I’d like to welcome author Janet Collins to my blog today. She is a retired teacher who is the author of two books for kids, The Peril of the Sinister Scientist and Secret Service Saint. She's also a columnist for the Antique Auction Explorer, used to write regular feature articles for a newspaper in the San Francisco Bay Area, and her work has appeared in many other publications. She and her husband raised three foster sons with special needs in addition to their birth daughter and Collins is now a grandmother.
Janet, can you please give us a synopsis of “The Peril of the Sinister Scientist,” a book geared towards 8 to 13 year olds.
Janet: Sure. Joshua thinks he must have been cloned from the blood on the Shroud of Turin because a scientist who had worked on that experiment twelve years ago is stalking him. The boy's imagination takes him through many twists and turns as he embarrasses himself trying to figure out what Jesus would do in Middle School, deals with gang members, looses friends, and tries to discover his true identity. Meanwhile, can he escape from the scientist?
Katie: This book sounds fantastic, and full of unexpected turns. What inspired you to write this book?
Janet: Back when the “What Would Jesus Do” thing was so popular I had been a substitute teacher and sometimes worked in middle schools. I wondered what Jesus would do as a student in a place like that today. Also, my father had died when I was young so I sympathize with kids who must grow up without having fathers in their lives.
Katie: This is decidedly a Christian-themed book. What led you to writing in this genre? Are both your books Christian?
Janet: Both my recently published books for kids are Christian themed because of the subject matter, but I have another under contract that isn’t. My published writing has been in various genres. Besides writing for newspapers, I once won a local poetry contest, had a play for kids published in an anthology, and have had lots of articles in various other periodicals and some e-zines. As you can see there has been a lot of variety. However I suppose my faith may have some influence on everything I write because it’s part of who I am.
Katie: Is this an e-book, self-published or traditionally published novel? What made you chose that avenue of publication?
Janet: It’s available both as an e-book and in hard copy. It isn’t self-published. I decided to submit it to a small press since they’re more likely to accept new authors because of the current economic problems. An agent suggested that it might make a good e-book, so I sent it to a house that does both.
Katie: Have you written anything lately other than these two books and as a columnist for the Antique Auction Explorer?
Janet: Yes, I’ve had a few articles published in other periodicals and I’m working on several projects. I also have two blogs, http://onwordsblog.blogspot.com, which is about kids, books, and words, and http://wwwjanetanncollins.blogspot.com about special needs. Characters with special needs seem to appear in most of my fiction, including The Peril of the Sinister Scientist.
Katie: What plans do you have for future books?
Janet: As I mentioned, I have another book under contract. It’s about kids with learning disabilities who get separated from their class on a field trip. I’m working on two other books for early readers and another middle grade, or tweener, novel.
Katie: Please share with us three words that describe you as a person/writer.
Janet: Imaginative, compassionate, and determined.
Katie: Please share how you balance family and work commitments with your writing schedule.
Janet: Since I’m a retired empty nester that’s less of a problem for me than it used to be. However I’ve discovered that having obligations scattered throughout the week instead of working regular, set hours makes it hard to use time efficiently. I try to reserve two mornings just for writing and squeeze in more writing time whenever possible. Unfortunately marketing takes a lot of time. That’s something I didn’t need to deal with while writing for periodicals.
Katie: What kind of marketing and promotional work have you done? What has been the most and least effective?
Janet: I’ve gotten involved in social networking and have about 800 Facebook Friends, but can’t guess if that has helped with marketing or not. I also do public speaking, participate in a blog tour, do school visits, contact media, give away free books, and lots of other things.
Probably the least effective thing I did so far was to pay for a booth at a street fair. I gave out hundreds of bookmarks, but only sold two copies of the book. However the bookmarks may help in the long run.
Katie: Please share one or two pieces of advice you would give to aspiring authors.
Janet: Write the sort of thing you read and remember rejections prove you’re really a writer, so don’t let them make you give up.