I was recently interviewed by Captain Joe over at MARsocial. Enjoy!
Cap’n Joe’s Interview with a former Saudi Princess’s bodyguard – Author Jana Petken
Can you tell my readers a little about your background nationality/ancestry? Hi Cap’n Joe! I live in Spain but I’m Scottish and British, with a lot of Irish blood flowing through my veins. I guess I’m a mongrel, with various cultural idiosyncrasies. I’m adventurous. I’ve travelled the world, twice over, and have a military police background. I’ve arrested drunken sailors, fought hand to hand combat with them when they refused to go quietly into the back of my prisoner wagon. I’ve been a Saudi Princess’s bodyguard and spent a good ten years of my life in designer clothes shops and drinking cups of tea, whilst wishing for a glass of wine. I was cabin crew for British Airways, worldwide fleet, and ended that career by bouncing my head off a Boeing 747 cabin ceiling at 39,000 feet – And how did that happen? Well, flying into clear air turbulence can drop an aircraft thousands of feet in a matter of seconds. You could say I flew inside a flying machine with a pot of coffee in my hand.
When you finished your debut novel, how did you feel? Finishing my novel, The Guardian of Secrets, was a strange sensation. I lived with the story for years, always expanding, researching, and deleting. When I eventually slapped myself, saying: Enough is enough, it’s done,” I felt as though I was giving away my children, such was my attachment to the characters – Poor me, I was a mother in an empty nest, wondering how my little 717 page book would fair in that big, scary, Amazon Jungle where millions of other little books live and fight.
While writing, did you need help with punctuation, grammar, etc., if so where did you turn? I turned blue with exasperation and impatience – The computer grammar and punctuation program lies, at times, I’m sure of it. I didn’t ask for help nor did I study the necessary nuances, which are required in order to write a good, readable book – My final draft looked fine to me until a reputable editor got hold of it and then sent it back covered in red corrections – Oh, and some very critical comments, which made me cry! The editing process was like an intensive writing course and I will always be grateful to that particular editor for opening my eyes to the literary world with its rules, pitfalls, and magical transformations, which occurs when Grammar is given the respect it deserves.
With the number of hours spent writing, did your family members support you or complain about the time spent away from them? I lived alone at the time – actually, I still do. I wrote when and where I wanted. I doubt if anyone knew I was missing half the time, as I was always travelling – I did a fair bit of writing in hotel rooms, from Pakistan to New York. Most of the time I didn’t know if it was day or night, in fact, on a few occasions I woke up in a hotel bed, desperately trying to remember what country I was in.
Did writing your first novel benefit you in any way and if so, how? I’m going to go out on a limb here and be honest with you. Whilst recuperating at home after my, head bumping accident, I got into the habit of watching movies, all day, all night, until I fell asleep. One day I stood in the Blockbuster Video store, making a scene, because they had no new movies for me to rent. I realized then that I’d seen everything, I mean everything they had to offer, apart from Porn – That was the moment I also came to the conclusion that I needed a new hobby – Thus, my first novel not only benefited me, it saved my sanity.
When you were writing your book, did you shut-off from family and all social networks? Don’t laugh. I only got an internet connection a couple of years ago. It scared the living daylights out of me. I thought that if I pressed the wrong buttons I’d blow something up. Guess I really did watch too many movies! My family lived in Spain and I was living in England, at that time, but had they been in the same house, I would have closed my bedroom door and put up a “Do not disturb” sign and another saying “Bring me coffee, please.”
Did you use friends or family members as Beta readers for your debut novel, if so who? I asked some friends to read it, before editing. A couple of them were very helpful. The novel is, historical fiction, and they pointed out certain inconsistencies with regards to the period. A couple of my friends concentrated on the story and their advice stopped me from killing off a certain character. They all said they saw a movie or TV series and that’s why I have also have a completed screenplay.
What do you do when you aren’t writing? Do you have any hobbies? I have a Labrador who loves to take long walks. I’m lucky, I live on the coast, and I’m surrounded by mountains. Oops, I still love movies. I paint in oils – Sometimes I wish I’d never found the internet. It’s like a big black hole that sucks me in and keeps me prisoner for hours at a time. Thank God for the dog. She forces me to go out, as do my friends, at times.
Where can readers go to find your book?
Thank you Jana Petken for taking time out from your busy day to answer my questions. I’ve enjoyed getting to know a lot more about you. It’s a pleasure having you join my blog. I wish you the very best with your book and any you publish in the future.