Today’s guest in Last Word of the Week is Jane O’Reilly, an English author whose SF writing I very much enjoy – the novels Blue Shift and Deep Blue, respectively numbers #1 and #2 in the Second Species trilogy. Jane has written in other genres too. Her space opera is being published by Hachette in Australia. I admire how prolific and witty Jane is across many platforms – see the links at the end of the interview.
Jane: The first one (not including all the ones I wrote at school) was about 9 years ago. I had been at home with my children for several years and had reached the stage where I’d started to feel like my brain was dissolving. I needed something to challenge me mentally, but it had to be something that I could do at home that wouldn’t cost a lot of money. I had read somewhere that Nora Roberts had started writing when she’d been at home with young children so I decided I was going to give it a try.
My dreams are weird, my imagination is sometimes more of a hindrance than a help, and planning is key. Lots of writers like to pretend that stories are built using some sort of magical ability which only they possess, but I don’t think that’s true. A story has form and function which is why you can write 100K but not actually have written a story. I didn’t plan my first few manuscripts because I didn’t understand any of this. Once I began to learn about story structure I also began to plan, not just because it is really helpful, but because I understood how.
Definitely seeing one of my books in a bookshop for the first time. That’s really exciting. I had been digitally published for several years (11 titles in total) before I got an agent and a paperback deal, so seeing my book in a bookshop represented a massive step forward. It was in a bookshop called Foyles on Charing Cross Road in London.
I just finished the third book in my space opera trilogy so I’m waiting for my agent to let me know what she thinks of it, and in the meantime I’m working on a new book. No title as yet but it’s about a woman who discovers that her neighbour is an alien. She finds herself being taken off planet with said neighbour (who is not exactly thrilled with the situation) and adventures and shenanigans ensue. It’s a bit like Jupiter Ascending (with added space dinosaurs).
Getting published isn’t a quick business despite how many stories you see of people in their early 20s being signed for a six figure sum from a partial straight out of university. It can take years and multiple manuscripts before you sell your first one and that’s OK.
Pink. (We thought it might be blue!)