08 November 2010

Anna Jacobs

I am so-oo parochial. Understandable then how excited I am to have another West Australian author visiting, especially one as talented and successful as Anna Jacobs! I know you know Anna from her historical romance novels, but her science fiction, written under the name Shannah Jay, is also available from Smashwords.

But today it's all about history. Anna is offering a prize to a randomly selected commenter -- a copy of her novel Farewell to Lancashire, the first novel in her Swan River Colony series. If an Australian commenter wins, Anna will sign the copy (sorry to everyone else who loves autographed copies, but international postage from Australia is not cheap).

Welcome, Anna! I have questions.

If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be? and what would you ask them?

I think, rather than fictional characters, I’d like to meet two of my favourite authors and I’d like to talk writing with them.

The first would be Georgette Heyer, the author who introduced me to historical romances and whose books I still re-read today. I love her wit and the brilliant minor characters who add sparkling colour to the main story. Ferdy, in ‘Friday’s Child’ is still my favourite minor character of all - and my husband’s.

I’d ask her how she developed her minor characters, whether they just ‘arrived’ as mine sometimes do, or whether she planned them from the start. In my recent book, ‘Beyond the Sunset’ a young man with intellectual disability, but a gift for working with horses, became an important minor character. I hadn’t the faintest idea that he would until he suddenly joined in the action.

You can read about this book at: http://www.annajacobs.com/book.asp?pageID=62

The other author I’d like to meet would be CJ Cherryh, who writes fantasy and science fiction. Her ‘Foreigner’ series is now up to Book 11 and I’ve had to buy them in hardback, something I rarely do, because I can’t bear to wait for the paperbacks to find out what happens next. As a reader, I love them; as an author who has written SF/F myself, I very much admire the way she’s kept this series going for so long.

I'd ask Cherryh how much she planned this series in advance and whether she had any idea it’d go on for so long? I had a four-part fantasy series published in the 90s (written as Shannah Jay) and as with my historicals, I hadn’t a clue what was going to happen until it did. All I knew when I started writing was that on this planet people had developed their psychic gifts, instead of relying on technology, and that would bring them into conflict with the Galactic Confederation.

I’m just putting my Shannah Jay books up for sale on line as ebooks. I wish I still had time to write in that genre, which I love, but I’m working for three publishers and I can’t squeeze any more waking hours out of the day. Isn’t it annoying how much sleep we humans need - and every single day, too!

You can find my books on Kindle and at:


What has someone said about your writing that you still treasure?

I’m still chuckling at the reader who said ‘The ironing is piled up, the dog’s begging to go for a walk, and my children are complaining that tea isn’t ready. It’s all your fault, Anna Jacobs, because I couldn’t put your latest book down.’ The reader’s comment made me laugh, but it was also a very great compliment. It makes me happy to give people pleasure.

Secret knowledge. Name one site on the web that no historical romance writer should be without?

Jenny, I don’t do a lot of surfing the web, so you’re asking the wrong person about that. I write three long novels a year and that keeps me extremely busy. What me, addicted to story-telling? I certainly am.

In "Farewell to Lancashire" Cassandra and her sisters journey to the Swan River Colony, the nineteenth century colonial beginnings of Perth, Western Australia. What do you imagine surprised them most about their new home? (I've only ever lived in Australia—actually I grew up pretty much where Cassandra begins her new life—so I'm curious about immigrants' perceptions. My great-gran is on record as taking one look at the summer dry bushland and saying "is sad". I think she regretted leaving Poland till the day she died.)

I think they’d be surprised at how few people there were. In 1863 there were only about 30,000 people in the whole state, which is big enough to fit ten Texases in. There were about 3,000 people in Perth itself and roughly the same in Fremantle, but nowhere else were towns as big as that. In fact, most places wouldn’t even be considered ‘towns’ today, and not even villages sometimes.

And since there weren’t any passenger railways at all in the Swan River Colony, they’d be very surprised about that. They’d have to go back to old-fashioned and much slower forms of horse transport. It was very different in the England they’d left behind. Even in 1851 a quarter of the population of England went be train to see the Great Exhibition in London.

And for anyone visiting Western Australia today, what would you say they absolutely had to see?

Well, everyone sees Perth and of course it’s a great city, but they shouldn’t miss the Margaret River wine-growing region. Not only are there vineyards and wine to try, but some excellent restaurants and great scenery.

Cassandra Blake has raised her three motherless sisters. The girls are the pride of their book-loving, impractical father Zachariah, and not in a hurry to marry.
Then the American Civil War cuts off supplies of cotton to Lancashire, the mills fall silent and there is no work. There is a stark choice, stay and risk starvation or pack up and begin again elsewhere.
Cassandra has fallen in love with Reece Gregory, but he can’t support a wife. When he’s given the chance to start a new life in Australia, he seizes the opportunity, promising to send for her.
Then an old feud tears the family apart. Cassandra is kidnapped and her sisters are forced to sail with a group of desperate cotton lasses to the Swan River Colony. Penniless and alone, Cassandra is determined to find them again but when she is offered a way, there is a painful price to pay. [Text from amazon.co.uk]

Since I'm so parochial, and since Farewell to Lancashire has a happy ending in my home state, why not add a comment on what you'd like to do or see in Western Australia.

Hot foot it over burning hot white sand to swim in the Indian Ocean? Eat the gorgeous food? Visit me? Yay! See the glorious spring wildflowers? Go kayaking underground? (I'm not kidding. This is a tourist attraction in our prison -- ask me about it!)

Add your comment and go in the draw to win a copy of Farewell to Lancashire.


  1. Jenny, I would definitely visit you, if given the chance! :-)

    Farewell to Lancashire sounds fab! Just the type of book I love. Will definitely add to my TBR pile. Great post!

  2. Liz, I'd love for you to visit! That's where people in places like New York have the adv. People can slide visits in under the excuse of work. But whoever ends up in Perth, West Aus?

  3. Hi Anna and Jenny,

    Great interview. I seriously love that comment from your reader. It's just what an author would love to hear.

    One day I will visit your great state...one day... :)

  4. I really must go to Perth. I'd want to see and do everything. Well, maybe not that underground kayaking thing but everything else.

  5. LOL Janni -- that underground kayaking freaks me out. No way would I climb down the innards of the old prison to go boating underground.

    But Eleni and Janni, I hope you do get to Perth one day. Maybe a readers/writers conference? So short a time a RomAus member and already stirring! :)

  6. Hi Jenny and Anna

    What a great blog....and will have to read your book ..... I lived in Lancashire for 9 years after I married before we emigrated to Australia 30 years ago so I can see they would have seen an alien country... we did not live in the mill towns but used to visit and some of the places are still the same today... we arrived in February from -13c to 30c in Sydney and the following week 44c... so it was a shock.....LOL... I would love to see the flowers in WA

  7. I'm in shock thinking of -13 to 30c. and then 44! So glad you survived, Barb and that you didn't turn and run home.

    The WA flowers are amazing, although my absolute favourites, the kangaroo paws, can be grown over East now. So many different colours and all soft and velvety. Still, nothing beats seeing them in the wild, or their smaller cousins, the cats paws.

    I watched an old Time Team episode digging up the basement home of mill workers and they showed the old mills. Horrible. To think of the children crawling under the massive machines and the cotton fluff in the air choking lungs.

  8. Jenny, when I was a teenager, we saw mill girls in the street coming home from work. Their clothes and hair were always covered in bits of white fluff, and they spoke very loudly. I didn't know then that they got hearing loss from working with the loud machines. And in my childhood, the sky was criss crossed with black smoke streams from the big mill chimneys, plus you got black specks on your washing if it was fine enough to peg it out. The cover of my book 'Our Polly' which is on my website shows exactly the sort of streetscape I grew up in.

    We still had a very happy life!

  9. Lived experience trumps an archaeology show. I'm glad it was a happy life. It all sounded so grim.

    Thanks for a great interview, Anna :)

  10. Definitely a book that you don't want to end....and one where you miss the characters when you've finished it......One to keep an eye on for the following books!!!

  11. I loved salem street and couldn't wait to read the following ones from Anna. How could anna not write lovely books on WA when we have the best state in Australia and the world. thank you for having anna on your web she may be english but she now belongs to us here in wa. please keep writing anna and we'll keep reading.
    marie b

  12. I think my most ardent wish would be to spend the whole time with Anna . Ever since I first found and read her books, I have yearned to be able to acquire and read her latest books. Alas my local library does not seem to be able to get her latest editions, so as I said , I would spend my whole visit talking to Anna. this I must admit would never happen, only if she were to visit Britain again and to live near where I live, becausemy wife suffers from an ear infection , and has been told never to risk flying again.

  13. Marie -- you and I sound so alike. WA is the best state in the world! and we definitely claim Anna :)

    As for author encouragement, Anon, Marie and Mr Maynard, you are treasures! Who can resist reading Anna's books after your heartfelt endorsement? Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

  14. I live in Anna,s books as I feel Im the Heroine in every one of them. I have such wonderful adventures and yet I never leave my chair in the window

  15. Ann, I'm another "armchair adventurer" so I completely understand what you're saying. A great author can let us lead a completely different life for a few precious hours. Thanks, Anna :)

  16. What lovely comments! Thank you for your interest, everyone.

    Mr Maynard, I spend time in England every year. If you sign up for my readers' newsletter, you'll find information about where and when I give talks - not till next summer now. Or you could nag your local libraries to band together to pay my expenses, then I'll come and give some talks.

    Newsletter, simply send email to

  17. Anna I was so sorry to miss your visit to Collie but unfortunately had appointments in Perth.I thoroughly enjoy your books and think you are marvellous being able to write so many and still have every one of them as interesting as the last one.Keep up the good work and hopefully I will be able to meet you one day.thankyou for many enjoyable hours

  18. Paulline, I hope you do manage to catch up with Anna. Nearly 20 years ago I had a chance to meet Terry Pratchett (my very favouritest author) and I missed it. Too shy! I still regret it. The magic special authors bring into our lives is a blessing.

  19. I would love to go back to WA in wildflower season and prowl through the Kalbarrie National Park and see all the wildflowers. Then I would pop down to Mandurah and catch up with my brother and his daughter and two grandchildren (I haven't seen his grandchildren) then of course if I could I would catch up with Anna. WA is one of my favourite places in Australia and I have many happy memories of picnics in Kings Park and up around Serpentine Dam. I have a picture of us all eating under plastic at Serpentine as it was raining. Would also love to pop over to Rottnest again and look at the quokkas, then travel down around Bunbury and look at the lovely Kauri Forests, Stop me someone please, I could just go on and on.

  20. Merryn, you're making me homesick and I live here! I hope you do get to come back to WA. So many wonderful places to visit and good food to eat. I love the dams too, although given our current drought, I really wish they were fuller!


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