Anna Jacobs is one of the most borrowed authors of adult fiction in the UK library system. She has had over 70 novels published. A time to remember is her most recent which is the first in a new series called Rivenshaw after the imaginary Lancashire town in which it is set. These stories take place just after World War 2. A time to rejoice will be the next UK title, due in May. We already have it on order and a waiting list developing. Anna is published mainly as Anna Jacobs, writing historical sagas and modern novels alternately, and she used to write fantasy novels as Shannah Jay.
Anna lives in Australia now but she has kindly taken time out from writing to answer some questions for us.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m about halfway through the first book in a new series. It’s set in 1930 and is loosely linked to the Rivenshaw series, as both places are in the same imaginary Pennine Valley. It’s my first book set in the 1930s, so it’s been very interesting to research.
How do you know when a story becomes big enough for a novel?
I know before I start that I can turn a ‘what if’ situation into a novel. After 75 novels published, I’ve had a fair bit of practice. If I find I need more material in a story, I just add another sub-plot, or sometimes a sub-plot ‘happens’, seemingly of its own accord. (See answer to next question.) I guide a story by word length. If I’m writing a book contracted for 100,000 words, I know when to add a crisis, a new character, a final crisis, etc, and about how many plots and sub-plots will give an interesting and complex read.
Do you change the story as you go along or is it all strictly planned?
I couldn’t plan a story and stick to it to save my life. Before I started writing seriously, I did a university history unit covering the period I like to write in (1730-now) so I had the basics taught me by a very good lecturer. I research the details of the new plot’s background, work out a setup situation or use one that I’ve had on file for a while for writing ‘one day’ and then I write scenes that introduce me to the main characters. I rewrite the first two or three chapters several times until the characters have come to life, then I follow them through their story. They surprise me at times, which is good. Or they walk through my dreams and give me a movie show of what happens next, which is also good. Once the ‘dirty draft’ is finished ie the first complete story, I polish it as many times as necessary to get the best story I’m capable of. This used to be two or three times, but after 75 novels it’s mostly one major polish these days. I enjoy the polishing stage best of all.
You have written in a number of genres. Which do you find you are most comfortable in?
I’m comfortable in all of them or I’d not have written them. So far the list includes historical romance, historical fiction, modern family/relationships stories, romantic suspense and fantasy, short stories and poetry. I’ve won or been shortlisted for awards in historical fiction, historical romance and fantasy. One of my fantasy novels has had a film option taken out on it. But I stick to historical and modern stories at the moment, as they seem to please readers most and therefore sell better. I do, after all, need to make a living like anyone else, and I enjoy writing in any of these genres.
Your books are very popular here in Suffolk. Do you have a message for your readers in Suffolk Libraries?
Please tell your readers that I’m delighted they’re enjoying my stories. I love writing them. And perhaps they’d be interested in receiving my free monthly email newsletter. If so they can sign up on the introduction page of my website. They might enjoy exploring my website which holds a lot of information, with a ‘page’ for each book. I’m also on Facebook at Anna Jacobs Books and Anna Jacobs. I chat to readers there when I can. Happy reading to all your clients! I love reading myself and get through three novels by other authors every week.
Can you describe yourself in three words?
Addicted to stories.