How did you become a writer? It’s a question which I am often asked. The truth is that from as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to write stories. But the problem was that it wasn’t the kind of career you could easily train for like a teacher or a scientist.
I grew up in a place called Harrow Weald, a ‘green belt’ area about forty minutes away from London on the Metropolitan line. Despite its proximity to the capital, there were woods and fields which I would often walk through, making up tales about people and places I knew.
My school was one of the first girls’ schools in the country – very academic - and because I didn’t consider myself to be particularly bright, I took refuge in novels like Jane Eyre. I also longed to be one of the bubbly party set but that wasn’t to be! So I threw my angst into writing poetry. It seemed quite natural to read English at university – the only subject I was interested in – and then to become a magazine journalist. Again, it was the only job that seemed to have any relation with my ultimate ambition – to write a novel
But life has a habit of de-railing you! I married young and left my job on Woman’s Own to bring up my three wonderful children. At the same time, I freelanced furiously for a wide range of magazines and newspapers – mainly specialising in family features and celebrities. I was lucky enough to interview all kinds of famous people including Julie Walters and Barbara Dickson. Sometimes if I was desperate (childcare wasn’t easy), I would take my children with me to these interviews . Pam Ayres was particularly kind when I brought my then two year old along.
By the time my youngest son was three, I realised time was running out for that novel. So I wrote 100,000 words about a housewife who swapped place with a journalist. It was called Amersham Wives. I found an agent through the Writers & Artists Yearbook and thought I was made. However, although the novel had nice rejection letters, no one took me up. So, on my agent’s advice, I wrote another noel – and another. Finally, after writing a novel a year for ten years, I got my first contract. The book was called ‘The School Run’ and the publisher was Hodder & Stoughton. My agent suggested writing it under a pen name – Sophie King - in case readers mistook it for a non-fiction book (I’d already written quite a few of those by then).
My fifth Sophie King novel ‘ The Wedding Party’ was shortlisted for Love Story of the Year by the Romantic Novelists Association in 2010. That was wonderful!
Then I changed publishers to Random House and they wanted to re-launch me with a new name. So I became Janey Fraser (‘Janey’ is actually my real name although ‘Fraser’ isn’t). It’s rather odd having a pen name. In some ways it protects your privacy but in another, it makes you feel like someone you aren’t.
My fourth Janey Fraser novel is called ‘After The Honeymoon’ and has just come out. It’s about one honeymoon destination; thee couples; and six secrets. The first half is set in gorgeous sunny Greece and the second in a small English town where the couples come to terms with the first six months of married life!
In real life, I’ve had two honeymoons. My first marriage came to an end after twenty seven years which was very hard for all of us. Three years later, I went onto marry a family friend who is also the Godfather to my children. It means a lot to me that he’s known them since they were babies. My first husband has re-married too. My second honeymoon was more of an extended wedding reception in a beautiful country house hotel, set in the Lake District. I didn’t want to go away after that, as I wanted to be around for my then 16-year-old son.
Writing, for me, is a mixture of being a mum – even though the children are much older now – and having time to myself. My husband is very good at that. He never minds when I go up to my study for ‘a few minutes’ and come down several hours later…
If you want to write, I’d advise you to keep your eyes peeled for a situation that grabs you. Then think about what kind of people might find themselves in that situation and what problems they could encounter. Picture the place they’re in – use magazine pictures as a prompt – and smell it. You might also like to look at a book I wrote called ‘How To Write Your First Novel’ by Sophie King, published by How To Books.
Good luck! If you’d like to email me, I’m at email@example.com.
AFTER THE HONEYMOON by JANEY FRASER. PUBLISHED BY ARROW, RANDOM HOUSE.