Today my special guest is the enthusiastic Anna Jacobs, author of over 47 novels. Anna writes historical sagas and modern family relationships stories.
Welcome Anna! Thanks for joining us and talking about your addiction to story-telling.
Take it away...
My name is Anna Jacobs and I’m a story-teller. I think it was born in me. I’ve been doing it since the age of two.
People often ask me if I work ‘set hours’, as if I have to make myself write. I smile as I answer, because it’s the other way round. I work every hour I can snatch from 6am till teatime, then I stop to spend time with my lovely husband. I’m undoubtedly addicted to story-telling. They don’t usually mention the possibility of addiction when you start writing, do they?
I always have my eyes and ears open for story ideas. That part of me never switches off. And if I’m prevented from writing for a while—a fearsome thing!—stories and characters force themselves to the forefront of my mind and nag me to continue writing about them. They even invade my dreams.
My husband says I sometimes go ‘glassy-eyed’ when watching the TV or when sitting with him, and he knows I’m not really there any more but into another story or scene. It’s a good thing he’s a very tolerant man.
When I became a full-time novelist, I thought that at last I’d have enough time to write. (I used to get up at 4am to do it before work.) Not so. There aren’t enough hours in the day to tell all the stories I ‘see’.
I’ve had 47 novels published now and I’m not running out of ideas. In fact, I’m getting more ideas each year. I’ve decided that the imagination must be a sort of ‘muscle’ and the more you use it, the stronger it grows.
How do I get these ideas? Well, look around you. The world is full of things happening to people. You only have to think, ‘But what if this happened to my heroine, only she . . .’ A small change to the basic scenario and you can start a whole new tale.
For my historical novels, I get ideas from my research mainly, though if I visit a historical monument or see a history programme on TV, that might give me a nudge too. I love reading research books, not only those produced by university historians, but also amateur memoirs.
The latter are a treasure trove. Uncle Bob’s memories of being a policeman in 1925, or Auntie Janie’s stories of her childhood in Blackpool. They usually have floppy covers and badly printed interiors and contain spelling mistakes and typos. But they’re ‘real’ and they give insights into life in the past that university courses and historians can’t offer - because, like me, the historians weren’t there in those days.
I started this blog piece by talking about story-telling, and to me, that’s what I do. The writing comes second to the story (and second to the characters in it, too). I’m not trying to show off my extensive vocabulary or dazzle readers with fancy phrases. I leave that to poets. I’m trying to tell a story so gripping it’ll grab the readers’ attention, as it’s already grabbed mine.
I’d love you to try some of my stories. My latest paperback is ‘Freedom’s Land’ I wrote it after doing a writing project for a small West Australian town. I was so fascinated by the town’s history that I wrote a full-length novel set against the background of group settlement.
What’s group settlement? Starting in the 1920s, the West Australian Government gave away forest land to ex-servicemen, who had to clear it and set up dairy farms. They did this in groups. Families came from across the sea, many of them had never worked on farms. It was a recipe for disaster - but some of them made a glorious success of it. And luckily for me, quite a few of them wrote their memoirs. My characters may be imaginary, but they’re as true to the real group settlers (whom I greatly admire) as I could make them.
Now, it’s been nice chatting, but I must go. You see, I have this story to write. If I don’t get back to it, I won’t find out what happens to my heroine . . .
Thanks Anna for joining us on the fest and for an inspiring article.
To read the first chapter of Freedom's Land, please click this link (it will open a pdf document).
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Good luck and thank you Anna for your generosity.
Don't forget to visit Anna's website for more information on her books.