many of the incidents in But Can You Drink the Water? were taken from my own experiences and those of fellow expats (just goes to show how naïve we were).
20.          Is there a certain Author that influenced you in writing? When I first started writing fiction I was advised, “If you want to learn about characterisation, read Monica Dickens,” (great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens). I read The Fancy and was smitten. Even the most insignificant of her characters hop, skip and jump off the page. She is the only author whose books I read more than once, just for the sheer joy of the characterisation. I’m also an admirer of Deric Longden (The Cat Who Came in From the Cold). Anyone who can anthropomorphise a sultana, name it Ralph and make it a character in a book, has to be admired. I also enjoyed the observational humour of Hunter Davies with his ‘Father’s Day’ column in Punch magazine. Erma Bombeck with her gems of truth inspired me to look for humour in the mundane and write about it in such a way as to create reader recognition and so allow readers to laugh at themselves.
21.          What are you currently reading? Are you enjoying it? What format is it?(ebook, hardback or paperback) I haven’t got an e-reader. I’ve just finished a hardcover of The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith. Loved it. I’m reading a paperback of It’s The Thought That Counts by Dr David R Hamilton. I also have TBR pile of paperbacks.
22.          Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books? I’ve heard that some schools are now using e-readers instead of printed books. It certainly makes children’s schoolbags lighter!
23.          Do you think children at schools these days are encouraged enough to read? and/or do Imaginative writing? When I belonged to the Children’s Book Forum authors were often asked to give talks to the schools, especially during book week, but this seems to have fallen away. We do have a local publisher who teaches children imaginative writing and then publishers their work.  I think Harry Potter has done wonders for encouraging children to read.
24.          What piece of advice would you give to a new writer? My advice to writers would be: learn your craft (if you can master ‘show’ don’t ‘tell’ then you’ve made a good start); be prepared to take advice; edit and re-edit (be ready to ‘murder your darlings’); 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.
25.          Do you or would you ever use 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, so when I wrote Something to Read on the Plane I used the gender-neutral Jan Hurst-Nicholson. I continued to use Jan for my YA books and novels.
26.          Where can readers follow you?

Your web site?
Your Goodreads author page?
Your Twitter details? just4kixboooks

Amazon UK link to Something to Read on the Plane

Thankyou for taking the time to do this interview!l.....0

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