Winning Novelist Interviews: Jan Underwood of Day Shift Werewolf

In the month leading up to the 2014 3-Day Novel Contest, we’ll be interviewing previous winners, who will share their experiences and tactics for tackling the contest.

Today’s interview is with 2005 winnter Jan Underwood of Day Shift Werewolf.

1. Which was the moment you decided to sign up for the contest? Why?

I’m sorry to say I don’t remember the precise moment, (it was 9 years ago) but I do know that I did it to amuse my then 14-year old, who was adrift in the doldrums at the tail-end of summer. (My kid participated in the contest, too.)

2. What prep work, (if any,) did you compile before the contest?

Warren, a werewolf with vegetarian inclinations, had been living in my head for a long time before the contest, but I had never written anything about him. The contest became an opportunity for me to get his story on paper. I didn’t take any notes or write an outline before the contest, but I settled on the essentials of Warren’s story and then brainstormed a list of additional monsters who might live in his neighborhood, and I decided what kinds of existential crises would suit each of them best.

3. Describe the darkest crevasse you fell into during the writing period.

I ate so many SweeTarts that they corroded my tongue.

4. What pulled you out of it?

I believe what made it possible for me to complete the contest was knowing, from the beginning, the general shape of my story. For me the hardest part of writing is conceiving what needs to happen. Once the narrative arc is in place in my mind, what remains is to simply put in the time. The details get worked out in the writing.

5. What is the most valuable thing you took away from the three days?

I was a committed and experienced writer going into the contest, but until the contest I did not know that I could be funny. I had already written one (unpublished) novel, terribly serious in tone. Day Shift Werewolf was my first comedy. That I could write funny was a tremendous revelation to me, and very useful in my subsequent life as a writer. People like funny.

6. What are you up to now? Was the 3-Day Novel Contest a detour on your already thriving passion for writing, or did it direct you into the new love of being a novelist?

Oh, the 3-Day Novel Contest definitely launched my career as a published author. The following Labour Day I drafted another novel, which came out last year – a candidate for a 7-year Novel Contest, I suppose.

7. Last – and most important! – any advice for writers looking to sign up?

I found that it was important to eat, sleep and exercise normally during the contest. I worked long hours, but I took breaks and looked after myself. I don’t think I could have produced the winning novel if I’d drunk a lot of coffee and tried to stay up for 72 hours, or if I didn’t let myself leave my desk.

Check out Jan’s novel Day Shift Werewolf here or check out her exciting new book, Utterly Heartless!