Hi Jan and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?
Thanks for having me, Jo. I’m self-employed and have several day jobs, mostly related to the book trade. I sometimes feel like one of those 1970s TV entertainers who kept lots of plates spinning on sticks. I love it and having a variety of work certainly keeps me on my toes.
When did you decide to become a writer and how did you begin that journey?
I trained as a journalist because the careers lady at school said it was a good choice for someone who enjoyed telling stories! I soon moved into publishing and have been writing and editing non-fiction ever since. I fell into fiction after being approached by Endeavour Press to write a history book; we couldn’t find a topic that worked, so the publisher suggested I try my hand at romcom instead. I ended up writing four e-novellas for them, which were later picked up by a traditional publisher who also commissioned a brand-new paperback called The Bookshop Detective. Mine has not been a typical journey!
What makes a good hero?
Heroes should be complex and contradictory, which means they must have been through the emotional mill. My hero Daniel is still partly in love with his ex-wife, for example, even though she broke his heart. Like most of my characters, Dan won’t see 40 again…
You’re an author of rom coms and contemporary fiction. Have you ever been tempted to write, say, crime or a psychological thriller?
My last story centred around two Victorian mysteries and – as it happens – I began writing a thriller at our recent RNA Bath & Wilts writing day. Did I mention that I get bored easily?
When it comes to getting away on holiday are you a Beach or City girl?
A city near the coast is my idea of heaven. I’ve recently returned from Naples and loved it.
What would your advice be to new writers?
Go for it! Rather than fretting, grit your teeth and write something. It might be rubbish, but you can always revise it later. The important thing is to get the creative juices flowing. And read as much as you can, in any genre, trying to note how the authors manage dialogue, time-shifts, etc. Lastly, do make sure that your grammar, spelling and punctuation are correct before sending your book off into the world.
And finally, you’re planning a year out, getting away from everyone on a desert island – what ‘must haves’ would you take with you and why?
An endless pile of books, a year’s supply of teabags and a small dog. Who could ask for more?
Jan Ellis began writing fiction by accident in 2013. Until then, she had led a blameless life as a publisher, editor and historian of early modern Spain. She fell into fiction when a digital publisher approached her to write a history book, then made the mistake of mentioning women’s fiction, which sounded much more fun.
Jan describes her books as romcom/mystery with the emphasis firmly on family, friendship and humour. She specialises in small-town settings, with realistic characters who range in age from young teens to 80-somethings. As well as being an author, Jan continues to work at the heart of the book trade.
About the books
An Unexpected Affair and A Summer of Surprises and French Kisses and A London Affair are published in two paperback volumes by Waverley Books. The Bookshop Detective is a paperback original.