Today I am very pleased to present a guest author! It's wonderful to do something different for a change and I think once you meet Janie Franz you will see what an usual writer she is.:)
Barbara: Please tell our readers about yourself. Everyone can read your bio, but tell us something that is not on your bio.
Janie: I come from a long line of liars and storytellers. I had an uncle who couldn't read or write, but the man could spin a yarn. When we'd go visiting when I was a child, the women would be in the kitchen, talking about who had affairs with who and showing each other their operation scars. I found that to be so boring and really depressing. The women were so solemn. I'd always slip into the living room where the men were and sit in behind my uncle's big chair and listen to his stories about fishing and hunting and mountain “haints.” His stories were funny and full of mountain expressions---and the men laughed so hard! And they weren't sharing around any moonshine either!
Barbara: How did a southern girl from Tennessee wind up in North Dakota?
Janie: My husband had just finished grad school with a degree in rehabilitation counseling. It was really a niche degree that didn't offer a lot of placements in Ohio where we were living at the time. As my husband was sending out resumes, I knew the possibilities were limitless. We could move anywhere in the country. All I asked was no place flat or cold......Well, guess where we ended up? The flattest, coldest place in the country!
Barbara: You have written two non-fiction books, The Wedding Planner Book and The Wedding Ceremony Book with a Texas wedding DJ, Bill Cox. Would you please tell our readers how this happened?
Janie: I am a full-time freelance journalist. As part of the early days of establishing my business, I looked for writing projects every day. I saw a post for a collaborator for a book on weddings. As Bill and I corresponded, getting to know the scope of the project and each other better, his wife asked him, “Bill, why don't you just call her and talk to her?” His answer was insightful. He said, “I want to see how she expresses herself on paper.”
Bill and I did research, and he sent me a lot of anecdotes about being a wedding DJ. I did a lot of writing and editing. We did the reception book first and then the ceremony book. Bill had the first copies of the reception book printed himself. Because we started seeing a demand, he went to a POD company. Eventually, he changed companies and we have it at BookSurge now, and are very pleased with them.
Barbara: Tell us about the book you wrote yourself: Freelance Writing: It’s a Business Stupid. Why did you write it?
Janie: Actually, I was really tired of people treating me and my business as if I were just occupying my free time with a little hobby. I was at a big entrepreneur show here, doing a presentation on freelance writing, when someone from a graphic design company in a booth near mine came over and asked if I just was doing this little hobby. And that came from a young woman!
I looked her in the eye and said, “You have a graphic design business, right?”
“Yes,” she said.
“It's a full-time business for you, right?”
“Yes,” she said.
“It's just the same as mine. I'm a full-time freelance journalist. I make money at what I do and I pay taxes, just like you.”
Needless to say, that's where the title came from!
But I also saw a need for writers to have good tools that they could use to start a business. I've worked out a lot of bugs in the past decade about doing this. I'll be doing a week-long workshop at the Muse Online Writers Conference in October called Freelance Writing: It’s a Business Stupid!.
Janie: I had written for a local entertainment newspaper since 1998, covering music and art sometimes. I also wrote freebies for the local daily newspaper here, too. When the entertainment newspaper stopped distribution in my city, I worried that music lovers here, venues, and bands wouldn't get the word out. So, in June I jumped off the cliff and called a band publicist I know and he pointed me to a great web master, who hosts my site and set it up for me. I keep a very detailed calendar at the site and I also write a lot of the material you see up there. The magazine is read by folks from all over the country and in some foreign countries, but mostly it's popular in the Northern Plains.
I have had a few people as guest writers and I welcome their work. I can't pay anybody because there are no ads on the site at all! I do have a page called Hot Venues, Cool Friends that points to some local clubs and services. In order to pay for my domain name and hosting fees, I've routed money from another writing project strictly to cover this.
Barbara: Where and when were you a radio announcer?
Janie: I was a public radio announcer for a local college station here about ten years ago when I went back to school to earn my degree. I also did a brief stint at a local easy listening station after that. I realized that commercial radio is really controlled by the music industry. Public radio has a lot more leeway in music selection. I also have been a guest for the past three years on the same public radio station doing some previews of bands for a big regional music festival here. I'd bring in music selections and I'd have a conversation with the Program Director about the music. Unfortunately, that music festival is no more.
Janie: You know, I've thought about doing a mystery series about a band roadie, but it never got very far. I might resurrect that idea. As far as the yoga and things along that vein, I think I'm tapping into a bit of that with The Bowdancer Saga sort of indirectly.
Barbara: What made you decide to start writing fiction? What do you think are the differences between writing fiction and non-fiction?
Janie: Though I had begun writing short fiction as a child, I never aspired to have anything in print until I took a creative writing course in high school and my teacher wanted us all to get something published before the school year ended. Though I was the person who was supposed to be specializing in fiction, my first sold piece was an essay. Later, I sold a couple of poems. (The poet in the class sold short stories. Go figure!)
When we moved to North Dakota, I thought I’d become a stay-at-home wife and write. Well, children came and that writing dream was put aside. When my children were small, I sent out a story or two, but no acceptances. I did receive a couple of handwritten rejections and once got a second read from Redbook. Those stories went into a drawer.
As I built my freelance writing business, I couldn’t take time for fiction because I needed to make money and I also knew just how consuming writing fiction could be. As my business became stable, I thought that I might make some time.
Last year, at the Muse Online Writers Conference, Lea Schizas, who runs the conference, asked for attendees to send in book pitches. I had a couple of novels in a drawer that I was just beginning to do some substantive editing for and I had some short fiction. I didn’t have any longer work polished to the point that I could pitch it. After the deadline for pitches came and went, Lea asked us to see if we could help fill in the few openings she had. I looked at the publishers’ guidelines again. I wanted to help Lea out so that she would be able to offer pitches again at the next conference. There were a few of the publishers that took shorter works so I sent in two and got a slot for each of my pitches.
The first pitch asked for a rewrite from first person to third and to resubmit. I did that and it is pending at the moment.
The second, Breathless Press, asked me to send my work to them. That was The Bowdancer, which was a novelette at the time. They liked it, sent me a contract, and the work grew into a novella through the editing process.
I like to think that an act of kindness got me published.
You asked about the differences between writing fiction and non-fiction. I’ve become rather efficient and I like to think I’m skilled at writing non-fiction. I’ve written for over a hundred publications, probably producing a thousand articles and I’ve interviewed about as many people. You get into a rhythm for that. You have a conversation with someone, you do research, you transcribe your interview, you find your hook, and you write.
But fiction is quite different. Even though I work from a very brief outline, I still may not know what really will happen. The outline acts like a compass, pointing me in a direction, and the writing, particularly the characters and how they interact, fills in all of the details. I immerse myself into the worlds I create and into the characters. The writing becomes sort of a transcendent experience, a merging into the creative flow. It is what a lot of artists experience. This, however, doesn’t guarantee that the quality of the work that is created is worthwhile. It just means the experience of creating is.
Barbara: Would you please describe a typical writing experience for our readers? What is your writing process?
Janie: I know a very prolific novelist and journalist who writes her fiction first thing in the morning and then deals with the non-fiction. I can’t work like that. I found that I can’t write fiction during the day, especially if the phone is ringing or I have to do interviews. I also don’t write on the same computer.
I try to occupy my journalism “office” at my desktop during the morning and afternoon. I close that office down in the late afternoon and move to my fiction “office” at my laptop across the room. Here I deal with marketing and such. Then in the evening, I write fiction. If I have a day that is short on the journalism end, I write earlier. Lately, I’ve had interviews bleeding into my evening hours so I have had a shorter time in the evening for writing.
I must confess that during the writing of the next two books in the Bowdancer Saga, I sometimes found myself looking down at my hands on the keyboard and then looking at what I had written and been totally surprised by what I found.
I do enjoy my characters and have bonded with them intimately.
Barbara: How long did it take to get your books published? Was it different for fiction and non-fiction?
Janie: The non-fiction books, as I said, were self published so that was just a factor of finding the right company to do the work and being able to pay for it. For fiction, it has taken a lifetime. I’m 60 years old. But once this opportunity opened up for me, it was almost instantaneous and I’ve been caught in a whirlwind. I’ve also been writing actively now, trying to balance fiction and non-fiction.
Barbara: Please give our readers a synopsis of The Bowdancer.
Janie: My book blurb describes the book this way: Jan-nell, a young healer and keeper of village lore, despairs of ever finding the child who will be the next bowdancer or a man worthy enough to love. When Bastin and his bandit crew interrupt a wedding, Jan-nell is called upon to treat one of the men who has been injured. Bastin is a highly intelligent man who has his own story to tell and he shares that and more with Jan-nell. They are intellectual equals but perhaps not spiritual ones. A quirk of fate shatters all that Jan-nell knows.
Barbara: The Bowdancer is a very short novel. Was it a short story before it was a novel?
Janie: The Bowdancer was always a novelette. It just grew into a novella during the final edits with my publisher. When I wrote it, I realized that it might have the seeds of being the beginning of a trilogy or series.
Barbara: What inspired you to write The Bowdancer?
Janie: I first discovered Jan-nell, the bowdancer, in a meditation. I saw her take that first bowshot with a flaming arrow across the sky. That became the first scene in the story. While in meditation, I asked Jan-nell what her name was and found her conflict. I took notes about my meditation, but I never encountered her again. I eventually wrote her story and Bastin popped into it.
The Bowdancer begins the saga, which will present a series of books that explore gender, roles, cultures, the arts, spirituality, and different concepts of family---and hopefully will offer some romance and adventure along the way. I do think the whole Bowdancer Saga empowers women, even though we are sometimes caught by circumstances. Women have a resilience that allows us to flow with those circumstances perhaps a bit better than men.
Barbara: Have you thought about writing a sequel to it?
Barbara: Do you have any WIP’s? If so, are they fiction or non-fiction?
Janie: I’m currently working on The Lost Song, the fourth book in the saga. And, I’m working on a much longer work about an woman archaeologist who is transported into the far future after a holocaust that has rendered America into a primitive feudal land. Her only hope to survive in this new world is to become a royal consort. It’s not exactly standard romance. But, well, I don’t write standard romance.
Barbara: Is there anything that you would like to add?
Janie: The whole series has a lot of songs in it. My husband, who is a singer/songwriter, is currently working on writing a few to be included in a companion CD or at least to offer mp3s for download. I also hope to eventually offer a few pamphlets on herbs and trailside cooking as incentives to buying the books. We’ll see how that works.
Barbara: Thank you for coming and I hope you had fun.
Janie: No, thank you for having me. This has been a lot of fun!