Bestselling Author of Historical Fiction Jane Healey
Jane Healey left a career in high tech to become a freelance writer. Her passion for historical fiction became her new career when her debut novel, The Saturday Evening Girls Club, was published in 2017. Based on the true story of a group of Jewish and Italian immigrant women in Boston’s North End at the turn of the twentieth century, the Amazon bestseller was hailed by Redbook as “a breathtaking ode to female empowerment and the American dream.” With the release of The Beantown Girls, she continues to fulfill her dream of writing about lesser-known stories of women in American history. She shares a home north of Boston with her husband, two daughters, and two cats, and when she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, running, cooking, and going to the beach.
How did you find your way to writing and what publications were you working with while you were freelancing, before becoming a published author of historical fiction?
Before my daughters were born (they’re twelve and fifteen now), I was a product manager in high tech. When they were babies I was looking for work that was more flexible and family friendly, which is how I ended up freelance writing. I’ve written for all kinds of publications including The Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Huffington Post/AOL, TheStreet.com, New England Home and Boston Home & Garden. I also did some ghost writing for business books.
Having written within the historical fiction genre, what do you feel the genre affords, and at the same time, do you feel that there are any restrictions?
I love writing historical fiction because I think the historical research is such a great jumping off point for the stories you can tell. In terms of restrictions, I think it’s important to stay true to the context of the time and place. As I’m writing a scene, I always ask myself the question, maybe it didn’t really happen, but is it plausible, could it have happened? In other words, does it feel organic and fit within the historical framework?
We’ve spoken about meeting one of your literary idols, New York Timesbestselling author of historical fiction, William Martin. What was it like meeting Martin as a girl, and then again later in life as a published author or historical fiction, especially after he called The Beantown Girls “…a sweeping, romantic, and altogether wonderful novel…”?
I love that you asked this question! Yes, I met him in high school and I remember sitting in the audience listening to him talk about his novel Back Bay thinking, “I’d really love to do what he’s doing someday.” It was very surreal to have him give me an early review because I’ve admired him for so long. I’ll always be grateful for that kindness. And I was fortunate to meet him recently at a library event and he was just terrific.
“I was interested in writing about the war from their perspective because their story has been largely untold.”
The Red Cross "Clubmobile Girls" that feature prominently in your novel The Beantown Girls, are reminiscent of Molly Pitcher, perhaps even Joan of Arc. What is it about the Clubmobile Girls the first interested you?
I think the first thing that interested me about them is the fact that they’ve kind of been forgotten by history. And yet their bravery and sacrifice—and some of their stories—are really incredible. They had more access to the front lines of WWII than war correspondents and most soldiers—driving in and out of danger to serve the troops. I was interested in writing about the war from their perspective because their story has been largely untold.
“It’s like Band of Brothers in Red Cross uniforms,” is what Ronald Balson, internationally bestselling author of The Girl From Berlin had to say about The Beantown Girls. Does love and friendship play an integral role in your novel?
Yes, love and friendship are both integral to the story. This is a story about the Red Cross Clubmobile Girls and the soldiers they worked with not just surviving, but truly living in what many of them called the "bubble" of the war. And they got through it with strong friendships, the occasional romance and really just living for the brief moments of reprieve—whether it was going drinking or dancing, having dinner with friends, or listening to music by the fire.
A lot of meticulous research must go into writing historical fiction. Can you lend a sense the type of research you conduct and any exciting discoveries you might’ve made along the way?
I love research and if I didn’t put myself on a schedule I would probably still be researching this story! Many of the Red Cross Clubmobile Girls were prolific, talented writers—it was clear they knew they were witnessing history and documented their experiences through diaries and letters. One of the discoveries I made was the fact that Glenn Miller and his military band often held secret concerts for the troops in Europe as a way to boost morale.
How did you obtain your current literary representation and go on to publish your second work of historical fiction, The Beantown Girls?
I was not represented when my first novel, The Saturday Evening Girls Club was published, but I knew for my second novel I wanted to seek representation and had already been researching agents when you contacted me via Facebook.
In publishing with Lake Union, the women’s fiction imprint of Amazon Publishing, do you feel that there are important messages for women in your novels, and are there good takeaways for men as well?
I think one of the underlying messages of my stories is that changing your mind can change your life. These women changed their minds about what was possible for the future, and it changed the trajectory of their lives forever
“...publishing is persistence...”
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers hoping to one day become published authors of historical fiction novels?
My advice is that I think publishing is persistence and really nothing replaces working really hard and that means writing, re-writing, getting solid feedback, attending workshops that help you improve, joining a quality writer’s group or finding a critique partner, all of those things and more.
What can we look forward to in a next book from you?
I don’t want to say too much because I’m superstitious, but it’s another lesser known tale of women during war time and I’m already obsessed with the stories of these women.