- Hello! I’m delighted to have you here with us, Janet, sharing about your writing process. I have to say, I’m a sucker for anything that has to do with Ancient Egyptian mythology, so the book you chose to spotlight really caught my eye!
- First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?
I’ve been published for 50 years but my career in writing was one done by bits and starts. Raising four children, one of them an adopted biracial child took more and more time. As did returning to college for a BA in English and a BS in Nursing. There was a break from the late 1970s until 1984 when I wrote little other than papers, worked as a nurse and did some ghost writing for doctors. Then I went to a writer’s conference held by the Hudson Valley RWA and began writing in ernest while working part-time as an orthopedic nurse. Jane Toombs, my friend and critique partner sold one of my books to her publisher in 1994. Several years later I discovered electronic publishing, again encouraged by Jane. My first ebook came out in 1998 and I’ve been exclusively ebook with some of the books going to print since them.
I’ve written a lot of books. I don’t keep track of the number and there is the one I’m working on now and several more outlined. What do I write? There are the contemporary series, many of them involved with nurses and doctors but not all. There are the fantasy and paranormal novels for both adults and YA readers. There are the mysteries. There are also non-fiction books. One of these garnered an EPIC award for Jane and myself – Words Perfect – Becoming Your Own Critique Partner. What I do not write or read are horror stories. I also don’t write true action adventure stories or science fiction though I read them avidly. I always have a book I’m reading or re-reading on my Kindle.
A theme in my books is probably general. Good overcomes Evil. Happy ending are possible. Also, gemstones and caves abound. Some kind of medicine, even psychic healing are seen. I guess like my writing, my themes are eclectic.
- Holy cow, Janet! That’s an impressive resume, both in terms of writing and juggling a family and demanding professional career as well! What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?
At present I live in a Hudson River village, not far from West Point and NYC. Years ago, I cane to visit a friend and fell in love with the area. Edward Hopper, the painter grew up here and once Helen Hayes was a resident. There are houses from colonial days to very modern ones. My home is a Dutch Colonial built around 1917.
I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, not far from Pittsburgh and lived there until after my marriage. After my marriage to my physician husband, we did a bit of moving around the country, having lived in Akron, Ohio, Pawnee, Oklahoma and Fort Worth Texas. We returned to Pittsburgy where my husband did his residency and lived in the area until we moved here.
- How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?
At this point, I’ve been writing for most of my life and published for the past 50 years. I didn’t become serious about putting stories on paper until around 1962. As a child I was a story-teller. We would sit on the porch and tell ghost stories that we made up. I also wrote plays that we performed in a friend’s garage. Then my writing turned to non-fiction things and papers that the teachers thought were more stories than the facts. As a student nurse, we had to do case studied and I couldn’t keep from adding bits of dialogue and putting in the settings.
That is so fascinating. I love hearing about how other writers found their voice. We’re often told, “Writers should write what they know.” What does this statement mean to you as an author?
When I first began writing I believed writing what I knew meant the doctor nurse stories I wrote. But then that began to bore me and I started branching out. I love mysteries and read thousands so I set out to write mysteries but even then there were things I knew. My heroine was a nurse. I also have read fantasy in huge gulps so I began dabbling in trying fantasy and I also had some experience with psychic healing and read a lot about alternate forms of medicine. These have been woven into my stories. Then one day, I discovered the real thing about writing what you know, and that is emotions. We all have and feel emotions. Each one of us reacts in different ways to the same emotional event. So what I know is my emotions and that’s how you write about what you know.
Are you a panster or a plotter? Do you outline extensively or write your story as you go along?
I’ll admit to both. When I start a new story, I do a lot of plotting and outlining but then when I begin to right, I go with the flow. The outline is there to get me from the beginning to the end and the middle is a lot of free thinking and writing. Since I’ve been writing for a long, long time msut of my plotting is done in my head. When I begin planning a new story, as I fall asleep, I tell myself the story of the story I’m planning to write. In the morning, I jot down the multitude of ideas that I have and organize them. But when I write it’s all free thought. I write all the rough drafts by hand which allows me to think at the point of the pen and see where each thought takes me.
Of the stories you’ve written, which one would you recommend a new reader begin with?
Now this is a hard question to answer since I write mysteries, romance, paranormal and fantasy. I guess what I would recommend would depend on a reader’s likes. For mysteries. Start with Murder and Mint Tea. Fantasy if you like spicy The Temple of Fyre. If you like sweet – Affinities Escape. For Paranormal Bast’s Warrior, an alternate Egypt story. For romance if you like spice, I’d say Heart Throb, sweet, The Doctor’s Dilemma. There are a lot I believe around 50.
How often does your real life experience figure into your story telling? Do you base characters or stories on your actual experiences?
In a way many of my stories reflect things I’ve experienced in my life. They may not be the exact experience but the emotions will matter. Many of my stories deal with nurses and doctors. I was a nurse and am married to a doctor so there is much I’ve seen or experienced that finds it’s way into my stories. The incidents are always changed in some way but the emotions I’ve experienced or seen are shown in my stories. One of my books involves a nurses union. I was involved in trying to form one in a hospital where I worked. Even in my mysteries, there are bits taken from my life or my experiences. I doubt any writer deals only with things imagined, especially since emotions are part of fictional stories. Think about the times you’ve felt fear, sorrow, happiness and the list goes on.
Editing: love it or hate it?
I ENJOY EDITING. But I’m a draft writer so each time I start a new draft, I’m editing as I write. Then I come to the end of the story drafts and I do a final go through. I love finding new words to use for ones I’ve used too many of too often. I always look at the dialogue to make sure each character speaks with his or her own voice. Actually, I revise until the story makes me sick. Then I know it’s ready to send off to an editor. I’ve always been lucky even when I first began writing not to have too many edits from the editors to change. Sometimes to expand a scene or to clarify something.
I do that in my own writing as well, though I’ve never heard of it being described as draft writing. Very cool–I learned something today!
Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?
Love some of my characters and find ways to put them into other stories. I do a lot of series. Am finishing one right now called Opposites in Love. This is the final book The Virgo Pisces Connection. Don’t have a cover yet. This ends the stories of six friends who met in college studying nursing moved away and now are back in the same town not far from the college. The heroines have one astrological sign and the heros the opposite signs. I have other series where the characters may or may not connect but the town is the same. I do have a YA series in which the five main characters play a large role in each of the four books. This is the Affinities series. So I do series mostly where there are new characters introduced in each. Of course my Mrs. Miller’s mysteries have the same heroine in each book and appearances by other friends from other books. It has the longest developed romance, taking four books until she’s married.
Blurb for Bast’s Warrior:
Tira flees a threat to her life and encounters two elderly women who offer her the chance to be sent to an alternate ancient Egypt with no thought of return. She has had a fascination with Egypt and can even read hieroglyphics. Once there she will be given a task. Failure could mean death. Dare she take the chance and can she find the lost symbols of the rule before an enemy finds them?
Kashe, son of the nomarch of Mero is in rebellion. His father desires him to join the priesthood of Aken Re, a foreign god. He feels he belongs to Horu, god of warriors and justice. He decides to leave home, meets Tira and joins her in the search for the symbols of the rule. Will his aid bring good fortune and will their growing love keep them from making a fatal mistake?
“This engaging voyage into an ancient Egypt that includes power-hungry priests and hazardous treasure hunts entertains from page one. Familial intrigue heightens the tension, as does a kidnapping or two. The cast of characters is dynamic and complements the well-conceived plot.” ~ 4 Stars, Susan Mobley, Romantic Times Magazine
Tira opened her eyes and stifled a gasp. Where was she? The surface beneath her was softened by a thin pad. She turned her head and bumped her temple against a hard surface. Some kind of headrest prevented her from appraising her vicinity. The substitute for a pillow wasn’t very comfortable. The cover felt like linen rather than the thin cotton sheet she used. She raised herself to a sitting position and the sheet slid to her waist. Light streamed through a series of openings set high on one of the white plastered walls.
Her heart fluttered in a series of rapid beats. Think. Had she been kidnapped and sold as some kind of sex slave? She drew a deep breath. Why did nothing smell familiar? She was Tira. Tears trickled down her cheeks. Someone had died. Why couldn’t she remember who had betrayed her?
She wiped her face on a corner of the sheet. Memories prickled with the same sensation in her head as when an arm or leg woke after falling asleep. If you could go to ancient Egypt tonight even if the Two Lands is not the one you’ve studied, would you go?
She had agreed. Had she somehow been transported to another Egypt? So far she’d seen nothing to prove or disprove the theory. The bed and the headrest had been pictured in books she’d read about the ancient land of the pharaohs.
Now what? She couldn’t remain in bed and she definitely couldn’t leave this room in the nude. Clothing was her first objective. She slid from the narrow cot and nearly fell. The bed stood on a wide platform. Tira visually explored the room and noticed a stack of near-white cloth on a backless bench. She wrapped the sheet around herself and crossed the room.
On a low table she found a pottery pitcher and a bowl. She dipped a cloth taken from the rim of the bowl into the water and washed. The heated air dried her skin.
As she studied the bench she noticed the legs were shaped like the feet of a feline. She drew a deep breath. She had arrived in ancient Egypt. One by one she lifted the pieces of cloth from the bench and studied them. Get dressed and learn where you are and why you’re here.
After several attempts she managed to clothe herself. One strip formed a breast band. A second, she used as a loincloth. The third was a wraparound short skirt rather like a kilt. A leather belt held a knife and a pouch containing a black substance she decided was kohl. Since she had no idea how to apply the stuff she decided to pass.
She looked for shoes and found sandals. She sat on the bench and slipped a foot beneath the leather straps. She drew the shin guards up her leg and fastened the leather ties. Surprisingly they fit. The leather soles didn’t slip on the stone floor when she performed a series of warm-up exercises.
The beaded curtains in the doorway rattled. Tira slid into an attack position. Two elderly women entered the room. Tira stared. Were they the ones who had sheltered her for a time? They looked similar.
One of the women wore the same clothes as Tira. Her graying hair was cropped short like Tira’s but the woman’s didn’t curl.
The second woman’s hair was dark and cut shoulder length. Was it a wig? The woman’s ankle-length sheath bared her breasts. A collar necklace covered her upper chest.
When Tira tried to talk about the world she’d left the words wouldn’t form.
The only knowledge you can take with you is what will fit into the time you reach except for your fighting skills. You will be unable to speak of this world or of modern conveniences.
She glided toward the women. If they proved to be a threat she would attack.
“Welcome to the Two Lands,” the older of the two said. “I am the chief priestess of this temple of the goddess Bast, protector of women and children. A cat with a cream-colored coat wove a path around her legs.
Bast. She had read about the goddess, one of the minor ones in the ancient Egypt of her world. Was Bast a major player in this time and place? What other changes would she find? She swallowed a gasp. How odd that she understood the language. “My name is Tira.” She could speak it as well. She crouched and allowed the feline to sniff her hand.
The priestess smiled. “Come and join us for a meal. We will tell you why you are with us. You are one of the awaited ones. There is a task the goddess has set for you.” She turned to her companion. “Do you have the amulet that marks her as a warrior of Bast?”
Janet Lane Walters is celebrating her 50th year as a published author. There are probably that many of her books floating on the internet available to be read electronically. She began with short stories and poetry and graduated to novels when an editor told her the short story she’d submitted sounded like the synopsis of a novel. She writes romance – contemporary, paranormal and fantasy. There are mysteries and fantasy for young adults under her JL Walters name.
She is married to a psychiatrist who has no desire to cure her obsession with writing. Mother of four and grandmother of seven, she lives in the scenic Hudson Valley area. She was once a nurse. She did a stint as a ghost-writer for doctors.