Jane R. Wood is President of the Florida Authors and Publishers Association. She’s written many historic fiction books for children, including Voices in St. Augustine, Ghosts on the Coast: A Visit to Savannah and the Low Country and Lost in Boston. I recently caught up with Jane at the Amelia Island Book Festival.
1. Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
I was born in Astoria, Oregon, and moved to Florida when I was 10. I grew up near Cape Canaveral, and even worked at the Kennedy Space Center for two of my college summer jobs. I graduated with a BA from the University of Florida and earned a M.Ed. from the University of North Florida. I taught middle school and high school for six years, wrote for a newspaper for three years, and was a television producer for 12 years before writing my first book. I live in Jacksonville, Florida, with my husband Terry. I have two grown sons and five grandchildren. My family roots are all Finnish, which was proven when I did my DNA through Ancestry and it came back 85% Finnish and the rest European.
2. What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
I fell in love with the magic of words in the 4th grade when Mrs. Nance assigned a poetry project. That evolved into writing stories. My father was a great storyteller of everyday occurrences, so I think that had an impact too. Also, as a former teacher, I wanted to write fun, fiction stories for kids and weave some history and science into the story line making them educational as well as fun.
3. What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
I’m a planner so it’s sometimes difficult to let the creative process take over and let the story tell itself. It’s always better when that happens.
4. What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
I have aha moments every time a young person tells me they love my books. That tells me I accomplished my goal. I want kids reading, but I also want them enjoying what they’re reading. (Once a teacher, always a teacher!)
5. What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I like historical fiction. I like Ken Follett and Jeffrey Archer. Pat Conroy was a master of words. I read Gone with the Wind when I was 16 and I think a seed was planted.
6. Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
I don’t write every day, although I should. I get inspired when I travel and visit new places. I keep thinking about my characters and what would they do there. My main ritual is that I need quiet when I’m writing, so I close my office door a lot!
7. What are your interests outside of writing?
I love to travel. I enjoy cooking, and eating, and good wine. If I had more time, I’d sew and do needlework like I used to do. And of course, I love to read.
8. Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
I would encourage aspiring authors to learn their craft. Attend workshops, classes, writers groups and network with other writers. If they decide to self-publish, then they need to hire professionals to do the things that they are not good at – things like book formatting, cover design, website design, etc. And ALWAYS use a good professional editor. I have found that networking with other authors is extremely valuable – and fun! My membership in the Florida Authors and Publishers Association has taught me a great deal about the publishing industry. The only thing I’d do differently is start writing my books many years earlier. I think fear of failure holds many writers back. The best advice I can give is just do it!
For more information on me, go to http://www.janewoodbooks.com.
Renee Garrison is an award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers.