Excerpts From My Interviews 3: Author Interview With Paranormalists
P: What is your “day” job if you are not a full time author?
JAB: For many years, I have been a teacher and tutor of English as a Foreign Language for business and academia, and I am also a book reviewer, proofreader, and occasional copywriter. As a teacher, I lived and worked all over the world besides the UK – in Thailand, Russia, Brazil, and China, as well as the US and European countries such as Spain, Germany, and Italy. Over the last few years, though, since I started publishing my novels and particularly during these last couple of years of the COVID pandemic, I have been trying to scale down my other work to focus on my writing. My dream is to become a full-time author.
P: If you wrote a book about your life what would the title be?
JAB: Interesting question! I never really thought about it. I’m a very private person and am rarely even on social media, so I can’t imagine ever writing a book about myself! If, I did, I’d probably call it something like Girdle Round the Earth taken from A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a reference to my travels and experiences, or Earthbound: “bound” as in “going to” explore Earth.
P: What is the hardest thing about being an author?
JAB: Although I have no problem with solitude and love my own company, I would have to say the hardest thing about being an author is being alone. Being a teacher, particularly an EFL teacher who travels a lot, is a very social job which not only requires sociability skills but also the gift of being able to connect with others. I’ve had the privilege in my life of meeting and befriending many wonderful people, and experiencing many different cultures first hand. But upon becoming an author, I’ve found the hardest thing is being alone in my place of work, of not interacting with anyone but my immediate family for days and sometimes weeks at a time. It’s difficult because, among other things, you can lose perspective on your work. As a teacher, your immediate interaction with students enables you to ascertain whether your lesson and/or teaching style is good or not – if people like it or not, if it works or not. Writing is the polar opposite, While you’re actually writing, alone at your desk, there’s no way of knowing whether what you’re writing is going to be liked by others at the point at which they read it; there’s no way to gauge their immediate, visceral, spontaneous reaction. All you can do is wait for the reviews and that’s nowhere near the same thing.
P: What is the best thing about being an author?
JAB: Creating my own world. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, something I’ve always had in my head, and now I have the chance to do it. J. R. R. Tolkien called it the Secondary World, the act of subcreation, and it is immensely satisfying. I love creating my world teeming with faerie realms and those of other supernatural creatures existing alongside the mortal world, with all of their characters and richness and complexities and internal logic. Because however magical, however extraordinary, however far removed from the human world they may be, they have to make sense unto themselves. Even the historical human world of the books has to be true to its own time and thus can seem to contemporary readers to be as strange as the magical worlds sometimes, because the past, the real past, is also a foreign land to us. That’s the challenge and that’s the joy.
P: Have you ever been star struck by meeting one of your favorite authors? If so who was it?
JAB: Oddly, I haven’t met many other authors in my life. I once went to a book launch of the author Jill Paton Walsh at Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge, England, which involved wine and snacks and a reading from her. Afterwards, I went up to her with a copy of her new book and asked her to sign it for my mother – it was going to be my Mother’s Day present for my Mum. Jill was lovely and down-to-earth and approachable, and she wrote a beautiful message inside which absolutely delighted my mother when she received it. I’ll always remember that.
P: What book changed your life?
JAB: That would have to be The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley – the feminist retelling of the Arthurian legend from Morgan le Fay’s point of view. It’s a phenomenal book, massively influential, and was described by Isaac Asimov as the best retelling of the Arthurian saga he had ever read. I first read it when I was 18 at university and it stimulated my interest in Morgan le Fay. And here I am, years later, writing very different books about Morgan, but acknowledging my debt to that first literary encounter with her.
P: What were some of your favorite books growing up?
JAB: I was an avid reader as a child. I didn’t have a favourite book as such growing up because I loved so many! Books were more than books to me; they were my friends. I was a huge fan of all the following:
C. S. Lewis: all seven books of the Chronicles of Narnia
E. Nesbit: The Railway Children, The Enchanted Castle, The Phoenix and the Carpet
Noel Streatfeild: Ballet Shoes, the Gemma series
Roald Dahl: James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr Fox, and my favourite, The Magic Finger
Enid Blyton: the Famous Five series, the Malory Towers series, the St Clare’s series, the Naughtiest Girl series
Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass
Louisa May Alcott: Little Women, Good Wives, Little Men
L. M. Montgomery: the Anne of Green Gables series
Laura Ingalls Wilder: the Little House series
Susan Coolidge: the What Katy Did books
Joyce Lankaster Brisley: the Milly-Molly-Mandy series
Frances Hodgson Burnett: The Secret Garden, A Little Princess
Lorna Hill: the Sadler’s Wells ballet series
Astrid Lindgren: the Pippi Longstocking series, the Bullerby Children series, the Lotta series
Eleanor H. Porter: Pollyanna
Helen Clare: the Five Dolls series.
I still have all these books from my childhood. They’ll never leave me, physically or otherwise!
P: What books are currently in your to be read pile?
JAB: Although I write what is classed as fantasy, I don’t read a lot of fantasy – with the notable exceptions of Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Juliet Marillier, the latter being one of my favourite contemporary authors and a big influence on me. I also class my novels as historical fiction because I have done a lot of research on the time period so as to accurately describe the mortal world Morgan inhabits, and I do read a lot of that genre. At present, I have Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders and Anne O’Brien’s A Tapestry of Treason on my bedside table waiting to be read.
P: Which do you prefer ebooks, print, or audio books?
JAB: Above all, I love print books. I get the appeal of ebooks but, as a reader and especially as a book reviewer, I like to flip back while I’m reading a book to re-read a particular page or excerpt or to check on something, and I find that not so easy to do with an ebook, Plus, I love the feel of a print book in my hands, especially one with a beautiful cover. So far, I’ve never listened to an audio book, but I think they are a valuable resource, particularly for the visually impaired.
P: If you could live inside the world of a book or series which world would it be and why?
JAB: Good question! Apart from the world of my own books, of course, if I could live in any other fantasy world, it would probably be the Beleriand of Tolkien’s The Silmarillion – not the later Middle Earth of The Lord of the Rings but the earlier Middle Earth of the First Age of the Elves. If I had to choose a non-fantasy world to live in, it would be the Prince Edward Island of the Anne of Green Gables books. There’s no literal magic there, but the wondrous beauty of P. E. I. so vividly evoked by L. M. Montgomery, with its unsurpassed “scope for the imagination”, would be more than enough.
Link to original interview: https://paranormalists.blogspot.com/search?q=jo-anne+blanco