Janet Fox is a full-time resident of College Station, Texas, and a part-time resident of Montana (just outside of Yellowstone National Park). For more information, visit her website and blog.
Let the conversation begin!
What initially drew you to writing?
That’s a great question. I feel like I was born writing. I certainly loved reading from a very early age. I “wrote” my first story when I was about five, and my mom typed up my dictation. It was the feeling of satisfaction – I could tell a story, live inside my own story – that drew me to writing. But my first true desire to be a writer came in third grade, when my teacher (without telling me) sent one of my poems to the local paper and it was published. I can still picture the moment my mom showed me the paper, with my poem, with my name at the bottom. That did it. I was hooked.
How many words do you write each day?
I try to write between five and ten pages a day. Sometimes I manage more, sometimes much less. Once I’m hopping on a revision, I can move quickly, mainly because I like revising and try to get in between five and ten full revisions before I’m satisfied and can work on nit-picking.
Are you an outliner or a seat-of-the-pants writer?
Very much seat-of-the-pants. I often think about a new idea, a new book, for a month or more before I start writing. I doodle and free write; I make character sketches; I think about what the story means to me. I often try to “dream” a story – that is, I’ll try and fall asleep thinking about some aspect of a story – and that brings many of my best ideas to the surface. Once I start a project, I avoid outlining until I’m at least halfway through. Then I’ll use post-it notes and write two or three words to indicate scenes and lay them out on a huge piece of poster paper – but I’ll rarely follow them literally. I’ve tried both methods, and organically is the only way I can write.
When are you the most productive?
That’s a really good question because it keeps changing! When I started writing for children full time, I would have said morning, no question. Now, after almost ten years at work, I write whenever I can. This is so helpful for a busy mom. In fact, some of my best work now comes out at night – long after dinner, long after I really “want” to be working – but my mind won’t let me quit, and (what’s really fun) I sometimes am so tired that I get very free. Then sometimes things come out that I never anticipated. I love that.
What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?
Very simple: I exercise. Well, I also read fiction (and I often read craft books in between writing projects). And chocolate never hurts.
What advice would you give young writers?
Read. Read a lot, especially in your genre, especially contemporary works, because although the classics are important and should be read, they are not what people are reading and writing today. Remember that success requires perseverance, which often means toughing it through the boring parts.
Describe your dream vacation.
Okay, this will sound really weird, but my dream vacation would be a writer’s retreat in a truly exotic and glamorous location (Tahiti? New Zealand? Paris?), where I could work all day with the best and most creative and talented writers in kids/young adult literature by day, and then meet up with my husband at night for fantastic food and dancing and entertainment. Wow. Best of all worlds.