Monday, April 16, 2012

Chiseled Author Janet Fogg is Interviewed!

We’ve been asked, so today we’re offering answers to questions such as: Chiseled Staff? Are they really that chiseled? Are they completely off their Rockers? And what do they do behind that closed door?!

Today we’re talking to Janet Fogg, and her focus on novel-length fiction and screenplays began in the 1990s when she was CFO for the coolest architectural firm in Boulder. Numerous manuscripts and fifteen writing awards later, Janet resigned from OZ Architecture to write full-time, and ten months later she signed a contract for Soliloquy, her award-winning historical romance. In 2011 Casemate Publishing released the Military Book Club bestseller, Fogg in the Cockpit, co-authored by Janet and her husband Richard Fogg. Based on the wartime diary of Richard’s father, Fogg in the Cockpit offers a first hand look at Howard Fogg’s fascinating and often unexpected story as a fighter pilot during World War II.

CIR: Janet, thank you for joining us on the Rock! First, please tell us what you're working on.

JF: I’m currently sending out queries for a thriller co-written with Story Forester. This manuscript is essentially complete, though I sometimes fuss with minor edits as we wait to hear from agents. I’ve drafted about a third of a SF manuscript (my high-school physics teacher would be so proud!), and I’m also working on two other non-fiction manuscripts and putting the finishing touches on a screenplay co-written with my husband. Oh, and I’m involved in preserving the history of the 359th Fighter Group. Visit us on Facebook and you’ll see my daily posts! And then there's blogging...

CIR: How do you describe yourself (the top three things that come to mind)?

JF: Loyal, generous, stubborn, and an overachiever. (See? I proved it! I listed four instead of three!)

CIR: Please describe the path of your writing career.

JF: Long and rocky with more than a few thick, dark roots heaving up out of the soil to trip me. In a perfect world my first book would have been published years ago, when I contracted with my first agent, but that long-awaited first sale didn’t actually take place until 2008 with Soliloquy, which was released in 2009. My agent tried selling Soliloquy as the dark fantasy I originally wrote, but we didn't receive any offers. She then suggested I dramatically change the plot and add a romantic interest so she could market the manuscript as a romance. After fretting over that for several weeks, I somewhat reluctantly agreed to do the revisions. It was difficult envisioning such drastic changes, though not at all difficult envisioning myself as published, so I revised and stewed and edited and added the romance. While my agent never did sell that revised version, ten years later I re-wrote the manuscript yet again and sold it to a small press.

As all of that thrashing was going on, my husband and I were also working on a non-fiction manuscript based on his father’s World War II diary. In 2010, weary of rejections and just a few days after deciding to self-publish, we received two offers for Fogg in the Cockpit. The offers were quite different, and while we believe we would have enjoyed working with either publisher, ultimately we went with Casemate. They’ve been fantastic!

CIR: What are the two toughest things about writing?

JF: One tough thing might be the glacial pace of the process. Waiting for responses to queries, for an offer, for contracts, for edits, for the release of your book, for reviews, for royalty statements, waiting, waiting, and waiting. Tied directly to the waiting is the need to believe in yourself and your writing as you learn and grow. Writing is hard.

CIR: Do you prefer igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary?

JF: On sunny afternoons I’m rather fond of warm slabs of granite near the summit of a Colorado Thirteener or Fourteener. Guess that’s igneous!

CIR: How has RMFW helped you advance your career?

JF: Oh, the lessons I've learned. From attending panels and workshops to inspiration to meeting editors and agents, all of it has been invaluable. And then there’s the special bonus that came with membership – the terrific friends I’ve made!

CIR: As we know, RMFW is an all-volunteer organization. Have you or do you volunteer elsewhere in the organization?

JF. I’ve volunteered off and on over the years, most recently as the 2010 Published Author Liaison, when I also moderated and participated on several panels at the annual conference. I’ve also helped Shannon Baker and her team at registration during the conference, and before then, assisted her with the agent and editor appointments. If you haven’t yet volunteered, you might consider it, as this is the best way to get to know fellow writers as well as agents and editors.

CIR: What genres do you read?

JF: I read across many (all?) genres, though my favorites are SF and fantasy, followed by well-crafted thrillers and mysteries. Heroes speed my heart and make me cry, doesn’t matter who or what they are or when or where they live.

CIR: What writers inspire you?

JF: How much time do we have? From my love of SF I’d have to say Heinlein, Niven and Pournelle, McDevitt, Brin, Foster, Orson Scott Card… Fantasy writers such as Julian May, Tolkein, Lewis, Stephen King, Carol Berg, Connie Willis, Jim Butcher.... I could go on and on and on. Then there are writers such as Dorothy Sayers or Anne McCaffrey, whose books I re-read when I’m exhausted. That’s what I hope for, for my books. No, not that they exhaust you, but rather that someday a reader will tell me they’ve kept my books for years, so that they can retreat into “my world” when they’re tired, because it’s time to head home, to visit old friends.

CIR: Do you ever get writer’s rock, er… block? If so how do you break through?

JF: No, I don’t think I’ve ever had writer’s block, though I’ve certainly started a number of manuscripts and never finished them. But I don’t believe that’s from blockage, but rather from working on several projects at once and then having to decide to focus on one. Or the other. Or maybe THAT one…

CIR: What one piece of advice would you offer to new writers?

JF: Don’t be afraid. You really can finish your book. Don’t be afraid of editors or agents. They’re approachable and they’re looking for the next, great manuscript. It could be yours! Don’t be afraid of critique. Listen and ponder. Then don’t be afraid of filtering what is said to you. Remember, it’s your story. Don’t be afraid of using the deepest, darkest emotions that you’ve kept locked away, or the brightest, joyous light. It doesn't matter what your conservative aunt might think when she reads your book. As Peter Wimsey said to Harriet in Gaudy Night, when they're discussing how much it might hurt to bare your soul while writing, “What would that matter, if it made a good book?”

CIR: Do you also have a “day” job? Other interests or hobbies?

JF: Other interests? Reading, gardening, hiking, bird-watching, fast cars, World War II, movies, and so on. A day job? That’s also a yes. I work part-time managing commercial real estate and also do some consulting in the architectural industry, though I’m endeavoring to slowly phase out of all of that.

CIR: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

JF. First and foremost, I love to read. Love, love, love to read! Started early and never stopped. Then back in the 5th Grade, my teacher announced that we could either enter the state-wide DAR Essay Contest or take the final exam at the end of the year. I chose the essay, and lo, I still remember the first sentence, printed so carefully in pencil on blue-lined paper. Are you ready? “George Washington was a great man.” I won third place with that masterpiece and rather enjoyed receiving my bronze medal. After that, I figured I could write anything!

CIR: Do you like rocking chairs?

JF: Absolutely! I like motion. (Don’t ask me about fast cars.) I also like to spin around in my office chair. The faster the better. No squeaks though. I don’t like squeaky chairs.

CIR: If you could time travel, when and where would you go?

JF: This is a tough question. Traveling back to WWII would be fascinating, and I would cherish the possibility of visiting with my parents and in-laws and so many others. But then there’s space, the final frontier… Traveling forward in time might win my vote as I would love to travel through space, to visit another planet.

CIR: What do you predict for the future of the publishing industry and where you fit into that?

JF: I’m planning on self-publishing a very slim volume of etiological tales, as I believe self-publishing will continue to grow and thrive. The challenge there, though, is the same as when published by a small press - how do readers find your book? So you have to be willing to market. At the same time, I’m somewhat old-fashioned in that I do hope to find a new agent, one interested in teaming with me as I write in multiple genres and also craft a few more screenplays. Did I mention I also write screenplays? Two that I’ve co-written with Karen Albright Lin and one with my husband, Richard, and yet another that I’m flying solo on. Sigh. So many words and not nearly enough time. If I’d just stay off of Facebook…

CIR: And lastly, what did you dream of doing when you were twelve years old?

JF: By age twelve I thought I wanted to be a doctor. Or study microbiology. Or archaeology. Something in the sciences, in any event. And I wanted to learn to fly!

CIR: Thank you, Janet! You can learn more about Janet and her writing on her website, Facebook page, on the 359th Fighter Group’s Facebook page, or on the following blogs: Fogg in the Cockpit, Sisters of the Quill, and here, on Chiseled in Rock.


Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks for the opportunity to get to know you better, Janet. Really nice interview.

Karen Robinson said...

Nice interview, Janet. The adjective that always comes to mind when I think of you is "gracious". And conversely, when I hear that word, I think of you. But those other adjectives fit too.

Julie Golden said...

Ah, you are the OZ-Janet Fogg. I thought perhaps you were a name twin of the woman I met many years ago, across the table at a charity lunch.
Love your no-fear advice.
This interview series is such a great idea. It's good to learn more about our creative neighbors and the projects that now hold their attention.

j.a. kazimer said...

Yeah Janet! Thank you for sharing your story. Did you ever learn to fly?

Laura K. Deal said...

Great interview, Janet! I think Howard Fogg would be delighted with your adaptation of his cartoon, and like Karen, I think of "gracious" when I think of you. And I've seen your soaring prose--you did indeed learn to fly!

Shannon Baker said...

The word that always reminds me of you is elegant--inside and out. You definitely set a "no-fear" example.

Janet Fogg said...

Thank you, sisters! (A little blushing going on here.)

You have an amazing memory, Julie! Wow!

No, I never learned to fly an aircraft, Julie, but in my current SF manuscript...