Interview with JANE YOLEN

Please welcome the prolific and multi-award-winning novelist, Jane Yolen. When I first read that you had published four hundred books, I had to do a double-take. You read that correctly, 400 books. That is amazing. And in addition to that, she has one some incredibly coveted awards including the Caldecott and Nebula awards. So, without further ado, let’s jump to my first question:

Do you have a secret that makes you so productive?

Want to know my secret? BIC.

That’s right. BIC. Butt in chair. There is no other single thing that will help you more to become a writer.

William Faulkner said: “I write only when I’m inspired. Fortunately I’m inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.”

How do you find the time to write so much?

There is no such thing as the time fairy dropping bits of time for aspiring writers to trip over or find. If you want to be a writer, you find or make or grab or take time from whatever else is going on. Otherwise you really don’t want to be a writer, you just want to have written.

Did you set out to be a romance writer?

I would not have thought of myself as a writer of romance . . . except when I began putting together a series of collections of my many fantasy and science fiction stories. I had done various kinds (adventures, horror, etc.) and was now up to love stories, thinking that I would never have enough to fill a volume. And then, I discovered that I had written a number of classic romance stories along the way for magazines, anthologies, and collections. (I have been publishing since the early 1960s.) 

So, the stories in the book are not new, but never all seen together before, and I wrote them each at different times in my life.

But even though they’re stories far apart in settings and the amount of love (good or bad and have either science fiction or fantasy as the bedrock), I think you can still hear my distinctive voice.

What is your writing style?

I tend to write lyrically, since I have been a published poet since High School days and now not only write a poem a day for subscribers, but I also have poetry published in small magazines and have a verse novel out (FINDING BABA YAGA (from Tor). Plus I have about a dozen small books of poetry published, ranging from love poems to political satire to fairy tales. And for a kicker–I write librettos for operas, lyrics for bands.


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Do you draw on your life experience for your writing?

I have been married twice, those two wonderful commitments interrupted by a long widowhood and some truly awful dating years. 

So, I realized—only latterly—that some of what I wrote as love stories could just as easily have turned into horror stories, but as I have been told by each of my wonderful husbands, I guess I am a total romantic. Just that the partners in these stories are sometimes fey, sometimes birds, or unworldly creatures. Kings, queens, mermaids, mermen, dragons, shapeshifters . . . and the like. I think of them as polished metaphors from my many years of writing fairy tales!

So, YMMV, as we used to say. Your Mileage May Vary. Mine certainly seems to. And as each story is accompanied in the back matter by an often truly romantic poem, maybe you are getting a goodly amount of romance from a single book here. I only know that it was a surprise to me, so hopefully it will be a pleasant surprise to you.

Do you have any words of wisdom for writers?

No, but I have seven rules:

1. Write every day.
2. Write what interests you.
3. Write for the child inside of you. (Or the adult, if you are writing adult books.)
4. Write with honest emotion.
5. Be careful of being facile.
6. Be wary of preaching.
7. Be prepared for serendipity.

Finally I would remind you of something that Churchill told a group of school boys: “Never give up. Never give up. Never, never, never give up.”

Do you have a story in your head?

Prompt Me Novel can help.

  • Brainstorming and Outlining 
  • Plotting and the “Tent Pole” Method 
  • Character Worksheets 
  • Conflict and Setting 
  • Space for Easy Journaling 
  • Reference and More!

Exclusive Poem

Here’s a new love poem only for the reader of this column.

On Waking

I am surprised you have not turned
into the merman of my dreams,
that the wet bed sheets are from the heater,
working overtime, not the ocean
we plunged in together.
That those are not bones of fishermen
between us, but soda crackers.
That the crumpled sheets not from
a dragon fight,
but two restless sleepers tugging
over who has the blankets
and who does not.

© 2022 Jane Yolen, All rights reserved

About Jane

JANE YOLEN is the author of more than four hundred books, including children’s fiction, poetry, short stories, graphic novels, nonfiction, fantasy, and science fiction. Her publications include Owl Moon, The Devil’s Arithmetic, Briar Rose, Sister Emily’s Starship, and Sister Light, Sister Dark.

Among her many honors are the Caldecott and Christopher Medals and multiple Nebula, World Fantasy, Mythopoeic, Golden Kite, and Jewish Book awards. Yolen is also a teacher of writing and a book reviewer. She lives in Western Massachusetts and St Andrews, Scotland.

Check out Jane’s Latest

The Scarlet Circus, the fourth volume in Yolen’s award-winning short fiction, series brings you passionate treasures and unexpected transformations.

This bewitching assemblage, with an original introduction from Brandon Sanderson, is an ideal read for anyone who appreciates witty, compelling, and classic romantic fantasy.

Visit this book on her publisher’s site.

Buy on Amazon.

Where to find Jane

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