A new novel and a new publisher. Both spell success for Jana G. Oliver as she ventures into a different realm of science fiction. Yellow30’s favorite lady of magic and time offers a glimpse into her world as a writer and how the new book and publisher became a reality.
What inspiration prompted the initial idea for Sojourn?
It’s the result of a bit too much research. I became fascinated with Late Victorian London, the primordial “stew” that was the East End. It was a time ripe for revolution. The posh folks in the West End feared the unwashed (and starving masses) in the East End would rise up and destroy the social order. Jack the Ripper, in his own way, focused the world’s attention on the abyss that was Whitechapel, one brutal murder at a time.
I thought it would be intriguing to send a Time Rover from 2057 into this mess and see what happens, especially one that LOATHES Victorian London. Lots of conflict. If, as a Time Rover, you’re not supposed to change history, how do you reconcile that mandate once you’ve become acquainted with one of the Ripper victims? Where do you draw the line between duty and moral responsibility?
How much research did you do for Sojourn?
Far more than I should have, to be honest. I had in mind a set of Victorian mysteries and actually did some preliminary writing on the first book in 2003 after about nine months worth of research. When I found that Sojourn had been picked up by Dragon Moon Press, I did another 3-4 months of research as I was writing the first draft. And yet, I’m still surprised by revelations. I recently learned that the London City police (which were separate from the Metropolitan Police) didn’t have those nifty police whistles in 1888. I had no clue.
Your first novels were self-published. Why did you make the step to traditional publishing?
Self publishing is a lot of work and I was ready to take the next step on the publishing ladder. I personally don’t care how a book comes to fruition as long as it’s worth the read, but the publishing world does. Being traditionally published gives you a bit more “legitimacy”. My ability to receive reviews went up dramatically and that helps you get the book in front of the readers.
We’d like to know the details of how you landed a contract with Dragon Moon Press?
By sheer luck. I met author Tee Morris at a convention and we got to talking about upcoming Dragon Moon projects. I pitched an idea for an article in an anthology on fantasy writing, which was accepted. Further discussion led to the opportunity to submit a “partial” (the first forty pages) and a synopsis for Sojourn. The publisher (Gwen Gades) gave me a thumbs up and I was off to the races. I made sure to give Tee a very large bottle of rum in thanks. Sometimes it’s just a matter of being at the right place at the right time.
Did you consider marketing it to a larger publishing house?
No, actually, I didn’t. I just seemed to know that Dragon Moon was where it should go. Down the line I hope that Sojourn can make the move to mass market paperback (it’s currently a trade paperback) and that would introduce the series to a wider audience.
Most publisher these days require marketing plans from authors. What’s yours for Sojourn?
I usually attend 5-7 science fiction and fantasy conventions per year. Once I finished Sojourn and knew I had a winner, I upped that to 11. I don’t recommend that for everyone. You have to have a very forgiving credit card and lots of stamina. I also made sure the book was sent to key reviewers and that helped get the word out. Sojourn is being entered into a select number of contests so that if it makes the grade, the book will receive the recognition I feel it deserves.
Has Sojourn garnered you more readership than your previous novels?
Oh, yeah. And a lot more dedicated readers, it seems. My fantasy series has some pretty serious aficionados, but the Time Rovers, of which Sojourn is the first book, has scored lots of hits. As it mixes science fiction, fantasy and historical mystery, I’ve managed to acquire readers from across the spectrum. And they all want the next book yesterday!
How important is going to science fiction conventions to you as an author?
Very important. That being said, I’m scaling down from 11 in 2006 to only 8 or so in 2007 because after a large number of cons you get complacent and that’s not good. By the time I reached Dragon*Con in September, I had to really push myself to get out, meet and greet folks. I adore doing conventions because I meet a lot of people (especially new writers) and they’re always a kick. But after so many you get really tired. I want to look forward to the next convention, not say, “Oh, lord, not again.”
Does going to conventions help your book and if so in what ways?
It’s all about exposure. Even if a fan is not interested in the type of book I write, if I come across as a decent and approachable person, they might tell their friends who might want to buy what I write. On the flip side, I get to meet so many nifty people–readers, publishers, editors and fellow authors–and that makes the long hours of travel worth it.
How important is the publisher – author relationship?
It’s everything, in my mind. If you’re not on the same page, as they say, then the magic isn’t going to work. The publisher chooses your cover artist(s), your editor, when your book will debut, etc. It’s not just a business arrangement, it’s more of a Victorian marriage. You’re birthing a new creative work and it’s really cool to know your publisher is there to help the process and smooth over the rough spots.
Do you think as a small press author you are limited in your audience reach as oppose to one of the big New York publishers?
That does happen. Since small press has to wrestle for bookshelf space in the chain stores, it’s hard to get much exposure. However, small press’ impact has grown so much in the last few years. Readers are actively supporting many of the “small” publishing houses and the independent bookstores are wonderful about telling their readers about us. In that way, some of the difficulties have been overcome. There are a lot more to go.
Going through the mainstream traditional publishing route can take years. With the advent of print on demand and the number of publishing providers out there, what is your take on the whole thing since you self-published to start with?
The publishing model is changing so rapidly. A few years ago self-publishing was supposedly the kiss of death to your career. Clearly I never bought that argument. Now it’s considered a legitimate means to place your work in front of the public. Not quite totally legit, but there’s a bit more respect out there now. This change is due to advent of POD and the heavy duty marketing work performed by self-pub/e-pub authors.
You have a second book in the works. What’s it about and how soon will it be available to readers?
I’ve just completed the first draft of Virtual Evil (Time Rovers – Book 2) and it surprised the heck out of me. The story starts only a short time after the Sojourn ends and deals with some of the loose ends. We learn a bit more about Transitive society and that for the most part, not all shifters like each other. Jacynda, the heroine, becomes a pawn in the hands of the government types in 2057 and those pesky Fenian anarchists still have lot of explosives in their possession. The book will be out in 2007, probably mid-year depending on editorial, etc. The delay is mine, not my publisher’s. She wants it out ASAP.
Editor’s Note: This second interview with Jana was done back in 2007 shortly after the release of her first Time Rover novel, Sojourn. Jana’s Time Rover books have been a big hit. She’s won the Pluto Award two years in the running with the first two books in the series. Now, Jana has graduated to even bigger and grander things. We’ll be having another interview with our favorite author in the very near future and find out what’s she’s doing and her latest writing project.