Jana Oliver has always been a bit “outside the box” and when she started writing she didn’t deviate from that plan. Flaunting conventional wisdom, she self-published her first three books in an effort to learn how publishing actually works. She learned a lot, including such arcane skills as how to calculate a book’s spine size and typeset a manuscript.
After spending a couple years honing her skills, she sold her Time Rovers® Series to Dragon Moon Press in 2005. That series (SOJOURN, VIRTUAL EVIL and MADMAN’S DANCE) was nominated for fifteen awards and has won twelve to date. Which still amazes her. She has also sold a short story (alas, not yet published) and a non-fiction article for an anthology.
Her ultimate goal was a contract with one of the major publishing houses and that came to fruition in April 2009 when she signed with St. Martin’s Press. The Demon Trappers Series, a Young Adult Urban Fantasy series set in Atlanta, will debut in January 2011.
Though an Iowan by birth, she lives in Atlanta, GA. She credits her crazy imagination for her success and honestly believes she has the best job in the world. She loves single malt scotch and expensive chocolate. Not a bad combination…aye?
On the morning of September 5th, I met up with Jana Oliver and her wonderful Husband, Hal, for breakfast at the Corner Cafe in Atlanta and had a marvelous time learning about her and her new projects.
Day- So Jana, you are an Iowa girl like myself. When did you make the move to Atlanta?
Jana- 13 years ago.
Day- 13 years ago…and what brought you south?
*points to her hubby who is sitting next to her enjoying his breakfast*
Jana- Him. *smiles and chuckles*
Day- And, do you like it here?
Jana- I do. I really like it. I mean I LOVE Iowa, but I like the winters here.
Day- I miss the Iowa seasons.
Jana- Yeah. Now where in Texas are you again?
Day- I live in the sweaty crotch of Texas…Houston.
Jana- Oh yeah…OH YEAH! See you need to move to Georgia too…you’ll get to have the seasons and less of the harsh winters of Iowa or suffocating Texas heat! Why on earth are you there?
Day- Like you, I moved for a “him”.
Jana- You can keep working on your *him*, maybe he’ll come around…unless he’s a native Texan in which case…well…yeah.
Day- Oh it’s worse! Native Oklahoman!
Jana- Yeah, you’re screwed.
Day- I concur…but I can do my thing anywhere really, so I can’t complain too much. Now you Ms. Oliver have a new series coming out soon…
Jana- Yes! The new series is coming out, well it’s kind of weird actually, The UK addition is being released before the US one, January 7th for the UK book, and February 3rd for the US. They have different titles and different covers, so that should totally confuse everybody…which will be a lot of fun…or not.
*Jana pulls out the covers for the new books and slides them across the table*
Jana- this one is the preliminary US cover. They are still working on it and haven’t finished but this is what they’ve got.
*Day gets wide eyed and uber excited*
Day- Wow! Personally, I think this is awesome for a number of reasons. YA is amazing right now, there are so many talented authors that are using their skills to craft these fantastic books that both young and old can enjoy…I mean it’s not the babysitters club anymore. And, it is written in such a way that adults that like to read genre fiction can quickly read a YA book in their busier schedules because they aren’t overly flourished but still beautifully written with excellent characters and worlds! YA is where it’s at right now! This is exciting!
Jana- Yes! I talked to a number of adults that have crossed over and just asked “Why?” and they said they simply found that the books are better edited, better stories, and they just all and all liked them better than some of the adult fiction that they were running into. And I thought–WOW! First, that’s kinda sad for adult fiction but on the flip side of that it’s great for those of us that are writing YA because we get a broader audience.
Day- Right. And, with parental support behind a series…it is a win-win. I mean look at the phenomenon of book series that both parents and kids alike enjoy…Twilight for starters!
Jana- Yeah the Twi-moms that take the book and share it with friends saying “You gotta read this”…it’s a plus having a book that crosses over like that.
Day- Well, this is exciting.
Jana- It really is. I had written for a small press before this, and I have a friend of mine that writes YA and she said to me “Sweetie, you have Young adult characters in your books off and on, you really should consider writing for Young Adults. So, I had this original concept that I was currently writing as Adult fiction and had written the first chapter but it just wasn’t working, it sounded like all the other kick-butt heroines out there. And, in my mind if I can’t meet that level of something like an Ilona Andrew’s or Caitlin Kittredge it isn’t worth it. I want to at least reach that standard. So I was on the phone with my friend just kinda bitching and she said “Try it as a YA”…Okay. So I stepped back and re-wrote the first chapter as YA and it clicked. I took it to my critique group and said “Guys am I just blowing smoke here or is there something here?” and they said “Whatever you are doing stop and just write this because it ROCKS!”
Day- Awesome! *looks at the arc cover again* This COVER!!! I am just crushing all over it! The city scape in the background and the mystical looking orb…very cool!
Jana- *laughs* Yeah, the orb… The whole premise is centered on Riley, who is 17, and she is learning how to trap demons in Atlanta with her father.
Day- Oooooo….so it is actually set in Atlanta? There are a lot of books that are set in Atlanta…and they are all amazing!
Day- WOW. So, just like that? That’s really fascinating. Aside from this instance, how do your stories usually come to you?
Jana- I sort of get a rough idea on what I want to write about, but I have always been interested in writing about what I call the grand game between Heaven and Hell ever since I read Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s “Good Omens”.
Day- Love them! Are they not just Amazing? I mean…
Jana & Day in unison- Ah-ma-zing.
Jana- So, I thought someday I really wanted to play with that theme. Then I was up at a convention and Todd Lockwood had some art in it and there was this one piece that was a battle between Angels and Demons…so there were all these nude, VERY nude, bright white Angels in a battle with black, hideous demons. It’s a battle scene with the two groups slowly coming together to fight and I stared at it for the longest time. I moved back and got my little plate of goodies and sat back down to continue looking at it and it wasn’t until I had backed away from it I realized he had painted that scene on the back of a human being…which was so right.
Day- Just makes such perfect sense…the battle that wages in each of us…wow!
Jana- Yeah…that there is always that conflict. So I stared at it for another 20 minutes or so and my brain just started going “ding- ding- ding- ding- ding” and everything just fell into place. So back to the orbs…I didn’t want it to where the trappers could just shoot demons…that kinda seemed to be cheating. I wanted something that required skill, and my trappers have specific tools and techniques to trap the demons then they go out and sell them to traffickers who sell them to church. *chuckles* Then the church does whatever the church decides to do with the demons…
Day- Oh wow. That sounds like it has layers and layers…it could go any way!
Jana- *grins* I am kinda touching the third rail and getting over into religion. I had someone tell me I was going all “Dan Brown” on the Catholics…but I’m not. They are as much pawns in this big game between Heaven and Hell as the rest of us…
Day- It’s very true. If you look at it from that perspective, we are all human and have both good and evil inside each of us.
Jana- Exactly. So that was fun, then I had to start dreaming up all the different types of demons I was going to write about. Little grade 1 demons that steal things or pee on library books all the way up to HUGE arch-demons!
Day *laughs* Peeing on library books…*still giggling*
Jana- *laughs* Yeah, in fact the opening scene deals with some of those little demons in a law library…so it’s really fun. But after dreaming up all the little demons I had to come up with the different ways to trap them and the magic used. So, there are witches and necromancers in the city. Being such a HUGE fan of Ilona and Gordon’s work, I specifically did not want go anywhere near their really incredible (Kate Daniels Magic) world.
Day & Jana in unison– “It’s an amazing world!”
Jana- Yeah…so what I did was looked at it and thought…ok, their Kate Daniels Atlanta is out there in 2040 Atlanta–here is today–lets set mine here and if you looked at it maybe you could see a progression on how Atlanta evolved. I thought that would be kinda fun…it was kind of a mind game for me and a tip of the hat to them. Which, I’ve already warned them I have done that and they were great about it. Gordon (of Ilona Andrews) actually helped me with some of the research on one of my characters who is a good ol’ boy from South Georgia. Riley, the main character, is 17 but there is a young man who is 22 that is also a demon trapper and Gordon helped me with his character a bit. At the time I thought with True Blood and everything else people aren’t going to go for another “Good Ol’ Southern Boy”, but I loved it. So, he is a south Georgia boy and just a really cool character with a lot of depth to him. I LOVE writing his dialog cause I have to drop all the “G’s” and add “Yers” and all that regional fun stuff. So, I talked to Gordon, because he came from this region (North Carolina) and was in the army, and has lost all of his southern drawl by the way. But, we spent about an hour on the phone and he gave me some southern male insight and then we veered off to discussions on Jack The Ripper Murders…*Laughter*
Day- That is awesome! They are so cool…
Jana- Yeah, they really are. Now I’m hoping to make it out their way so I can meet both of them in person and see them together.
*At this time I decided to let Jana eat a bit of her breakfast and took the opportunity to ask Hal, her husband a few questions*
Day- Now, do you help with the research or writing?
Hal- Help? *chuckles from both* My role is a lot of just keeping the distractions away from Jana. Because, you know, distraction just happens. There are just things out there like social media and what not, that can pull her away from her work. And, it’s getting busier with all the emails coming in, I kinda step in and take some of that burden from her. We kind of have twice a day updates on things that way she can really concentrate on her craft because it is something that she just doesn’t need to keep getting pulled from. So, I can do that for her and I also help a bit with the stories and she can bounce ideas off me. I don’t really consider myself a collaborator, cause I just don’t have that bubbly imagination, but I can give her my honest opinion and she can do with it what she will…
Day-Yeah, You’re just really supportive. And it probably really, really, helps.
Jana- It does. When I was writing for a small press, there was still stress and all that but especially now that I’m getting into YA…it’s like throwing a bunch of Mercury on the floor- it just scatters. *pulls the UK cover out for The Demon Trappers Daughter* This cover isn’t out for public just yet, The amazon listing doesn’t even have the cover pic yet. Now, the UK cover of Demon Trapper’s Daughter which is Forsaken is out and it’s been cloned all over the Internet, it’s crazy! And my friend had warned me “Sweetie, ya gotta get ready for this, it’s gonna blow your mind” and I kinda brushed it off but now I’m starting to see what she meant. So, With all the extra excitement he (Hal) keeps me focused on the task at hand.
Day- now looking at this cover I can totally see tattoos and other really cool stuff stemming from this UK cover, it is super hot too!
Jana- *laughs* Yeah, I’m waiting for someone to roll up their sleeve and show me their ink! It’s funny, because I see the graphic as more demon wing, and others see it more as an Angel wing design even though it has these horns…I’m like “however you wanna see it”. Because, once you write a book and you put it out there it really isn’t yours anymore, everybody has their own perception.
Day- It’s so true. Because you are sharing your creativity with the masses…it’s a really big deal. And I think that’s the hardest thing for people to grasp. I get it. Even as a musician, I can’t bring myself to really put my stuff out there because I can’t handle the critiques…*laughter* hey, at least I’m honest about it. So, I sell out. Write commercial jingles or silly songs for others because some of my work is just too personal. And, yeah if I really wanted it, I’d suck it up and go down that road but I can’t bring myself to do it. I’m too sensitive. So I have loads and loads of respect and mad love for authors and anyone who is able to do that. And writing a book…man, that takes a long time and is really a labor of love that you just are putting out there…
Jana- Exactly! And some are gonna like it and some are gonna hate it. And some might even become obsessive about the details and the “why?”
Day- There are always those who will dissect everything!
Jana- Especially teens! Oh.my.gawd. Teens will question every little detail. Once they get into it they are totally into it!
Day- Now, does Riley have a love interest?
Jana- Yes. (Jana told me and I’ve read the book, so I’m not going to spill what she said and I’m going to summarize her reply instead of transcribing:p) And, it is kinda complicated. He is a very devout Catholic and has never been tested by anything, and he is faced with some transitions and we see how a crisis of faith can impact not only the victim but those around the person too. I like layers! So Riley does have some love interest and I tried to give them depth and make them realistic in my world.
Day- Well, as I mentioned earlier, I am just absolutely stoked for this series. Not only will I read it but I can guarantee that my daughter will read it too! So what else do you have in the works?
Jana- BenBella Books has their Smart Pop Anthologies, they did one on True Blood…they are doing one on P.C. Cast’s House of Night and I’m writing the essay on tattoos and marks and the history behind it. It’s been really fun, I have this big stack of tattoo books that I’m having a great time studying. And, the other thing, well…I’m just going to brag a little. *grins* Besides selling The Demon Trappers Daughter in the UK, the series has sold and will be in Germany and Brazil.
Day-WOW! You’re going global! Does it just blow your mind?
Jana- It does. I have to just take a step back and tell myself “Stay focused.”. But every now and then I stop and look around and think. Oh.My.Gawd!
Day- Well, ya know, it’s kind of a big deal. *grins* It real is! So, you have a right to brag and be mind blown! Do you work with the translators at all?
Jana- *shakes head* No. Now, the UK editor came back and said that they would like certain small changes like favorite to favourite, and a little toning down on the content in some areas so they could get it into more stores. So, they came to me very respectfully and told me which sections they would like to change or tone down a notch. We worked on a couple of them but it wasn’t too bad. So, it’s all very exciting. I was telling someone the other day that you kind of need to step off the Merry-go-round every once and a while just to look around and see how cool everything is then get back on.
Day- Well, Jana, Hal…Thank you so much for having breakfast with me! I have really enjoyed our chat and can honestly say that I am eagerly anticipating The Demon Trapper’s Daughter and not only will I be reading it but my daughter will as well! Enjoy your time on the Merry go round! You deserve all the awesome coming your way!