Please will you tell us about your latest book
I’ve got two paperbacks out recently, one from each publisher. One is a modern novel, “The Corrigan Legacy”, a family relationships story with a few twists. The other is a historical saga ‘Bright Day Dawning’, one of a series set against the background of the early days of the music hall in the UK, before the fancy theatres, when there were singing rooms or music saloons attached to pubs. It was very interesting to research. The stories in this series are all separate tales, each with a complex set of plots and sub-plots linked to the embryonic music hall in a small, imaginary town. Well, actually, all my books have lots of plots and sub-plots – the minor characters just seem to insist on joining in the fun
How long have you been writing and what made you start?
I’ve always loved writing. I wrote French textbooks first, back in the 70s and 80s, and had 9 published. But no one reads those for pleasure and I always wanted to write novels more than anything else. It was difficult finding the time, with children and a full-time job, but I used to get up at 4am to write. Writing should come with a health warning: Beware, this is addictive stuff! Once I started writing seriously, I couldn’t stop. I’m still addicted to it.
Many people spend a long time finding an agent, can you tell us about your agent hunt?
I spent five years finding one, because I live in Australia and I wanted one in the UK or USA. This was before the Internet became so helpful and writers’ groups so well organised, so it was like hunting for an agent in a dark room. In the end I settled on the UK and joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association there, intending to enter a book in the New Writers’ Scheme. But before I could do that I’d had a book accepted, still without an agent. I attended a talk by a UK agent put on by the RNA and later on, he took me on. I’m still with him and he was worth waiting for.
Everyone loves a good call story, what was yours?
It was a double call story, actually.
First stage was: I’d been getting rejections for a few years, nicer and nicer ones but not ‘the call’. Then I saw a writing competition put on by Random House publisher and New Idea magazine in Australia. I only had one manuscript not submitted so I entered that. The months passed and I forgot about it. Then, one day at work the phone rang and a woman told me I’d finalled in the competition. Tears of joy started trickling down my cheeks because I knew the three finalists of the previous year had got published. My colleagues in the office were looking at me in dismay so I put my hand across the phone and said in a tearful voice, “It’s good news.” You’d never have thought so to see me.
I was flown to Melbourne and put up in a suite at a posh hotel, then taken to a glittering function that evening. My husband paid his own way. Bryce Courtenay presented the prizes and I came second out of over 800 entries, winning $10,000 and publication. I thought I’d taken off as a novelist.
But the publisher produced the book in hardback only, which isn’t a good thing with a new author and it didn’t sell well. However, I got a call from the editor saying she was recommending the next book I’d sent her for publication. And then the management changed and the new people abandoned the competition and my second book with it. I came down with chronic fatigue syndrome, too, and life seemed very bleak for a few months.
Second stage of ‘the call’: I remembered the agent I’m heard talking in London and wrote to him, enclosing two chapters and a synopsis. He wrote back to send the whole manuscript and I did. A month later it was accepted by the first publisher he’d sent it to, Hodder & Stoughton (now Hachette). I’d also sent off a fantasy novel myself before getting the agent and five weeks later an Australian publisher accepted that.
To add to that incredible year, I was contracted to write two more historical novels and two more fantasy novels, making it six sales in all. I was tap dancing on the ceiling!
Since then I’ve been producing two or three books a year and loving it!
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Don’t send away your first novel straight away. First novels are rarely good enough. Set it aside and write another whole book – yes, really! Then come back to the first one and you’ll see how to improve it. If it gets rejected a couple of times, then set it aside again and write some more, then come back to it again. Each book you write will develop your skills and if you don’t give up, you’ll get there. It was my sixth novel that got the call, since when I’ve had four of the other five published – one has too trite a story and I’ve not attempted to sell it.
It takes longer to develop professional standard writing skills than people realise.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on now and what books are coming out in the future?
I write historical sagas for one publisher and modern novels for another. This is very stimulating and refreshing for me as a writer. I’m nearly at the end of another modern novel, which is set in both Australia and England. After that, I’ll be working on a historical.
I have another historical saga coming out in paperback in July in the UK, a couple of months later down under. ‘Heart of the Town’ is the fourth and final (for now) in the music hall series, set in the 1840s. At the same time the next historical ‘Tomorrow’s Promises’ comes out in hardback. This one is set just after World War I and focuses on the women who did men’s jobs during the war and then were chucked out of them to let the men back. My heroine drove a motor bike and buys it, then returns home to face hostility and an unexpectedly dangerous situation.
The paperback of my modern novel ‘Family Connections’ comes out in September in the UK.
I’ve also gone back to my old love, fantasy, and have a fantasy romance coming out in the US in December – ‘Tenebrak’ is under my Shannah Jay name.
So it’s all very exciting.
Anna Jacobs writes historical sagas, historical romances and modern novels for two
She has abiding passions for her husband (of course!), writing stories, social history especially women’s history, and reading. She doesn’t have any housework genes at all, but happily works long hours at her writing, producing three novels per year. Visit her web site for more information: www.annajacobs.com