Welcome, everyone. It's the Myth Master here, and this month we have author Janet Durbin with us to answer a few questions about her life, her work and her passions. Janet, if I may, was also kind enough to share one of her short stories with our readers this month, as well as taking time out from her busy life to sit down and talk to us for just a bit. So, let's get started.
M.M. Janet, when did you first start writing stories?
J.D. The first book I wrote was an illustrated children’s book about a turkey who thought he had lost his song. My main characters, Mousey and Doggie, showed him that his own song was just as important as everyone else’s was. It was a high school assignment. I drew everything myself. I got an A on it. After graduation, I focused on getting into law enforcement instead of writing. It turned out to be a wonderful field, but it was too negative for me. So, I moved on to the medical field. I became a registered nurse on the cardiac ward in a hospital and have loved it ever since.
I was nominated for the Nursing Excellence Award through my employer. With that, the applicants had to write about a patient or family whose lives they impacted. Out of the many that sent in stories, I was one of the ten chosen. During the reading of my story, tears flowed; both the audience and mine. That reignited the flame. That and my son.
M.M. I understand that your son was somewhat instrumental in your first novel coming together. How did that happen?
J.D. In 2002, I brought my son home from the school system to teach him. During that time, he thought he wanted to be an author. He would get about 40 pages into a story before he stalled. To encourage him, I picked up the pen. The idea for “After” emerged. When he moved on to other desires, I continued with the writing.
M.M. As a published author, would you recommend writing as a profession (for yourself or others), or do you consider it more of a hobby?
J.D. I absolutely recommend writing as a career. I consider writing to be my second job. As an independent author, I have many titles. I’m the editor, the marketing department, the writer, the cover designer, etc., etc., etc. It’s hard work, though well worth the effort. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy both my jobs immensely…the nursing job and the writing job. But if a ‘big’ publishing company came along and offered me a book deal…first I’d run around the house screaming at the top of my lungs, and second, once I settled down, I’d thank my lucky stars to be doing something so wonderful.
M.M. What does it mean to you, personally, to be able to transpose ideas onto paper, and turn them into stories that people want to read?
J.D. I love to entertain the reader. I don’t like to drag the story on with a bunch of pondering over lost things or things not done. Or by repeating the same idea several times within a few pages. I like to keep the story flowing, to keep the reader wanting to see what’s happening next. Yet, I had to make sure to balance the down times my characters had to have, as well. By doing this, I allow the reader time to recover before I sling them into another adventurous part of the book. When I hear people say, "You’re going to go places with this book," "I loved it," "When is the sequel coming? I can’t wait for it," and so many other nice statements, I feel like I’ve done my job. I’ve entertained them, and they came away smiling.
M.M. What writers, if any, have influenced your own writing?
J.D. The writers who helped me the most were Andre Norton and Anne McCaffrey. I really liked how I could pick up one of their books and not feel like I had missed something in the story. As with Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonrider Series, if I didn’t have each and every book, it didn’t matter. I could still understand the story. That’s how I’m doing my ‘Journey of Twins’ series. “After” is the first book. I also liked how I could pick up a book and it wasn't 700 pages long. I keep my books long enough for the reader to understand the characters, with their trials, hardships, loves, and triumphs, yet not so long that the reader asks, “Is this ever going to end?”
M.M. Do you have a specific genre you prefer to write in, and why?
J.D. I enjoy writing in multiple genres, actually. My favorite saying is, “Since I don’t read in one genre, why should I write in only one?”
Right now, I have a completed novel in sci-fi, an almost completed sequel for “After,” called “Stolen,” a 95% completed suspense novel, and many, many others outlined and ready to write, waiting for me to get to them. I’m even dabbling my fingers in, go figure, a medical murder mystery book, along with a book about a stroke victim. Why, you ask, do I do that? To keep the brain cells happy, to keep them from getting lazy, and to challenge those crazy little cells to come up with neat ways to keep the reader coming back for more…no matter what the genre.
M.M. What type of books do you enjoy reading, in your spare time?
J.D. I read mostly sci-fi/fantasy, horror, mysteries, and paranormal. I love Dean Koontz, Terry Brooks, Stephen King, Andre Norton, Alan Dean Foster, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Steve Alten, Carrie Vaughn, Stephen Woodworth, JA Jance, and so many others. If the cover looks interesting, along with the name of the book…I pick it up and have a look at it. I don’t care if the author is famous or not. If the material catches my eye, and it sounds interesting, I’ll read it.
M.M. Do you ever use any personal experiences in working out plot lines for your stories, and in a second part to the question, does your own personality ever cross over into a character’s makeup?
J.D. Most would consider my present life to be pretty boring. I’m a huge fan of the homefront and seldom leave it unless it’s to do necessary things, like shopping, going to work, taking the kid to the dentist, getting things to fix up the house, book stuff, things like that. I moved a lot, up until the age of 31. It’s nice to park it in one spot and stay there for a while. Maybe that’s why I have Drayco and Shyanne roaming around. Not only does it keep the story interesting, but it also helps to reduce that once out of control urge to move.
Swords are a passion of mine. I love their sleek beauty; the way they are designed. I don’t like the puny fencing swords. I like the ones with some meat to them. I used to own one. It was lost in the one of the many moves. I’d like to get another, but I’ll have to wait a bit longer. Books come first, playthings later. Until then, I’ll have to settle for the ones used by my characters.
Now, for the second part, about me crossing over into a character…I think a small part of me is in each one of them. Joseph, with his leaping into things without thinking, only to get into trouble. Drizzle, with his sarcastic attitude. Drayco with his inner turmoil, and his love for his family, and Shyanne, with her strong will and stubbornness, yet full of compassion and caring at the same time. Several readers have told me that I remind them of Shyanne. I consider that a wonderful compliment, since I like her tons.
M.M. In your novel, “After,” there is a rather energetic feline character. Was the personality for this character taken from real life?
J.D. That’s a story in itself (smiling). I have this cat…we call her our “Publix find” because we rescued her from the parking lot of a local store when she was much younger. Her real name is Cookie. After we brought her home, she adopted me as her surrogate mom. She is quite the funny little thing. Very devoted. To the point that she gets extremely jealous if I spend too much time with any of the other animals. Even now, as I do this interview, she is sprawled on top of the monitor, dozing.
She talks with me all the time. Unfortunately, I haven’t a clue what she is saying. It is because of her that Drizzle came into being. I thought, what if she could really talk to me, wouldn’t that be cool? I started playing with the idea to put it in the book. I knew it had to be a big cat, though, not a small one, like a housecat. Too many stories written with them already. I didn’t want a leopard, a tiger, any of the usual ones. I wanted something other than the norm. So, I picked a mountain lion. Mountain lions are depicted as the bad cat, the one that goes after hikers, and livestock, and such. I wanted to change that image. I wanted people to like them again. I think they will with Drizzle…even with his stubby little fingers and his ability to think and communicate like a human, thus allowing him to be very ill mannered at times.
Now, if I could only find a toy manufacturer to make me one…sigh. I so want my very own little humecat toy to love and cuddle.
M.M. Your novels, “After” and “Stolen” are two books in a series. Is another book perhaps planned to continue this adventure?
J.D. Absolutely. I have three more books outlined and ready to roll when I can get to them. One is called “Vengence,” another is called “Lost,” (no relation to the TV show. Had the title before it came out), and another is called “The Wanderers.” More may come out as I’m working on them. Who knows? I also like to have my books where the reader can pick up anywhere in the series and know what is happening. I hate it when I find a book that looks good, only to find out it’s the second or third book in a series. And, to find out that without the others, I am not able to understand why the characters are doing what they are doing.
M.M. Where do you hope the ‘Twins’ series will go, or has it now ended where you want it to?
J.D. I want to see the ‘Twins’ series go to book stores, libraries, schools, the top of the best seller list…(smiling again). No, really, I want to see the series continue for a bit. I’m not sure when it will stop. I guess when the ideas run out. Fortunately, with my imagination…that could be a while.
M.M. Do you have another project that you are working on now, or is there something coming in the near future we should know about?
J.D. I have an explicit suspense novel going to the printer in a few days. It is not a book for the faint of heart, or those easily offended. It is intended for a mature audience. “Innocence Taken” is a book about a serial killer, his female victims, and the psychic and Sheriff looking for him. Believe it or not, I got the idea from watching the news. All I did was fill in the blanks, from when the girl goes missing to when the body is found.
I decided to write this novel, even though I knew it was going to be a problem to find home for it, because I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to step outside the norm. I wanted to see if I could write something that would have people looking over their shoulders, and I think I succeeded. I’ve had people who read it come up to me and say, “I don’t want to get on your bad side” (laughing). It was a fun project and I intend to write more, but, trust me, I’m as harmless as a kitten until you mess with my family. Then the Drizzle in me comes out. Grroowwll.
I’m also working on a book, written in the first person aspect, about a man who suffers a stroke, and the events that follow. I take care of a great many stroke victims. I thought this would be a great way to show people how devastating the occurrence can be, in a fiction/nonfiction kind of way.
As I said earlier, I write in several genres…it keeps the mind busy and, hopefully, me out of trouble. I may get into a bit of mischief, but I try very hard to stay out of trouble.
M.M. If any of our readers wish to, how might they reach you, and where are your books available for purchase?
J.D. My website is the best way to contact me. It is www.janetdurbin.com . That is where I’ve posted information about each book, as well as links to where the books can be purchased. “After” is listed with a new online bookstore for independent authors called AuthorsBookshop.com. Check it out; it’s a great site full of great books.
M.M. Do you have any ‘pearls of wisdom’ you would like to share with a potential young writer who may be reading this interview?
J.D. Whether the person reading this is young or old, the best thing I can say is to always strive to do your best. Strive to complete the novel, strive to please yourself through your writing, yet please the ones reading it, as well. Writing is like any job. It takes the three D’s: discipline, desire, and doing. I know, I know...heard that a million times. However, you only have one first impression. If it’s a positive one, it can be a lasting one, with many readers becoming followers of your work. Without the readers, books would be nothing but a bunch of papers joined together. Agents and editors for publishing houses are readers too. They can tell, just like anyone else, when you are striving to do your best, or not.
M.M. We really want to thank you for taking the time to sit down with us and share a part of your life. Is there anything we didn’t cover that you would like our readers to know about?
J.D. I just want to say to everyone…enjoy life. Whether it be from the comfort of your home, kicked back with a good book, at the top of a mountain, or in front of a keyboard, frantically typing out the next thrilling scene…enjoy. Like the first impression, you only have one go-round. Make it the most fun ever.
M.M. All right. Janet, thank you again for your patience—we really appreciate you taking the time to be with us. Continued success with your books, and let is know if and when something new pops up on the charts.
J.D. Will do, Myth Master. Thanks for having me here, it’s been fun. Continued success with the magazine; I look forward to reading it for a long time.
M.M. So do I, Janet. And that’s it from the Myth Master for this month. I’ll see you all…next time.