Author Interviews

* you can find the original interviews and much more on my 'everything writing' blog (http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com), including author spotlights, guest posts, book reviews, flash fiction or poetry - new items posted 6am UK time Monday to Saturday and writing exercises at 6pm very weekday.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Author interview no.677 with Jan Moran (revisited)


Back in March 2013, I interviewed author Jan Moran for my mixed WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...
Welcome to the six hundred and seventy-seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre author Jan Moran. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Jan.
Jan: Hello Morgen, so happy to join you and your readers today.
Morgen: Thank you, Jan.Jan Moran I’m delighted you could be here. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Jan: I’m writing from San Diego, California, looking out over the Pacific Ocean from a hilltop perch. As a child, I was an avid reader. Writers were my rock stars! Books were my passport to exotic locales and fascinating characters. I began writing at ten years of age, but didn’t publish until I was in my thirties.
Morgen: “Writers were my rock stars” I love that! I’ve described you as ‘multi-genre’, is there genre that you generally write?
Jan: My writing is a fairly even mix of fiction and nonfiction. I write contemporary and historical fiction with smart story lines and fabulous international locations. Smart, stylish, sensual—that’s what I like to share with readers. By “sensual,” I mean evocative, not fifty-shades-of-steamy....
Besides my current novels, Scent of Triumph and Hostile Beauty, I’ve also written articles for magazines on beauty, fragrance, entrepreneurship, lifestyle, and spa travel. My first nonfiction books were the Fabulous Fragrances guides to perfume; these books were the genesis for a touch-screen software program called Scentsa, which I created and can now be experienced in Sephora stores in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Brazil, France, and Denmark. As a founder and business owner, I also enjoy speaking and writing about entrepreneurship, a theme you’ll also find in my writing. All of my books can be found on www.janmoran.com.
Morgen: Writers often find public speaking scary. I’d love you to consider writing a guest blog on the topic. :) You mentioned your two novels…
Jan: Scent of Triumph is my debut historical fiction novel, which is garnering excellent reviews. My second novel, Hostile Beauty, is a contemporary fiction novel which will be released this year.
Morgen: You’ve self-published – what lead to you going your own way?
Jan: Twenty years ago, when publishers turned down my first book, I formed a company, Crescent House Publishing, Inc., to produce and distribute books for the beauty industry, including my own. But it was tough back then. My minimum print runs were 10,000 units each. The Internet was in its incubation stage. But I managed to sell into major retailers in the U.S., including Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Neiman Marcus. My books even earned a top ten spot on Rizzoli Books bestseller list. And Scentsa won several prestigious awards, including a FiFi Award from The Fragrance Foundation.
Briarcliffe Press is another company I’ve founded. Scent of Triumph is the first book under this new company. We have a great publishing team of professional editors and designers, and really take pride in both our print and eBooks.
Morgen: 10,000 books, wow. Imagine having those in spare room. :) Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Jan: Scent of Triumph and Hostile Beauty are / will be available in eBook and print formats. Personally, I love hardcover and paperback books, but most of my reading is done on an iPad. It’s wonderful for travelling. Amazon US and Amazon UK are the main distributors, although my books are widely available on all international Amazon sites, KoboBarnes & Noble, and other sites, as well as bookstores.
Morgen: I read eBooks via my iPad too. Whenever I finish a book, or want a break, I have a quick game of WordDrop. :) Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Jan: Danielle Bretancourt, the protagonist in Scent of Triumph, is creative, gutsy, and indefatigable. She’s the kind of modern young woman you really want to know, and, despite her mistakes, one you can root for. She’s a hard worker, cherishes her family, and longs for a partner. She’s wonderfully creative and has a sense of innate sense of style—even I envy her for that! She’s a talented, independent-minded French perfumer. I’ve always thought of Keira Knightly for her part, mostly because of her spirit. (I’m sure she could do a French accent.)
It’s open to interpretation, but here are my cast ideas for Scent of Triumph:
  • Danielle Bretancourt: Keira Knightley, Audrey Tatou, Emma Stone
  • Jonathan Newell-Grey: Chris Hemsworth
  • Max von Hoffman: Jude Law
  • Cameron Murphy: Ryan Gosling, Ryan Reynolds
  • Marie Bretancourt: Meryl Streep, Juliette Binoche
  • Erica Evans: Penelope Cruz, Salma Hayek
Morgen: What a great cast. Which authors would you compare your writing to?
Jan: I’m really too close to my work to compare it to another author, and I hope readers think it’s unique. I find it easier to share what I enjoy reading. A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford was an early inspiration. Also love Shanghai Girls by Lisa See and The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory. And who can forget Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, or War and Peace—the best Russian soap opera ever!
Morgen: Anna Karenina was on the list of a book group I belonged to but I left before I got to read it. I joined the group to read more but then decided that the time I did spend reading, I wanted to read what I wanted to read. :) Did you choose the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
SCENT OF TRIUMPHJan: I chose the title for Scent of Triumph shortly before publication, and worked with graphics designer Sherri Yu on the cover design. I loved the way she composed the artwork with Danielle Bretancourt, a landscape of Paris, and a perfume bottle, all in beautiful sepia tones. I love red, and she always manages to incorporate red in the covers she designs for me. I spend a great deal of time and money on the covers; a cover is a window to the soul of a book.
Morgen: It certainly is (and has to represent it) and yours is beautiful. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Jan: I’m finishing Hostile Beauty, which is considered commercial or mainstream fiction, with strong romantic elements, though it’s not strictly romance. I have two more nonfiction books in progress as well, one on perfumery, and one on entrepreneurship. Check my website at www.janmoran.com for 2013 publication dates.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Jan: I write almost every day, some days more than others. I’ve been writing so long that I’ve forgotten what writer’s block is!
Morgen: :) I’m fortunate that I don’t suffer from it. I write so many different things in so many different genres that it I wind down on one I can work on another knowing that I will return to the earlier ones with a fresh approach. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Jan: The idea comes first, of course, and I create a general plot line. However, I always leave room for surprises!
Morgen: I love it when that happens, especially when the characters provide them. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Jan: Names, mannerisms, likes and dislikes, style, history, friends and family, background—all this goes into character development and helps me flesh out characters who seem real, who tug at your emotions and have you cheering them on.
Morgen: We have to care what happens to our characters. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Jan: My early work bled red ink edits, but as with anything, practice makes perfect. Well, not perfect, but a lot less red. More of a pink shade now.
Morgen: It certainly does. I can tell where I’m going wrong (or in most cases, waffling) although I will always need an editor. As you said a moment ago, we can be too close to our writing. Do you have to do much research?
Jan: Yes, I do. Scent of Triumph required research into perfumery and fashion of the 1930s and 1940s, World War II history, and Los Angeles history and location. Hostile Beauty required research for skincare, venture capital practices, retail distribution, Paris, and Beverly Hills.
Morgen: The joy of the internet is that you don’t have to be there, although travelling to either / both certainly wouldn’t be a hardship. :) What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Jan: For fiction, I prefer third person, but for certain books I may choose first person in the future. For nonfiction and articles, I use first person and second person.
Morgen: That’s really interesting. I know poets use second person. It hadn’t occurred to me that you would in non-fiction. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Jan: Absolutely!
Morgen: Oh dear. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Jan: All of my books have received rejections at some point in time. I agreed with some of the reasons and worked hard to improve. But if the work is good, it’s just one opinion, so I don’t let it stop me now. I insist on excellence, and always work with the best editors and designers to produce the finest quality possible. If a writer does that, her work will find its appreciative audience.
Morgen: It is just opinion. It’s finding the right person for the right thing. Do you enter competitions?
Jan: No, but perhaps I should, thanks for suggesting it!
Morgen: You’re very welcome. Do you have an agent?
Jan: Not yet, but I’m open to working with an agent to expand into traditional print, foreign rights, broadcast, and ancillary rights.
Morgen: Do you do much marketing for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Jan: Due to my work history, I have a following among fragrance and beauty aficionados. My marketing efforts are focused on social media. My blog, Jan Moran Writes, is about entrepreneurship, books, beauty, and business. Smart and stylish is my mantra. You’ll find me on Twitter and Facebook, too. Branding is especially important for today’s “author-preneur”.
Morgen: We do have to be ‘out there’, which is part of the reason why I started this blog. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Jan: I have a love-hate relationship with editing. It’s more time consuming than people realize.
Morgen: It certainly is. I’ve done NaNoWriMo five times and writing the novel is the easy part. Editing and research are my least favourite aspects. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Jan: Be perpetually curious. Edit, edit, edit. Never stop learning. Never give up.
Morgen: If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, whom would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Jan: Eleanor Roosevelt, Estee Lauder, and Leo Tolstoy. I’d ask Julia Child to cook dinner, since I’m notoriously accident prone in the kitchen. However, I make an incredible fruit tart and fabulous banana nut bread.
Morgen: What a great idea. I’d not heard of Julia Child until the film ‘Julie and Julia’ but loved it (especially as it had two of my favourite actresses). If you had to choose a single day from your past to re-live over and over, what day would it be and why?
Jan: Just one day? It would have to be the day my son was born. New life is a miracle.
Morgen: :) Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Jan: As a young girl, I visited sculptor Elisabet Ney’s home in Austin, Texas. By the door to her home / studio—now a museum—is chiselled the word “sursum” meaning “uplift the heart”. Sursum corda became my personal motto for striving for excellence, for intellectual curiosity. Ney’s work is beautiful and enduring, and the statue, Sursum, is one of my favourites. To me, it represents hope, triumph over adversity, and belief in your abilities. In my work, I try to convey this passion for excellence and beauty.
Morgen: I do think that when a writer is passionate is does show in their writing. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Jan: Not at this time, but always open to opportunities.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Jan: To balance the sedentary writing life, I love physical activity: Swimming, snow skiing, dancing, zumba, biking, or walking by the ocean. Travelling is another passion, and I love to weave my travel experiences into my writing. And once upon a time, I was a ballerina, but now I’m quite good at reading financial statements, too.
Morgen: <laughs> Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Jan: The World Literary Cafe is a wonderful, supportive place for writers and readers.
Morgen: Which is where we met. I’ve not explored it as much as I should, but I’m cutting the interviews down from daily to every weekend morning from next week so I’m hoping it’ll free up some of my time. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Jan: LinkedIn is my favourite networking site. The Independent Author Network is another great place for writers and readers. And Goodreads is simply amazing!
Morgen: I’ve had a rough ride (with reviews, anyway) on Goodreads but again, I should utilise it more than I do (not difficult, I currently only accept friend requests!). What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Jan: Writers have more options than ever before to connect with readers. The Internet, blogs, artisanal publishing—the options are incredible.
Morgen: Aren’t they. I do count myself lucky that I’m a writer now. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Jan: Visit my website at www.janmoran.com, and my blog at www.janmoranwrites.com. Also:
Morgen: Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Jan: Morgen, what writing projects are you working on now? And, who are your favourite authors?
Morgen: <laughs> blogging is the answer to your first question. I have a second novel to do final edits to but I keep saying, “OK, just a few more emails” and the next thing I know, it’s time to go to bed. I’ve had a stupidly-long (nine months!) backlog of interviews and it’s been driving me (and the authors probably) mad but I created an interview-only blog so I can run them more often and have finally cleared the backlog. It does mean that I can get to my second (and third, fourth, fifth and sixth) novels, although I’m embarking on my first Camp NaNoWriMo next month so it’ll be novel number seven but certainly thereafter will be editing, editing, editing (unless I win the lottery in which case I can hire my editor full-time and send them all to her as they are!).
My favourite authors are Roald Dahl and Kate Atkinson. My late father did some photography for Roald when I was young (Roald died in 1990) and had I been more aware at the time, I might have become a writer much sooner.
About seven years ago I did a 3-week college course on Kate and had never heard of her but the third book chosen was her short story collection so that hooked me in. Then I read her book and was smitten with her writing. She’s quirky and I love writing and reading quirky. She released her novel ‘Started early, took my dog’ on my birthday 2011 so an extra special treat. I’ve not met her yet and have missed her twice (the first time when I spotted her one UK event two days before) and then this Monday just gone when she was at a bookshop in Oxfordshire which I planned to go to but left it too late to enquire about tickets and they’d sold out. Needless to say, I was gutted. Thank you for joining me today, Jan. All the best for novel number two.
*
I then invited Jan to include an extract of her writing…
The flower shop was busy this Saturday morning in May, bustling with people in their casual weekend clothes enjoying the warm spring weather. Danielle folded up the long sleeves on her white cotton shirt, and as sunshine streamed through the front windows, she pulled her dark sunglasses from their casual perch atop her head, shielding her eyes against the bright glare. She spied the gardenias and made her way to them.
She rubbed the glossy green leaves, touched the moist earth in the pot, and let her fingers trail along a fresh white flower bursting from a tightly swirled bud. Instinctively, she sniffed her fingers.
Perhaps I’ll capture this aroma, she thought to herself, smiling. Cool greens combined with sweet gardenia, the moist earth, the warmth of the sun—it would be perfect for this season. Maybe a new line of garden-inspired perfumes—
“Danielle?”
She squeezed her eyes shut, her fingers still hovering beneath her nose. Am I hearing things?  She heard someone call her name. And not just anyone, but it sounded just like — And that scent...the patchouli, the hint of rose...it was Spanish Leather and the scent of his warm skin...oh, mon Dieu!  She felt a hand on her shoulder, and felt a shiver of remembrance course through her.
“Danielle.” 
Slowly she swung around. The shop seemed to fall away, and she felt suspended in the moment. She pushed her sunglasses up on her head and blinked, staring at the handsome man who stood before her. “Jon?” 
“It must be kismet.”  A wondrous smile spread across his face.
**
and a synopsis…
When French perfumer Danielle Bretancourt steps aboard a luxury ocean liner, she has no idea that her life is about to change forever. The year is 1939, and the declaration of war on the European continent soon threatens to devastate her beloved family and young children.
Traveling through London and Paris into occupied Poland, Danielle searches for the remains of her family until she is forced to flee to America. Gathering the fragments of her impoverished family, Danielle begins life anew in 1940s Los Angeles. Through determination and talent, she rises from meager jobs in her quest for success as a perfumer and fashion designer to Hollywood elite. Through it all, the men she loves suffer mounting losses.
As the war continues to rage around the world, Danielle aids the French Resistance in its quest for freedom, and continues the search for her son. Can Danielle and her family ever overcome the devastation that haunts their life?
Set between privileged lifestyles and gritty realities, Scent of Triumph is one woman’s story of courage, spirit, and resilience.
"Scent of Triumph [is a] World War II epic." – Los Angeles Times
"Carried by a complex, resourceful heroine with a nose for business." – Kirkus Reviews
***
Jan Moran writes smart, stylish, sensual sagas. She’s also written several books on perfume.
 “My most recent book, Scent of Triumph,was inspired by my love of perfumery and history. In writing, I drew upon my own family history and my mother's memories of World War II, imagining a young entrepreneur whose talent, determination, and fearlessness catapult her to the pinnacle of success, despite mounting personal tragedies and the elusiveness of love.
 “I write about strong, capable, female entrepreneurs. I’m a world traveler, so I also enjoy writing about different destinations.”
Jan Moran is the author of Scent of Triumph, a historical novel, and Fabulous Fragrances I and II, which earned spots on the Rizzoli Bookstore bestseller list. She is at work on more series in fiction and nonfiction.
As a fragrance and beauty expert, she has been featured in numerous publications and on television and radio, including CNN and Extra, Women's Wear Daily, Allure, InStyle, and O Magazine. As an editor and writer, she has covered fragrance, beauty, and spa travel for a variety of publications.


Update March 2013: I just signed on with an agent, Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency in New York. After countless rejections--and subsequent revisions--I finally received a "yes." So, over-the-transom still works.
Congratulations, Jan!
****
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on the mixed blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
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