Hola! Everything’s copacetic because with me today is the deft and delightful Janet Fox. I first met Janet when I was a “freshman” at VCFA. We were in the same workshop. Janet was about to graduate, so she was a figure of awe. Since then, Janet has written three historical novels, including Faithful and Forgiven. Welcome, Janet!
Josephine Winter, seventeen, is sent to live with relatives in New York City after her bootlegging father receives a threat, but bookish Jo harbors her own secrets. She finds friendship with lively Louise O’Keefe and romance with sweet jazz musician Charlie. But haunted by the spirit of her missing brother, Jo uncovers a nest of family lies that threaten everyone she loves, and Lou, in the thrall of the dangerous, seductive gangster Daniel Connor, is both Jo’s best friend and potential enemy. As Jo unlocks dark mysteries and Lou’s eyes are opened, the girls’ treacherous paths intertwine. Jo and Lou together will have to stand up to Connor in order to find their hearts and hang onto their souls in the “decade of decadence.”
“There you are. Hiding. It’s time we put you right,” she said as I stood up, and then she looked down at my old black shoes. “Good grief. First order of business is new shoes. And for pity’s sake take off those awful stockings before we leave the apartment.”
“I’m not a flapper,” I said.
“Yeah? Well, we can fix that.”
Keen, huh? One of you will win a $20 Amazon card so you can get Sirens and another of Janet’s books. Hey, I’m on the level here. But before we get to that, let’s talk to Janet!
El Space: Janet, please tell us four quick facts about yourself.
Janet: I have a new puppy. I live year-round in Montana now; my hubby and I have been dreaming of this for 30 years. I’ve been to the bottom of the ocean in the submersible ALVIN. I once dreamed of being a rock-star singer, and came this close.
El Space: Wow! I’m picturing you rocking out on stage. What was the catalyst for your writing Sirens?
Janet: That’s an interesting question. It was my publisher’s request. After Faithful was published and Forgiven was about to come out, my publisher contacted my agent and asked if I would be interested in writing a book set in the 1920s. And I said yes right away—which I don’t always do, just FYI. But I find the 1920s to be a fabulous era in which to set a story.
El Space: What a fascinating and glamorous era. What appealed to you about it?
Janet: Exactly! Fascinating and glamorous and an era of revolutionary change. From clothing styles to the birth of the auto and the cinema, from women’s suffrage to Prohibition—the 1920s was a decade of monumental upheaval. There were many reasons for this: the end of World War I, industrialization, an influx of immigrants from Europe to the U.S., and economic prosperity. But I think that the introduction of women into the work force during World War I was a principal factor in this revolution. And I love to write about strong young women taking charge and standing up for themselves, so this fit perfectly with my worldview.
Incidentally, my publisher also asked if I would write a novel set in the Mad Men era, and I said no. Why? Because it was a time when young women were treated indifferently at best.
El Space: If you had to live in the 1920s, what is the one item you don’t think you could do without? Why?
Janet: Hmm. I can’t think of a thing. Technology is highly over-rated. Indoor plumbing was available. I think I’d have been very happy living there just as it was.
El Space: How do you prepare to write historical fiction? What tools, if any, are a help?
Janet: I do a lot of reading of newspapers of the time. They give me an indication of tone, and they let me know what people wanted through advertisements, and I can find out how much things cost. Plus the news articles steer me to what concerned people of the time.
If archival newspapers aren’t available, then I try to read things written during the era. And if those aren’t available, I try to read as close to that era as I can.
El Space: Looking at your point-of-view characters, how was Jo “born”? How about Lou? How is either like you? Different from you?
Janet: Hah! Both are like me, and both are not. Jo is much like me in her independence and determination and in her intellectual nature. Lou is like my alter ego —she’s the dangerous “me” inside. But Jo is terribly naïve, and Lou is terribly jaded, so I suppose I think of them as my personality extremes.
El Space: What was the most challenging about writing from different points of view?
Janet: I actually love writing from different points of view. I love the different voices. The hardest part is making sure the story weaves together, structurally—that I don’t lose or repeat factual information.
El Space: What tip do you have for those who want to write historical fiction?
Janet: Voice and tone are important to historical fiction, so I would read as much as possible that was published at that time. And get the facts right, because if you make a mistake, someone will take note.
El Space: What are you working on now?
Janet: Total departure! I have four projects in various stages: two middle grade fantasies, one young adult contemporary, and one young adult futuristic. I’m excited about them all.
Thanks again, Janet, for hanging out with me! You’re the bee’s knees.
One of you will win an Amazon ecard to purchase Sirens and another of Janet’s books (your choice). Get a wiggle on and comment below. As always, you’re the cat’s pajamas for stopping by.
Faithful and Forgiven covers from Goodreads. Fashion photo from list17.blogspot.com. Charleston dancers from charlestonchallengedownunder.com.au. ALVIN photo from Wikipedia. Vintage ads from proprofs.com and vintageadbrowser.com..