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Anna Jacobs (Shannah Jay)

answers the Usual Questions

photograph; Anna Jacobs (a.k.a. Shannah Jay); courtesy the author; 220x241

Anna Jacobs

Author Anna Jacobs has achieved popularity and acclaim both as Anna Jacobs and as Shannah Jay (a name under which she no longer writes). Ms Jacobs says, "I write three or more books a year, alternating modern and historical stories."

"My latest historical novel is Farewell to Lancashire, a historical saga set partly in England and partly in Western Australia. In 1863 they brought out 60 cotton lasses from Lancashire to Western Australia (no cotton because the American Civil War, closed the mills)."

I even found the memoirs of a woman who came out on the same sailing ship, so the research was fascinating. This is the first of three books about the Blake sisters.

"I'm gradually exploring West Australian history because so much fiction has been set in the eastern states."

Has your interaction with fans, for example, at conventions, affected your work?

I go to writers' conferences sometimes, but not often - though it's mounted up over the years. That's as near as I get to a fan convention. I also invite readers to write/email me and get more than two communications per day, averaged over the year. However, my work depends more on the stories welling up in my mind, the way I feed my imagination, which I do regularly, my own tastes in subject matter and my ability to work steadily, day by day. Not as much on what readers say to me.

Is there any particular incident (a letter, a meeting, a comment that stands out?

The communication I cherish most was from the family of a woman in a hospice dying of cancer. They'd been getting hold of my books for her and she wanted them to tell me how the stories had taken her out of herself and given her great pleasure. I've never forgotten that and feel honoured that my writing could do that. I still get tears in my eyes thinking of it. I've also had quite a few communications from readers (mostly but not all women) who've lost a spouse and turned to reading to fill the loneliness. I cherish that too.

Do you have a favourite author or book (or writer or film or series) that has influenced you or that you return to?

Georgette Heyer. I found her as a teenager, saved my spending money to buy her books hardback - and I didn't have a lot of spending money in those days - and still re-read her books. I've communicated my love of her writing to my husband, who is now also a fan. I've tried to do one particular thing that she did, i.e. create vivid minor characters and I hope I'm getting there.

I'm also addicted to CJ Cherryh 's books. I consider her the most intelligent and thought-provoking writer I've ever read and she's certainly made me think about my world and universe. I'm also lost in professional admiration for her Foreigner series. How any writer can keep the tension and interest going for over 10 books is a wonder to me! I've managed it for 5 books in my Gibson Family Saga, but once I'd done that I didn't want to know them any longer.

book cover; Saving Willowbrook by Anna Jacobs; 120x188

Who is the person you would most like to be trapped in a lift with? or a spaceship?

My husband, who is also my best friend and a rock in times of trouble. Also, he's interesting, so I'd have someone to chat to while waiting for the elevator to be mended. You'd not get me up in a spaceship! Planes are bad enough!

Who is the person you would most DISlike to be trapped in a lift with? Or a spaceship?

Someone with extreme views about life. Extremists of all persuasions are not very easy to talk to.

What would you pack for space? (Is there a food, beverage, book, teddy bear, etc that you couldn't do without?)

As I said, I'm not going into space, thank you very much! But for plane trips I have to pack emergency food supplies, because I have major food intolerances and airlines never get the food right. You can have one intolerance but not several. Travelling for 20 hours to the UK without any food beyond a few peanuts and a bit of salad does not appeal to me. And I take three books for the trip to England, because I can't sleep on planes. I save really good books by my favourite authors to take my mind off the fact that other people are sleeping peacefully and I'm not! Grrr!

What is the most important thing you would like to get/achieve from your work?

book cover; Farewell to Lancashire by Anna Jacobs; 134x200

I'm getting it already - it gives me enormous satisfaction to put pleasure and positive things into a world where too many groups/people put war/pain/greed and focus on the negatives.

I'm quite fond of earning the money, too! I'm not in JK Rowling's league, but I earn enough to enrich my life and that of my family - and buy as many books as I want/can find.

What is the special satisfaction of your work?

Telling stories. They well up inside me and if I'm prevented from writing for longer than a day or two I feel very frustrated indeed, not to mention bad-tempered. I love all aspects of writing novels, except for one. I love creating the idea for a story, developing that story and characters, and most of all, polishing the 'dirty draft' of a story, which uses all my hard-earned writing skills. The only thing I don't like is proof reading the finished printer's pages. Boooring!

I also have immense satisfaction from being the 7th most borrowed author of adult fiction in the UK. See:

submitted by Anna Jacobs

28 March 2010

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Just the facts:
Born: Born in the UK, emigrated to Australia in my 30s, now have a house in each country, which is wonderful. I'm particularly happy about having been born in Lancashire, which definitely influenced my character. It's a county of England which has a rich history that has supplied me with background to a lot of my stories.
Resides: Half the year in Australia, half in the UK. As my food intolerances are a disability that prevents me from travelling in the touring sense, this enables me to go to another country and be sure I can manage. It's the disability that is least understood and least sympathised with.
Bibliography/Awards:1991 Finalist in the Random House/New Idea Australian Fiction Prize - came second out of over 800 entries, won $10,000 but best of all got my first novel published.
1996 Shortlisted (under my Shannah Jay name) for Best Australian Fantasy Novel.
Under my main writing name, Anna Jacobs, shortlisted several times for Romantic Book of the Year and won the award in 2006 with Pride of Lancashire
See above - 7th most borrowed author of adult fiction in the UK.

Web site:
I'm on Facebook but not intensively, and I do not twitter. I'd rather write books.

The first chapters of Ms Jacobs' books are available to read on her web site.


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