E N T R E V I S T A  
J A N E  D O U G L A S
Where and when were you born?
I was born 25 June 1962 in Detroit, Michigan.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in what is now a suburb of Detroit, a place called Farmington
When I first moved there, it was very rural with dirt roads and wells. Now,
it's a city that's very developed and suburban.

Where do you live now?
I live in a place called Morriston, Florida, a tiny little town that doesn't
even have a traffic light, only a post office. I have a small farm where I
keep horses.

What did you study?
I got my first two degrees in English from the University of Michigan. My BA
degree was in English Language and Literature. My MA degree was in English,
too, but I mainly studied cinema and literary theory. I got my PhD from New
York University, where I studied a whole bunch of things--cinema studies,
aesthetics and education, before I ended up getting my doctorate in English
and Education.

What do you do now?
I'm an associate professor at the University of Florida, where I am one of
the directors of a campus-wide writing program. I supervise 68 teachers who
teach first-year college composition, plus professional communication
courses for students in business and engineering. I also teach a course for
faculty and physicians in the College of Medicine.

Where have you worked throughout you life?
Ah, a good question--I've had a ton of different jobs. I worked as a ghost
writer on a book, as a dark room technician, developing pictures. I also
worked as a publisher's production assistant and as a consultant for law
firms. I then worked as a copywriter in advertising for eleven years for an
advertising agency in London, although we later set up branches in New York
and Philadelphia. I also worked as a sociologist at Brunel University in
London, then as the director of a program in professional writing at the
City University of New York, where I was also an assistant professor. Then I
became the director of a program for writing in the disciplines at the
University of Florida, then associate professor of English. I also worked
for four years in a health club and I owned a large Thoroughbred horse farm.

What are your future plans?
I'm working on three books at the moment: two on using methods from
cognitive psychology to teach people how to write well, one that's a novel.
I also finished a novel last year that I'm trying to get
published--difficult in the US market, where there's lots of competition!

What are your hobbies?
Running, biking, weight-lifting, pets, reading, swimming, and writing.

What do you like and dislike in your life?
I dislike living in the suburbs, since you have people all around you but
no privacy and no anonymity. I really prefer to either live in the middle of
a very large city, like New York City or London, both places where I've
spent many years, or really far out in the countryside, like I live now.

I also can't stand people who are racist or prejudiced and who don't like to
try new things. And people who complain all the time but don't do anything
about their problems.

When did you start writing?
I bought my first typewriter at a garage sale when I was seven. I was
little stories even before then. I started writing a lot more when I was in
college and decided that writing on hypertext was a new, exciting area,
since those of us involved in the field were kind of making things up as we
went along.

What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of writing in
hypertext and distributing it over the world wide web?

You get a very large readership--people teach things I've written in
all over the world. When I do occasional searches to see where people are
using my work, I see they're teaching it in Australia, Italy, Spain,
Germany, Poland, Norway, England, Canada, Hong Kong, and France. On the
other hand, you tend to make next to nothing in terms of money on what
you've done. Since professors don't tend to make much money from their
writing, anyway, this really hasn't hurt me.

What are you working on next?
I'm almost done with one book on writing; the other book on writing will be
for a mass audience. And I'm also publishing on management and technology in
the business field. I've written some articles with a colleague who's a
specialist in technology management, and we work very well together. One of
our articles has made him famous in his field!


In what situation did you write that book?
The book grew out of my doctoral dissertation. One publisher liked it so
much, they wanted to publish it with my making any changes. But I wanted to
make the book more fun to read, so I rewrote the entire book. The publisher
didn't like the book being accessible to non-specialized readers, so I tore
up my contract and sent the book to another publisher. Since time passed
between the first contract and the second contract on the book, I added two
chapters before the University of Michigan published it.

What do you think about the politic situation in your country? Make
some comparisons with the politic situation when your were writing the

I'm embarrassed to be an American just now--most of us think George W. Bush
is an idiot who is throwing America's weight around everywhere. I also think
his administration is very corrupt. I wrote most of the book when I was back
in New York temporarily to write the book but still living permanently in
London. The USA seemed so right-wing then that I wasn't certain I ever
wanted to come back to the USA. But Clinton was elected when I was living in
London, and I loved living in New York, so I moved back to the USA after 6
years of living in England. Given a choice, I'd like to live in the South of
France or Southern Italy for a while. I think Europeans, particularly
Spaniards, the French, and Italians, really know how to enjoy life.

How was your experience writting the hypertext fiction piece "I have
said nothing"? Is it something comparable to writing a book?

Actually, the main story in "I Have Said Nothing" is based on something that
really did happen to my brother. I tried writing the piece as fiction, but I
couldn't get it to work. Someone I knew in publishing was trying to get a
project using short hypertext fiction off the ground, so I agreed to write a
few pieces for it. The first one was the core of "I Have Said Nothing" which
was too dark and violent for the project my colleague had in mind. I knew
this, and I wrote something else for it, but I kept working on the first
piece. I had a publisher, Eastgate, which was interested in publishing it,
and they made it part of a series of pieces of hypertext fiction and poetry
they published.

Writing good hypertext is totally different from writing fiction. I think
readers of hypertext want short, bite-sized pieces of text to read and
interesting connections. The trick with print fiction is to make things seem
smooth and continuous, even when you're jumping forward and backward in time
and space.


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