Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Feature: Jane Yates author of Garden


‘Garden is very charming with some lovely parallels …’ Sharon Sant – Author of The Sky Song trilogy
Inspired by the classic novel The Secret Garden, Jane Yates introduces us to a steampunk world of bio-domes, robots and mysteries. Eleven-year-old Aberdeen is so used to being by herself that all she has to fill her thoughts are stories of mighty dragons and grand castles. But Aberdeen’s world is soon thrown into disarray however; her parents murdered.
Having no choice, Aberdeen is sent to live with her uncle back on Earth where her fascination into her new surroundings begin to take hold. It isn’t long before Aberdeen befriends three other children – Maisy, Peter and Lenard.
Oh, and there’s Frank too, Peter’s robot dog, who completes this special circle of friendship.
Garden is a journey of self-discovery, of trials and friendship. With adventure boundless, Jane Yates follows up her acclaimed Paradox Child trilogy with a new tale for young fans of steampunk and science fiction.
 Left Alone

Deep in space, Aberdeen sat on a balcony overlooking a grand party her mother hosted. Everyone wore their finest clothes. The music was loud; a type of remixed jazz. Aberdeen searched her mother out among the crowd of guests. Upon spotting her, she gazed at her mother’s attire; a long silk dress, the colour of shock blue. This was matched by elaborate feathers and sparkling jewels that hung in her blue hair. Her mother’s hair swung down her back, which highlighted her large dragon tattoo. Aberdeen eyed the lead in her mother’s hand and followed it to the golden robot dog sat beside her. It was tall and thin, and even from where Aberdeen sat, she could see the cogs moving inside it as if it had a tiny heart beating.
Aberdeen’s mother laughed gaily. She had the full attention of a young officer with braided hair, who was smartly dressed in his green and gold uniform. As he chuckled along, his head dropped back and a cool thin line of rose-smelling cigarette smoke slid from the corner of his mouth.
Aberdeen continued to watch the party from above. As usual, there was no sign of her father; probably in the engine room of the ship, she guessed. She browsed at all the fresh fruit and flowers in the tall bowls and glasses decorating the table. She knew that they had been picked up the last time the ship had docked at one of the satellite stations. She had learnt that the fragrant, exotic flowers had been grown in large artificial garden domes and she longed to see one.
She looked down in awe at the musicians. A large man sat at a glass piano, his fingers elegantly flitting from key to key. Aberdeen could see his fat belly though through the transparent top of the piano; it wobbled tastelessly as he played, a huge contrast to his regal demeanour. Aberdeen also noticed a tall, skinny man, strumming a black shinny double base and three female trumpeters who all wore brown and white stripy suits.
Draped from the metallic ceiling were candle-shaped lights, and in between them dancers gambolled on trapeze ropes. They wore porcelain masks and flamboyantly displayed peacock feathers, midnight blue and jade green, in their hair. They matched the rhythm of the quintet perfectly, Aberdeen thought.
The floor was polished to a high shine and Aberdeen could see the refection of the sociable people in it. In the corner of the room was an old gentleman who caught Aberdeen’s interest. Upon his head was a black top hat and he rested a glass monocle on his eye, which magnified his golden brown iris so even Aberdeen could see. His long twisting moustache made Aberdeen giggle.
There were no children however, and Aberdeen wondered what the workers’ children were up to. She suddenly felt quite alone.
Aberdeen picked up some of the plastic cocktail sticks that had been dropped on the floor; planting them along the edge of the balcony and playfully imagining them growing into amazing flowers. She soon tired of the game and thought about going downstairs to join the party, but knew that her mother would not be pleased; her mother felt that children should be seen but not heard and, where possible, not seen at all. Her mother had not wanted children. Aberdeen knew she hadn’t been planned and her mother, a socialite, did not have time for her, nor did she wish for her daughter to mix with the other children on the ship, as these were the workers’ children. The elite children had been shipped off to boarding school, but Aberdeen had not settled in well there and caused fights with the other children. She was returned to her parents in disgrace.

Aberdeen had wanted to play with the ship workers’ children, but her mother, on one of her brief and rare visits to see her daughter, told her horrid stories about them. “They have revolting lice in their hair,” she had said, and “Do you want them to jump at you and bite you?”
So instead Aberdeen spent all her time in the company of her robot nanny; her Guardian. Her Guardian was programed to do whatevershe wanted, as long as it did not disturb the child’s parents. It was efficient but uncaring, which had led partly to Aberdeen becoming the same way. The Guardian was responsible for her education too and arranged her meals and even dressed her. It was also programmed to tell stories. The wondrous tales and adventures of frightful dragons and grand castles were her favourite and she would spend her time imagining dragons flying around her room acting out her own brave endeavours.

Early the next morning, Aberdeen awoke thinking she had heard screams and cries for help. Frightened, she locked her door and snuggled tightly underneath her covers. The thick duvet muffled the cries from outside, and before long, she had drifted back to sleep.
When she awoke some hours later, having convinced herself that the commotion from the night before had been a terrible nightmare, she opened her door and sat on her bed waiting for her Guardian. Minutes later, it still hadn’t appeared.
Aberdeen browsed her room to pass more time; it was only fair she allowed her Guardian a little extra before she left the room. Her room was plain compared with the lavish party setting of downstairs, although she knew she could have it decorated any way she desired. She chose to not have a lot. What she liked doing the most was playing with her robot snake. Aberdeen was content with her few intimate toys rather than having extravagant playthings she had no need of. She had books, but she preferred to be read to. The furniture was clinical white, undecorated and simplistic in design. Everything served a purpose and there wasn’t even a carpet on the floor, just white lino. There were pictures on the wall, but none that she had chosen, as if put there by someone who had no knowledge of her at all.
She suddenly remembered the soft toys she once had, which consisted mostly of dragons, but they had been stored away when she had been sent off to school. Her mother, still angry at Aberdeen’s quick return, as if she was but a nuisance, had not retrieved them yet. She much preferred her robot snake anyway.
Aberdeen felt herself becoming increasingly frustrated; why wasn’t her Guardian coming to dress her? She wasn’t used to waiting. When the rage become too much, Aberdeen jumped and stamped her feet screaming for the Guardian to come. When it still hadn’t arrived, she sulked down the hallway until she came to the balcony. All the food and glasses were still left set out, but there wasn’t anyone around. Aberdeen descended the staircase and quickly snatched some of the food. On her way back to her room, she grabbed an opened bottle of wine.
As she crossed the polished floor however, she froze and looked at her sad reflection. Her plain looks gave way to a sour jawline, giving the impression that she rarely smiled. In truth, Aberdeen realised that she hardly did. Her shapeless chestnut hair appeared dull. She looked as far away from the fashionable figure of her mother. Her words rung in her mind.
Spoilt, bad tempered little child!

Aberdeen promptly scooted back to her room. Perhaps her Guardian had arrived.

Aberdeen was furious to find it hadn’t. She slid her food underneath her bed and squeezed under herself, thinking mean thoughts. She ate some of the food and sipped the wine, which made her sleepy. Eventually, not realising how long had passed, and getting rather bored, she played with her small robot snake. She built high obstacles out of plastic bricks for it to slither around. She tried to imagine that the snake was a dragon from one of her stories and that the bricks were castles. When she had drained the wine however, Aberdeen soon found herself slipping into a slumber.

But when she awoke, her angry temperament hadn’t left her. Where was her Guardian?
Just then, outside her bedroom door she heard two muffled grown-up voices.
“It’s a shame; she was beautiful, taken in the prime of her life,” the first voice said.
“She was a mother too,” the second voice replied.  “I hear she had a child, a girl, although nobody ever really saw her.”
Aberdeen got out from under her bed and opened the door. She frowned at two officers who were stood in the hallway wearing gas masks.
“Oh, look, Barnabas, there’s a child here, alone in a place like this!” one of them said, pointing and grabbing another mask from his bag which was slung over his shoulder.
“Who is she?” the second offer asked.
“I’m Aberdeen Gale,” Aberdeen introduced herself, pulling herself up as tall as she could and staring at them both.
“Oh, this must be the girl no one ever saw. Poor thing, she must have been forgotten,” the first officer said, holding out the mask for her to put on. Aberdeen glared at the mask; it was a strange shape, light brown in colour with two round windows for eyes. She spotted a dull copper filter hanging from it. The gas mask itself could have been really old if it not for the fact that there was a green triangular light flashing on it.
“I don’t like it!” Aberdeen shouted, folding her arms across her body and scowling at the men.
“Oh, the poor thing, she’s frightened,” Barnabas said, a hint of patronisation in his voice.
“I’m not poor at all,” Aberdeen snapped. “My father is in charge of the ship. I need you to take me to him at once as my robot has not come for me.”
Barnabas knelt down next to Aberdeen. “You poor child,” he said softly. “Everyone is dead. There was a distress signal, which we picked up.” He helped her to put on the gas mask.
Aberdeen could not believe what she was hearing. She tugged at the gas mask, rearranging its strange structure. It felt heavy on her face and it made her want to itch her skin. Barnabas offered her a smile. He looked to his colleague for support, who continued to talk as if Aberdeen was invisible.
“Maybe the girl survived as she leads a solitary existence? Well, that will have to change now.”
Barnabas continued to smile at her.
“You must come with us, my girl,” the other officer instructed, holding his hand out to Aberdeen. “We need to take you off this ship and back to a halfway station for quarantine. Juno is probably the nearest one.”
“Your robot is not coming,” Barnabas told her as if he had sensed her thoughts. “All the worker robot signals were shut down when the distress signal was issued.”
Aberdeen glared at him, “I don’t believe you!”
“It’s true,” Barnabas said. “It’s part of the fail safe protocol. When the distress signal is sent it allows for every eventuality, even robot attack, so it shuts them down.”
Aberdeen stood still, her mind racing, she did not know what to do.
“It was some sort of virus,” Barnabas continued. “We are not sure of all the facts as yet, but from what we can piece together it looks as if one of the crew members released a fast acting, deadly virus as a grudge. We suspect a chemist.”
Aberdeen must have looked blankly at him, as he continued. “We were on our way to arrest him anyway. He had been developing new Class A drugs and had become paranoid.”
Aberdeen took a step backwards unsure to believe them or not. She wasn’t quite sure what ‘Class A’ drugs were, but she definitely didn’t like the sound of them.
The other officer said, “Look, we haven’t got time for this. We need to get you off this ship; it’s going to be decommissioned.”
Aberdeen ran back into her room and scooped up her snake and placed it in her pocket, then followed the two officers along the corridor and away from the only home she had ever known.
Text copyright © Jane Yates 2015

Praise for Garden

‘Garden is very charming with some lovely parallels …’  – Sharon Sant – Author of The Sky Song trilogy

‘This is an absolutely lovely story with a really intriguing mystery …’ – Jaimie Admans – Author of Afterlife Academy

‘Garden made me smile from start to finish.’ – Dan Thompson – Author of Here Lies Love

‘Jane Yates has written a wonderful story of self-growth, courage and learning how to love.’ – Book Raiders Blog

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/496280?ref=AutumnOrchard
(CODE EN36V for 35% discount)


What inspired you to write this book?

My friend at work Beth gave me a copy of The Secret Garden as a gift. I had seen the film years ago and loved it. Then when I started to read the book I begin to imagine more of a story than there was. Read between the lines as it were. I thought the original was brilliant and, although it was written over 100 years ago, it still seemed fresh. However, I thought it be great to modernize it and as a steampunk writer give it a steampunk twist, but to still keep the message warm and the same - one of hope and self-discovery and dreams coming true.

Can you give us an interesting fact about your book that isn't in the blurb?


Maisy (above) directly inspired the character of Maisy in the book. And just like the character, Maisy is dyslexic herself. I think she looks a lot like Aberdeen on the cover. All she needs is the blue bits in her hair. This was not planned so it was a nice surprise.

How did you choose your title?

I asked my youngest daughter who is a steampunk artist for ideas. Then I checked amazon and google to see what had been used a lot. We tossed the names about, then found ‘Garden’ was not really used much where as ‘The Garden’ was. I liked the name. My second book has only one word as a title also.

Tell us about the cover and how it came to be.

My publisher Autumn Orchard hired an amazing artist called Raven to do it. I am as grateful as it blew me away when I first saw it.

I liked the way that Aberdeen looks just how I had imagined her. I love the steampunk goggles on Aberdeen’s head, it’s a nice touch as it a steampunk book. I like that there is a maze in the background as it draws the eye in and makes you want to explore it further.

The mechanical bird in the title is called Aaron. In the original secret garden book there is a robin who shows the way into the garden. In my book the planet’s atmosphere is damaged and so everyone has to live in bio domes or wear a gas mask. Therefore I felt a robot bird made better sense. Plus growing up, I loved the Sinbad film where there is a robot owl that helps Sinbad, so Aaron is a nod to him.
And not forgetting FRANK the robot dog. Come on who does not like a robot dog? Doctor Who fans will love it.

The best bit about the cover though, for me, is the inscription by Sharon Sant. I am a huge fan of her writing so was thrilled when she endorsed Garden.

Did you self-publish or publish traditionally and why?

Garden was published by Autumn Orchard. My first three books were self-published, which made me appreciate how much work and time goes into producing a book. Dan who is a poet edited Garden and made it into a fine crafted work. So he needs credit along with Maisy who gave many ideas and read each chapter as I wrote it and also Dan burton, who was my first editor and very patient.

What do you consider the most important part of a good story?

The end. I think the end if it’s part of a series should leave you feeling like you want to read the next book. Or if it’s a one off should answer everything. I wanted Garden to give the reader something, a gift, and for them to finish reading it and have a smile on their face.

What is your writing process?

I have written three books for NaNoWriMo, and two in between. I would say I make no notes, just start writing, usually write quick, as all my ideas come at once. My writing style can be jumbled. My second book of the Paradox Child series has taken the longest so far, being three months. What takes the time is getting the spelling and editing corrected. Poor people have to do that, as I am dyslexic.

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing for about two and a half years.

How did you get started writing?

I am badly dyslexic and never used to think of myself as a writer at all. I have always been creative and an artist and it was my art that indirectly lead me to the path to becoming a successful writer. In fact, it’s all because of my fat spaniel and an incredible editor called Sarah Edwards from a local paper who believed everybody can be a writer that changed my life.

A few years ago, I was drawing a cartoon about my then overweight spaniel, Mandy. My dream was simple and just to get my cartoon published, but I did not have a clue where to start. I emailed my very first cartoon to Sarah, the editor of Ley’s news, a community paper in Oxford UK, which is delivered to thousands of homes in the area and reaches and even larger online audience. Sarah published my cartoon and asked me to write more. I cannot tell the trill I got when I first held a copy of the leys news with my cartoon and name printed in it. It was such an adrenalin rush and quite additive. I draw more cartoons, and was delighted to see each of them in print, I sent copies of the paper around the UK to my family and friends and took extra copies and left them in various takeaway shops and even launderettes around Oxford City.

One day Sarah told me about a free course in community journalism that she was running and encouraged me to come along. The course was sponsored by Brookes University and was highly structured and Sarah told me that she would be teaching it herself, so I would have a friendly face.
At first I was reluctant to go and I did not want to be a writer I was happy in this save made up world drawing my cartoons. I realise now in hindsight that large part of my reluctance was not only because of my dyslexia but also because I suffered from low self-esteem. Plus if I am honest I was a little scared. I mean what if I had to read something out, or worse, write answers down on a board in front of other people who had come on that course to be writers.

I sat at home in real fear and I was transported back to a classroom setting were as a teenager I had read out a passage in front of my classmates. Shakily holding the book, sweeting and feeling my skin burn red on my face. Recalling how I had stammered and stumbled with the short passage and had to listen to the laughs and jeers of the class, and worse return to my seat the patronising glare of my teacher held fast on my back.

So a course in journalism, no that wasn’t something for people like me. By chance that day I came across a nice quote, which goes something like, ‘you’re not brave in life, unless you’re scared.’ Something click inside me, perhaps everyone was going to be scared at the course, well at the very least I was sure I was not going to be the only one. Plus Sarah had told me that she was going to be teaching it, plus she had said, there would be free tea and biscuits to boot!

So I went on the course partly because Sarah would be there and partly because of free tea and biscuits, also partly because I was curious about writing but mostly because I wanted my cartoon to continue to be published.

Sarah was an inspirational teacher and the other people on the course were friendly. We got to learn not only about writing for a paper but also about how the paper was laid out and the importance of images. When the course finished Sarah encouraged everyone who attended to write a short piece for the next edition. So too fast forward a bit, I started to write regularly for the Leys News. Happily Sarah printed just about everything I wrote and I still got to keep going my precious fat spaniel cartoon. Mostly I wrote about myself, funny stuff like attempting to get fit to run a half marathon. (Calling that column, ‘Wonder Woman’ was all Sarah’s idea,) but I went with the flow.

Things really began to kick off for me when I wrote a yearlong column called ‘Life begins at 50.’ For this I tried all manner of new things, such as sewing, archery and indoor sky diving. Someone in my sewing class told me about National Novel Writing Month. Were you agree to write 50,000 words in the month of November and then submit the words to their website to be counted. The writers meet up regularly though out November and help and encourage each other and talk about their work.

I have to be honest with you, still lacking in confidence at that point, I did not go to one of the National Novel Writing Month meetings, even although they were free and local to me. However I did write the 50,000 words and after a long period of editing, self-published Paradox child, which was to be the first of three books. The third book again written in National Novel Writing Month, but that time I did go to the meetings and found them friendly and helpful.

Paradox Child was not what I had planned to write as right up to the night before I started I was going to write in a completely different genre. Paradox Child It's about a girl who is a dreamer, as I am and set in the 1980s and is heavily influenced by the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, where I work. I think mostly as I had to carry on working while I wrote it and also because I was surrounded by the most amazing and magical objects that were in the museum daily.

Garden was my fourth book. It was written quickly, but was a long time in being edited. But I think it is better for it and shows when it is read.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Panster as I am not a planner and as I am a dyslexic, all my ideas come at once. I can’t read my notes, so there is no point writing any.

What part of the writing process is the hardest for you?


I have only had a short course in writing, so have had no real training. I guess if I had studied how to be a writer, I would know about planning and character development and setting things out. But I don’t, and I don’t think that’s bad, just different. In a way it is like my art. I have had little training in art but have been an accomplished painter for years. My art has been bought by collectors and art dealers. I have been in many solo shows and group shows, yet I only had a brief spell at art collage when I lived in Wales. I also had a few lessons from a famous artist too.

What tips can you give on how to get through writers block?

Just sit and write, write anything - about your day, your childhood, the weather, how you can’t write! Then a story will come. Cakes are also good and tea, of course. I recommend tea for everything J

What kind of music do you like to listen to while you write?

I would love to write in silence. Often I write between 2.30 and 4am in the morning then have to pretend to be awake at work. But if I write in the day, I have to have music as my two spaniels - Buster and Mandy will bark at everything that walks past the window otherwise. Which is a bother.

But the look at that face… how can you be cross. I love YouTube, so randomly pick stuff of there - the spaniels are not choosy.

Who is your favorite author?

Modern Indie author Amy Good. Her book Rooted has werewolves and people who change into animals. The way Amy finishes a chapter - in way you just have to read the next. Just one more page!!!! This was the fastest book I have ever read. I was captivated from start to finish.

Who is your favorite character from a book?

Eeyore – the sad donkey by AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh.

What is your favorite book?

Rooted by Amy Good.

Read anything good lately?

Yes lots! My latest blog reviews can be found on my brand new blog. https://amreadingamwriting.wordpress.com/my-reviews/

I like audio books also and just finished listening to The Maze Runner. I also love Dan Thompson’s work, Jack Croxall’s Tethers trilogy as well as Sharon Sant’s Sky Song trilogy, which I have nearly finished.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I am a keen gardener and have an allotment. Mum of three grown up children and an artist. I love to walk, but have no sense of direction so I often get lost. I also like to cycle, and about 4 years ago, I cycled from John o Grotes to Land’s End with my son. It took two weeks, rained just about every day and we camped all the way.

What advice would you give an author just starting out?

Don’t get discouraged. It’s free to publish your book on kindle amazon, go for it!! Even if under a pseudonym.

Have you had anything else published?

My Paradox Child trilogy is a time travel steampunk novel with strong YA influences. I self-published these myself. The series is set in the 1980’s, and most of the drama is set in the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford, where I also work.

It is a trilogy, so three books, and I like to think that they are a good introduction into steampunk. \But there is magic, science fiction and lots of time travel too.

The main character is Lilly, and she finds out that her family has an extraordinary secret; one they have kept for four generations! Lilly is proud to be different and special. At Halloween, she's happy to stay at home and cast spells with her mum and her Grandmother, rather than going out trick or treating like the other kids. At 12 years old, she thinks she knows it all.
Lilly is based on my youngest child, Emily. Also Buster and Mandy are in the books too, which also contain Therianthropy. Emily is a steampunk artist and gave a lot of her own ideas for the steampunk items in the books, such as the winged badge; it is grown from a finger nail, and the magical vanity flowers that are needed for the time travelling.

What's your next project?

Trying to sort out a book I finished for NaNoWriMo last year. It is called Octopus Pirate and is a steampunk, time travel teenage book. It is influenced by the film Fight Club.


Jane lives in the historic city of Oxford, England with her two spaniels. She works at the Pitt Rivers museum there too and is amazed and inspired by its wondrous array of objects. Being a museum of anthropology and world archaeology, Jane often finds herself influenced by its exhibitions. And indeed it has helped Jane write a trilogy for children – the Paradox Child series.

Jane is not only a mother, artist and storyteller, but dyslexic too, which only highlights her success even more. Jane refuses to allow the disorder to halt her dreams and continues to enjoy her favourite hobbies. Jane is a lover of steampunk, adventure and children’s stories, which often play a huge role in her own books.

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