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Interview with Wendy Janes

Today I’m interviewing author and proofreader Wendy Janes, who like me prefers to write about family relationships. Wendy lives in London with her husband and youngest son. A number of her short stories have appeared in anthologies, and she is the author of the novel, What Jennifer Knows. Her writing is inspired by family, friends, and everyday events that only need a little twist to become entertaining fiction.

Link to What Jennifer Knows on Amazon:

1. Did you write fiction first, or did you start off by proofreading?

I’ve been proofreading on a freelance basis for nearly fifteen years, and only started writing fiction for an audience in the last six. Like many writers who have published slightly later in life, I’ve actually been writing fiction for my eyes only since I was in my teens.

2. Apart from your Bachelor of Education degree, you also have a Chapterhouse qualification in proofreading and copy editing. Where did you study for this qualification? How long was the course?

It was a distance learning course, which took three months to complete. The course taught me the proofreading symbols required by the publishing houses that hired me. My experiences proofreading for a variety of publishers helped hone my skills and gave me the confidence to branch out and work for independent authors.

3. Like you, I also prefer to write novels about family relationships. How do you go about finding inspiration for your plots?

Family, friends, newspapers, shopping trips… I’m always on the lookout for stories. In fact, the other day I was on the bus and there was a woman who was being very loving towards one little girl in her care and thoroughly mean to another. I was so busy listening in and trying to work out whether she was mother to both of them and why she was treating them so differently, that not only did I miss my bus stop, but I missed the next one as well. During the half-mile walk home, I started plotting.

4. You have edited your grandfather’s memoir ‘The One and Sixpenny Englishman’. Where was he born? Have you been to his birthplace?

He was born in a small village in Poland, near Warsaw. The family came over to England when he was six months old. No I’ve not visited.

5. Apart from writing and proofreading, do you have any other hobbies?

I know this is going to sound thoroughly unoriginal, but my main hobby has always been reading fiction.

6. Do you think it’s best to write in the first person or the third person?

It depends on the piece. Some writing lends itself to first person, some to third person. I’ll often write a story in both to see what feels best. In a very early draft of What Jennifer Knows, I had each of the three women telling their strands in third person, but it felt flat. As soon as I turned Jennifer’s chapters into first person, the story came alive and her personality became so much more vivid. I’m currently prevaricating over whether to tell one of my latest short stories in first or third person, and feedback from beta readers has been split 50/50. Some preferring the distance from this particular character that third person gives them, others preferring to be inside the character’s head. And so the prevarication continues.

7. Have you ever come across a manuscript so terrible in grammar and plot that an army of editors and proofreaders would not be able to save it?

Alas, yes. I recently had to tell an author I couldn’t proofread their novel. It appeared to be barely more than a first draft, and there was no point in attempting to proofread something so rough. I was able to provide some suggestions for elements to focus on, which I hope the author found helpful.

8. Do you think that small children should be using computers and iPads before they have learned how to read and write properly?

I see no harm in small children learning via the latest technology. In the same way that Makaton sign language aids speech, using a keyboard and playing games on computers and iPads can aid language development. However, if a child never picks up a pencil or only interacts with a screen and not a real face or a real book then I think that child’s life will be the poorer.

9. Do you have a work in progress? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

Yes. I’m currently working on a series of stand-alone short stories that are loosely linked to my novel, What Jennifer Knows. Some of the minor characters had more to say about their lives, but Jennifer’s story wasn’t the appropriate place for them to share. In What Tim Knows and other stories, I’ve taken six characters and told a story from a pivotal moment in their lives. Jennifer appears as a background character in each of them, taking us from the 1960s into the 2000s.

10. Have any of your stories been accepted by a large publisher?

No. I’m rather enjoying my time in the indie world right now.

11. Is selling translation/foreign rights the way forward for the Indie author?

In the same way that there are untapped markets with audiobooks, the opportunities for translation/foreign rights sound very exciting. It’s not something I’m ready for yet, although I have read articles by Joanna Penn and others on the subject. For anyone contemplating that move I suggest a trip to Joanna’s website. Here’s a link to one of her excellent articles:

12. Where did you spend your holiday this year?

My husband and I celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary in September with a short holiday in Swanage, on the beautiful Dorset coast in England.

13. Like George Harrison, do you believe that we are spirits in bodies, or do you think that death is the end of us?

I’d like to believe that we are spirits in bodies.

14. What is your favourite quote?

I’m not one of those people who goes in for quotes, so I have to admit I went online to find one that resonated with me. And here it is: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” Maya Angelou

15. Is your glass half full or half empty?

Half full.

16. Do you have any regrets?

Regrets, I’ve had a few, But then again, too few to mention.

17. Where in the world would you like to live if you had the choice?

I’d love to live on the Cornwall coast. I’d sit on the rocks outside my cottage and enjoy watching the waves.

18. Which famous writer would you like to meet?

Jane Austen.

19. What’s number one on your bucket list?

A trip to Hawaii. I’d sit on the sand outside my beach hut and enjoy watching the waves.

20. If you were stranded on a desert island, which one thing would you like with you?

Well, ideally I’d like my family with me, but I’m guessing that’s not really in the spirit of this question. Would it be too greedy to ask for a library stocked full of contemporary and historical fiction, please?


My thanks go to Wendy for answering my 20 questions. Wendy Janes can be found on the following social media.


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