Jan Krause Green is author of ‘I call myself Earth Girl’. She’s also a peace activist and lover of the earth. She’s opinionated, passionate and a lover of love. She’s been a teacher, newspaper columnist, bank teller, house cleaner, an executive director of a non-profit dedicated to education advocacy, a diversity trainer, AIDS activist, group facilitator, and waitress. Plus. Take deep breath. She has five children! I caught up with her to simply ask
Me: How unearth did you find time to write a novel? You seem like the busiest woman on earth, what’s your schedule like?
Jan: Alex, first of all, let me take a moment to thank you for this interview. The long wait may give you some insight into where this answer is headed.
The question makes me laugh. I truly wish that I could say I have a schedule. I have the opposite of a schedule. Each day sort of unfolds without regard to the lists I make and the routines I plan. I have never in my life been able to adhere to any real schedule other than those imposed externally at a job. I am very easily distracted by anything that catches my interest and I am interested in many, many things. But, somehow I manage to accomplish quite a bit in my personal life – babysitting and doing things with my grandkids, taking care of my mom, staying informed and active politically. Depending on my level of commitment to a particular cause, I can find ways to devote a lot of time to it, but it always means doing less in other areas.
As my mother’s needs have increased I have really cut down on my political activism. But back in 2008 when I really wanted Obama to win the election, I was able to go to Florida (I live in Massachusetts) for the entire month before Election Day and help to open a store front campaign office. Everything else took second place during that month. This lack of schedule is a handicap as a writer. It means many days go by without working on my book, my blog, book promotion, etc. I find all the things a writer needs to do be successful somewhat overwhelming and I am never quite sure where to focus my efforts. If someone could look at my life and figure out how to schedule it for me, I would probably accomplish a lot more. But living in a 4-generational household with ages ranging from 3 to 99 makes it quite a challenge. Plus, let’s face it, I don’t have a lot of self-discipline. As a matter of fact, the only way I could write my novel was to seclude myself away from everything and everyone for two weeks. I wrote from about 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. straight each day. I was totally absorbed in the writing and I had tons of energy. The words and ideas just poured out. I was in the zone! The hours flew by. The downside was that I could only get one week away per year. So I wrote the entire book in two one-week writing marathons separated by an entire year. Not necessarily a good way to write a book, but it worked for me. Now I am trying to write the screenplay and also the sequel without going away and secluding myself, but it is slow going. I seem to work much more efficiently under pressure.
Me: So, I call myself earth girl – (please tell me the idea came to you in a dream?) Tell me a little about the birth of the story. I’m always interested in how we writers ‘see’ or ‘hear’ the language we use. How do your stories unfold within you?
Jan: Actually the idea came to me out of the blue, from somewhere deep in my consciousness. I hadn’t written anything creative for years and I was literally yearning to write a novel. I sat down at the computer and the words “I call myself earth girl because I chose to live on earth, even though my celestial life was one of peace and beauty” just came to me. I started typing and Earth Girl began to tell me her story. The entire sequence (where Earth Girl talks about her family and what happens to her before she is rescued) wrote itself. As a matter of fact, I was actually shocked by some of it and abandoned it for a while because I did not have any idea of how to continue it. Only when I managed to get my first week of intensive writing time did I realize that Earth Girl was appearing in Gloria’s dreams.
Years before starting this book I knew I wanted to write about a woman who awoke with a life-changing realization. I wanted to explore how it affected her and her family. So Gloria became that woman and Earth Girl became the vehicle for the life-changing realization. I did not know how things were going to develop. The plot unfolded as a surprise to me. I never outlined it and I did not know what was going to happen to each of the characters. But after the first week of writing, I knew that Earth Girl had a message about war and the environment. During the second week of writing, I realized that she also had a spiritual message and that all three themes are deeply connected.
Writing this book changed my own perceptions about life. I know this sounds weird, but I became more spiritual as a result of writing this story. I also became much more active in the environmental movement. I had always been a peace activist, but writing this story made me realize the close link between environmental justice and peace. Regardless of what happens with my career as a novelist, I know I will remain deeply committed to raising consciousness about climate change.
Me: Reincarnation and the nature of time weaves throughout the book, were these topics of primary interest to you before writing or something for you to hang the story on?
Jan: Neither of these topics was of primary interest to me until I started writing this story. I have always been open-minded about reincarnation – not convinced one way or the other. I don’t think I ever thought much about the nature of time until I started writing this. But now I think about it quite a bit. (As I am answering these questions it occurs to me that I am my own best audience. This book opened me up in so many ways even though that was never my intent in writing it. I just wanted to write a book with a compelling plot and characters people would care about.)
Me: A writer consists of more than their words. I often feel engaging with the world around us improves not only our observations, but how they are translated into words. You are involved in activism, tell me how this filters into your work?
Jan: I have always been the sort of person who believes in trying to make the world a better place. But, that can be such an amorphous goal – especially when one person’s idea of better is another person’s idea of worse. I try to be sensitive to that fact in my work and my writing. Once I got into the story aspect, I knew that I wanted to get people to think about things in such a way that they might be moved to take action. I thought the best way to do this would be to have a child ask questions about problems in the world from a naive childlike perspective. Ella becomes the vehicle for bringing up topics that otherwise would feel forced. Her earnest concern for children who go hungry and thirsty because of drought and famine seemed like a way to raise this issue without becoming political. I tried throughout the book to present some very difficult issues by asking them from a child’s point of view. Another example is when Earth Girl’s younger brother asks about vengeance and war. He concludes that he just doesn’t understand how war solves anything. My intent was to have the reader also question the effectiveness of war as a solution.
Me: What five things do you wish you’d known before starting your career as a writer?
Jan: I guess I should answer this from the perspective of someone who is new to writing fiction. I had a newspaper column for 10 years, but writing a novel and promoting it is a very different experience.
1. I wish I had realized all the work involved in promoting a work of fiction. There are so many people writing fiction and if you are unknown, it is very hard for readers to find you. I really did not understand how much of this task rests on the shoulders of the author.
2. I wish I had been told that I need to think of writing a novel as a business, rather than an art. Of course, if I had been told that I might have written a book that fit more neatly into a popular trend, but I would not have been writing from my heart. So, chances are, I would not have paid attention to this advice.
3, 4 and 5. I will let Somerset Maugham provide the next three answers: “There are three rules for writing a novel, but unfortunately no one knows what they are.”
So there you have it. There’s how the busiest woman on earth write her novel. If you are having doubts about how to start, take Jan’s approach. Simply stir together passion, enthusiasm, curiosity and intelligence. You’ll have yourself a book in no time at all. Prefer to read her novel? Grab a copy here and check out her website here.
Big love to you all!