Guest Author Interview: Jane Toombs by Cassiel Knight

This week, say hi to guest author Jane Toombs who has a rather interesting journey story to share with us. Welcome Jane!

Tell us about your publishing journey.

I started out writing what my father called “stories” for him when I was about seven because he told me if I wanted to learn to use his L.C. Smith typewriter, which I certainly did, I had to, in return, write stories for him.

I still remember the first one. Even at seven, I knew stories had titles so I called it “Merriweather.”

And yes, I knew how to spell it because I asked my mother how and she wrote it down for me. Two years before this, my father, who was a conservation officer at the time, was out in the northern Michigan woods in early November near a town by that name. Suddenly, he felt pinpricks on one leg, looked down and found a kitten trying to climb up that leg. He plucked it off and took a look at it, realized it was not only cold, but starving so, despite the fact he wasn’t fond of cats, he zipped it up inside his jacket and brought it home to me. He told me the kitten’s name was Merriweather.

This was my first cat and the starving kitten grew into a beautiful tomcat that I dearly loved. So that’s what I wrote the story about. My father said I’d done a very good job, but then gently suggested ways my story could be improved. Thrilled that he said it was good, I had no trouble making the changes. I continued to write little stories that he always said were good but always told me ways they could be improved. But when I became a teen, though I still wrote stories, I never showed them to anyone.

This continued through college and nurses training (where I literally didn’t have time to write very much). So it wasn’t until I was married and had my first child that I began writing short stories again, but never sent them anywhere. By the time I wrote Tule Witch (gothic novel) I had five kids and was taking a writing class from an elderly published mystery writer who encouraged me to finish the book. He, too, was a critiquer, but I never minded that. So I did, and he edited it and sent it off to his agent who sold it to Avon.

Now that sounds easy, but actually I’d been writing off and on since I was seven years old.

What’s the funniest thing to happen to you along your road to publication and what was the most exciting?

Funniest not at the time, but in retrospect, was when my agent couldn’t sell my third book. I’d written my first and second books as a pantser–just sat down and wrote all three of them. Then my agent called me and said he had a packager who needed a zodiac gothic for Sagittarius. Could I work up a synopsis and three chapters for him?

First, I had to ask what a packager was, then after he explained that, I had to admit I didn’t know how to write a synopsis. “It’s your story in brief form,” he said. So I sat down and thought up a Sagittarius themed gothic. It took me fifteen pages, single-spaced to finally tell the story, bit he’d said–in brief–so I kept cutting it down and changing it until I had only two pages and a much better thought-out story. The packager bought my synopsis and three chapters and paid me an advance, which surprised the heck out of me. I didn’t need to write a complete story to get paid some of the money? The end result was I became a plotter.

Why? Because after this I tried to write a synopsis for that third story and found I’d wandered all over the place. So I wrote a new synopsis for it that made sense and rewrote the book–which promptly sold.

The most exciting was when one of my friends who wrote for Harlequin/ Silhouette, introduced me to her contact at Harlequin and said to me, “Tell Isobel your synopsis for that book you want to write.” I took a deep breath and did. Isobel asked to see three chapters and the synopsis and suddenly I was writing Silhouettes. At that time in my life I couldn’t imagine anything better than writing for Harlequin.

HighRiskWhat has been the most challenging thing related to publishing you’ve had to deal with on your journey?

My agent, after he betrayed me by setting up a luncheon in NYC with a packager to which he’d sold one of my historical novels to. I naturally assumed the guy would want another historical, so wrote a synopsis and three chapters for one. So I get to the luncheon. All of us had a drink first, and it’s all small talk during that time. When the meal came, the packager turned to me and said, “Tell me about this new book.”

Without giving me time to open my mouth, my agent broke in with a tale of sex and death in the high Sierras that I’d never heard before. The packager loved it. Before I recovered from my agent’s betrayal, the packager went to contract.

Interestingly, I never got that book quite right for him or anyone else. So I left it alone until I was selling to small publishers. Then I totally revamped it, calling it High Risk. But a problem came up when I reread the contract. It gave me the rights back, but I could not offer the book to any US publisher. But Canada was okay. So High Risk was my first sale to Champagne Book Group and the book has done quite well. I really enjoy writing for CBG.

Who is your favorite author, and what are you currently reading?

I have to admit that Michael Connolly and Lee Child are my two favorites. I am so involved with Harry Bosch and Jack Reacher that I can’t wait for the next books to come out.

If your novel High Risk was made into a movie, who would play the role of your hero and heroine.
Well, unfortunately the actor I’d prefer as the hero is Humphrey Bogart and he’s been dead for years. For the heroine, I’d chose Katherine Hepburn and like Bogie, she’s no longer alive.


Posted on February 26, 2013, in General and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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