What inspired your latest novel?
I visited The Hidden Village in 2005, 2007 and decided, after reading the history at the site, that children in North America had to know the story. The man I interviewed was the boy in the Village and he inspired me as well.
How did you come up with the title?
My publisher chose the title and I liked it.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I want them to proclaim “Never Again” – that inhumanity and evil will not be repeated against anyone anymore, especially children!
How much of the book is realistic?
It is all realistic; most of it really happened, and the few fictionalized parts could have happened. It is not fantasy.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The characters are based on the boy and his family upon whose stories the novel is based. I met “Walter” when I interviewed him about his life in the Hidden Village.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?
Readers can and have found me on Facebook. I am also on Twitter and I have a blog.
Blog – http://whenwewereshadowsbyjanetwees.wordpress.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pg/WhenWeWereShadows/posts/
Twitter – @JanetRWees
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
This novel is a stand alone book. I have no present plans for another novel, but I have written two children’s books that could be picture books, but I have to “finesse” them before I submit to publishers.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
My favourite is Walter of course. I met him as an adult and after listening to his stories, I could see the little boy he may have been – intelligent, precocious, sensitive and devoted to family. I heard his voice in my head as I wrote the book.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
This is my first book, so this genre is presently my favourite. But if I were to pick a genre, it would be books for children – historical or historical fiction.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
Sometimes I sit down and just write and forget to eat and pretty soon it’s dark. The next day I have to review what I wrote. I plan in my head, but I am more a seat of the pants author I would think. During this process, in my revisions, I would go back to previous chapters and add something I thought about. I was constantly re-reading and changing. But with this book, I did have a plan and it was somewhat sequential because it was based on real life. I don’t know what I would do if I had to write fiction. Not sure I could do fiction; I need some facts.
What is your best marketing tip?
The best marketing items were the bookmarks from the publisher. I have handed out/mailed/presented over 1000 bookmarks since April. They have the title, author and contacts for ordering. For a “tip”, I would say to be consistent and approach bookstores in person to offer your time to do signings/readings. If this is your first book, lead with something that your publisher might have published in the past that would be known to a bookseller. They seem to worry about risking their time on a first-time, unknown author.
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?
My publisher wanted me to have Facebook and Twitter (both public) and a blog. What I find hindering is keeping up, and not overwhelming or underwhelming readers. I am not a fan of social media and I’ve resisted Instagram mainly because it involves photos and most of the exciting photos from the launches are old now. Not getting feedback from any social media posts is disconcerting; I get likes etc from friends, but nobody new has really seemed to read or respond. I did get messages from students in Belgium and The Netherlands. They were doing book reports on the book and wanted information about the author. They communicated through Facebook.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
Being an abstract random thinker, writing forces me to focus and let the ideas flow, blocking out any other distractions.
What age did you start writing stories/poems?
I was probably 9 years old. Poems came later – in university when I was in love; it just promoted poetry all over the place!
Has your genre changed or stayed the same?
The first stories I wrote were based on pictures from magazines. It was fiction back then.
What genre are you currently reading?
Currently I am reading biography – In My Own Words (Ruth Bader Ginsburg)
Do you read for pleasure or research or both?
Pleasure and escapism
Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?
Where is your favorite writing space?
I only have one writing space – my den.
If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why?
Geraldine Brooks, because she wrote a book about penpals and I’d love to swap stories with her.
If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?
Terschelling, an island in the North Sea, in Holland…or… Vancouver (if I could afford it).
Do you see writing as a career?
I am retired so no career for me.
Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?
I actually forget to eat when I am in the throes of writing.
What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline?
I don’t set deadlines; being retired there are no deadlines. It took me from September 2008 until April 2018 to get the book written, edited, revised and published, in between substitute teaching part-time, traveling, volunteering, reading and daily living.
Born in Winnipeg, raised in a Saskatchewan village, with no running water or TV until she was 12, Janet Wees was a voracious reader. She borrowed books through the mail from the lending library in Regina to quench her curiosity about the world. Radio and Eaton’s Xmas catalogue were sources of entertainment. Being a precocious child, her mother sent her, at age 5, to grade 1 every Friday afternoon. In Grade 8 the principal would ask Janet to “sub” for a Grade 1 teacher who was late for school, occasionally. Thus began a passion for teaching and learning.
Janet attended the Universities of Saskatchewan, Calgary, and Oregon gaining her B.Ed in Special Education, and an M.Ed in Gifted and Talented Education. During her tenure she was involved in professional committees, was a volunteer for the Calgary Youth Science Fair and set up pen pal, environmental, Young Olympians, running, and debate clubs where she was a debate coach and a judge at local and international levels. In her off-times, Janet was a semi-professional photographer for the Calgary Sun, taking photos of Sunshine Boys. It was the 80’s!
In 1959 Janet began writing a pen pal in Holland. It was while on vacation in Holland, with the family, that she discovered The Hidden Villlage and the seed for her book took root.
Now retired, Janet lives in Calgary where her daughter also resides. She is a volunteer greeter at the Calgary Airport, and enjoys reading (favourites are Jhumpa Lahiri, Rona Altrows and Geraldine Brooks) writing letters (400 a year!), travel, snowshoeing, old movies, writing stories, and photography.