Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional love stories. She began her first historical novel at sixteen, but a life full of adversity derailed her as she lives with the restrictions of Ankylosing Spondylitis. When she finally completed a novel it was because she was determined not to reach forty still saying, I want to write a book.
Now Jane is writing a Regency series for Sapphire Star Publishing and she is thrilled to be giving her characters life in others’ imaginations at last. Jane is also a Chartered Member of the Institute of Personnel and Development, and uses her knowledge of people to bring her characters to life.
‘Basically I love history and I’m a sucker for a love story. I love the feeling of falling in love; it’s wonderful being able to do it time and time again in fiction, and my understanding of people helps me write the really intense relationships I enjoy developing. I like writing characters who will capture your attention from the moment you open my book.’
We know that, like us, you were formerly a member of the NWS but we wondered if you could tell us a bit about how you came to join, how long you were a member for, the genre you write in and what inspired you to start writing?
I have always loved writing, and when I read Anya Seaton’s book, Katherine, I knew I wanted to write a book with a story which would pull people in like that. I heard about the Romance Novelists Association (RNA), and the New Writers Scheme (NWS) when I attended a writers event at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, years ago, I think I first joined in 2004, something like that, but then dropped out for a couple of years, I did re-join in 2009 when I’d started on a new series, but then didn’t pick up on the fact we could pre-renew and couldn’t get back in, so I haven’t been in the NWS for two years. But Illicit Love did pass through in 2009/2010.
Please can you tell us a bit about your novel writing journey so far?
Well, when I reached thirty, I thought, I am not getting to forty still telling people I’d love to write a novel, and waiting for that right time to write it, to come along. So, I’d finished my first when I was about thirty-four, set in Roman England, but I wasn’t hugely happy with it, just thrilled to have written one at last. So I started again, this time in the medieval period. That full manuscript (MS), I sent to Mills & Boon, and the NWS and gave to friends to read, and had good feedback (even from M&B) but not fabulous feedback, and it never got picked up, so I started again and plumped for Regency, as this period seemed more popular.
The advantage to taking longer to publish, is you really do have time to hone your voice and develop something that’s really good, not just average, and build up a backlog. When I sent my Regency novel into the NWS, they were very positive, but it was still a nearly there….
We would love to hear about your route to publication. What made you choose Sapphire Star publishing and how did ‘The Call’ for Illicit Love come about?
This really continues my story above. In that after I had this MS back from the NWS, I began attending a new local RNA chapter. It was the best decision I ever made as far as writing goes. This group of experienced authors, encouraged and advised me. I hadn’t a clue about the American romance market until I met them, and they gave me lists of publishers to try and new agents, and advice on writing, and promotion. Of course through the feedback I was getting from these submissions, my manuscript was progressing on from nearly there, all the time, getting better and better, and I started to realise I had something really hot on my hands.
So when I attended a ‘Love a Happy Ending’ event in the summer, which was promoted by a chapter member, and met Mandy Baggot and Nicky Wells, who also publish through Sapphire Star Publishing, I thought, well this publisher sounds as though they may fit me. There was no waiting for months for a reply from Sapphire, they answered in a couple of weeks and said they wanted Illicit Love, because it pulled them into the plot from when they opened the book, and they loved the intensity of the perspective of my characters.
What’s next for you, Jane, with the recent launch of your first novel, your WIP and future projects?
Well, Illicit Love is the first in a seven part series, the second book I hope will be out pretty soon, but having spent years sending MSs around the UK market, and waiting months for replies, I kept writing and have this series virtually written and ready to publish. But Sapphire Star Publishing liked my writing voice so much, they asked me to write them a New Adult story too, because they felt the intensity of relationships I write, would suit this genre. I completed my first New Adult book a month ago, and will work between the two genres in the future. So I am currently hunting that still illusive, desirable, agent.
What are your dreams and aspirations as a writer, in terms of your long-term career?
Just to keep writing, well, to keep writing and receiving the rave reviews I have been earning for Illicit Love, people love it, and they read the characters exactly as I wanted them to be heard, which is amazing. I have cried several times when I read the reviews, happy tears. Plus so many people are coming back to me very excited about the twists and turns in the plot, saying they can’t see things coming, so that’s great feedback for me, now I just need to make sure all my book are like this.
What has been the single biggest benefit of joining the NWS, do you think?
The feedback was really valuable, to have someone in the profession read your work takes courage, and their feedback helped me to improve my work, but the best thing for me was the access to the wider RNA, and the opportunities it gives you to learn by meeting people in the chapters and at events, and at the conference. If nothing else it’s just great to talk to people who understand my writing addiction. “Hi, I’m an author, and I’m addicted to writing Fiction.” There I’ve admitted it.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us or any other advice you can offer?
The things that really helped me shift my MS from almost there, to being a story people are sucked into and can’t put down, was;
Firstly, going through my MS and taking out half my pretty flowery words and descriptions, and I had to be really callus in the end and delete some painful stuff, because the writing was really good, but there was just too much good writing, it slowed the pace of the story, and made it a likable story, rather than a fabulous story. What readers want is that bang, bang, jockeying of characters as you step them through the story in shifting scenes, like a film.
So, I did a ton of research, but only put probably 1/20th of what I know about the period of history into the story, because it’s irrelevant to what the reader needs to be sucked into what is happening between the people. But I am still getting reviews, which praise the language, calling it ‘poetic’, ‘richly painted story telling’ and ‘Illicit Love is so beautifully written it was a rare jewel’. It’s also still getting comments in reviews about the amount of research I must have done to be able to write this story. So now I call it, painting a background of history to write the story on. I think that is why people are telling me this is something new in historical romance.
Secondly, an author friend, looked at the first few pages of my MS when it wasn’t selling, and she said you need to tighten up your points of view, so you are clearly only speaking from the perspective of one character or the other. Well, from the two changes she showed me, once I worked them all through the MS, what a shift. I love putting my imagination inside a character’s head and heart, so once I had captured this in my ways of writing too, it really took the book off the page and into people’s imaginations.
Now my reviews are talking about the characters as though they’ve been charmed. “This book has a Romeo and Juliet (which I love) type of feel It’s a display of raw emotion drama and intimacy…I straight away warmed to Ellen. I felt for her throughout the whole book…The male lead of the book, Edward, is amazingly well characterised – what a man :D” Cosmo Chicklitan “Ellen and Edward are one of the best romance couples” Best Chick Lit.
So I am obviously thrilled it’s been so well received, and hope people benefit from this advice.
Thank you to The Write Romantics for asking me to share my journey.
Find out more about Jane at the links below:
Find out more about Jane’s novel, Illicit Love, at http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Illicit+love%2C+Jane+Lark