Janet Scaife Interview Published on: 09, Jun 2020

Where have you spent most of your childhood?

My childhood was mostly spent in the small village of Milford in Derbyshire, in the UK. We were surrounded by countryside and could run in the fields and walk the little lanes that criss-crossed the hills. We had no computers and had to make our own entertainment, we didn't even have television until I was six. Back then my creativity came out more in art than writing. I loved painting and drawing. I designed clothes for my dolls, which I also began to make when I got older. The nearest I got to the fiction writer was that I had a swing in the orchard, and I would sit for ages swinging gently backwards and forwards and having conversations inside my head with people I didn't know. I have always been psychic and have always believed that helps me with my stories. Those invisible friends I had back then could have been spirit people coming to see me. They could have been the beginnings of my characters. Or they could have been both.

What was college like for you and how did it shape your writing?

I went to school and left at 15 and went to work in the offices of a cotton mill. I am afraid I came from an era when it was thought a woman's ambitions did not have to spread further than finding a man and having children, and you didn't need exams for that. Since those days I have gained Anatomy and Physiology A level, and have qualifications in massage, Aromatherapy, Reflexology and Spiritual Healing. All things that will come in useful in my writing.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

I have always loved reading, but more than that I loved holding a book, turning the pages, studying the cover. The feel of a book meant so much to me, and to see books I owned standing on a shelf was wonderful - even though there were only four of them for a long time. But actually writing a book never occurred to me until later in life. I would read books and when I finished them would put them down thinking, I could do that. The first time that happened the book was by Agatha Christie. Then one day I picked up a Barbara Cartland, and thought I could do that. I began reading more and more romances, and kept on thinking, I could do that. But then I thought again, and let lack of confidence get the better of me and seeing a book with my name on the cover remained a dream. Not until I was in my thirties did I get round to doing something about it, and that was a rather quick decision. I'm going to do it, I thought, and I went out and bought the cheapest typewriter I could find and a pack of A4 paper. Thank goodness we are now in the computer age! I got back home and began writing. That book didn't get published, neither did the next five. But I was not giving in. Number seven did it, and it did it big. So if you are sitting there thinking you are not going to make it, forget it and keep going. If you don't, that positive response will never come.

What inspired you to begin writing again with Aphrodite's Child set in Cyprus?

This is one of those times when my psychic side really came in. I stopped writing for health reasons. I had been getting along fine with my health for a while, so had been thinking it was time to start again. I was also telling myself if I was going to have another go it was time to do it, or it would be too late; I was sixty-seven at the time. A time when a lot of people thought I should be sitting down and putting my feet up! I was sitting down one day, and watching the lunchtime news. It was January 25th 2015, and the death of Demis Roussos was reported. I had loved his songs, his voice was so haunting, so emotive. I also liked the group he was in, Aphrodite's Child. I sat there watching him on the screen and I suddenly knew that the title of my next book would be Aphrodite's Child. At that point I knew nothing else, but I got the computer revved up and began, and the story poured out of me. The reason why I wrote that book, and why it is set in Cyprus, is really all down to Demis Roussos.

What inspired you to write the book, The One Meant to Last?

I had been given the first-hand experience of being in an induced coma some years ago. I could remember it well. I'd found myself in strange places with people I seemed to know, yet when I was out of the coma, although I could still remember the people, I didn't know why I'd felt they were familiar to me. I had heard of people coming back from a coma finding they could speak another language, which no one could explain other than being the result of experiencing a past life. I began to consider what you could do with this and The One Meant to Last was born.

What is the significance of the title of your book, OWLS ON THE BONNET?

Owls on the Bonnet is something my mother said to me during the last year of her life. In her nineties, she had vascular dementia and was in a nursing home. One day when I went to see her, she said I was lucky to have found her there as she had only just got back. I asked her where she had been and she said she had taken the car to Matlock, and when she went back to the car to come home two owls were sitting on the bonnet of the car. She tried to shoo them off but they wouldn't move and so she drove home with the owls sitting there looking back at her. Once again, as I sat listening to her, I knew the title of my next book. The story is about a younger woman and an older man who never had any troubles with the age difference, until he got dementia.

In what ways do you relate to Petra from "Aphrodite's Child"? How did you go about choosing her name?

How do I relate to Petra? Well, of course, Petra is very beautiful! Only joking. I relate to all my characters in a certain way. They are my creations, so I feel there must be some part of me in there in all of them, no matter how small a part. At the time of writing a book, I am very into my main characters, both the female and the male. It can also happen with some secondary characters, and it did in Aphrodite's Child with Eirene, Angelos' mother. In fact, to date, Angelos has been my favorite character of all time: a very handsome, sexy man who finds himself confined to a wheelchair after a motorcycle accident that takes the use of his legs and thinks his life is over. My aim was to show that a man can still be as handsome and sexy in a wheelchair. I feel I have succeeded in that aim, and I have had several comments from readers who agree with me. Petra is a woman who feels a lot, something that caused her to cling to Theo's memory for far too long. She also has a very determined side, something she needed to get her through after Theo's death. As I have a disability and have spent time in a wheelchair, I think I relate more to Angelos in this story, than I do to Petra.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I do read my reviews. If someone makes a genuine observation that I can see the point of, I will give it thought and I may do something about it. If they are subjective comments I just ignore them. We are all different and have differing views on everything, the world would be a very dull and boring place if we weren't. Unfortunately, there are some who think their opinion is the only right one. In the end, whatever anyone else thinks, these are my stories and I have a lot of of nice comments from readers, so I can't be going too far wrong.

Since there are so many romance writers out there, how do you try to stand out from the crowd?

As I have just said these are my stories. They are written from the heart in the way that comes naturally to me. I hope they stand out to some people, but to try and alter your writing to fit in with trends and subjects is a foolish task. If your heart is not in what you are writing you might as well give up. If you asked me to write a thriller, I couldn't do it, because I would not like what I was writing. I am a romance writer, I write about love, and my writing is full of the love I put into it with every word I write. If that is not enough to make it stand out, I don't know what is.

What was your reaction when you won The Romantic Novelists' New Writer of the Year Award in 1991?

In a word - gobsmacked. After writing seven stories, and getting seven rejections, I was beginning to think I might have got it all wrong, "I couldn't do it", and it wasn't going to happen. Then at teatime one Saturday, the organizer of the Romantic Novelists' Association New Writer Award is phoning me up and telling me I have won. I was speechless for more than a few moments and had to sit down and get my head straight before I could hold a proper conversation. It wasn't until I had put the phone down that it hit me, and, oh my, was it a good feeling!

What are the lesser talked about but not-so-fun things about being an author?

To me it is a problem with grammar. I can sit for hours and the writing just flows out of me. But that little squiggle the comma, I am sure, was invented to plague me. For some reason I cannot grasp the proper use of the comma - please do not say you have to learn. I have spent more years than I care to remember trying to grasp it. The silly thing is, if I read someone else's work, I can tell them exactly where the commas have to go. But when it comes to my own work, I am seem to go blind to squiggles. So we turn to the editors who are good at it and put us right, and thank heavens for them. And I will stick to what I am good at, being a storyteller.

What is the main thing you want readers to take away from your book?

A smile. I would like to think they have enjoyed the story and feel they would like to read more of my books. In the stories where I go more into the psychic, spiritual side of life, I hope the readers might learn something from that as well. After reading The One Meant to Last, one lady contacted me because she had always had feelings about reincarnation and the spirit world but had never dared talk about it. She feared being laughed at and thought odd. I answered all her questions and she thanked me for discussing these thing with her and, as she put it, setting her free. She then admitted she had been chastised as a child and told she would be put in the asylum if she continued to talk openly about such things. A warning that had made her afraid of her own shadow.

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?

As soon as I finish one book, I begin another. I am now about a third of the way through a romantic saga. I have set it in the village of my childhood in Derbyshire and it begins in 1950. I have no title for this one yet. I either get a title just like that, or I struggle. At the moment it is called Sarah-Jane, the main heroine. That is all I am saying. I never speak about my stories before they are finished.

What type of books are you reading during quarantine?

I have recently finished Jojo Moyes The Giver of Stars, an excellent story. I like to read romances, sexy or not, and stories that have the romance element. If they take you to an exotic destination all the better. Occasionally, I veer away and read something different. At the moment I have done that and I am reading a thriller, KISS ME WHEN I'M DEAD, by Dominic Piper. I'm finding it intriguing. It's one of those stories you are eager to know what happens in the next chapter.

How do you usually promote your books? What do you think of AllAuthor and would you recommend it to your other author friends?

I promote my books on AllAuthor, Twitter, Amazon and Goodreads, along with local press.

I would certainly recommend AllAuthor to friends, and have done so. I like the way they present the authors and their books and I love the weekly Mockup Banners, I think it is such a good idea and they show the books off so well.

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