Interview with Janet Givens

When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
That's a great question. For the past five years, I've sung tenor in our local hospice choir. I also edit my husband's novels, enjoy visits with my grandchildren, raise assorted forms of poultry, and otherwise enjoy my life. But even with most activites, in my head I'm still writing.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I've been an active participant on the We Love Memoirs Facebook group since it began a few years ago. It's up to over 2,000 members now, about half of them are authors (memoirists, of course). All are, of course, readers. I get a constant supply of suggestions from that source. I'm also a member of BookBub and get a daily email with suggestions from them.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
That's a hard one. I wrote letters to my grandmother from the time I was seven. Then, in seventh grade, or maybe it was sixth, I put together a science newsletter for my school. I was the reporter, the editor, the layout designer, and the runner-off of the mimeographed copies. I didn't let anyone else help me; not very nice (or smart) in hindsight. But then, that's hindsight for you: never there when you really need it.
What do you read for pleasure?
I will admit to being a fan of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. I've read the full series twice and many of the individual books three or four times.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I'm still on the first generation Kindle, but I turn to my smart phone often to read if I need to wait for something.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in northern New Jersey, the only child of a single mom. But what had even more influence on my writing and my reading choices is the fact that I stuttered. I ran from that fact, retreating into books and daily journaling. I think my journaling style influences my writing. Though I hope I've learned to keep my reader more in mind than I would if journaling.
When did you first start writing?
When I was seven, my grandmother moved away and began writing to me. I've always attributed the beginning of my writing career to those letters.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I write to connect: with myself and with others.
Who are your favorite authors?
These are the ones that come to mind without even thinking about it. Barbara Kingsolver, Joan Didion, Joyce Carol Oates, John Steinbeck.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I love breakfast.
What is your writing process?
It depends if I'm working on the first draft (never let anyone see it; never edit it until it's complete) or a later draft. I like to get to my desk by 9 a.m. and I sit there until it's time for lunch.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I don't recall the first story ever, but I do recall the first story I read again. That was Margeurite Henry's Justin Morgan Had A Horse. I think I was 8 and I read it one summer 15 times. I lived in the city and horses were simply out of reach for me then.
How do you approach cover design?
Very carefully. And with a budget.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
All of the Steinbeck books, all of the Kingsolver books. Then, I'd add The Secret Life of Bees. Oh, and Pride and Prejudice; I'm not as crazy about Jane Austen's other books, but I love reading Pride and Prejudice. I read the same books many times, if I really love them. I always find something new.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
My involvement on Facebook and other forms of social media has brought me into contact with many of my readers. And, because I'm a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) I give talks for the Peace Corps too.
Describe your desk
It's a few old boards on top of two file cabinets and covered with a plate of glass. And it's a tad messy at the moment.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Sorry, I don't talk about a WIP until I've got my first draft out on paper.
Published 2015-04-21.
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