Monday, November 21, 2011

Jane Shaw on Deadlines

In 1970, Jane Shaw gave was interviewed by the Johannesburg Star. In that interview, she revealed that she needed a deadline hanging over her to get some work done. Many readers must have imagined her as the dedicated writer, churning out one book after another for her fans. Although this is an attractive image of a favourite author, the reality was a little different. She told the newspaper: "If you knew the schemes I devise to avoid getting started... like cleaning cupboards, which is always a sign in our home that I should be working." Another surprise is that writing was not her main occupation. During her years in South Africa, where her husband Robert Evans worked as an accountant, she worked in the Children's Bookshop, and her writing was a secondary activity reserved for evenings and weekends. She would write with a notebook and pens and pencils balanced on her knee. Then she would type out her stories on a flimsy portable typewriter on her dining-room table. There were few changes between the first draft and the finished product, evidence that her plots were carefully worked out before she began the writing proper. In some cases the characters' names would be left blank, only being decided on after the story was finished.