Secrets with The Guardian: An Interview with Jana Petken

jana petkenHow do you come up with the titles of your books?

The Guardian of Secrets,” my first book, is about a woman and her memories of a time, long gone. She has guarded some very dark secrets from her family, for decades, and they are revealed during the story. She was, as the title says, the guardian of secrets. In other books, the title has come from a phrase or word in the story, which I thought depicted the book’s atmosphere.

What is your writing schedule? Do you jump out of bed with coffee in hand or are you an afternoon writer? What conditions do you like to write under?

I wish someone would bring me coffee in bed, so that I could jump out of, said bed, with coffee in hand. I usually have my first coffee at the computer. I love to write very early in the morning.

What do you have to avoid when writing a book? Do you ever get burned out?

There are times when I get distracted by the dog needing a walk, or someone turning up at my door for coffee and a chat. I try to avoid making plans until the afternoon. Once I have a long break, I find it hard to get my train of thought back.

How do you start to write a book? What is the first step?

I guess I just write the first page with a character and time period in mind and then, literally, just take it from there. I don’t write an outline or synopsis, and I don’t have a story unfolding before me, like magic. I go chapter to chapter, always trying to bring action or drama into each whilst developing the characters. Luckily, I’ve never been stuck for too long…but I have been mired in a chapter for days, refusing to give up on it.

What books have most influenced your life most?

There are a few. Okay, so I love classics and there has been no greater influence on me than Gone With the Wind. By today’s rules and laws of writing, it would be called too long winded, in parts, but Margaret Mitchell really knew how to bring her characters to life. I also enjoyed Ken Follett’s, The Pillars of The Earth. Books that span a period in history with a really great storyline are priceless.

Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?

Joseph Dobbs in The Guardian of Secrets gave me a lot of fun. He was a great villain, unstoppable, and inventive. His character was vile, I mean really despicable. But he was also very entertaining and the book could not have been written without his influence on all the other characters. Readers have written to me, saying: I hated Joseph Dobbs but didn’t want to see him defeated. Mercy Carver was also a memorable, exhausting, and entertaining character to write about. She suffered but her triumphs were epic.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I don’t think I would, although I recognise that I took some risqué chances with this Mercy Carver Series. I worried about my readers’ reaction to some of the more graphic scenes, but I felt them necessary to the story. Luckily, the series has been very well received. In fact it has surpassed my expectations.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

My interest was sparked the day I got my first laptop. I didn’t have internet connection and so I thought I would write a little story. That little essay I had in mind turned into a 700 page historical fiction saga.

What is your overall opinion of the publishing industry?

It’s in flux. It’s incestuous, tough, and at times, baffling. The book market is flooded and it is very difficult to get noticed by readers, who are just as baffled by the vast amount of books, as we the authors are. I honestly believe that the publishing industry is going the wrong way. There are far too many free books and highly discounted books. These new marketing strategies by authors may be good for rankings on Amazon but I still think that a good book, which has taken months to write and money to publish, should be valued. Would you work for free?

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Yes, I would love to. My new book, due for release this summer, is entitled, The Errant Flock. It is historical fiction, set in Spain during the Spanish Inquisition. It is challenging but I’m really enjoying writing about such a tumultuous period in history, and about the characters whose lives will be just as turbulent as the times they live in. In this book, the characters are predominately male and it definitely contains more drama and less romance.

Do you ever get tired of looking at words?

No, but I get tired of not finding them, sometimes!

Who designed the covers?

I usually design them myself, in collaboration with a graphic designer.

Who is your audience?

I believe I have an adult readership. Historical fiction is not for everyone, but then neither is erotica of fantasy. My readers are those who like a story infused with history, and with plenty of meat on the creative bone. I’m very lucky to have such great readers. Their messages to me are precious and I appreciate their feedback, so much.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I learned to be courageous. If an author wants to write a book that will be believable, honest, and imaginative, he or she has to let go of inhibitions and bear the soul. This might sound a bit dramatic but I believe this to be true.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Plod on and promote yourself, as best you can. Readers won’t pick up your book if they don’t know that it exists.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Dear reader. There are three million books on Amazon in an array of genres, and written by self published authors. Please don’t be afraid to take a chance on a relatively unknown writer or on a genre, which may be new to you. You have the market in your hands and there has never been a better time to discover new talent in the publishing world.


the guardian of secretsThe Guardian of Secrets

A historical family saga spanning four generations, from 1912, Kent, England, to Spain and its 1936-39 civil war.

Celia and Ernesto’s two sons march under opposing banners, whilst their daughters take different paths, one to the Catholic Church and the other to the battlefields, and in the shadow of war, an evil ghost from the past watches and waits for an opportunity to destroy the entire family. In exile, Celia and Ernesto can only wait and pray for their children and their safe return home.. Get your copy today!

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