I had a chat with the lovely Jane Alexander. Not only is she cool, she says nice things about me.
Welcome. Please tell us about yourself:
That’s the kind of question I find increasingly hard to answer. I feel as though the older I become, the less I know. On a prosaic level, I’m a word wrangler – I write books, blogs, features...anything really. Although I am best known for my writing on wellbeing, natural health and spirituality, I have written about pretty well everything over the years (yes, even sport). I have a magpie mind and have loved the opportunities journalism and book-writing have given me to meet incredible people, try amazing things and visit wondrous places.
Yet, although I live my life in words, I find words themselves constantly frustrate me and I find myself drawn to more immediate, visceral forms of communication – music, art, touch. I’m very aware that that sounds hideously pretentious!
I live on Exmoor – a stunning place which is my locational muse – with my husband (also a writer), teenage son and two dogs. I’m a Capricorn, with my moon in Pisces and a plethora of planets in Sagittarius which – if you know astrology - makes me an odd mix. I have been drawn to the esoteric since a very early age, have studied many paths and would now – if pushed – probably describe myself as a very humble junior alchemist. When I’m not writing, I love travelling and am lucky enough to review spas and retreats as part of my ‘work’. I play at yoga, have an enthusiastic (if not terribly aesthetic) exercise habit and yearn to return to my first love - painting. I’m also an inveterate muser and haphazard meditator.
You have written many books. Has the process changed for you over the years?
Every book is different, to be honest. I never manage to count my books properly – they’re like that stone circle which shifts every time you try to count the stones. Let’s just say there are over twenty. But they have varied so very much – from mainstream published books (like The Natural Year, The Energy Secretand Spirit of the Home) to packaged books (The Detox Plan, The Weekend Healer etc.). I’ve ghosted books too which I really enjoy (I quite like stepping into someone else’s skin for a while). Fiction is, of course, entirely different and that really is a curious process. While I work steadily through my non-fiction books with a carefully drawn plan and structure, the fiction has to come from the gut and the heart. I have tried plotting and it just doesn’t work for me. I almost ‘channel’ the books, rather than writing them.
Do you have a favourite?
My all-time favourite used to be Spirit of the Home – about making one’s home a sanctuary. It was my bestselling mainstream title and resulted in a beautifully illustrated version and also a spin-off series of little books, Spirit of the Kitchen, Spirit of the Bedroom etc. The Detox Plan had the widest distribution with editions in nearly twenty countries round the world – it was pretty amazing seeing editions in Japanese, Brazilian, Slovenian etc. But over the years, I’ve changed, and I think The Energy Secret is probably my favourite non-fiction title now – it’s not just about physical energy but about subtle energy, emotional energy, how we relate to our selves, one another, to the planet and to spirit. I’m also very fond of my first attempt at Young Adult fiction, Walker – a shamanic adventure yarn set on Exmoor. I would be delighted if it could encourage young people to look beyond their XBoxes and Facebook to the outer and inner worlds.
What is a typical day?
I get up pretty early and wave my son off onto the school bus and then take the dogs for a walk in the woods or along the river. I try to slot in twenty minutes of meditation when I get home and then have breakfast (porridge and nuts usually) checking emails and social media (I have a slight Twitter habit). Then it’s really a case of just sitting in front of my PC and writing and writing and writing – until my eyeballs stick to the screen.
I try to slot in at least an hour’s formal exercise a day – either at the gym or in a class (I do Kettlebells, Zumba, Step, Vinyasa flow yoga and circuits). I don’t really watch TV (although every so often I will gorge on a DVD series – Madmen and Game of Thrones are my guilty pleasures). In the evening I can spend hours just staring at the open fire. I also love doing guided meditations and visualisations – I adore your Past Life journey and Future Life progression – though they send me into such a deep trance, I often nod off. Every day has to end with a deep hot bath (it’s one thing I couldn’t bear to be without). I am a glutton for nice bath stuff – my favourites are Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax bath oil, ila-spa bath crystals and Connock London silky bath oil – heaven.
What is coming up for you?
My agent is sending out my second YA novel Samael (the first part of the Angelsoul trilogy) to editors right now so please keep your fingers crossed it finds the right home. I’m also writing my first adult novel but that’s very much under wraps right now. Non-fiction wise I’m acting as a consultant editor for an exciting new wellbeing series (but I’m afraid that’s embargoed for the moment). Plus I’m doing a lot of travelling, testing out spas and retreats. I’ve just returned from reviewing Schloss Pichlarn, an ayurvedic spa in Austria which was fabulous (outdoor swimming with a mountain view and the most stunning bodywork) and am heading off to Spain and France soon for yoga retreats.
What advice can you share with aspiring authors?
Write for love, not for money would be my best advice now. It’s a very tough market (whether in journalism or book publishing) and there just aren’t the good fees and advances around the way there used to be. It really saddens me as I see great established journalists unable to get good paid work and, at the other end of the ladder, brilliant young people who can’t get started (because everyone is now expecting words for free – via internships and unpaid writing in general). Don’t expect to get rich is the bottom line.
I’d also say, don’t be too precious about your work. All of us, no matter how long we’ve been writing, can have our work improved by good editing. But, on the other hand, be true to yourself. So many people feel they can’t be writers unless they have taken every course going, and follow every last pernickity rule. While I think a good course or workshop can be incredibly helpful (I did one at Arvon which taught me masses), be careful not to stifle your individuality. In a world where everyone thinks he or she is a writer, you have to have a clear chiming voice in order to stand out – don’t stamp on your muse!
Finally, learn to develop a thick skin and don’t give up. I know some truly wonderful writers who will never publish their books because they can’t bear to face rejection. I could paper entire libraries with the rejections I’ve had for my fiction but I won’t let it put me off. All it takes is ONE person to love your story and you’re in. I hold onto those stories of JK Rowling and so forth – who were turned down left, right and centre, before hitting the jackpot.
Anything to add?
Obviously it would be lovely if people wanted to buy my books. Many of them are now available in e-format for Kindle. I’ve kept prices pretty low as I have no overheads. My Amazon page is http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Alexander/e/B000APLEKK/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1366901320&sr=1-2-ent
My personal blog is my chance to write for pure fun. http://exmoorjane.blogspot.com
I also post features on my professional blog: http://brutallyfrank.wordpress.com
Come chat to me on Twitter – @exmoorjane
Or check out my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/eJaneAlexander
I’m also on Pinterest – where many of my books have their own inspirational boards (for example, I post seasonal recipes on The Natural Year and all things ayurvedic on Live Well). http://pinterest.com/exmoorjane/
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