5 minutes with author Janet Gover

In 5 minutes with authorOver60 asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Janet Gover, a writer and former television journalist based in London, England. Her 2016 outback novel Little Girl Lost won the Epic Romantic Novel of the Year Award presented by the Romantic Novelists' Association in the UK. Her latest book, The Lawson Sisters is out on January 20.

Over60 talked with Gover about Dr Seuss, Terry Pratchett and outback Australia.

Over60: What is your best writing tip?

Janet Gover: Allow yourself to write badly sometimes. Seriously. When I’m doing the first draft of a book, I’m still discovering the characters and their story. Sometimes I’ll write a chapter that I know is not good, but I write it, go past it and continue my voyage of discovery. I then come back and fix the bad bits later, when I know what I was really trying to say.

What book do you think more people should read?

Any book. Just read. Reading is so much more than just a pleasure, it opens your mind to new ideas and places and people. Read fiction, non-fiction, kids’ books, graphic novels… whatever appeals to you. And if you haven’t already, read The Lorax by Dr Seuss. I keep coming back to this book that has wisdom well beyond the years of its intended readers.

How has outback Australia influenced your writing?

When I left Australia to travel, I started to realise how unique outback Australia really is. Things we see every day and often take for granted don’t exist anywhere else in the world. That’s why so many of my books are rural stories. As someone once said to me… You can take the girl out of the bush, but you can’t take the bush out of the girl.

What was the last book that made you cry?

I am a huge fan of Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series. I recently reread the first book – and, yes, I got all misty. That’s why her books have such a prominent place on my shelves.

What does your writing routine look like?

I try to be at my desk by 9 every morning, although sometimes I cheat and linger in bed with a cup of tea, a book and my cat. I spend my mornings doing emails, and paperwork and chatting to friends online. I grab a bite of lunch around midday and that’s when I start writing. I bury myself in the book until my husband calls to say he’s leaving work. That call gives me time to finish what I’m doing – and quickly do the breakfast dishes before he gets home.

Do you deal with writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?

I don’t really get writer’s block, but when I am struggling, that’s when [the advice] above becomes important. I just write through it. I know what I am writing is bad, but that doesn’t matter because at some point my Writer Brain kicks in and tells me what I really should be doing.

What romance trope can’t you get enough of? Alternatively, what cliché do you wish romance novels would stop using?

I love a second chance story. The Lawson Sisters is one of those. We all make mistakes in our lives, and I like to think we will get the chance to put things right. 

I am not a huge fan of the ‘forced marriage’ trope. This may have worked in the past, when women had so little power, but I think that as writers in the 21st century, we should be telling our readers that they are strong and able to take charge of their own lives. That’s a theme that reoccurs a lot in my stories.

Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?

This is a tough one. I get terribly nervous around authors I admire and am afraid I’ll say something silly and embarrass myself. I would love to have dinner with the wonderful Terry Pratchett. No author has ever made me laugh or cry as much as he has. I would like to say thank you and I miss you.

This article originally appeared on Over60.