How long did it take you to write Darkwood?
About eight months. You know how they say some books are easy and others try to kill you. This was one of the latter. Fortunately I survived.
What is your process for writing a book? For example, are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you start at page 1 and write your book sequentially or do you skip around? Do you start with your characters or the plot?
I pants it until about chapter three, which is about the time I realize I have no idea what I’m doing. Then I start to plot. With my next book, I’m planning to plot the whole thing before I start. We’ll see how that goes.
Too many drafts to count. I’m never satisfied with my work.
When you are writing, who is in control? You or your characters?
If I leave the characters in control they go crazy. I have to wrangle them into shape.
Who has had the most influence on your writing?
My editor. She gives good advice. And, since she picked my debut book out of the slush, if it weren’t for her I wouldn’t have been published.
What advice do you have for other writers?
Just keep writing. Don’t sweat the small stuff. And don’t worry about things you have no control over. (Easier said than done.)
Why did you decide to become an author?
I didn’t decide. I was cursed at birth by a bad fairy.
What books can we expect to see in the near future?
I’m just completing the first book in my new paranormal mystery series. Dead Monk Walking will be released at the end of April 2016.
What do you want your readers to take away with them after reading the story?
My stories are fun mysteries, so I want readers to feel that they’ve had a good time.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an author?
To take the good with the bad, and keep moving forward. Just because one book sells doesn’t mean the next one will.
What was the defining moment that you considered yourself an author?
When Carina Press accepted my debut novel Allegra Fairweather: Paranormal Investigator.
Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?
A basic Kindle that’s so well-worn the paint is flaking off. I’m hoping to upgrade soon.
If you could have one special, supernatural power, what would it be?
Healing. There are so many sick and suffering people in the world, it would be great to wave a magic wand and make them well.
Tell us a little about the state/country you live in.
Sydney, Australia. The traffic sucks, but other than that it’s a pretty great place to live. Good weather, the habour—I’ve yet to see a kangaroo hopping down the street but I live in hope.
What is your favorite film?
Mamma Mia! Totally fun escapism. Plus ABBA music. What’s not to love.
What’s your favorite place in the world to visit?
About two hours north of Sydney is the wine region of the Hunter Valley, where there are actually kangaroos hopping around. Plus great food, great wine, great places to stay. Hmm think I’d better book my next trip now.
Who’s on your auto-buy list for authors?
Tracy Chevalier, Ashley Gardner’s Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries, Nicci French, Victoria Connolly’s Austen Addicts (I so hope she writes another book in this series.)
If you were a millionaire would you still write?
Sure, unless I could bribe that bad fairy to lift her curse.
Back Cover Copy of Darkwood
Ellie Oxrider is having the worst week of her life.
First her aunt has a premonition of danger. Second Ellie is stalked by a faceless shadowy figure. Third, Saxon, the new owner of Darkwood Lodge, arrives in town.
Saxon Darkwood claims to be an accountant, but he knows an awful lot about magic. Is he the faceless stalker? Or someone much more dangerous?
Ellie is determined to discover the truth and not even the darkest magic will stop her.
Buy Links for Darkwood
Except from Darkwood
My cousin Matilda’s shadow plays were always cause for excitement. No matter how many times I’d seen them, I never failed to marvel at the beauty and grace she created when she sculpted shadows. In that I was no different from the hundreds of locals and tourists who flocked to her performances. The main difference between me and the other audience members was that I knew the shadow plays were magic. Literally. As in witch, wand, spells—you get the picture.
I live on Freshwater Island, which is part of the Fable Islands, a small group in the North Atlantic Ocean. Although we belong to the USA, most of the time people forget we’re even on the map. In summer, the tourists come and the small businesses—the bed-and-breakfasts, the craft shops, the bars—make enough profit to support themselves through the quieter months. The members of my own family made their livings from a variety of things. Grandma specialized in potions, Aunt Amalina made charms and, of course, Matilda created the shadow plays. I was the odd man—well, woman—out. The biggest disappointment of my life was that I had no magical talent whatsoever. I compensated for this by assisting the more talented members of my family by booking appointments, packing orders and collecting ingredients for potions and charms.
Matilda had employed me as one of the ushers for this, the largest shadow play of the year. There were always a few latecomers and I hurried to get everyone, tourists and locals, seated in the small open-air amphitheater before the show began. All around me the excited buzz of the audience filled the air. People were smiling, kids laughing, but everyone became silent the moment Matilda came onstage. She was about my height of five feet ten inches, but where I had long brown hair, hers was blond and even longer. Although I call her my cousin, she was actually a second cousin twice removed or something and closer to my mother’s age than mine.
Since Matilda’s plays were loved equally by children and adults, she always began with a play for the kids and finished up with a short piece for the older members of the audience. Today she stood in front of a backdrop painted to resemble a playroom and addressed the crowd.
“There’s something missing from this playroom. I wonder what it could be? Is it a doll?” She turned to look at the backdrop and pointed to the left. “No, there’s a doll over there.” She turned back to the audience. “Are there blocks in the playroom?”
One of the kids called out, “Yes.”
“So there are,” said Matilda. “Well-done. Is there a train in the playroom?” This time there was a chorus of yeses. Matilda mentioned several other toys that were painted on her backdrop before saying, “Something is still missing.” She snapped her fingers. “I know what it is. A teddy bear.”
She moved to an empty wooden chair that was the only piece of furniture onstage. Standing behind it, she pressed her palms together and gently rubbed them against each other. Then, as she slowly moved her palms apart, an oval shadow appeared between them. Matilda moved her hands again, shaping the dark oval into a large fat teddy bear. To the sound of oohs and aahs from the crowd, she set the shadow-teddy on the chair and left the stage. Most people who attended the shadow plays expected to see 2-D images or puppets, but these were 3-D shadows and they were controlled by magic.
Two little shadow-girls ran in, each cradling a doll. One child saw the teddy, dropped her doll and hugged the bear. Immediately the other little girl dropped her own doll and headed for the bear. To a prerecorded soundtrack of songs, each shadow-child expressed her love for the teddy and why she alone should be allowed to play with it. The girls ended up fighting over the shadow-teddy, and literally tearing it apart. In tears, they slumped on the stage, surrounded by teddy bear parts, until Matilda appeared and promised that if they agreed to share, the teddy bear could be put back together. The show concluded with the girls and the teddy dancing to a song about sharing.
The kids in the audience were delighted that the teddy got put back together, and the parents were happy with the message of sharing. I was probably the only one in the audience who could see future trouble for the teddy unless a second teddy was introduced to the playroom. Even then, kids will find something to fight over. It’s the nature of kids, isn’t it? Still, this was entertainment, not real life.
While Matilda corralled her shadows into a curtained area at the side of the stage, a woman with a guitar led the audience in a sing-along of children’s songs. I headed to the curtained area to run interference. In the past there had been incidents where kids and even some adults had tried to discover what Matilda did with the shadows after the show. No one needed to see that her technique for putting them away was similar to the way she created the teddy onstage. She simply folded the shadows, making them smaller and smaller until they literally disappeared.
About the Author
Janni Nell has traveled extensively, living and working in Britain, before settling in Sydney, Australia. She has worked as a personal assistant, receptionist, sales clerk, and even cleaned a very scary old building. When she isn't writing, you can find her in dance class, on the yoga mat, or walking the dog.
Janni is currently working on a new paranormal mystery for release in Spring 2016.
Janni is currently working on a new paranormal mystery for release in Spring 2016.