Q&A with featured writer Jane Doucet
Jane shares insights into writing and re-releasing a novel
Q&As are available to all subscribers, with early access granted to paid subscribers. Normally access is granted to free subscribers a few weeks later but, as a holiday gift, this Q&A is available to all subscribers at the same time!
Paid subscribers also have the opportunity to pitch interview questions for the next Q&A by posting in the comments or by sending an email.
I recently logged onto LinkedIn and saw an exciting announcement: Jane Doucet has a third novel coming out in 2023 and her first novel that she self-published is being rereleased. Wow, what an amazing writing journey! I felt so happy for Jane that I reached out to congratulate her. Congratulations, Jane!!
When I asked Jane if she’d like to share her writing journey, she kindly said yes. I am so honoured by her dedication to sharing such incredibly supportive and helpful advice. I truly enjoyed reading about Jane’s writing journey, and appreciate her kindness in sharing her experience and writing advice with the writing community here!
Here’s more about Jane (from her website): “Jane is a journalist whose articles have appeared in myriad Canadian magazines and newspapers, including Chatelaine, Canadian Living and The Globe and Mail. She never planned to write fiction, but when she looked for a light-hearted novel about motherhood indecision that didn’t end with ‘She had a baby and lived happily ever after,’ she couldn’t find any. That’s when she got the (absurd!) idea to try writing one. In 2017, Jane self-published her humorous debut novel, The Pregnant Pause, which was shortlisted for a 2018 Whistler Independent Book Award.
That was the beginning of Jane’s author journey. In 2021, Vagrant Press, the fiction imprint of Nimbus Publishing, released her second novel, the very funny Fishnets & Fantasies. In April 2023, Vagrant Press will rerelease The Pregnant Pause, then this fall they’ll publish her third novel, the darkly comic Lost & Found in Lunenburg, which will combine characters from her first two books. Jane lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with her husband. You can learn more about her at www.janedoucet.com.”
Marisa: You’ve written books and you’ve written for multiple Canadian magazines and newspapers. When did you first know you’re a writer?
Jane: Not until I was in my mid-20s. My original career plan was to become a ballet dancer, and after high school I earned a diploma in dance performance studies from George Brown College, then I spent a term at the Washington School of Ballet in D.C. When I decided to stop dancing at age 20, I needed a Plan B. I’d always loved reading, and I’d enjoyed high school English classes, so I applied to journalism school with the idea that I’d become a dance reviewer.
In 1993, I earned a journalism degree from the University of King’s College, but I’ve never written a single dance review! Instead, I became an editorial staff member at several Toronto magazines before going freelance full-time in 1999.
As a dancer, I told stories through movement. As a writer, I tell stories through words. I guess I felt like a writer when my first article—a humorous first-person essay on the joys of being single—was published in FLARE magazine in 1994. This year I’ll turn 55, and I’m still telling stories through my freelance work and my novels, with no plans to stop.
Marisa: Can you tell us about your writing process? For example, when do you do most of your writing, and how deeply do you plan or not plan as you write a new story?
Jane: I’ve only had four ideas for novels; three of them have become books, and I’ve started working on the fourth. Unlike many authors, I never dabbled in creative writing or took fiction workshops before I self-published The Pregnant Pause, and I’ve never been part of a writing group.
When I get an idea for a novel, I sit down and hammer it out over roughly 18 months, on top of my freelance workload—so, weekends and vacations. The pandemic was a silver lining in that my freelance work slowed down, and for one month I was able to devote full days, Monday to Friday, to manuscript revisions for Fishnets & Fantasies, which was luxurious, if not great for my bank account.
I write best in the mornings. I don’t draft an outline; I just let the story flow from what I’m envisioning in my mind to my fingertips on the keyboard. However, there were so many characters in Fishnets & Fantasies that I found it helpful to devote an index card to each of them, where I wrote their name, age, occupation, physical description and so on, to help me keep track of everyone.
Marisa: When you’re done writing your first draft, what is your editing process?
Jane: I’ve used the same amazing freelance book editor for all of my manuscripts’ first reads. She was also integral in supporting me through the self-publishing process.
We usually do two rounds of revisions together. With Fishnets & Fantasies, I continued strengthening the manuscript after those revisions, then when I felt it was ready, I sent it to Vagrant Press for consideration. After it was accepted, I went through several rounds of revisions and proofreading with my editor there. Right now, I’m working on Vagrant Press revisions for my third novel, with a second draft due to my editor there in March.
Marisa: Your first book was self-published—and shortlisted for an award, congratulations!—and is being rereleased by the same book publisher who published your second book and will be publishing your third book. Congratulations again! I’ve heard of self-published books getting rereleased before, and I’ve wondered whether the author or the book publisher got the idea, how the book publisher makes that decision, and whether they request any edits to the book when they do that. I imagine the answer is different for everyone. What is your experience like?
Jane: Thank you! Being nominated for that award was a huge surprise and helped validate that a self-published author is a real author. As for the upcoming rerelease of The Pregnant Pause, I proposed the idea to my Vagrant Press editor, who said she’d been thinking about it, too. Since I’m combining characters from my first two novels in my third one, I’ll have a trilogy of sorts, so it makes sense for all three books to have a home at Vagrant Press. And yes, we did do minor edits to The Pregnant Pause, to fix a few typos and tighten a bit.
Marisa: That makes a lot of sense—good point about all the books having a home together! What was your publishing journey like and which factors led you to choosing self-publishing and then working with a traditional publisher? Can you share some tips for fellow writers considering traditional or self-publishing?
Jane: I wrote the first draft of The Pregnant Pause in 2003 and quickly landed a literary agent in London, England. A few months later, we parted ways over creative differences surrounding the book’s ending, and I was so discouraged that I stuck the manuscript in a drawer until 2017, when a friend suggested I “do something with it.”
I assembled a professional team: editor/publishing consultant, designer, proofreader/website designer, launch-party publicist. I paid them all—not a lot, because I didn’t have a ton of cash hidden under my mattress, but something to show I valued their time and expertise. After the launch party, I took them all out to lunch after to thank them properly.
My advice is if you can’t find a publisher to accept your manuscript but you believe in your story, you should self-publish but hire a professional team, because your book has to stand up to traditionally published books in an extremely competitive market. Today there are also “hybrid” publishers who will do some of the work for a fee, so investigate those, too.
I learned a great deal through self-publishing, and while I enjoyed that experience, and I’ve probably broken even by now (I stopped trying to keep track ages ago), I wanted to see what having a traditional publisher was like. My editor and the small but mighty team at Vagrant Press are solid gold!
Marisa: How did you get the idea to write a novel—Lost & Found in Lunenberg, coming out in fall 2023—that features characters from your first two novels? What was it like creating a story that features new character arcs for characters you know so well (any tips for fellow writers)?
Jane: When I published The Pregnant Pause six years ago, readers kept asking for a sequel. I truly felt I was done with that story—it was semi-autobiographical, and I had nothing fictional to add. So, I said sorry, no dice. Then, two weeks after I turned 50 in 2018, I broke up with a boyfriend. That’s when I got the idea for Lost & Found in Lunenburg.
I decided to bring the main character from my first novel back as she’s turning 50, and focus on the themes of midlife love, loss and new beginnings—but in a humorous style, like my other novels. Then I decided to also bring back some characters from Fishnets & Fantasies, and try to weave together the storylines. It was an ambitious goal, and I wasn’t sure I could do it! But it has been so much fun revisiting such familiar characters as they’ve gotten older and following them on their journeys.
Marisa: What’s some advice that has helped you grow as a writer?
Jane: I can’t think of any, because the over-50 memory isn’t reliable, but one author I admire advised me to keep 100 per cent of my film and TV rights when I negotiated my Vagrant Press contracts, which I did. I originally envisioned Fishnets & Fantasies as a TV series, so fingers crossed!
I’m a member of the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia, which is a wonderful resource. Since publishing The Pregnant Pause, I’ve taken workshops, co-hosted a webinar and have made fast friends with other members.
My growth as a writer has come from keeping at it for more than 20 years, learning from the editing process and working hard to improve with each book. And trying to be patient (not my nature!), because the entire process takes time if you want to do it justice.
Jane, thank you so much for sharing your amazing writing journey with us! You are so kind to take the time to share these helpful insights with us so honestly and so genuinely. I truly appreciate it! Congratulations on all your hard work and on your upcoming book release!
If you’d like to read Jane’s books, you can learn more about them on her website.
Q&As are available to all subscribers, with early access granted to paid subscribers. Access is granted to free subscribers a few weeks later.
I hope you enjoy and wish you happy writing!