An Interview with Janet Edwards.

(originally published in the Birmingham SF Group Newsletter)

Janet Edwards is a talented new writer and her first novel ‘Earth Girl’ came out from HarperCollins Voyager imprint in August and is reviewed here this month. To find out more about this author go to

The interview was conducted by Pauline Morgan.

Pauline Morgan: When did you start writing?

Janet Edwards: I dabbled a few times over the years, but didn’t begin writing seriously until I started Chris Morgan’s adult education writing class in the autumn of 2007.

PM: What kind of thing did you start writing?

JE: I started by writing some short stories aimed at competitions, so they were mainly general fiction. My first short story came second in the 2008 Yeovil short story competition and was broadcast on BBC Radio Somerset. Another was a finalist in the 2010 British Fantasy Society short story competition. I also won the first Words With Jam’ short story competition in 2010. About eight other stories were highly ‘commended or in the short list for competitions.

PM: Did this success encourage you to continue writing or would you have done so anyway?

JE: When I started writing, I didn’t believe I’d ever get anything published, so I think the successes encouraged me to take it more seriously.

PM: Was ‘Earth Girl’ the first novel you completed?

JE: ‘Earth Girl’ was my first Science Fiction novel, but the third novel I wrote. I spent about a year working on my first novel and learnt a lot from it. I then wrote the first draft of another novel at incredibly high speed, but abandoned that and moved straight on to write ‘Earth Girl’.

PM: How easy was it to find a publisher for this novel?

JE: I know many writers struggle for years to find an agent or publisher, so I was incredibly lucky to be introduced to people who asked to see ‘Earth Girl’. Disconcertingly, this happened when I’d finished the first draft and done my first major revision pass but I hadn’t finished revising the book. I sent it anyway, they read it and were interested, so the book ended up circulating amongst publishers before I’d even finished tidying it up. Of course, I had the chance to do that later during editing.

PM: Your first novel, ‘Earth Girl’, is set in the far future. What made you want to write Science Fiction?

JE: I’ve read a lot of Science Fiction since I was a child, so it was a very natural thing for me to write.

PM: You have travel between planets via a portal system. Was there anything that influenced you in choosing this way of travel rather than an FTL drive for spaceships?

JE: The concept of Earth Girl is that in a future where people casually travel between a thousand planets, a few people are born with an immune system that means they can only live on Earth. They’re regarded as handicapped, people are prejudiced against them and Earth is regarded as a ghetto planet. For this handicap to work, travelling between worlds has to be as much part of everyday life as travelling to another city is for us. I needed something like interstellar portals, because everyone travelling around in spaceships would demand too much time and resources.

PM: In ‘Earth Girl’, one of the focus themes is archaeology. Is this something you have an interest in?

JE: Not archaeology specifically, more history in general. I’m interested in the similarities between people living in different times. Things like the graffiti on the walls of Pompeii are fascinating.


PM: One of the important plot strands in this novel is the Carrington Event. How early in the development of the plot did you know that this had to be a feature?

JE: I’m what people describe as a discovery writer rather than someone who plots out a novel in detail before writing it. I discovered the Carrington Event was happening literally at the point in the book where someone says those words. I then ran round the house in jubilation because I’d been wondering why I was writing so much about solar storms and now it made perfect sense. I think my subconscious knew about the Carrington Event a lot earlier than my conscious mind. Yes, some writers are truly weird. At least this one is.

PM: Did the knowledge of the real Carrington Event influence the date at which the novel is set?

JE: The date wasn’t influenced by the Carrington Event. I had a future history time-line, with several events that had to happen before the start of the book. I added them up and found that put the book at the end of the 28th century.

PM: For the benefit of those who don’t know, can you briefly explain what a Carrington Event is and how it would affect our society?

JE: A Carrington Event is a solar super storm. We had one of these in 1859, named after an astronomer who observed it. That solar super storm just took out the telegraph system, but now we have a much more technological society. A major solar storm in 1989 caused blackouts in Quebec. A true solar super storm could severely damage power grids and satellites. They’re rare events, only one every 500 years on average, so let’s hope we don’t get one for another century or two.

PM: Jarra, the main character, is – particularly at the start of the book- a bit of a super-woman. Is this a reflection on the person you would like to be?

JE: That’s a very scary thought. No, I’ve no wish to be Jarra. This is a girl who has spent her life watching vids made by people on other planets. They make jokes about people like her being stupid and ugly, which makes her very angry, but part of her believes they’re right. She’s driving herself obsessively hard, desperate to be super-humanly good at her work on the dig site. She claims she’s trying to prove to the off-worlders that she’s as good or better than they are, but really she’s trying to prove it to herself.

PM: When you started writing this novel, were you aiming specifically at the young adult market?

JE: It was aimed to be a cross-over novel, for both adults and older YA.

PM: When you set up the premise for the novel – that occasional children would not be able to survive anywhere but Earth – did it worry you that this was the aspect of the novel about which you were most likely to be challenged for scientific accuracy?

JE: This is the first time anyone has raised that point but I did think hard about it. My reasoning was that an increasing number of people have allergic reactions to things on our own planet. In rare cases, these are fatal. Related conditions like asthma are also becoming more common. I therefore find it quite credible that some people would have a fatal reaction to other worlds. Medical science in ‘Earth Girl’ is very advanced but concentrates on vaccines and growing replacement organs and limbs. That wouldn’t help them deal with the incredible complexity of immune system problems.

PM: One of the important themes you tackle in ‘Earth Girl’ is one of prejudice. Was this your intention from the start or one of those themes that you gradually became aware of writing about?

JE: The prejudice theme was intended from the start. ‘Earth Girl’ is a complete book in itself but also the first book in a trilogy. The prejudice theme continues through the next two books.

PM: As a reader of SF, are there any writers who have influenced the way that you approached the development of this future?

JE: Oddly enough, I think it was non-fiction history books that influenced me into creating my future history timeline. A lot of my future world was built around the consequences of the events in that timeline.

PM: Thank you. We all wish you the best of luck with this novel and all the future ones.

To find out more about this author go to and the review link:

Interview © Pauline Morgan and Janet Edwards 2012

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