Writing Superheroes: Janet Wertman

Grant writer by day, find this superhero battles interruptions and the universe. Read on and find out more…

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According to Wikipedia, ‘a superhero is a type of heroic character possessing extraordinary talents, supernatural phenomena, or superhuman powers and is dedicated to a moral goal or protecting the public.’ Sounds like a writer to me!

Join me as another one of these unsung superheroes invites into their personal ‘batcave’.


If you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing what would be the most important scenes? What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?

Janet WertmanMy earliest efforts go WAY back! I had a couple of never-finished attempts as a child: a pre-teen novel modeled after Judy Blume, then a YA book about Elizabeth I inspired by Jean Plaidy. I wish those drafts were still around, but sadly, those painstakingly typed pages are long gone.

My adult efforts started when I was in my late 20s, and took the form of a novel about Anne Boleyn. I put it away and took it back out several times – back when floppy disks were still a real thing and not just the visual representation of the “save” icon. In other words, those drafts are also unavailable as blackmail…

All superheroes have their mild-mannered secret identity, what is yours? I promise we won’t tell.

Here’s the wildest part: writing imparts superhero status – but I came to historical fiction from other writing! I am a grantwriter by day, working to raise money for wonderful non-profits doing amazing things. That identity is my main superhero identity, and Jane the Quene is my secret one.

That makes sense. Jane’s not real, after all – though she does have her own Twitter account where she tweets Tudor articles, medieval stuff, and posts from English Historical Fiction authors (I go for political and non-profit topics, regenerative organic farming issues, and inspiring photos). Truly, I am trying as hard as I can NOT to keep Jane secret!


Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?

My partners in crime are my clients. Their superpowers let them help thousands of people who really need it – homeless children, schoolchildren, recovering addicts, you name it….

Jane’s partners in crime are the other Tudor writers – their superpowers include a never-ending fascination with the intricacies of the era.


Where do you get your superpowers from?

I love language. Word origins, shades of meaning, grammar and sentence structure, cadence and tone, all of it. I went to a French school growing up, and I was constantly struck by the differences between the two languages – ideal sentence lengths, words that exist in one but not the other, words that are shared by both but mean different things in each….  I’ve tried to pass this love on to my children as well, I hope I’ve succeeded.


Where is your secret lair and what does it look like?

Up until September, I would have said my secret lair was my wonderful office, with its pinkish walls and its view out to gardens. But at the start of last football season, I rearranged my living room so that I could work from a small desk in the corner. It’s a nice occasional change of scenery that lets me remain connected to the bustle going on in the house – and since I can still see the television from there I can write without fear of missing anything (at least anything important enough to be replayed!).


What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world saving form? How do you insure they are used only for good?

I hone them all the time, so they are always ready. And I use them for my clients, my readers, and people I love, so they are absolutely used for good.


Granted, you probably don’t get to wear your superhero costume a lot, but if you did, what would it look like?

Actually, you could say that my superhero costume is my pyjamas and I wear them all the time. I race down to my desk in the mornings and start work before breakfast – if I get on a good roll I won’t look up and shower until noon!


What is your kryptonite? What are the biggest challenges faced with in your writing?

My kryptonite is interruptions. I read somewhere that each interruption (phone call, email…) sets us back by about 20 minutes – and that we experience approximately 7 interruptions an hour. In other words, we NEVER catch up!


What was the supervillain that threatened to stop your latest project and how did you vanquish it?

The supervillain was the universe, and I vanquished it by accepting it. Jane the Quene started out as Anne Boleyn’s secret diary, read by Elizabeth and paralleled to events in her own life. I was actually 150 pages into that book when Robin Maxwell published The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn (my exact premise)… It was heartbreaking at the time, but fifteen or so years later (who’s counting?) I know this was a blessing that allowed me to publish a richer tale, and create a structure that would support a full trilogy and more beyond that.


What important lessons have you learned along the way?

Flexibility. Perseverance. Those are really the two most important traits we need!


What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?

I need to give a shout out here to the Critique Group I was lucky to find. It is a wonderful and blessed thing to find people willing to read your work and react to it. Even when I don’t agree with their comments, I am grateful to have them.


If you did this again what would you do differently and what would you not change?

I would have buckled down earlier. I didn’t get the “publish or else” determination until three years ago. And that determination is really the factor that divides published authors from hopeful ones.


What is the best (writing or otherwise) advice you have ever gotten and why.

When I started the book, I was focused on getting the objective story across, and that meant a book with about ten POVs. Then I found a wonderful editor who got me to see that the objective story was less important than what it meant to the key characters. She had me cut down and give a voice to only two people – and it was magic.


Tell us about your new book and why we need to drop everything and get it now.

Jane the Quene has a unique perspective. It’s written from two points of view – Jane’s and Thomas Cromwell’s. Jane sees Henry VIII as fundamentally good, Cromwell sees him as intrinsically evil. At this stage in his life he’s a little of both, so it’s the perfect way to tell the story. It also makes for a compelling read. 


What’s in store for you in the future? Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?

I have such plans for the future! Jane the Quene is the first book in a trilogy called The Seymour Saga. The second book, The Path to Somerset, chronicles Edward Seymour’s rise after Jane’s death to become Lord Protector of England and Duke of Somerset – taking us right through Henry’s crazy years. Finally, the third book, The Boy King, covers the reign of Jane’s son, Edward VI, and the string of betrayals he suffered. After that, I plan move on to a trilogy covering Elizabeth I…then circle back to a trilogy about Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn (kind of like the Star Wars pattern!)…and then just put out standalone novels. The Tudor era is rich with amazing stories that are aching to be told and I am looking forward to telling them!


 You can find this superhero online at:


~Twitter @JanetWertman  


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