Thursday, 30 July 2015
60 Seconds with Jan Ruth
Jan Ruth lives in Snowdonia, North Wales, UK.
This ancient, romantic landscape is a perfect setting for Jan’s fiction, or simply day-dreaming in the heather. Jan writes contemporary stories about people, with a good smattering of humour, drama, dogs and horses.
Her full-length novels are currently being re-published by Accent Press. She has also self-published two sets of short stories.
Hi, Jan. Tell us a little about you and your writing?
I live in rural North Wales on the fringes of Snowdonia. Love books, horses and wandering about the countryside in a daydream.
You’ve recently moved from self publishing to Accent Press. Why the change?
I began writing seriously about 30 years ago. I thought I’d ‘arrived’ when I quickly attracted a London agent - but it came to nought, and then I went through a failed publishing venture with another London agent and some pennies began to drop. I gave up for a while because the traditional route was all we had back in the old days, and with only one title to my name I realised that I’d actually done pretty well to attract a passing glance in the first case. I received tremendous support and advice from Jane Judd and Cornerstones Literary Agency, and they did encourage me to write another book. Then Amazon and Kindle came along and I self-published the first two and wrote another one, plus a sequel to the first book and two sets of short stories... phew, this game was full on! Formatting, advertising, editing, The Media. I learnt a huge amount from the ground up, which has been a good foundation to improve because I’ve met some great, like-minded people who are experts in their own field. I’m not sure whether I reached a stage of burn-out or whether I simply came to realise that my books were drowning in a sea of genre wars and sheer numbers. Something happened to my self-belief and the drive to continue. And somewhere along the line, any individual such as me who has writing skills only, needs to consider the cost of publishing books to a professional standard. My pleasure comes from improving my writing and in producing a quality novel. I write when I’m inspired or have something to say. There’s nothing wrong with the opposite objectives of course, but I do think that self-publishing falls roughly into two camps. I write more fully about that here: https://janruthblog.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/my-affair-with-john-hudspith-and-why-i-had-to-leave-self-publishing/
The wonderful discovery for me was that Accent Press are not only Welsh based and champion a lot of Welsh writers, but they are pretty savvy in a constantly changing world. I was expecting a long, long wait for a decision, and maybe problems because I’d self-published all of my material. This has not been the case. And I’m enjoying writing again! I have clear objectives, uncluttered with the nuts and bolts of the publishing process. Their validation of my work has resulted in renewed motivation to do more and I’m working from a quieter place in my head. Technically, I’m a hybrid author as my short story collections will remain self-published, and if I venture into children's books then these will also be self-published.
If you had to swap to a different genre, what would it be and why?
I think it would be historical or young adult because I could still write about relationships, horses and the Welsh countryside! I know where my comfort zone is and I don’t think Id stray too far from my original roots. Having said that, I do enjoy adding a hint of crime into my family-saga genre as it blends perfectly well with the dynamic and adds another dimension to a series.
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
Expression through the written word, living in a dreamscape of my own making. Readers telling me that they were right there with me ...
And the worst?
The solitary existence, the endless blank pages when nothing will come together. It’s par for the course but no creative vocation is perfect. No pain, no gain.
Where do you write?
I write in a cosy corner of the kitchen close to the coffee machine and the wine rack. My desk used to be in our conservatory, which has stunning views of the Welsh mountains but not only was it distracting, it was invariably too bright, too hot, too cold…
What does your love of Wales and your Welsh locale bring to your writing?
I think my spiritual roots are here in the hills. I wasn’t born in Wales but I do feel an affinity with this area. I love the history, the big outdoors, the wild ponies, the general lack of pretension. I spent a lot of time here as a child and a teenager and I think those early impressions are always powerful. When the books started to come together a brand began to emerge and I was happy to go with that flow as it pulled all the loves of my life into the same place somehow, and as a writer, that’s no bad thing.
Which 3 books would you take to a desert island?
The Lord of the Rings, (for the sheer magnitude of escapism and lets face it, it’s an adventure on horseback). Mist, by Mary Fitzgerald, (to remind me of home). The One Plus One, by Jo Jo Moyes, (to make me smile).
What are your future writing plans?
I’m currently working on the third book of the Wild Water series, then I’d like to write a third for the Midnight Sky series. That should keep me busy for a while! After that, I think some new characters are called for but I’ve also had a hankering to write a children’s book…