Friday, September 7, 2007

An Interview with Author Janet Elaine Smith - The Secret of Her Success

by Linda Della Donna

Meet Best-selling author, Janet Elaine Smith.
In her 15 novels, “Jan,” “explores roads less traveled.”
In addition to being prolific, Smith is business savvy, and adds to her long list of publishing credits, the title Marketing Director of Star Publish, which means all her books “are in the process of being published.”

Recently I caught up with Janet Elaine Smith and asked for an interview.

Here, for your reading pleasure, is what Jan had to say:

What is the secret of your success?

I have said that it depends on two things: God (for some reason I can’t explain) likes me, and I’m not about to argue with Him; and dumb beginner’s luck. I have added a third thing: I seem to do things the simple way. I don’t know they aren’t supposed to work, so I plow ahead and somehow they seem to succeed. It’s like Kristie Leigh Maguire said about my PromoPaks, “These things are so simple I could have thought of them–but I didn’t.” It’s like my daddy used to say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Do you have a typical writing day? Can you describe it?

I don’t have a typical day of any kind, but here’s what I try to do. Remember, I also have a full-time job running a charitable HELPs organization with my husband. I start on the computer by 7 o’clock (sometimes earlier). I check and answer my e-mail. Then I spend an hour working on whatever editing job I am doing. I check the e-mail again at noon, and try to do some work on my magazine writing then. Then after supper I check the e-mail again, then I do more editing, and try to write at least an hour. I would like to spend all of that time working on whatever book I’m writing at the time, but the magazine writing pays most of the bills, so I have to do that first. I write for a dozen magazines regularly, including Genealogical Helper and Writers Journal (I’m a contributing editor for both of them) and Red River Valley Memories and Mysteries, where I’m the Assoc. Editor, so it also involves doing quite a few interviews for every issue. In between times, I try to maintain about 6 websites, do interviews, reviews, tend to the weekly Star Publish Times ( and then there is the marketing for Star Publish, which I do at least 2-3 hours a day Mon.-Fri.

Is your family supportive of your writing? Can you tell us a little about them?

My husband, Ivan, is quite good about it–especially when I actually started making money at it! LOL! We have three children; both of our sons (Wilbert and Kevin) are very supportive of my writing. My daughter’s (Raquel) attitude is “Mother! Not everybody’s whole world revolves around your books!” Still, it tickles me when she comes over and some friend of hers wants an autographed copy of one of them! Until about 5 or 6 years ago we have always had a dog. My husband is disabled and I’m busy so I put my foot down and said no more dogs. I still hear about it, but so far I’m ahead in this game! I did love the dogs we had, but old age has its drawbacks.

What is your most difficult writing challenge? Do you have one? What about working as marketing director of a publishing company, does it help or hurt in any way?
Time, definitely. There aren’t enough hours in the day, and if I had more, I would probably conk out before they got put to good use anyway.

Working in marketing definitely helps. I have to market my own books anyway, so I might as well add the other authors’ books into the equation at the same time. I never knew anything about marketing before I got into this whole book business. Actually, I never even knew an author had to market their own books. It has been a real learning experience, but I have discovered I actually enjoy that end of it too.

Do you believe in writer’s block? Was there ever a time in your life when you couldn’t face the blank page? How do you, how did you, deal with that?

I don’t often have writer’s block. My head is so full of goofy characters and their antics that I have dozens and dozens of books pretty well all written in there. When things in “real life” interfere, I find that writing is the best therapy in the world for me. It makes me look outside myself, and I can always make a happy ending. If only I could figure out how to do that in real life!

What inspires you?

People! I love to people watch and eavesdrop. If you ever doubted that the world is full of zany characters and goofy storylines, just go to a restaurant, a mall, or a sporting event and study the people who come and go. It is true that real life is stranger than fiction, and after all, most fiction is based (at least loosely) on real life.

Where do you get your ideas?

I guess I’d have to just repeat what I said above: from people and what they do. Oh, and sometimes from my dreams. I guess I just have a sort of warped mind.

Is there any one thing that influences your stories? Can you tell us about your Santa Claus story? Where did the idea come for that one?

I love to get the start of a story from something I see somebody do, but then I sort of let it stew in my mind for awhile to see what led up to that point and where it went from there.
I have two Christmas books out: A Christmas Dream and A Lumberjack Christmas. Both of them have very special Santa Clauses in them. In A Christmas Dream, the main storyline deals with a young mother who lost her husband in Desert Storm. When she and her boss (who had his sight set on her) and her little boy Jeremy went to the mall, Jeremy went to talk to Santa. He discovered that Santa’s son died in Desert Storm, and the mom eventually found out that her husband and Santa’s son died in the same incident of “friendly fire” in Desert Storm. Santa got a very special Christmas present…but wait! I don’t want to ruin the story for you. You have to read the book. Or if you want to, you can go to and the whole thing is there as an i-pod. That was great fun to do! The other one, A Lumberjack Christmas, has a Jewish Santa Claus in it!

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for about 30 years. I have a whole file cabinet full of the best doggone rejection letters you ever saw! The magazine writing seemed to go pretty well, and it gave me hope that one day my books would succeed too. My first book, Dunnottar, was finally published in June, 2000. Now I have 14 novels out, as well as two non-fiction books. I still have to pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming. I hope to have 4 new books out this year. One of them will be the script that Billie Williams did for me of A Christmas Dream. I would love to see it in community theaters, etc. all over the country this year. The others will be Bank Roll: A Max Stryker Mystery, Tuesday Nolan: Women of the Week, and Wanted: Organ Donor for Sister Babs (the first Sister Babs Mystery).

Can you tell readers about your latest work?

The one I am working on now is Tuesday Nolan. I started it last year, but when I changed publishers it got sort of put on a back burner until my old ones got out again. You can see more about the Women of the Week series at . They are all based on the old poem, “Monday’s child is fair of face…” Each of the women in the series is named for the day of the week they were born, and their whole life has revolved around the line from the poem. Tuesday’s child is fair of grace, and Tuesday Nolan runs a finishing school for girls in South Carolina.

One more question, Janet, do you have a favorite writing tip you can offer to writers?

Believe in yourself, and write what you would like to read. And write, write, write, but don’t forget to read, read, read as well. You learn by everything you read; even if it’s a “bad” book, you learn what not to do.

You can learn more about Janet Elaine Smith and the books she writes by visiting,, and
Janet can be reached at

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