Author Spotlight Jan Foster
Tell our readers briefly about yourself.
By day, I juggle consultancy work with family life, but by night, I sneak off, into the past. I confess, my penchant for sprinkling history with magic is entirely fueled by coffee and Cadburys. When not writing, I drag my dogs and small monsters into the countryside, especially if there is a castle or historic building there with a cosy coffee shop in which to escape the rain of Manchester, England.
What books do you have available? Can you give us a short description of them?
I have a prequel (Risking Destiny) and Book 1 (Disrupting Destiny) in my Naturae series published already, with Book 2 (Anarchic Destiny) launching in February 2022. I also have a children’s book about first experiences – Mitch and Mooch Try Swimming.
The Naturae series is a historical fantasy set in the Tudor period, which follows two fae lovers, Aioffe and Joshua, through the century as they challenge destiny and find each other (again). Sort of fated mates but with an epic, thriller feel!
Do you stay in one genre when you write or do you find yourself veering toward others?
Although currently I write that combination of history and fantasy, I’m also exploring simple historical fiction as well. I don’t think I’d ever go full blown fantasy – I’m more interested in exploring what history, even modern history, has to teach us and finding its relevance for today.
Are you a panster, planner, or someone in between?
Definite plantster! I do a lot of research into the specifics of the time period, which helps to drive the plot forward for the characters – situations and circumstances which they cannot avoid encountering and influence their reactions. I tend to leave chapter by chapter plotting, except for the historical details, and then let the characters respond to the situation. This doesn’t always work out too well for them and part of the joy of writing is figuring out how they might get themselves out of the problems they run into!
What is your writing routine like?
Get up, caffeine. Children to school. Caffeine. Sit down to write with more caffeine by my side. Caffeine goes cold as I get constantly dragged out of my make-believe by dogs/post/actual paid work/mess that requires tidying… (insert other procrastination mechanisms here). More caffeine, perhaps get to drink it whilst its hot, probably not. Collect children and do children-y activities. Prepare meal whilst still thinking about what I should be writing. Put children/dogs to bed. Write what I’ve been meaning to all day. Collapse. Repeat on a daily basis.
Tell me about your favorite character that you’ve created?
I have just finished writing Book 2, Anarchic Destiny and kind of fallen in love a little with my morally grey antagonist, Henry Fitzroy. He starts the book at a crossroads, and all the way through you really want him to just be himself because he’s got a lot of great qualities, but he’s put in a position of having to hide who he is all the time, to get what he wants. That’s when some questionable choices come in – and the fun in writing him! Other characters are easier, like my two protagonists, and some even are relatively pliable, however my daemon Fairfax is a constant worry. He’s chaotic, loveable but deceitful, and leaves a trail of devastation behind him without realizing he’s doing it. It’s honestly so disruptive to my plots as he always throws a spanner in the works!
Where do you get your ideas for world building?
I’m a forest person, so any fantasy setting just had to include the magic of the woods! I find that there’s a beautiful mystery about trees, especially ancient ones which have witnessed so much history. The secrets they keep remind me of a lost past, waiting to be discovered. I’m also drawn to the lessons which looking at the past can inspire – I’m the one who asks those awkward questions to tour guides about how something worked, how people lived! I wanted to take my readers back there and hope that it can inspire that same curiosity in them also. My settings are largely real places, most that I’ve been to, and I try and be as accurate as I can about describing them so my readers can visualize what it was like.
Do you add romance to your writing? Is it steamy or clean?
My stories do have romance in them, but it’s not the main trope. I’ve kept it clean / fade to black, because I like a little mystery, and also my family read my books – eek! So to save my personal blushes, my books talk about maturing relationships, and the challenges of that, rather than the actual physical act!
What was your favorite scene to create?
I loved writing the scenes on the ships – there’s a lot of voyaging in the first book – by wherry, horseback, and various boats you would have seen during that age. It was fun researching as well, learning how difficult travel was in the 1500’s – you really begin to understand why it was very common that people simply never left the town they were born in.
Where do you get character inspiration?
A lot of my ‘incidental’ characters were real people, so I have a number of resources which tell me more about their personality – diaries, letters, and commentary from contemporaries which gives me ideas. The characters who are entirely of my own creation are not based on people I know or from history though, and more drawn from an ideal, a question perhaps. What would it be like if you were intrinsically different but had to fit in? What if you were told you had a destiny which you really didn’t want?
What genre do you prefer to read?
I love historical fantasy, obviously. But I’m also a mega fan of thrillers – medical thrillers, or mystery thrillers. I love the pace of them, the unputdownable nature.
Do you have any specific authors you follow and try to craft your work after?
I follow lots of authors, and would love to emulate their success, but I try to make sure I am true to my voice. I appreciate it helps readers to draw parallels though, and for marketing purposes I would suggest similar big name authors to infer that if they like their kind of stories, they might like mine, but every author writes in their own style and I feel that it’s important to be happy with what you are writing rather than constantly measure yourself against others.