Smoking with Jane Sales

Read the Story December 15, 2003

The Côte d’Azur? Really? Describe it and make us all insanely jealous.

If only it were summer! In December it’s grey, wet and miserable and I might as well be back in the UK. Oh, apart from fresh baguettes, runny camembert, decent coffee, local red wine, patisseries… Is it lunch time yet?

For that matter, tell us a bit about what took you to Japan.

I was working for a company called Symbian, which writes an OS for mobile phones, and they decided to set up a branch in Tokyo. So my husband and I joined the one Japanese guy who was already out there, and we hired some more people, and it went on from there. I was there for two years, running a small research group, and I loved working with the people in it – a great bunch. I miss them almost as much as the sushi.

What books have you read and thought, “Damn, I wish I wrote that?”

I’m a big George Orwell fan – that chiselled prose. 1984, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Burmese Days – I’d die happy if I’d written one of those. But on the other hand, how about Ghormenghast by Mervyn Peake? I’d love to be the author of such gothic imaginings, so richly described.

When did you start writing?

I used to compose “pretend” stories for my friends in the playground, and started writing them down when I was 8 or 9. But I took the sciences route at secondary school and university, then worked in computers, so writing has always been a spare-time activity for me. About 6 months ago I started to make more time to improve my writing and joined an internet writing group. “Because of Penguins” comes from an exercise set there, and is my first ever published piece. I shall read it with a glass of champagne in my hand!

Congratulations! We all loved this piece! Speaking of penguins, what do they taste like?

Chewy. Try a “Puffy Penguin Omelet” –

How do you feel about flash versus other literary forms?

It’s harder than it looks, and often underestimated. As Blaise Pascal said, “I have only made this [letter] longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”

Where is your favorite place to write?

In my office, here at home. My husband and I live in an 18th century Provençal farmhouse, and from my desk I can look either straight ahead past our old, grey olive tree to the rocky mountains over St. Jeannet or right past the green terraces and the villas to the bright blue of the Mediterranean. In winter I can even make out the snow caps of the Alps. (This is what you wanted for question 1, isn’t it?)

About the Author:

Jane Sales has recently followed her husband to the Côte d'Azur, and is trying to become a writer. She lived in Japan for 2 years.

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.