Check out an author: Jane Bloomfield
Author Jane Bloomfield lives in Queenstown with her husband and three teenage children. Her first junior fiction novel, Lily Max: Satin, Scissors, Frock was published by Luncheon Sausage Books in October 2015. All-action heroine Lily Max has come back to further her adventures in 2 sequels, Lily Max Slope, Style, Fashion and Lily Max Sun, Surf, Action.
We asked Jane to tell us more about herself and her books.
Ed: If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be?
Jane: Good question! Prior to having children (I have three, aged 21, 19 and 16) I was a flower grower and a florist. When my third child was born, I started a designer cushion label. My earlier career involved marketing and selling. I’ve done a lot of weird jobs along the way. Pumpkin polisher. Strawberry picker. Rousey in a shearing gang. Freezing worker (not kidding.) Secretary. I guess if I wasn’t a writer I’d be doing something creative. I’m just not sure what? Craft teacher? I do love crafts; just like my character, Lily Max.
Ed: Did you ever get told off for reading?Jane: Every now and then I did for not turning the light out at night. I shared a room with my sister. I’ve always been a big reader. As soon as I could read myself, I read every pony story I could get my hands on. I was pony-mad even though we lived in the city. I did a lot of galloping on wild mustangs (in my head) over the green-green-grasses-of Wyoming. When I was around 11 – 12 years old, I moved on to general fiction. YA wasn’t a genre then. My mum gave me books by Colleen McCullough and Wilbur Smith. My stepmother gave me Georgette Heyer.
Ed: What were you like at school?Jane: I was just your average student. I actually went to eight different schools! My dad was in the Royal New Zealand Navy so we moved around a bit. My parents divorced when I was six, which meant more moves. I was also often quiet. Observant. One teacher saw this behaviour as a more sinister thing and called me ‘sullen’ on a school report. I remember asking my mum what sullen meant. When she told me, “unwilling to talk or be sociable; sulky”. I was so upset. I’m still offended by that report.
I was well behaved, except for my fourth form year (Year 10), at an all-girls boarding school, when I rebelled. However, I soon realised the punishment wasn’t worth it. Because spending the weekend, doing homework with the other naughty girls, while the rest of the school was away having fun, was torturous.
We had a riding academy at our boarding school. Being able to take my pony to school was pretty cool. We could ride in the local A& P Show and go hunting. I loved languages. I studied Latin, English, French and German. My teachers said, ‘I had a good ear.’ I guess that has translated into my writing. I always read my work aloud. I try and make my sentences sing. Not bark! I also loved sports. Swimming. Tennis. Athletics. I played left wing in the 1st XI hockey team.
Ed: What was the first ever story that you remember writing?Jane: I didn’t start writing stories at a young age, like a lot of children’s writers. But I did write a daily diary. I still have a lot of them. My diaries are mostly deadly boring! I recorded facts such as how many Weetbix I ate for breakfast. Although, I really recommend keeping diaries or journals, no matter how dull and boring your day-to-day life seems now. Keep notes of major events, what music you’re listening to, your favourite TV shows, your favourite authors, Apps etc. Details! Especially if you want to be a fiction writer or a journalist. My diaries are invaluable to me now. Because we forget things over time. If I ever want to write my memoir (I don’t) I have the correct dates and places of when and where important things happened.
Growing up in the 1970s and having parents and grandparents in different places, I also wrote a lot of letters. I think writing letters is similar to writing stories. Creative non-fiction stories at least. Perhaps with more linear plotlines. And not so many made up things. I love making things up! That’s one of the best parts of being a children’s fiction writer. You can let your imagination run riot.
Ed: How did you feel when you saw your first book in print?Jane: I remember the week before my first book came out I was in a state of utter panic. I barely slept. I felt like all my innermost personal workings were about to be exposed, on paper, forever. We had been meticulous about the quality of the book yet I was wracked with self-doubt. What will people think? Will I get good reviews? Will children readers get my sense of humour? Will they love Lily Max as much as I do? Will they love Guy Fisher’s illustrations?
Of course, I knew my publisher would not have published a bad book, but such are the irrational thoughts of a debut author. Lily Max: Satin, Scissors, Frock (#1) was reprinted one month after it hit the book shops. It went on to be a finalist in The New Zealand Children & Young Adults Book Awards and received a Storylines Notable Book Award. That was a very cool feeling. I could have saved myself all that angst.
Ed: Do you have a ritual that you follow to get in the mood for writing? So, have you got a lucky pen, or lucky pants, or lucky breakfast or something?Jane: When we designed our house twenty-one years ago, I asked our architect for a room-of-my-own. Best thing I ever did! I have a small tower-office at the very top of the house, off my bedroom. It has a secret entrance through a bookcase. Without a doubt, this is my most favourite place to write. It has three sides of windows which offer 180-degree views, a large oak desk and a computer. Plus an armchair, in the back corner beside a bookcase, for reading.
I like to start writing in the morning. I usually go for a walk, or a run, along the Shotover River below our house with our super energetic dog, Tippi. Then I get myself a coffee and retreat to my tower-office. I always have a kingsize bar of Whittaker’s Almond Gold hidden in my top drawer. I really should confess that a LOT of chocolate has been consumed in the writing of all my books. I allow myself half an hour or so to check emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc to see if anything big has happened in the world. Then because I’m very easily distracted I turn off my browser, put my phone on silent in another room, and begin. (I do let myself jump on the internet if I need to do a straightforward fact check, spellcheck or look up a synonym.)
I don’t set myself massive daily wordcounts. But I always aim to write a complete chapter, leaving a cliffhanger so I have something to start with the next day. With all my Lily Max books I wrote the first drafts in 6 – 8 weeks. Some days I was just getting up to speed by early afternoon. I forgot to pick my children up off the school bus more than once.
Ed: Of all your characters, which one would you most like to hang out with?Jane: I’d like to go to Fashion Week somewhere in the world with Tilda Button and Lily Max’s Granny. They’re both so sweet, love dressing up, love a good laugh and good food. And they’re always keen on a crazy adventure. In fact, I have a storyline for a fourth Lily Max book which involves a run-down Italian castle and Milan Fashion Week. One day …
Ed: What are you reading right now?Jane: I’m reading a collection of short stories by American writer, Ottessa Moshfegh, Homesick For Another World. It was shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize. I’m also reading “Alice Miranda: Keeps the Beat” by Aussie author, Jacqueline Harvey. Jacqueline had a very festive launch for this book, the 18th in the Alice Miranda series, at Remarkables Primary in Queenstown. There was circus training, face painting, a book-cover cake, dress-ups and even a rock band. I think if Lily Max and Alice Miranda met they would be friends. I initially met Jacqueline via Twitter. That is one of the upsides of wasting time on social media. You get to meet and chat with authors and artists from all over the world!