Derrick Ferguson: Who Is Jana Oliver?
Jana Oliver: I’m someone who has found that listening to the voices in my head and writing their stories into book form is a pretty nifty job.
DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS you do for a living?
JO: I live near Atlanta, Georgia and my tax returns state “Author”. Yeah, for real. I’m still jazzed about that.
DF: Tell us a little something about your background.
JO: I have a checkered past, in that I wasn’t always a writer. I started out as a registered nurse, did a gig as a fill-in DJ, wrote advertising copy for major retailers and was a travel agent. All of which actually helps me now that I’m a wordsmith.
DF: What writers have influenced you?
JO: The late Sir Terry Pratchett’s unlimited imagination still stuns me, the depth of Anne Perry’s Victorian mysteries, as well as the world building of urban fantasy authors like Ilona Andrews, Jim Butcher, Chloe Neil, Suzanne Johnson, etc. Most of the time when I read something amazing, I lean back in my chair and go “Wow, I want to write that late someday.”
DF: What audience are you trying to reach with your work? Is there an audience for Jana Oliver?
JO: Jana has always been eclectic because my stories don’t stick to one genre. Whether it be young adult urban fantasy, paranormal romance, historical/paranormal mysteries or contemporary mysteries, I’ll write the book if the story and characters intrigue me. Most authors try to stick to one genre. I get bored too easily, so my audience is all over the map.
DF: Do you write for yourself or for your readers?
JO: A little of both. Mostly I write for the characters who “use” me as their scribe so their stories are told.
DF: What’s your philosophy of writing?
JO: Its. A. Gift. Doesn’t matter who you believe gave it to you this time around, it’s a gift. The books/stories are important. They reach into peoples’ hearts and their lives. So in my mind ignoring that calling is a bad thing. Sure, we all have times we can’t write because of family, etc., but the bottom line is if you having this calling, you should be doing it.
DF: Are you interested in critics and their opinion of your work?
JO: Luckily I’m a lot more thick-skinned than I used to be. Mostly my spouse watches the reviews and lets me know if there’s a common thread, something I might be able to fix in future books. An example is that when I was first writing, my villains were pretty cardboard. Now I give them full back stories, motivations, the whole works. That change came because of reader comments.
DF: How important is it to follow your instincts while writing?
JO: I’ve learned it’s VERY important. Because if not I hit a wall in the story and waste time trying to fix stuff.
DF: Tell us about THE DEMON TRAPPERS series
JO: The DEMON TRAPPERS series is currently five books (the final one—VALIANT LIGHT—is coming out in November) and it has a worldwide following. Which is pretty cool given it’s the tale of a 17 y/o girl who just wants to follow in her father’s footsteps. How hard can that be? Well, pretty hard since he traps demons for a living and the trappers in Atlanta aren’t fond of a female in their midst. But Riley Blackthorne does have someone rooting for her—Lucifer, in fact. That’s never a good thing.
Riley is a great character to write: Strong, caring and actually learns from her mistakes. And she’s mouthy. (I have no idea where she gets that trait. Ha!) Besides Hell and its demons, Riley has an adversarial relationship with Denver Beck, a young veteran who is her father’s apprentice. Their stories have proven very popular. It’ll be sad to say goodbye to them, but I want the series to end at just the right time and not overstay their welcome.
DF: Tell us about THE TIME ROVERS series
JO: Can you say “Genre Blend”? Because that’s exactly what this series is. Historical mystery, paranormal, a bit of science fiction and romance. I send a time traveler from 2057 back to 1888 London during the time of the Jack the Ripper murders, not to find the killer, but to locate a missing time “tourist.” But Jacynda Lassiter, my Time Rover, realizes that nothing is as it seems because of the Transitives, a group of shapeshifters than can mimic anyone’s appearance. Add in some Fenians, some missing dynamite, a plot to change the future and that’s the Time Rovers’ series in a nutshell.
Because I’m slightly crazy, I spent an incredible amount of time ensuring the Victorian details were as accurate as I could get them. To that end, I’ve attended a number of academic conferences on JtR and Victorian London and numerous trips to the East End to wander around the dark alleys. Sometimes you just have to do your pub research firsthand. (wink)
In the end, the Time Rovers series won eight or nine major writing awards, found me a literary agent who helped me launch my career in NY. All because a small Canadian press (Dragon Moon) took a gamble on me and my very unique trilogy.
DF: You appear to have achieved a good deal of successful in both the Young Adult and Supernatural genres and joined them both successfully. Care to tell us your secret?
JO: I’ve been incredibly lucky. I’m best when I incorporate some paranormal element, even a small one, into my stories. When paired with the young adult genre, that worked very, very well. I think part of the success is that I always try to do something unique rather than following the trends. Which is why my heroine in the Demon Trappers did end up with the Fallen angel as her soul mate.
DF: You were around at the beginning of the independent self-publishing movement on The Internet. How did it begin for you and has it developed into what you thought it would?
JO: I began my career self-pubbing in 2001, back when there weren’t all the tools in place to help make the job a “easier”. Getting the books stocked at Amazon was a pain in the butt (now I work through Createspace so the printing and shipping are automatic) and e-books didn’t exist. At present 80% of my sales worldwide are in electronic form. That rocks. Back then the best way to build my name was going to conventions and hosting a podcast, which is how you and I met. Now there’s all the social media platforms that offer a truly worldwide audience. It still boggles my mind that people in far-flung parts of the world are downloading my indie books.
DF: What have you got in the works?
JO: I just published DEAD EASY, which is a YA/New Adult contemporary murder mystery set in New Orleans. Couldn’t resist messing around with a serial killer and a quartet of amateur detectives. I’m about to start writing VALIANT LIGHT, that final Demon Trappers book.
DF: What is a typical Day In The Life of Jana Oliver like?
JO: I drag myself out of bed about 8, and veg until about 9:30 as I don’t like eating first thing in the morning. Usually I answer e-mails, do social media posts during that time period. And pet the cat, who insists that she curl up next to me on the couch while I sip my coffee.
I’m more of an afternoon person, so I truly don’t really start writing until noon or later, then work through until my nap. A brief snooze allows me to work out scene problems and refreshes me. Then I write until the spouse gets home. If I’m on deadline, I will write after supper and on the weekends. It all depends on the schedule.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?
Jana Oliver: Just wanted to thank you for all the great questions!