13 Questions for Author Jan Moran
13 Questions for Author Jan Moran
Jan Moran has wanted to write since she was a young girl. She scribbled stories and attempted a novel at 12 years old. After earning an MBA from Harvard, Jan enrolled in the University of California at Los Angeles Writers Program to study writing, where she embraced fiction as a way to share truths of the human experience. Her first nonfiction books were published in the 1990s, but she would wait until 2015 for her first novel, a WWII saga (The Perfumer: Scent of Triumph), to be published by St. Martin’s Press.
Today, her work encompasses 20th-century historical fiction and contemporary women’s fiction beach series. A common theme is that of the woman’s journey, of resilience, courage, and creativity despite the odds. Her family sagas are filled with strong female protagonists and secrets. She dives deep into certain topics Jan is fascinated with how wine, chocolate, and perfume are created from the earth’s bounty and what lifts agricultural products into the realm of artistry. Other research that has seeped into her work includes 20th-century works of art that have been hidden or forgotten over time.
Here’s what she shared with us:
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Find a way. If someone tells you no, find another way to achieve your dreams and goals.
How many books do you read in a year?
I love to listen to audiobooks, and I lose track of how many I listen to in a year, or how many books I read. I usually have at least one book and an audiobook across genres going at any time.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
When I’m writing, I’m narrowly focused on the story until it is complete, although I try to take care of myself with a daily walk, swim, or another exercise. My good friends and family understand my need to focus. Travel and research are excellent ways to unwind between manuscripts.
Do you prefer paperback or e-reader?
I like all formats. Hardcover books are my luxury indulgence, but I depend on my tablet when I’m travelling. I like to be able to enlarge the text and immediately download the next in a series. Audiobooks are one of my favourite formats. I listen while I walk or work in the house or garden.
What’s your go-to meal or recipe?
When I write, I enjoy researching and sampling the food of the specific region that was popular in the era I’m writing about. I spoke on this at a recent BooknBrunch meeting where we talked about The Chocolatier. Food adds such authenticity to stories, and it’s research I’ll happily (and hungrily) undertake. I often share recipes in my books and on my blog. One of the best parts of travelling is trying new dishes. I often return with recipes, such as a basil-pesto recipe I discovered in Italy—and the reason I grow basil in the yard to this day. Farfalle pasta and salmon or shrimp topped with homemade basil pesto fresh from the garden—delicious! In Hepburn’s Necklace, readers will also find a good process for risotto, which is whipped up by a handsome young actor from the set of Roman Holiday.
And then there’s chocolate… When I was writing a novel, The Chocolatier, I sampled copious amounts of chocolate and visited with chocolatiers and chocolate makers. Chef Michael of Chuo Chocolatier in Carlsbad, California shared a chocolate truffle recipe that I included in the book. As for libations, a Sea Breeze cocktail (cranberry and pink grapefruit juice) is woven through the Seabreeze Inn series. A good friend often served these refreshing concoctions during sunset gatherings overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The Coral Cafe is another of my food-centred novels, with recipes inspired by Julia Child (plus a Quiche Lorraine to die for).
What helps you get in your flow/zone?
I like to engage the senses to immerse myself in a fictional world. Music…especially music of the era or place I’m writing about. For writing, I prefer acoustical, jazz, piano, or classical music—ideally to fit the mood. While writing Seabreeze Christmas, I listened to Christmas music by the pool during the summer to conjure the feeling.
The olfactory sense is often overlooked in writing, but with its direct path to the limbic center of the brain, imagined scents can trigger emotions that enhance the story. Thus, I often set my olfactory scene with period perfume, candles, or essential oils. These auditory and olfactory aids signal my brain that it’s time to channel myself into storytelling.
How do you handle failure?
A Jerome Kern song popularized by Nat King Cole comes to mind (also performed by Diana Krall): “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” That’s my motto.
How close is your offline life to your online life?
Fairly close, although I don’t overshare personal details or challenges. I enjoy chatting about my hobbies—going to the beach, gardening, cooking, and traveling. These activities often seep into my writing. I based the Love California series on places I’ve loved, whisking readers to Paris, Spain, Ireland, Monaco, Copenhagen, New York, Malibu, and Sydney. I enjoyed including hotels, restaurants, beaches, and events that I had experienced while traveling for pleasure and business. Feeling like visiting a jazz club in Paris, Mardi Gras in Cadiz, the Monaco Grand Prix, or a castle in Ireland? These are stories of self-discovery, but they’re also fun to read for vicarious travel, especially when we’re unable to venture out.
In real life, face-to-face interactions are on the decline as the world becomes more and more virtual every day, especially because of COVID-19. What are some ways you connect with your friends/family/community?
Zoom, Skype, and social media are convenient, though nothing can replace the laughs and hugs of good friends and family. As a writer, I’m also invited to lovely book club meetings and luncheons like those that BooknBrunch produces. Once this pandemic passes, I don’t think I’ll ever take personal meetings for granted again.
When you’re writing – where do you write? What is the setting?
Varying my setting helps me avoid burnout. I might write at home, in a coffee shop, or in a library. A change of scenery is inspiring. I completed Hepburn’s Necklace overlooking a California vineyard, Seabreeze Christmas poolside in Los Angeles, and Seabreeze Inn and Coral Cottage at beaches at various beaches in North San Diego County. I often worked on The Perfumer: Scent of Triumph during my flights to and from Paris on perfumery business. And I began the first draft of The Winemakers in Napa Valley surrounded by vineyards. In 2020, I had planned to write Hepburn’s Necklace in Lake Como, Italy, but the pandemic thwarted that travel. Fortunately, I’ve visited Lake Como several times, so I drew on memories, photos, and my lovely friends from Italy.
What exciting projects do you have coming up?
In 2021, I’m debuting Hepburn’s Necklace early in the year. I’m also continuing my popular contemporary women’s fiction beach series with Coral Cafe and Seabreeze Wedding in the spring and summer. I’ll be working on titles for 2022 as well—all featuring strong-willed female protagonists.
What is your ideal comfort food?
Did I mention chocolate? Dark, milk, or white chocolate, and I love to sample artisan chocolates with unique flavour profiles from savoury to sweet. Aside from chocolate, I’d have to add avocados as comfort food, too. In Southern California, we grow and use avocados in many savoury dishes, including omelets and egg dishes, ahi tuna poke, guacamole—or simply with a dash of sea salt.
Which authors inspire your work the most?
I’ve read widely, so my reading experience ranges from the grandeur of Tolstoy’s War and Peace to the fiercely determined female protagonists in Barbara Taylor Bradford’s Woman of Substance. Hemingway’s Moveable Feast and Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby were also early influences. I love the thought-provoking stories of Canadian authors Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro. It’s good to unwind enjoy women’s fiction/beach books from Mary Kay Andrews, Mary Alice Monroe, Elin Hilderbrand, Pamela Kelly, and Kristy Woodson Harvey. As for current historical authors, Kristin Harmel, Susan Meissner, Allison Pataki, Fiona Davis, Beatriz Williams, and Kate Quinn are on my favourites list. And who can forget Jane Austen?
If you want to know more about Jan and her books, visit www.janmoran.com to explore her current and upcoming titles.
If you’re interested in hearing an author talk in an intimate setting, check out our events page!
Favourite book: Purple, Green & Yellow by Robert Munsch
Favourite brunch item: waffles, fresh berries, maple syrup and, if she’s getting extra fancy, a little bit of coconut whipped cream to top it off