Exclusive Interview with
When did you start writing?
I've always written, even when I was a child. I had had published a poem, a short story and a travel essay and collected a lot of rejection slips. Then I was asked to write a book on grief.
What makes writing your passion?
I love the power of language and the magic of creating a new imaginative reality. I also love the ability to support people who are grieving which is what my nonfiction writing accomplishes.
How long have you been writing?
Off and on over 60 years.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
I was proud.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
My book is about grief so grievers are the "characters" and I used my own experience with death to create a resource for others. When I write fiction my characters can be fantastical, historical, or realistic. It depends on the mood I am in.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
Gatekeepers. The people who decide what to publish are often opaque. You send your work in and have no idea if they like it or not.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
Discipline. I either decide to write or I don't. Either is okay. Sometimes the simplest things are difficult. Over the years I've gotten better at accepting myself wherever I am without labeling it.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
Decide if you want to write to market or if you want to write what you love to write. They are two different things. Sometimes what you love to write is also something you can sell. I was at a writer's conference and one of the writers was very famous. He writes his books in a short time and makes millions of dollars. I wouldn't want to be him. I write what I want to write but am also open to constructive criticisms. In terms of having Grief Day by Day continue to sell - part of it is because it is good but a lot of it is because of creative marketing ideas on my part. Books don't sell themselves.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
You got this. Be authentic. Fight for what is right. Look for commonalities not differences. Set good boundaries.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
People are usually lovely about Grief Day by Day. I rarely read reviews and try to stick by the true idea that different things work for different people. I'm sometimes annoyed by folks who don't get it but I'm learning to be better to let go of things I can't control.
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
I don't have a published novel. Grief Day by Day comes from my real life experience. When I write fiction I'm usually in the realm of imagination but real life can come in. Sometimes I can make something happen in fiction I can't make happen in real life.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
This really doesn't apply to me
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
I didn't get to design the cover of my book. It's not as good as the story but it should draw the reader the book. A lot of books and tittles might be good but I don't even open them because of the cover art.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I am on Circles App once a month and like the opportunity for people to ask me questions. I haven't looked for any kind of speaking engagements.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
I am humbled by how many people have been helped by Grief Day by Day. It's a great honor. I'm not a "face" so people don't recognize me in public.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
My reading is very eclectic so I don't have a favorite author. I am often reading more than one book at a time. I have a murder mystery by Anne Perry and am reading Tracy Borman's book about Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn. If I had to pick a series of books to read over and over again it would be John Galswothy's The Forsyte Saga.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
I don't compare myself to other people. I'm always looking to expand the market for Grief Day by Day because that means more people can be helped. My small publisher was bought (along with my book) by a large publisher. My dream would be to get a person at the publishing house to be or interested in my book (it has sold 75,000 copies) who would want to market it with me. I was surprised to find out that someone can buy the rights to your book and not even let you know.
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
What I would like to do is finish the books I've started.
If you could switch places with any author – who would that be?
No one. I like my life the way it is.
What would you say to the “trolls” on the internet? We all know them – people who like to write awful reviews to books they’ve never read or didn’t like that much, just to annoy the author.
No point in saying anything to people who are that pathetic. They are time wasters because on my FB I have to block them twice a day. The worst thing you can do is reapond in any way.
What would you say to your readers?
I'm an ordinary person. We are here on earth for a short time. I hope you can follow your authenticity instead of trying to wear an acceptable mask. Find people who are kind and loving and fascinating to hang out with.
Share a bit about yourself – where do you live, are you married, do you have kids?
I live in New York City. My husband died in 2009. My daughter was born in 1974 and lives in MA with my 11 year old granddaughter. I 'm a vagabond and have been to all 7 continents including countries like North Korea, Pakistan and Libya. I am going back to Ukraine for the second time and also going to Rwanda. I love learning about different cultures. I also have friends of all ages. I've been a psychotherapist working in child abuse prevention and suicide prevention, owned a bookstore called The Turning Page, and produced off Broadway plays and documentary films. When my husband died I had no idea grief would be a career. My FB page Grief Speaks Out has 2.4 million followers from all around the world. If you want to find our about me you can Google Jan Warner and grief or Jan Warner and producer.
What is your day job if you have one?
I no longer have a day job. I'm grateful I can do Grief Speaks Out (7 posts a day) from anywhere I can get an internet connection.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
Watch and listen to things about history and politics. Read. Spend time with friends and family. Fight for social justice. Read. Travel.
Did you have a happy childhood?
Is there a particular experience that made you start writing?
I just liked writing. I like creative writing assignments in third grade when we had to write a story from the point of view of an inanimate object. Once I had to write a story after observing a strange and making up a life for him.
Do you have unpublished books? What are they about?
Not finished ones. I have a play that I always say I'm going to work on and then I don't. I have a historical novel about a young girl who came over on the Mayflower that I won't finish. I have started a stream of consciousness memoir.
What do you think should be improved in the education of our children? What do we lack?
Small numbers of children in each class. Exposure to foreign languages at a young age. This whitewashing (literally) of history is despicable. My granddaughter who is in 5th grade says that history should be truth telling. You weep together and learn from the bad things and celebrate the god things. Proper citizenship. I'm old. I'd use screen a lot less in schools and go back to paper and pencil or pen. Cursive stays in. Reading taught as phonics. World history. My granddaughter has travelled a lot as well and know that there are people of different colors, culture and religions and all have good points and bad points. We should value excellency in teachers. We should provide nutritional meals since hungry children have a hard time learning. If we spent more money on proper education we would spend less money on prisons at the other end.
If you were allowed 3 wishes – what would they be?
That our beloved dead could come back to spend time with us. That people would be kinder to each other. That equality and social justice would be the norm not something each generation has to fight for.
What is your favorite music?
Share a secret with us 🙂
If you're alive you have a purpose. You just have to discover it. You may be happier than you know - you just haven't noticed it yet.