Last week I came across a particularly good book of historical fiction about the Spanish Inquisition:
“The Errant Flock” by Jana Petken. I immediately had to re-blog one of Jana’s blog posts about the book here.
I invited her to come on my blog for an interview and luckily she kindly agreed. Before we start, here is what some of the reviewers had to say about her book:
Author Jana Petken has accomplished something remarkable with this book. She’s taken the dark and uncomfortable subject of the Spanish Inquisition and turned it into an engrossing masterpiece. The rich details of the period, and the attention to historical accuracy enhance the reader’s experience.”
“This is quite a dark tale about the Spanish Inquisition and I must say: a book with a brilliant title. In the Spain of 1491 a lot of people are errant in all of its meanings. The superstitions around perceiving a male heir, the contemporary views on monarchy, religion, race and status – this is a welcome reminder of how dark those ages were.
Well researched and with interesting details and characters, descriptive settings and powerful prose this is a gripping and harrowing tale of Kings and Jews, the mighty and the poor. The author spares us no detail when it comes to torture and violence – authentic and contextual.
What makes this so special is that the story and characters feel real; not constructed or used to make a point. Sensitive, empathetic and skilfully done. “
After an accident on board an aeroplane, I lost the use of my arms and hands. After 3 operations at the neck, it was suggested that I use a computer to try and get feeling back. It worked, and whilst I was typing away, I began to imagine a story. That story was my first novel, The Guardian of Secrets 222,000 words long. Now that’s a lot of typing.
How did you come up with your stories?
As a historical fiction writer, I am drawn to a subject and time period first. Then I wrap a story around the event/place. The stories usually unfold without being planned or thought out. Strange but true.
You have created great characters. Which one is your favourite?
My favourite character is, Joseph Dobbs, from The Guardian of Secrets. He is a villain, a narcissist, murdering scum of the earth, a gambler, and a drunk. But he was the most fun character I have ever written, and probably the one that has received the most comments from readers. Having said that, I think each book I’ve written has produced memorable characters, in my eyes.
Are you like any of the characters (and how so)?
I guess you could say I am a mixture between Mercy Carver, from The Mercy Carver Series, and Maria, from The Guardian of Secrets. They are both strong women, who have had their share of ups and downs. They are fighters and so am I.
Were the plot and subplots completely planned from the start or did they change during the process, and if so, how?
I don’t have a formula, as far as the writing process goes. The plot comes in the spur of the moment, as I’m writing and the sub plots come from my desire to twist and turn the story. It’s all very spontaneous.
What is your main reason for writing?
Being able to travel back in time and meet interesting people along the way.
How do you balance marketing one book and writing the next?
I don’t manage very well, to be honest. I get so engrossed with the writing I forget there are other books of mine needing attention. Marketing is the hardest part of the publishing business for me. I find American authors much more “out there” and willing to put themselves in the spotlight. I would much prefer someone else to market and promote my books, but that’s just not feasible for me, at the moment.
Tell us one odd thing about you and one really mundane thing.
I find it very difficult to settle in one place. I am always looking for new adventures. I never stay in the same house for very long. I am mundane. I do tend to watch a bit too much TV…but it is so good!
What else would you like us to know about yourself and your books?
I am very passionate about my writing. My books are dark, emotional, and, hopefully intriguing. I have been called a ‘gritty’ writer by the major reviewers. I guess that sums up my books.
How have you found the experience of self-publishing? What were your highs and lows?
The highs are having control as to when a book is published, the cover design, the editor, and the pricing. The lows are, having to do everything by myself, not being very adept on the computer, and not having enough marketing power behind me.
What is your advice to new writers?
Be patient. Don’t forget that if you don’t tell people about your work, they might not find you in that big Amazon jungle. Always have your book edited and never be afraid to ask for advice from other authors.
What is your favourite book?
The Pillars of The Earth.
What makes you laugh?
My dog, and just about anyone who possesses a sense of humour…Oh, and The Big Bang Series. I laugh easily and loudly.
What (not who) would you like to take to a lonely island?
My music. IPod with battery charger.
Who would you like to invite for dinner?
Henry Cavill from the Man of Steel movie. I want to ply him with wine and convince him to play the lead role in all my books, should they become movies. Apart from that, he’s so good to look at.
Hot or cold?
Salty or sweet?
Salty. I am addicted to crisps and nuts.
Tell us about your other books?
The Guardian of Secrets is an epic sized tome. It is a historical family saga. It has something for everyone. It’s suspenseful, a war story, revenge, murder, and of course, a bit of romance. The Mercy Carver Series: Dark Shadows and Blood Moon are sweeping historical romances with a twist of war and revenge. Mercy Carver is a great character, who gets involved with some very dangerous people, with devastating consequences. The Errant Flock was a fascinating and disturbing book to write, but I loved every minute of that journey.
What song would you pick to go with your book?
“Everybody Hurts, Sometime” R.E.M lol.
How do you handle criticism of your work?
I handle it very well, if it is constructive. I have improved elements of my writing because of constructive criticism. I find the trolls hard to comprehend. I don’t understand why they rate a book 1* before they have read it. I have found that some of them write in my genre. Instead of supporting other authors, they set out to destroy the competition. At first I was really hurt but now I am quietly getting on with my business and leaving them to theirs.
I lived out my childhood days in, Denia on the east coast of Spain, and have after a long adventure returned there to live on a permanent basis.I joined the (British) Royal Navy at the age of seventeen. I was a leading naval police woman.After the navy, I went to work for a travel company as an overseas representative. Seasons in the Balearic Islands, followed by the Canary Islands, and North Africa, awakened my interest in “people studying.”
I found a new career as a cabin crew member for British Airways, which allowed me to travel extensively to every corner of the world, at least two or three times. I have never been to New Zealand – a pity, or to Iran, which would have been an eye opener.
Unfortunately, I had an accident on board a flight. The aircraft, a 747 was flying at 39,000 feet above Africa when it was caught in clear air turbulence. As the plane dropped my body flew upward causing my head to hit the cabin’s ceiling. I have had three major operations on my spinal cord and am now retired.
Nice to meet you all x