Ten Questions with Jane Rogers

Jane Rogers


1. How and when did you get started as a writer?

I always wrote as a child, and had things published in school mags, university mags, and wrote for a regular performance evening at university. My first proper publication was a short story in Spare Rib magazine when I was 21. I wrote my first novel while teaching half-time; put it away for a year because I thought it was no good, then reread it and cut it by a third. I sent it to 2 agents: one rejected it and the other, Pat Kavanagh, took it on. She sold it the following week to Robert McCrum at Faber.

2. Where do your ideas tend to come from? 

It’s random – sometimes things I’ve read, or conversations; often places are important (eg. Australia in Promised Lands,  and Raasay, in Island). Often the plots of existing plays or stories or fairytales are important (again, Island, where I took ideas from The Tempest, and used a number of fairytales, and based the plot itself on the fairy-tale idea of transformation.)  History is a good source for me too – both Mr Wroe’s Virgins and Promised Lands grew out of an interest in a particular historical moment or event.

3. Are there particular ideas or themes that interest you or that keep resurfacing in your work?

Yes, although I often don’t realise it is the same theme until I am well into the novel! I guess obsessions are relations between parents and children, or between children and parents (and there often seem to be lost, abandoned, or strangely powerful children); and idealism (that is to say, the effects of idealism, or of having a set of passionately held convictions, on the world of the protagonist. Thus an interest, in at least two of the novels, in colonialism).

4. Do you plan your writing?

Of course. But the plan is constantly changing and evolving as I work, so I am regularly dumping plans.

5. Do you have a writing routine or any ‘rituals’ that you follow?

Not really, though I know my best writing happens first thing in the morning, so I try to organise my working life around that.

6. Who are your favourite writers?

Dostoevsky, Alice Munro, Charlotte Bronte, Philip Roth, J.M. Coetzee, Raymond Carver, Edith Wharton, Elizabeth Taylor; and on and on. It is a bit random – I love reading and like different writers in different moods. Currently I am discovering Flannery O’Connor and loving her.

7. Do you have an ideal reader?


8. What are you working on now?

Just finished a novel, The Testament of Jessie Lamb.

9. What are you reading at the moment?

Flannery O’Connor short stories, and Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel.

10. What piece of advice would you give to new writers?

Always leave as long as possible between finishing a draft and rereading it; the longer you leave it, the more objective you can be when working out what’s wrong with it.


Jane Rogers was born in London in 1952 and lived in Birmingham, New York State (Grand Island) and Oxford, before doing an English degree at Cambridge University. She taught English for six years before the publication of her first novel, Separate Tracks. Since then she has written seven novels, original television and radio drama, and adapted work (her own and other writers’) for radio and TV. In 1994 she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Work as an editor includes anthologies of new writing, and a reference guide to fiction. She has taught writing to a wide range of students, and is currently Professor of Writing on the MA course at Sheffield Hallam University. Jane lives near Manchester with her partner and two children, making occasional forays to Australia, where her family live. She published a short story in Matter 4.