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Sunday, 22 August 2010

Last Week's Interview In Case You Missed It

This week's interview is with Jane Alexander

Jane Alexander is a journalist specialising in natural health and holistic
living. She is the author of, in her own words, an obscene amount of books,including Mind Body Spirit, Super Therapies and The Five Minute Healer. She has been described by the Daily Mail as 'Britain's top writer on alternative therapies.
Before we go over to chat with Jane, I'd just like to introduce a few of her many non-fiction books:

Overload Solution - offers an honest appraisal of where we are now and
provides strategies to help us readjust to this tough new world. Jane
suggests things you can do to help you in the short-term and then helps you
to rethink your life so you achieve long-term happiness and wellbeing.


Mind Body Spirit Miscellany - here we have a treasure-trove of delights for
everyone fascinated by faith and spirituality, the arcane and the esoteric.
It is an irresistible collection with step-by-step guidance. Compiled by the
leading MBS writer, here are lists, facts, curiosities, explanations,
clarifications and summaries on anything from crystals, Freud and herbal
remedies to Mayan prophecies, creation myths, and seriously bad Feng Shui.


Five Minute Healer: A Busy Person's Guide to Vitality and Energy All Day,
Every Day - The Five Minute Healer provides a unique day-to-day guide to
optimum health and wellbeing. Simple but highly effective exercise
techniques and natural therapies will improve your life and heal minor
ailments - without changing your lifestyle.


Supertherapies - A guide which introduces new ways to rejuvenate the body,
mind and spirit, designed to help the reader to boost self-esteem, cope with
stress, look and feel great. Jane Alexander has tested virtually every
therapy available from ancient to modern, from Ayurveda to Zero Balancing.
She aims to strip away the mystique that surrounds natural health and help
the reader to find a tailor-made system to suit themselves.


Can YOU give, Jane a title for her book?

In the interview, Jane talks about changing the title of one of her books, but which one? When you've seen the book, have a read and tell her what you think the title should be changed to. Send entries to.


Let's talk about your career for a moment. Which newspaper have you worked

I worked on the London Evening Standard at the beginning of my journalism
career which involved a steep but incredibly valuable learning curse. There
were five editions per day and I learned to write really fast; to pull a
story together swiftly and effectively. I also learned to edit. But mainly
it was just huge fun. I was working at that point on the 'youth' section of
the paper and so my job entailed going to gigs and movies, parties and
clubs. I interviewed loads of famous people, including a fair few rock stars
(some of those experience came in handy for my YA novel Samael, as Gen's
parents are rock musicians).

Oh, wow. Can you drop a few famous names?

Yikes, I can't remember, it was so long, David Byrne from Talking
Heads, Boy George, Robert Palmer, Phil Collins, Bob Geldof, Ian Gillan. lots
of men with long hair and dodgy jeans.

As a journalist your main focus was testing and researching therapies?

Well, I've done pretty well everything in my time - from reviewing theatre,
books and food to writing sex features and doing an agony aunt column. But
certainly while I was working for the Mail, yes, therapies were the focus.
I tested everything from acupuncture to zero balancing. I did do some
training in a therapy called SHEN (a form of energy healing) and also I'm
trained past life therapist (plus there's my shamanic training and I used to
for a fair bit with flower remedies and aromatherapy.

Did you 'give' therapy to people?

No, I don't really give therapy to's not my calling. Though I
have been known to do the odd past life reading (but only when under the
influence!) and I do use shamanism to send distant healing.

Tell us more about your journalist career.
After the Evening Standard I then spent several years writing for the Daily
Mail, writing a column called Self in which I tested out different therapies
each week. It was a wonderful experience and also gave me the launch pad
into writing books. A London agent, Judith Chilcote, liked my writing and
got in touch, suggesting I write a book about natural therapies. This became
Supertherapies which was published by Bantam Books - and I have now written
over 20 non-fiction titles in the health, wellbeing and Mind Body Spirit

That's a lot of titles. Does this mean you've finished with journalism?
Journalism is still my major 'day job'. I write regularly for the Telegraph
and have columns in Top Sante and Natural Health magazines. I also do a
fortnightly blog for The Lady magazine

Can you tell us a little about your fiction YA novel, Samael?

It's a supernatural romance for teens (though hopefully it's a crossover
novel- certainly a lot of middle-aged women seem to enjoy it!). It's what
Waterstones would call 'dark romance' (in the vein of Twilight, Beautiful
Creatures, Fallen). My non-fiction agent read it and loved it so she's
representing it and it's out with editors right now (so please keep fingers
crossed we find the right editor who will love it and get it out there.

Samael's Blog:

Is the book complete?
Yes, Samael is complete at around 75K words.

And are you using your non-fiction agent for Samael?

Absolutely - her name is Judith Chilcote and she is very fabulous. She has
her own agency, the Judith Chilcote Agency in London, and is one smart

Can you pitch Samael in just twenty words?
A girl, a demon and a mage. A curse, a choice. Heaven and hell aren't always
easy to tell apart.

Ooh, it does sound exciting. Will it be a stand-alone book, or part of a
series? And go on, give a longer pitch.

How long have you got? I am in total love with this book (actually, I've
another two mapped out in the series). But I'll sit on my hands and just
give you the pitch.

Gen Hunter didn't want to go to Shadowcombe. She didn't want to live with
her alcoholic mother. Seems she's not the only one who doesn't want her
Why are there no children in the village? Who is playing the violin in the
attic of her mother's ancient house? Why is the blacksmith's son so hostile?
Above all, who is the beautiful but dangerous man who haunts her dreams?
When the travellers come to town, a teenager is raped and an ancient
vengeance stirs. The lives of those both born and unborn are at risk. Can
anyone stop blood spilling yet again in Shadowcombe? Gen seems to have a
part to play but, in a village where secrecy is byword, where no-on shows
their true face, who can she trust?

How far along the line will Samael 2 be ready? Do you know how many books
there are in the series? Do you have it all mapped out?

It's a hard one. I'm loathe to get too stuck in on Samael #2 until I get a
deal for #1 - in case an editor wants changes that affect the plot. But I do
have a pretty good idea where the story is going - and it will take another
two books to complete the story. Part of the joy of writing for me is
seeing what happens when you put your characters in a situation. Often they
react in ways you hadn't figured - and then sometimes the real magic kicks
in and something entirely unexpected happens. So I let things unfold
organically. One thing is certain however (and I think I'd be lynched if I
let this slip) - Gen must find
Samael again. At the end of Book I, she has
sent him to hell but realises she has made a mistake. In book two she will
have to find a way of breaking him out, not least because evil old Tabitha
is up to her tricks again. Book Two will have a more urban focus as Gen
returns to school in London. Zeke gets a recording deal so he's there too
(putting his university career on hold to pursue his music dream). But
Shadowcombe is waiting in the wings. I don't want to give too much away but
suffice to say there are yet MORE gorgeous supernatural guys (in fact a
whole gang of them) and loads more romance, horror and buckets of suspense.

Do you relate to your characters in some way?

I love all my characters, in different ways. Gen is how I would have liked
to have been as a teenager - she is sensitive yet also tough and brave.
She's had a tough upbringing - privileged materially but emotionally very
fraught. She shows her own mind and is a generous friend. She's arty (like
me) but had a great sense of direction and is very practical (totally unlike
me!). If I were Gen I'd be equally confused - caught between the every
gorgeous Zeke and the equally sexy
Samael. Which would I pick? Heaven only
knows. Actually I do know - I'd follow Gen (but you'll have to read the book
to find out what she does).

The book is called Samael - one of your main characters. Would it give the
story away to ask why him and not call it Gen, who seems to be the main

Actually Samael was always just a working title. I needed a title in order
to post it on Authonomy (as I wanted reader feedback) and so I plucked it
out of thin air. You're absolutely right - Gen is the main character - the
story is told entirely through her eyes - but Gen sounds a bit odd for a
title, no? I'm not good at titles and would be more than happy for it to
change. Any thoughts?

What do you hope your readers will take away from your book?
I really hope they will get caught up in the story first and foremost. I've
been told
Samael is 'addictive' and a real 'page-turner' which is music to
my ears. But it's also (on a deeper level) about family and, in particular,
parenting. I'm not sure that will hit home to most teenagers but I think
older readers, particular women, will understand the message. It's about how
patterns of parenting follow on down the generations until someone decided
to break the pattern. Until someone says 'no'. The roots of this story lie
right back in the Middle Ages (and actually, far earlier - though that
doesn't become apparent in this book) and the horrible mistake Tabitha

More than anything, I hope readers will turn the last page of Samael and the
hunt avidly to find out when the next book is coming out. I hope that they
will tell all their friends about it and say they 'can't possibly wait'
until the next book comes out. I hope my characters will haunt readers the
way they haunt me.

Well, you've sold it to me! Any upcoming events you'd like to share?

None, sadly!

It won't be long to the book signing, I'm sure! You sound like someone any
writer should aspire to. Have you achieved your ultimate goal in your
writing career?

I've been hugely lucky. I wanted to be a journalist and I achieved that aim.
I wanted to write for glossy magazines and for national newspapers and I did
that. I have written non-fiction books that have been serialised in the
national press and published around the world. I've been on television and
radio as an expert in integrated health and wellbeing. I once smudged
Lorraine Kelly on morning TV which has to be something! So yes, I've done a
heck of a lot. But my ultimate aim is to be a successful fiction writer.
That is still the dream, still the goal - I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

You lead such a busy life. How do you juggle writing, your work and family?
Like I said before, I write fast, damn fast! I work from home so I can
juggle commitments. Also I'm lucky because my husband is also freelance so
we share childcare when necessary. The novel writing does get pushed to the
back of the queue - as it's my luxury, the part that (so far) doesn't pay
the bills. My dream is to be offered a decent (actually, make that
INdecent) advance so I can concentrate on writing fiction.

What type of book do you gravitate towards for a leisure read?
That's another impossible question to answer in one or two lines. I read
voraciously and will read pretty well anything and everything...though it
does tend to be 99% fiction. I read a lot of YA of course, partly because I
love it and partly because I like to know what's out there. I'll read
thrillers and crime, the odd bit of chicklit and plenty of litfic. I
suppose my total favourites are smart supernatural yarns - I love Phil
Rickman's Merrily Watkins series and also Karen Maitland's dark stories of
medieval England. Barbara Erskine is another favourite and I prostrate
myself at the feet of my literary god, David Mitchell (who cannot write a
bad phrase!).

What author would you say Samael most resembles?
Oooh, that's a tough one. When I wrote Walker, my first fiction book, I
think I was trying to channel the seminal author Alan Garner. His books,
The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath were huge influences.
Samael is rather different. It really did pretty much write itself - I
didn't have a whole lot to do with the process, other than scribble as fast
as I possibly could! I'd like to think it has the dark lyrical spirit of
Garth Nix's Sabriel (maybe no real coincidence that the titles are so
similar) mixed with a dose of Stephanie Meyer's stardust.

How long have you been interested in shamanism? I'd not heard of it before.
How did you become aware of it?

I initially wrote about it for a feature - heck, maybe fifteen years ago?
I started investigating it more and did some courses in it. I was asked to
write a book on smudging (a shamanic technique) which led me to do more
research. I love shamanism - love that it's so immediate - you 'journey'
(put yourself into a trance-like state to visit other worlds) to ask for
advice or knowledge or healing. It really works by the way! It was the
inspiration for
Walker and pretty well all the practices in the book are
based on real shamanic exercises.
Samael is rather different. It has far more of a 'magickal' base. Zeke and
Vivienne are 'mages' or ceremonial magicians. I used my lifelong study of
Kabbalah and ceremonial magick for their rituals (though I have to say I
have been careful not to include the whole rituals - I'm not sure I'd want a
load of people to go summoning up demons willy-nilly!). I have also studied
Wicca and the rituals that Star's mother uses are based on Wiccan practice.
I like to write about what I know. I like my fiction - however bizarre and
weird it may sound - to have at least some grounding in reality (if you can
call the correct procedure for binding a demon reality).

How long does it take you to write a book?
Ah, that really varies. For non-fiction I am usually given anywhere from a
month to six months. With fiction, I spend absolutely ages thinking about
it, researching, musing, painting, making 'treasure maps' and so on. Samael
'brewed' for about a year before I put pen to paper. But the actual writing
is pretty swift. Three to four months I'd say....and that's only giving it
a couple of hours a day. I wrote
Samael long-hand in Moleskine notebooks
(three of 'em) and then typed it up.

How many drafts?
Again, it depends. Most of my non-fiction just gets a damn good edit.
The Overload Solution (Piatkus) had a very picky editor and I think I
wrote three edits on that (and it turned out a much better book for it!).
With fiction I just endlessly edit, compulsively over and over...wish
someone would publish these darn books and put me out of my misery!

Who is your publisher?
My non-fiction has been published by a variety of publishers - Bantam,
HarperCollins, Piatkus, Carlton, Gaia, Hay House. My latest non-fiction
title is
The Mind Body Spirit Miscellany, published by Duncan Baird. I'm
still looking for the perfect publisher for
Samael (it's out with editors
right now).

Would you self-publish again? Any advice for a writer about to SP?
I haven't self-published but I can see it would be a great way to get a book
out there, especially now there are such huge electronic markets. At the
moment I am pondering on whether to self-publish
Walker but my agent is
advising me to wait a little longer.

Do you think the line between traditional publishing and SP is closing or
widening? Thoughts on SP?

I think the whole area of publishing is changing seismically. People used
to be very sniffy about SP - claiming it was just 'vanity' publishing but I
think that is really over now. There is just so much writing out there that
it's impossible for the old set-up of agents/publishers to catch all the
gems that are out there. I think it's potentially a hugely exciting time
for publishing but I do sometimes worry that we have no quality controls at
all. It makes it even tougher to find the real goodies. It also puts a
huge onus on authors to become their own publicists. I do wonder sometimes
if we will see those who are canny enough rise up at the expense of those
who don't really *get* the self-promo business.

What common mistakes have you seen authors make?
Sloppiness. Even hugely successful mainstream-published authors can be
unbelievably sloppy. For example, I never forget reading an Anne Rice novel
in which her character paid with £1 notes when the UK hadn't had those for
years - and when a character looked up at Glastonbury Tor from the High
Street (physically impossible).
Lack of editing. So many authors seem to feel that they are somehow above
being edited. BIG mistake. Everyone's work can benefit from fresh eyes -
not just picking out grammatical errors but also continuity issues,
character mismatches etc. You need a good editor and also a great line
editor, of the decidedly anal variety... All writers need a certain amount
of ego - but you also need the humility to realise that, if readers aren't
'getting it' - it's your fault, not theirs!

Visit Jane's personal blog:
Jane's Website:

Jane's latest offering in, The Lady

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