November 12, 2014

Author Interview ~ Janet Elizabeth Henderson

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself that we won’t find in your bio?
While taking photos in Africa for a UK charity, I was detained by the Ethiopian military. They thought I was spying for Eretria. I thought it was hilarious until I realized they were serious. After that it took a lot of fast talking to convince them to let me go. This was after I tripped over in Addis Ababa’s biggest market and a donkey sat on me. Let me tell you, it isn’t easy to get out from under a donkey!

What do you do in your spare time or when you are not writing?
Read. A lot. Talk Barbie and Lego with my kids. And try to keep my pet sheep out of my house.

Do you have a ‘day job’?
Does full time mum count? :)

When did you first start writing?
I wrote my first novel when I was 22. It was a kid’s fantasy story. I sent it to Penguin without proofreading it first—I really didn’t have a clue back then. It was a truly awful book. A dreadful mix of Lord of the Rings, Star Trek and Monsters Inc!

How or why did you choose the genre you write in?
I used to read a LOT of crime and thrillers, but found it hard to sleep afterwards—I wonder why?! I swapped to reading romance when I was on holiday and the only English novel I could find was Open Season, by Linda Howard. I LOVED it. Funny dialogue, happy characters and no nightmares when I finished reading it! After years writing crime, I swapped to happier tales, and haven’t looked back.

Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere. My head is full of over-the-top, ludicrous rubbish! It pops out when I write a book.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Some books are harder to write than others, but I can’t say I’ve experienced writer’s block—yet! My main problem is that I have too many ideas in my head and my fingers can only type so fast. :)

Do you work with an outline, or do you just write?
Both. Sometimes I write an outline, but then find that the book goes its own way in the first draft. Sometimes I write a first draft then go back and outline so that I know where to take the second draft.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
So, so many!! Jane Austen for her first line in Pride and Prejudice. Even if the rest of the book didn’t exist that first line would be monumental. It sets up the plot, establishes the tone and plonks you right into the middle of the story. I try to keep it in mind when I write the first lines of my books—oh, to come up with a line as brilliant as Jane’s! Then there’s Carol O’Connell’s Judas Child. AMAZING book. The writing is so luscious you fall into it. Her imagery is to die for, her characters are unusual and well developed, and her plot devices are off the wall. She’s a crime writer. Please read her!

Can you tell us about your challenges (if any) in getting your first book published?
I’ve had a few hiccups. I had an agent when I wrote crime, but when I changed genre the agent really didn’t know what to do with me. So I sent my work to Mills and Boon on my own. They said they loved it—then proceeded to lose it. THREE times!! Over a two year period they not only lost my work, but the editor (and the advice I was being given) changed several times as well. In the end, I got fed up. Encouraged by a couple of friends from Romance Writers of New Zealand, I decided to give self-publishing a go. I still haven’t ruled out traditional publishing, but right now I very much like the immediacy of doing it myself.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I would have been wiser about choosing an agent. A bit more informed, perhaps. At the time I was just happy to get an agent, I didn’t think about what they could do for me or how they would work with me. Having an agent is a partnership and you need to be on the space wavelength for it to work well.

Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
As I said above, traditional publishing was too slow for me. I spent years in the system being shunted around waiting for people to deal with my work. In the end, I pulled my books from the publisher who was considering them and went out on my own. It was a choice that worked for me.

Can you tell us about any WIP’s?
I’m currently working on Invertary Book Three. It tells the story of the only police officer in town—Matt Donaldson. He’s fed up being a small town cop and decides to move back to the city. That’s before he meets a Canadian artist who causes so much chaos that he gets sucked into her world, and his plans change dramatically.
I’m also working on a five book paranormal/sci-fi romance series. It’s less comedic than my contemporary romance work, but still has some humour. It’s also a bit sexier in content than my other books. I was ill this past year and had a lot of time to read, so I wandered into the paranormal genre. After reading the wonderful books of Nalini Singh and Kresley Cole, my head was full of ideas for paranormal stories. I have no idea if these are any good, or if anyone would want to read paranormal from someone who normally writes romantic comedy, but I have to get the stories out of my mind before I go insane!

Is anything in your book based on a real life experience or is it purely all imagination?
A lot of the things that happen in my books happen to me. I’m a walking disaster. At least I can laugh at my mishaps and use them in a story! :)

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
In Goody Two Shoes, I loved writing the scenes where Andrew comes up with the solution to what women really want from men—and then he inflicts it on his poor unsuspecting wife. Those scenes came from an argument I had with my husband, where he said that women’s expectations of men were seriously warped by the romance novels they read. (Yep, he’s still breathing, but only just!) I tried to explain to hubby that women aren’t dumb, they know fiction when they see it. Then I wrote about Andrew who DOESN’T recognize fiction when he sees it. I had a lot of fun with that!

How did you come up with the title?
The titles for my books walk into my head and take up residence until I write the stories…

Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with again?
Obviously I love the whole ‘stranger comes to town’ plot. I loved it enough to base my Invertary series on it. What can I say? I watched too many old Western movies as a kid! I also love the notion that you can’t control life. That having a plan is well and good, but really we aren’t in control of anything. I especially like it when my character’s plans are completely derailed and they get what they need, instead of what they want.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
It’s always hard when someone is critical of your work. You try to take it on board and find the part of the criticism that will make your work better. You have to analyze what people tell you against your work, to see if there is truth in it. And if there is, you work to improve in that area. The problem is that personal opinion often colours criticism and you have to filter that out before the criticism is useful. The same is true for compliments. It’s tempting when people tell you that you’re good at something, to think that you should ONLY do that thing. It makes you afraid of taking a chance or stepping out of your comfort zone. After riding an emotional roller coaster over reviews, I’ve decided that one thing, above all else, tells you whether you are on the right track or not—if people read one of your books and buy another. That’s all it comes down to. That’s the greatest compliment of all.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Work to your strengths and strive to improve your weaknesses. Don’t compare yourself to other writers—even if they are working in the same genre, they are writing their own stories in their own styles. Instead compare your current work to your last work and ask yourself if you have grown as a writer, if you have improved in your craft, if you have sweated a little more over this book than the last. That’s the way to put out the best work you can possibly put out. And it’s the only way you won’t insult your readers. Never be arrogant about your work, or your knowledge. There is always something you can learn from other writers. Take the time to look at what they do well and try it in your own work. Always strive to spend more time working on the quality of your writing, than on the marketing you’re doing. Some people say that you should only write if you enjoy it. I’m not so sure. There’s a lot about writing I enjoy, but there’s a lot that’s plain old hard work. If you’re serious about writing, you need to put in the time to do that hard work.

Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

When I finish each of my books and send them out into the world, I am absolutely convinced that I’ve done a terrible job and that no one will want to read them! Then people read them and write to me to tell me how much they enjoyed them. It’s a very humbling experience hearing that people liked your books. And it’s a huge encouragement too. So thank you for reading my work!

I was born in Scotland and now I live in New Zealand. I've been here almost eleven years and I absolutely love it! I'm married to a lovely Dutch man who tolerates the fact I make fun of him on my facebook page. I have two adorable little girls and several mad animals that eat up a lot of my time during the day. This means I do all my writing in the dark when everyone is asleep. I put on some music and entertain myself with stories of people falling in love. It's such fun to watch the characters screw up from the comfort of my wee office! I'm a trained artist, an ex-teacher and travel junkie. But most of all - I LOVE to talk to people! So if you want to contact me, feel free.

Lingerie Wars (Invertary #1)

Englishman Lake Benson loaned his life savings to his dippy sister so that she could buy a shop. It was a big mistake. His sister has been steadily flushing his money down the drain – and now he wants it back. Years in the special forces taught Lake that if you want a job done, do it yourself. So he steps in to make the shop profitable, sell it and get his money back. The only problem is, the business is an underwear shop. And all Lake knows about underwear can be summed up in how fast he can unsnap a bra. To make matters worse, the tiny highland town already has a lingerie shop. A successful one, run by an ex-lingerie model. A very gorgeous ex-lingerie model, who’s distracting him from his mission more than he’d like to admit. If Lake wants to get his savings back, and get out of Scotland, he only has one option – wipe out the competition.

Kirsty Campbell has spent years rebuilding her life after she woke up in hospital in Spain to find her body scarred, and her ex-fiance had run off with all her money. The last thing she needs is a cocky, English soldier-boy trying to ruin all she has left. Her home town is only too happy to help her fight the latest English invasion, although Lake is beginning to sway them with his sex appeal and cut price knickers. With the help of her mother, and the retired ladies of Knit or Die, Kirsty sets about making sure that her shop is the last one standing in Invertary.

It’s Scotland versus England as you’ve never seen it before. It’s lingerie war.

This is Book 1 in the Invertary series.

Goody Two Shoes (Invertary #2)

Take one American singer who doesn’t believe in falling in love...

Josh McInnes’ biological clock is ticking and he wants to get married—now. After 20 years singing soppy love songs, he knows that there is no such thing as romantic love. There’s only hormones and lust. At thirty-five, he’s tired of his playboy lifestyle. He wants a wife who isn’t interested in fame, money, or romance. A sensible wife, who values commitment. He wants a partnership, a friendship, and none of the craziness that goes with falling in love. As far as he can see, there’s only one way to get exactly what he wants—he needs an arranged marriage.

…add a Scottish librarian who has given up on ever falling in love…

Caroline Patterson terrifies men. With her no-nonsense attitude, and ice queen demeanor, she’s in control of everything—and everyone—around her. Her sensible shoes and grey skirt suits act like a force field, repelling male attention. At thirty-one, she can’t remember the last time she went on a date and is beginning to think she’ll never have a family of her own. When an American stranger buys the local castle then approaches Caroline with a marriage proposal that resembles a business contract, she quickly accepts. She doesn’t expect romance. But she does expect to control each and every detail of their lives together. Because as life has taught her—if you aren’t in control, bad things happen.

…and it's romance Invertary style!

Mad Love (London Books, #1)

Madeline Lewis wants to be the next big thing in something - anything. She is tired of failure, although to be fair she does cause most of it, but now she wants to be a success. And the only thing standing between her and world domination is Dean Montgomery, her childhood friend. Dean has been in Maddie's life so long that he's taken on the attributes of wallpaper. That's something Dean plans to change and fast. He'd tired cleaning up Maddie's messes, he's tired of being the sensible one and he's tired of being invisible. Maddie might be confused about what she wants out of life, but Dean knows what he wants - Madeline Lewis. She won't know what hit her.

Laura's Big Break (London Books, #2)

*Winner of the 2013 RWA Gulf Coast, Silken Sands Star Award for contemporary romance*

Laura needs to interview the hero of the moment to keep her new job with a women's magazine. She'd rather stick a fork in her eye. Twelve years have passed since her disastrous one night stand with Charlie and they've barely exchanged two civil words in that time. She calls him the Neanderthal and he calls her The Iron Maiden. If it wasn't for the fact his sister was Laura's best friend, she wouldn't have anything at all to do with him.

Charlie has come back from a stint in Afghanistan with a souvenir - nightmares. After one afternoon arguing with Laura, Charlie makes a wonderful discovery: she's so irritating, she scares away his dreams. So Charlie agrees to give her an interview - at a price. She has to accompany him on a two week cycling holiday in Holland, that way he might actually get the rest he needs. He takes particular delight in the plan because he knows that Laura hates exercise, loathes the outdoors and despises him. It feels good to have the upper hand for a change.

Laura needs an interview. Charlie needs sleep. And they both need to grow up and get over the past. But not before Laura cycles into a canal, sets fire to a tent and posts nude pictures of Charlie on the internet - all with the hope of getting her story.

There is a sister book to this title called Mad Love. It tells the story of Charlie's sister.

The Davina Code

Disgraced cop Jack Miller inherits a house. He also inherits a tenant. She's sexy, mysterious and obviously up to no good. His cop instincts are in overdrive. He's trying to get his job back and no police force will employ him if there's illegal activity in his house. His only option is to solve the mystery of his crazy tenant's behaviour and kick her out - if he can keep his hands off her long enough to do it!

Davina Davenport is trying to make a movie with 'borrowed' equipment, in a house without permission and on a deadline. It's her last stab at an acting career and even she knows the plan is slightly insane. Her boss at the TV station is asking about the missing equipment. Jack Miller is nosing around her house - and her. And the creepy cameraman from work wants to blackmail her into trading sex for his filming skills.

It will be a miracle if the movie gets made before Davina ends up fired, in jail or in Jack's bed!


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