Jane K. Cleland was born in Boston and reared in Newton, Massachusetts, graduating from Newton High School. She then attended the University of Denver, graduating with a B.A. in English and Theatre. She obtained an M.B.A in Marketing and Management from Babson College and an M.F.A. in Playwriting and Speechwriting from Western Connecticut State University.
Jane is the author of the Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery series, which includes eleven novels published. The first Josie Prescott book was an Independent Mystery Booksellers Association bestseller and nominated for the Agatha Award, Macavity, and David Awards for Best First Novel.
Her non-fiction publications include “Mastering Suspense, Structure & Plot,” which is the winner 2017 Agatha Award: Best Nonfiction.
Bernadette Sukley had an opportunity to speak with Jane about her writing and helpful hints to other authors.
Bernadette: What prompted you to start writing? An inciting event? A teacher? Some inner calling?
Jane: My mother was a writer, so I grew up thinking that’s what women do. And then there was Nancy Drew. The first time I read one, I knew I wanted to write that kind of book.
Bernadette: Question: A favorite author(s)? Why?
Jane: Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries, Robert B. Parker’s Spenser mysteries, Irwin Shaw’s NIghtwork… I could go on and on.
Rex Stout: He created a world where honor and decency count above all. And the books are funny and charming and a love poem to New York. (Mr. Stout wrote from 1934 to 1975. The stories from the 40s, ‘50s, and 60s are my favorites.) I’m an active member of the Wolfe Pack, the literary society that celebrates all things Nero Wolfe. http://www.nerowolfe.org
Robert B. Parker: He created a world where honor and decency count above all. (Do you notice a theme?) Early Autumn is, in my view, a literary masterpiece.
Irwin Shaw’s Nightwork is also a literary masterpiece. It’s a story of redemption, of the incredible power of second chances.
Bernadette: What are common traps for writers, especially beginners?
Jane: I know you all know this, but truly, telling, not showing, is a trap. You write what’s in your head and you know what you mean… but your readers can’t see what’s in your head. Here’s the tip: Be on the look-out for labeling words like hear, see, feel, know, realize, etc. Try to replace those telling words that reveal a distancing observation with an in-the-moment action statement or crackling dialogue.
Bernadette: If you could talk to your younger self—what advice would you give her?
Jane: Be bold.
Bernadette: What kind of research do you do for your books?
Jane: I love research! I do a lot for the antiques in my Josie Prescott Mystery series, but I also do a lot for other issues that arise. (Are the shimmery bits found in granite called mica? How long is the New Hampshire shoreline? What’s the most popular home-grown tomato?) I have a rule—I can only research things until I find the answer I sought. Then it’s time to get back to writing.
Bernadette: Question: Have you ever half-finished a book(s)? Do you have any plans for it/them?
Jane: I’m fortunate to have an agent who will read the beginning of anything I try and let me know if I’m on the right track. (Am I writing something she can sell?) I’ve written 20 to 50 pages of four books that have received a thumbs down. I don’t have plans for them… why would I? I sigh deeply and move on.
Bernadette: Question: If you were an instrument in an orchestra—which instrument would you be and why?
Jane: I wish I knew more about instruments so I could give you a more informed answer, but I don’t, which is pretty embarrassing since my husband is a professional classical musician. Oh! I have it… I’m a harp, elegant and tough to play.
Jane Cleland will be at the GLVWG Write Stuff Conference™ on March 24 – 25, 2018.
On Friday, March 24, Jane will present: Mastering Suspense, Structure, and Plot.
Based on Jane’s Agatha-winning book by this name (Writer’s Digest Books) has been an Amazon bestseller in its category for more than a year. By integrating these 13 thinking, writing, and revising tips into their writing processes, participants will write tighter, more polished first drafts. They’ll improve their story’s pace, while ratcheting up suspense. These tips serve both as a checklist and a mandate. The tips relate to tightening a story’s structure, adding complexity to the plot, integrating backstory, enhancing character motivation, choosing words for sensual specificity, balancing narrative with action and dialogue, and improving both productivity and professionalism.
Saturday, March 25, Jane will present in the morning and afternoon.
Using Metaphors to Add Richness and Texture to Your Work: Metaphors are, according to Aristotle, a sign of genius. Certainly, they are more efficient and economical than ordinary language; they give maximum meaning with a minimum of words. In addition, metaphors are generous to readers by encouraging interpretation. In this workshop, we’ll put four approaches to creating metaphors to work—whether you write fiction, non-fiction, memoir, or poetry, you’ll develop rhetorically sound images that communicate emotion on a multi-layered level.
The Art of Distraction: Using Red Herrings to Create Suspense:
A red herring is a “false clue,” used by writers the way magicians use sleight of hand—the goal is to distract readers from what’s really going on. When done well, red herrings add complexity to plots and intrigue to stories. Red herrings fall into three broad categories: Human Nature (including the halo and devil effects); Details (including the ones readers miss); and Expertise (including trusting those characters with specialized knowledge). You’ll learn how to weave red herrings into your narratives, allowing you to increase suspense as you create engaging and ingenious puzzles.
To read more on Jane, click on the following links:
Website – http://janecleland.com/
Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_K._Cleland
Miscellaneous – https://www.fantasticfiction.com/c/jane-k-cleland/
Bernadette Sukley, Write Stuff Writers Conference™ Flash Literature Contest Organizer and Chairman of the GLVWG Anthology, ‘The Write Connections’, has been researching, writing and editing for over 25 years. Her work has been featured in national and international publications. Her focus is human interest, health, and lifestyle. She’s also written and edited guides, pamphlets, columns, stories, and novels. She’s published two novels (A Saving Hurricane, Find Me a Woman) and a nonfiction book (Made in Pennsylvania) within the last eight years.