Could you tell us about yourself?
My roots are in Northeastern Pennsylvania, the heart of the 20th-century anthracite coal mining boom, but as an adult I have moved several times due to my husband’s job. We are now living in Maryland. Our four adult children are on their own in different parts of the country with careers and families of their own. Now that I am retired, I have the time to do whatever I like. My perfect life does and will always include a spoiled little dog. Her name is Pepper. I have pursued many interests from art to line-dancing but have settled on writing as my passion. The Rocked in the Cradle of Coal series I am writing now has been in my heart for decades. Someone needed to write those stories down before they are forgotten forever.
What made you write your books?
I remember being a child, eavesdropping on adults around me as they shared stories about their childhoods growing up poor with immigrant parents who barely spoke any English. Even as a child it was difficult for me to imagine living in such poverty, but it also astounded me how they managed to have fun and could laugh about their early experiences. Stories were all around me at the time and I soaked them up like a sponge. In the area where I lived, everyone knew someone who had worked in the mines, was injured working in the mines, or had even experienced a cave in… maybe in their backyard, because whole neighborhoods were built on top of the mines.
Around 1900, my grandparents came to that region as immigrants, and my Ukrainian grandmother lived with us until I was thirteen. So I grew up hearing stories about what life was like “back then.” The language, the food, the culture… it was all part of my everyday experience. Many of the homes around us had a foreign-born grandparent, aunt, or uncle living with them. So, the location itself was a cultural experience. Just going to the store, you could hear several different languages being spoken around you. The stories I am writing have their roots in the real-life adventures of someone I know, someone I’ve interviewed, or even just an anecdote I’ve heard.
Who is your favorite author?
I love history and I love real-life stories about common people who succeed in solving everyday problems in their own special way, so I follow authors who write those types of books. The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder is a favorite of mine. She has a way of writing that explains history through the eyes of a child that makes it a learning adventure.
Beverly Cleary is another favorite author. Her Ramona Quimby books were loved by my children and reading them to my girls made me fall in love with little Ramona Quimby, too. She had her own unique child-like way of solving problems while trying to prove how mature and independent she was. I try to model those characteristics in the children I write about.
Finally, I love to read anything by C.S.Lewis because you can find spiritual meaning in everything he writes. You can read the same book several times and still discover something new. He doesn’t just write stories. He writes allegories that teach timeless life lessons
What is/was your writing process like?
I start with a basic idea and a very rough outline of a few characters and scenes. Then I just start writing. I always start writing by hand on a yellow legal pad. I can think more clearly that way than I can on the computer. I call this my “0 draft.” It is always messy with a lot of cross-outs, corrections, and arrows all over the page. I am the only one who can make sense out of all those scribbles, but that is okay because no one else will ever see it. That is how I define and refine where the story is going. I like to write several chapters like this until I am pretty sure of where the story is headed, then I start typing it into the computer. That is my real first draft.
I need total silence to write. I need to hear my own thoughts and my characters talking to each other. Music playing, dogs barking, or any other sound is just a distraction from the story being played out in my mind. Once I am in “the zone” I can write for hours without noticing the time. Those are the most creative and productive hours. If I am distracted it just takes more time to get back into the zone.
What part of the book was the most fun to write?
I always enjoy writing dialogue. I remember going to the library as a child and leafing through the books I was considering borrowing. I always looked for quotation marks. I think I instinctively knew that conversations between the characters would make it a more interesting story. You can discover so much about a character by their voice and mannerisms than mere description can reveal. “Show, don’t tell” is a rule I try to follow when I write.
How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?
I thought I was writing for middle-grade readers, grades 3 – 8, when I began writing the Rocked in the Cradle of Coal series, but according to my Meta-data my biggest demographic is ages 55-64. Some readers have shared with me that the books bring back memories of their family’s past. Some buy the books for their children or grandchildren, others to use as part of their homeschool history curriculum. In any case, I believe that their goal is to preserve history in a way children can understand and to spark conversations with a younger generation. I try to weave family values into my books. My goal is to create generational impact.
How did you come up with the title for your books?
I don’t begin with a title for a book. As I write the title naturally emerges and becomes obvious. Book 1, “Peeling Potatoes,” got its title because peeling potatoes was a big part of little Katie’s life. Book 2 in the series, “Tell Me About My Father,” got its title because that was the biggest mystery in Wasyl’s life. I usually don’t know the title until I am at least halfway through the book.
What was your hardest scene to write?
The hardest scene to write in “Tell Me About My Father: Wasyl’s Story” was when Wasyl discovers the truth about his father. It is a very emotional and sensitive moment, and I had to portray it in a way children would understand. Early readers have told me that they cried when they read it. I understand because I cried as I was writing it.
Where can people who are interested buy your book?
All my books are available on Amazon. You can just search my name, Jayne M. Booth, on the Amazon site. In addition, you can visit my website where you can learn more about the era about which I write and find a direct link to each book on Amazon.
I am currently working on Book 3 in the series and plan to publish it before the end of 2023.
What are common traps for aspiring writers and have you faced any of them?
Treating writing as a hobby. It’s not, it’s your job; make it that important in your life.
Not being able to take criticism. You must have a thick skin and be able to accept constructive criticism from people who know more about writing than you do.
Trying to do it all yourself. Hire an editor, a proofreader, a cover designer, or an ad manager… whatever you need. You will save yourself a lot of stress and time if you hire an expert. Invest in yourself. It is money well-spent.
Jayne M. Booth Media Links