Interview with JANE YOLEN

133576271Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Jane Yolen?

I have been in the book making business since my first book (non-fiction) came out in 1963. But I had been in publishing before that as an editor, magazine writer, and poet.

Tachyon are due to publish your latest story collection, The Midnight Circus, in October. How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

Who knew Jane Yolen, the fairy-tale writer, author of the Commander Toad in Space books, and the How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight series, wrote dark fantasy and dark science fiction. Yet she had stories in World’s Best Horror several times over her long short story writing career. Not dark slasher fiction, but the frisson of terror, the haunt of oppression, the creak of a door where no door exists, kind of darkness.

Also I wrote 3 Holocaust novels (The Devil’s Arithmetic, Briar Rise, and Mapping The Bones). Surely those count!


What inspired you to write the novel and series? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?

As I have almost 400 books out, I draw inspiration from everywhere — my life, my family’s life, my next door neighbor’s open door, the bear that slept on my porch, my children’s assistant headmaster’s deaf child, my sons’ loving dinosaurs as three and four year olds, my family’s obsession with bird-watching, my house in Scotland, laddie. And reading two newspapers a day.

How were you introduced to genre fiction?

The Crypt Comics in the mid 50’s, Poe short stories, and every fairy tale, folk tale, and Arthurian story that I could get my hands on.

How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?

There’s other work?????


Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?

Butt in chair. Write every day, If someone asks if you can do something for their publishing company or their anthology…. say yes I can. Then try. If you say no at the beginning, you may never get a second chance.

When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?

Both my parents were writers. All their friends — and this included Will Oursler,  Hemingway, James Thurber, etc. (Dad was president of the overseas Press Club as well) — were writers. So I assumed all adults were writers. They also had day jobs. My brother and I wrote a weekly “newspaper” for the apartment house in NY where we lived when we were 5 and 9. Hand wrote it and then Mom typed it up a dozen times and we sold it for 5 cents a paper back to our neighbors. I still remember! He became a newspaper man and I became… me.


What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?

It is so vast now, I have trouble keeping up with it. But I still love what I read of it.

Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?

I always have more things in the pipeline.

I am working on a middle grade novel for Tachyon which begins where Moby Dick left off. About Starbuck’s son. A bunch of picture books. Pitching Ruby Circus (odd fantasy and sf love stories), and a bunch of adult poetry books. My agent has about fifteen picture book manuscripts making the rounds, and I am about to remake an old short story into a graphic novel.


What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?

Just finished the last Linda Barnes’ Boston PI novels. Re-reading Moby Dick for the novel. Cursed (collection of short stories) and about to start my son, Adam Stemple’s, novel Duster which is just out. And a bunch of research for the new novel I am working on.


If you could recommend only one novel or book to someone, what would it be?

Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin and/or Briar Rose. Or anything by Diana Wynne Jones.


What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?

I’ve dog-sled in Alaska, trained on the Spanish Riding Academy’s Lippizaner horses, Maria Tallchief hung her practice tutu on my ballet school locker, and James Thurber gave me permission in writing to turn his book The White Deer into a musical.

Oh — and one of my awards for writing set my good coat on fire.

What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?

Something that surprises me. Like Biden winning the election handily, and a coronavirus shot.


Jane Yolen’s The Midnight Circus is due to be published by Tachyon Publications on October 1st, in North America and in the UK. Tachyon also publishes two of Yolen’s other short story collections — The Emerald Circus and How to Fracture a Fairy Tale; as well as two novels — The Transfigured Hart and The Last Tsar’s Dragons.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads

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