January Jones had never even thought about writing a book until a psychic told her that one day she’d become a bestselling author. She published her first book many years later at the age of 55 and started a journey that continues today.
Since that time January has become a bestselling author, humorist, expert on the Kennedy clan, and a motivational speaker who specializes in homemaker humor in the tradition of Erma Bombeck.
As if that’s not enough to keep her busy, she also hosts a talk radio show that has a worldwide audience that numbers in the millions.
Her humorous take on complaining helped her book, Thou Shalt Not Whine…The 11th Commandment: The Top 10 Things People Whine About, reach a #1 ranking on Amazon.com. Her latest book is entitled, Priceless Personalities: Success Stories Shared By January Jones.
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January Jones Transcript
Tim Knox: Welcome in to another edition of Interviewing Authors, Tim Knox here. Got a good show for you today. January Jones is on the program. Now this is not the January Jones from Mad Men or the January Jones who was an exotic dancer in the ‘50s. This is author, humorist, radio host and expert on the Kennedy Clan January Jones. This was one of the most enjoyable interviews that I’ve done. January Jones is just a treat. Not only is she a bestselling author of motivational books. Again, I mentioned she is an expert on the Kennedys but she does talk radio and she’s also a dog lover and just an all-around great person and someone you can really from.
January got started writing late in life. She was told by a psychic that she would one day be an author and years and years later it turned out that psychic was right. So you never know where life’s going to go. She started in her mid-50s and continues going strong today. This is a great interview. You’re going to learn a lot from January Jones here on this episode of Interviewing Authors.
We’re going to welcome January Jones to the program today. January, how are you?
January Jones: I’m great, Tim. It’s nice to be with you today.
Tim Knox: So nice having you here. It’s so nice having Zoey’s mom on the program. We’ll explain what that means in just a minute. Give us a thumbnail of who you are and what you do and what we’re going to cover today of course are your books. Just tell us what are you up to these days?
January Jones: Okay, well who is January Jones? Well obviously I’m not the beautiful, talented actress on Mad Men nor am I the gorgeous exotic dancer who used to appear on the Johnny Carson show. So now a lot of men go on the internet and they’re either looking for the young, beautiful January Jones or there are some dirty old men looking for the exotic dancer. What they find is January Jones, the author. I’m an author. I’ve written five books. I host a radio show. I’m syndicated on three networks and my show goes out over the air 60 times a month.
Tim Knox: Wow, you really are a busy, busy lady. As you said you write books, you do the radio show. You are also a dog lover, which we’ll talk about, but you’re also one of the four most experts on the Kennedys.
January Jones: Oh yeah, that’s how I got started. My first book I wrote it when I was 50 years old and it was on Jacqueline Kennedy and the assassination and my controversial theories about that event. Many years ago, Tim, when I was young I went to an event and there was a psychic there. His name was Dr. Donnellson and he looked at me and he said, “Oh well you’re going to be a writer.” I said, “Really? I didn’t study journalism in college so what makes you think I’m going to be a writer?” He said, “Oh I can tell. You’re going to write your first book when you’re 50.” I said, “Well what is it going to be about, because I could start tomorrow?” He said, “When the time comes you will know what to write about and, by the way, you’re not going to be successful until you’re in your late 60s.”
Tim Knox: Was he right?
January Jones: I think so.
Tim Knox: You’re not that old, come on.
January Jones: I’m much older than 60 but, yeah, he was right. I wrote my first book at 50 and in my late 60s that’s when I became successful with the radio career and my books. Yeah, he was pretty good. I kept wondering what I was going to write about and it turned out I wrote about the Kennedys.
Tim Knox: The first question I usually ask on an interview is when did you first know that you wanted to be a writer or you were going to be a writer? Was that really the first… had you thought about it before then?
January Jones: No, no, not ever. I never thought about it. Actually, I did a little bit of writing because at that time my husband and I wheeled a tennis club. So I used to write the monthly newsletter. So I would write about the people in the club and the events, and that was the only writing experience I had up until that time.
Tim Knox: Now when you were writing this newsletter did you put some juicy fiction in there?
January Jones: Nope. I’ve never been a fiction writer. I’ve always been a fan of non-fiction. I couldn’t put fiction in there. They’d probably run me out of town.
Tim Knox: You would have probably published one abut it’d be so juicy, you know. Let’s go back to the beginning then. You have this psychic who predicts you’re going to become a writer and whether or not that was a seed planted in your head and it came to fruition many years later. Let’s talk about the first thing that you wrote that you thought really might be good enough to be published. What was that?
January Jones: Well that was Oh, No… Jackie-O! and I did self-publish that because back then that was the only way you could get a book done. I didn’t have an agent. I had submitted proposals and everyone passed me by so I just went ahead and self-published my first book. It turned out that when it came out it was at Amazon and then it was on the front cover of The National Enquirer.
Tim Knox: What was that like to wake up one morning and see your book on the Enquirer?
January Jones: Well at that time I had not revealed my real name. At that time my publishing name was January Jones. I was asked to do some interview and I was a little reluctant to go on television and expose myself and my family to such a controversial topic. They pursued me and then I started getting more comfortable with it and I eventually did over 500 radio and TV interviews talking about that. Through that process my second book was born and it’s called Jackie Ari & Jack: The Tragic Love Triangle. The second book was much more professionally done. It answered all the questions that had been put to me during those 500 interviews. So there’s pretty much not any question that you could ask me that I haven’t been asked before. I’ve kind of gotten my book… it’s a shorter, smaller book, more concise. At one point I had been approached about making it into a movie but I guess nothing has happened. That would have been a fantastic event but it didn’t happen.
Tim Knox: I think it’s very interesting. How did you become interested in the topic of the Kennedys and how did you learn so much?
January Jones: Well I followed it myself. I was a 25 year old widow with two small children and, you know, I walked behind a flag draped coffin and that happened in 1969. So by that time I had been like everyone following Jackie. Our generation was obsessed with her. Everyone wanted to look like her, talk like her, act like her, be like her. So I was fascinated with her and so I just started reading and reading. Over a course of 30 years I probably read everything written about her.
Tim Knox: Then by doing so you became an expert.
January Jones: I think so, yeah.
Tim Knox: That’s so interesting. A lot of the stuff that we talk about on this show is how you get inspiration, how you write, how you handle rejection I think is always a big topic. You’ve probably never been rejected but if you have been, what was that like?
January Jones: Anyone who’s a writer or an actor, they live with rejection. Rejection is part of every day of your life. It just goes with the territory. How do you get past rejection? I don’t know. You just have to pull yourself together and keep going. You know, I’ve read about a lot of famous, famous authors who were rejected hundreds of times. When you have a message it’s something you become passionate about and if you’re going to be successful it doesn’t have to be about money. It has to be about something you care enough to do that you would do it for free because quite frankly if you’re going to be a writer, that’s pretty much about the way it will play out.
Tim Knox: Exactly. So really it’s more about passion. You and I have probably known folks that say well I’m going to write a book and make a million dollars. Well good luck. I think your psychic is going to tell you the chances of that happening are slim to none. So really to push through the rejection you just have to keep your head down, keep going, keep writing. Right?
January Jones: Yeah, that’s the key. Keep writing. Don’t get away from the writing. Make it apart of your life. I’m still now… I’m always working on a book, always working on a book. I published my fifth book. The sixth and seventh books are on the drawing board and in my spare time I’m writing a book about my life, January’s Journey, which is really tough to do. If you’re passionate about writing it’s something you get so much energy and adrenalin from doing. Once I’m writing I’m completely lost. Basically I’m a nighttime writer and I’m not a nighttime person, only when I’m writing it happens. I will get on the computer and write 10 at night and write until 2 in the morning, save it, get up the next day and read it and wonder where did that come from?
Tim Knox: What was I thinking the night before?
January Jones: Who wrote this?
Tim Knox: Exactly. That’s really interesting. Let’s talk a little about the process of writing because you write at night, you write when you can but it’s really always on your mind. Aren’t you always writing in your head?
January Jones: Absolutely. As you know, Zoey and I, we walk every morning and we walk every evening. I usually listen to music while we’re walking but I also, that’s when I do a lot of my mental writing. That’s when I think things out and think about things I want to say, words that I need to use. I’m in love with words. I’m fascinated with words. I also have a little bit of an alliteration addiction. So I’m always playing with words. I love playing Scrabble. So that’s kind of the theme with my life. I’m writing all the time. When I’m driving I’m writing. It’s always continuously going on in my mind.
Tim Knox: Yeah I find it really interesting that you waited until later in life to start writing. When you were younger did you ever think that, gee, one day I’m going to be an author? I’m going to have all of these books.
January Jones: No, actually I was in college and I had a writing class. I went to the University of Detroit, which is a Jesuit school and they’re pretty tough there. I had a writing class. I wrote an article about my grandmother who had recently died and I submitted it. It came back to me and it had a big ‘D’ on it. The instructor said it needs a lot of work but you made me cry.
Tim Knox: Well I hope you made him cry in a good way though.
January Jones: Yeah, it was emotional. He was touched by what I wrote. He was touched by my sentiments and my feelings but, you know, as writing I needed a lot of work. You know, I had a good Catholic education. I knew how to write a sentence. I knew about punctuation. This was all grammar, this was all the things we were taught and it was all just filed away until I started writing. Of course then nowadays we write on computers, which is what I started writing on, a computer. You have spellcheck, you have grammar check. It’s pretty easy now to produce a proper paper.
Tim Knox: Right, exactly. Let’s talk a little bit about the other genre that you write in quite a bit. Would you call that motivational, self-help?
January Jones: Thou Shalt Not Whine: The Eleventh Commandment is definitely self-help. There was a whining epidemic going on and by this time I had a New York publisher and we talked about what I would write. They suggested I write about the top 10 things that people whine about and I considered doing it. Once we came up with the topic I knew I wanted to do it and then I did a survey. It took two years to do a survey for that book. We found out that there were more than top 10 things. We actually found out that there’s top 10 things for every age, every stage from cradle to convalescent home. Every age group has their own agenda and things they whine about. So we put together this survey and we talked about what the complaints were, why they were complaining and what the cures were. So we put it all together and I wrote it with humor. I wanted to make it something that people could enjoy but yet get a lesson out of it. I had fun with it and it’s been a really fun, fun book. It did go to number one at Amazon and interestingly enough it went to number one in religion.
Tim Knox: Oh really? A lot of religious people whine I guess. I love it. You’re a self-proclaimed whine tester. I love that.
January Jones: Yeah, I’m a whinologist.
Tim Knox: How do you find writing that kind of a book different from writing like a biographical thing you did with the Kennedys? Is the process different? What do you do?
January Jones: Oh yeah, definitely. The Kennedy book, I had an extensive bibliography and everything in that had to be documented. It was more like writing a term paper or a thesis because it was… the rules when you’re writing about someone’s life; you can’t just create fiction so I had a lot of research on that. Thou Shalt Not Whine was more… the people who were in the survey were all anonymous so their names are not used and it was more fun. I could just be light with it and have fun with it. I shared a lot of own personal experiences in the book, and some of my friends and family – they know who they are.
Tim Knox: Are they famous whiners?
January Jones: Yes. But it was a fun book to do and it’s the kind of book… I call it a waiting room book, you know. No whining while waiting because a lot of doctors and lawyers have this book in their waiting room. Each chapter is so short you can read one page at a time and put the book down and it’s not like reading a novel where you have to pay a lot of attention.
Tim Knox: Exactly. Well typically I’ll ask about the value of researching a topic but I think you’ve already answered that question. The amount of research and everything you did on the Kennedys was quite extensive. Let’s talk a little about writer’s block. Do you believe there is such a thing as writer’s block and if so how do you deal with it? How do you plow through?
January Jones: Well writer’s block is mental block and you just have to go back and keep writing. You just have to write your way through it. Sometimes you need to take a break too. Sometimes you need to just put it aside and regroup and give yourself a little space. Walking the dog is where all those problems get solved for me.
Tim Knox: And if you need a dog, call me. I will help you. Do you think some authors use writer’s block as kind of an excuse not to work? To me, writer’s block sometimes can kind of be like calling in sick. You know what I mean? It’s just lazy.
January Jones: That’s probably very true. But, you know, you’ll find more writer’s block when you’re dealing with writers who are writing fiction because in fiction you are creating the story. You are creating the conflict. You are creating the cure and the complaints. You’re creating all of that. When you’re writing non-fiction you’re kind of like a reporter. You’re reporting facts and it’s easier to do. With humor it’s just playtime. You’re having fun with it.
Tim Knox: Exactly. Now with the whine book, was that agented? Did you have an agent and a formal publisher for that one?
January Jones: No. I did have a publisher but I met them at a seminar and I pitched my thoughts and they offered me a contract.
Tim Knox: Oh, super.
January Jones: So I really didn’t… I’ve never had an agent.
Tim Knox: Do you think that’s affected your career in any way? Do you want an agent or are you doing okay on your own?
January Jones: I feel like Mark Twain was self-published and he had a great career.
Tim Knox: He did.
January Jones: He had a pseudonym also. His name was Samuel Clemens. So my pseudonym is January Jones. No, I like just what I’m doing. I create my own publicity. I don’t have a publicist either.
Tim Knox: I was going to ask you about the marketing. I know you said when you wrote the first book you had to do the self-publishing and I think the topic, that kind of got picked up by the news media and you ended up doing a lot of interviews. If you will, talk about marketing from the standpoint of someone like our audience who is fairly new at this, just now getting the book going. A lot of people don’t even realize they have to do the marketing. So talk about that a little bit.
January Jones: That’s the big hidden secret in writing.
Tim Knox: You mean I have to sell these books?
January Jones: I’ll tell you, even if you have a publisher. The nice thing about publishers is you get distribution so the books get sent out. But the reality is every book is like the flavor of the month and the next month new books are coming out. So your publisher will do a little bit for you but if you’re going to have a number one, you have to do it unless it’s one of those rare books that becomes number one on its own. In general it’s the author. For Thou Shalt Not Whine I did do a joint venture and it was a great promotion. I’m sure because of the joint venture the book went to number one really quite quickly.
Tim Knox: Let’s talk a little about that. I published a business book back in ’07 and did a joint venture. We hit number one on Amazon in like 20 minutes. It was really good while it lasted but you’ve got to keep that momentum going. You’re really a master at his because now you’re not only writing books; you’ve got the radio show. You’re on iHeartRadio. A lot of things going on. Talk a little bit about how did you transition from being an author to being a radio show host and being a speaker?
January Jones: Well, you know, it was… I had done radio previously, a little radio. I liked it but I just wasn’t ready to really jump into it. Then after I wrote Thou Shalt Not Whine I was approached by a company that was starting a new business. They were called Successimo and so they invited me to become a spokeswoman for the company. I did a half hour show once a week, sharing Successimo stories. These were the people who had become members and I would interview them. Eventually Successimo ended and it did not go on. In the meantime I was enjoying this radio experience so I changed the show to January Jones sharing success stories. Then I went on Blog Talk Radio, which is a very easy thing anyone can do if you have a desire to be a radio host. I went on Blog Talk Radio. I invited people on the show. Most of them were like you, authors. I was very curious about how people became successful and what they could share – their secrets, their struggles – and I became very passionate about it. Then at Blog Talk all of a sudden I had over a million listeners.
Tim Knox: Wow.
January Jones: Yeah.
Tim Knox: That’s a lot of people.
January Jones: It was. I had some shows where over 100,000 people were tuned in so it was really getting pretty exciting. Then I was approached by Talk 4 Media. So I decided to expand and I work with them now to this day and I work with them. They’re in Palm Beach, Florida. I do three live shows a week and then through them the submitted my show to iHeartRadio for syndication and it was accepted. That kind of happened. Then I also stayed with Blog Talk Radio because it’s, you know, my first experience and I love Blog Talk. My show now had over 1.8 million listeners there.
Tim Knox: Okay, I need to be on your show; you don’t need to be on mine.
January Jones: Well I would love to have you on my show.
Tim Knox: I would love to do it.
January Jones: I would love to… once your new website gets established, I think we’ll schedule you for a show later this summer. It would be a fun thing for authors to hear about you. That’s what you need to do. To sell books you need to get your own publicity.
Tim Knox: Yeah, exactly. You and I talked before the interview. One of the reasons we’re doing the Interviewing Authors website is to get information out to these authors. You look at someone like a Dan Brown or one of these guys and you wonder, okay, how did they do that? What was the tipping point? I know John Grisham used to sell books out of the trunk of his car. That’s all well and good but how the heck did he get from there to where he is? That’s what we’re trying to do with this show is really concentrate on the process. Then we’re going to have a second show focusing specifically on books. I’m so glad we got you on because you are, you know, you’re really doing it all and I think that it’s an inspiration. I personally am going to go find a psychic right after the show and he’s probably going to tell me to get the hell off the internet.
January Jones: It helps. Actually now, the process when I think about self-publishing… 20 years ago it was very, very difficult. Now you can go to Amazon. My last book, I created it at a site called CreateSpace and then I put my book on Audible.com and these were all things I could do on my own on my computer and in my office. If I can write a book anyone can.
Tim Knox: Technology has kind of leveled the playing field but you have the big thing that you’ve got to remember is you’ve got to market, market, market. I had the experience when my book was published; it was published by a big, big publisher. I thought, wow, I’ve got it made. No. I think most of those books I sold from a platform. They weren’t sold by the publishers. So that’s one thing to keep in mind. You not only never stop writing but you never stop marketing. I think Robert Kiyosaki said, “I’m not the world’s best writer; I’m the world’s best marketer of writing.” I think there’s a lot there. Are you a big reader?
January Jones: Oh I’m compulsive, yeah.
Tim Knox: What are you reading?
January Jones: I’ve got my Kindle with me all the time. I’m not a fiction reader as I said earlier. I love non-fiction. I love people. I think real life is far more fascinating than anything you could make up in fiction.
Tim Knox: You like biographies, historical?
January Jones: Oh yes, yes, absolutely.
Tim Knox: What if a psychic comes up to you today and goes, “You’re going to write fiction.”
January Jones: I’d probably run the other way. I’m so passionate about what I’m doing now. My last book I basically have taken interviews from my radio show and transcribed those and created Priceless Personalities. I now have access to hundreds and hundreds of people who have stories I want to share in book form and Kindle form.
Tim Knox: How important is the aspect of social media for you? I know you’ve got a great website. Are you also doing Facebook and Twitter and all that stuff?
January Jones: Yeah, absolutely. Every show I do gets posted on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+. As soon as the show is done we take the link and post it. I usually write a comment about the show or the guest, something intriguing. I try to make it interesting. I send out through my website, JanuaryJones.com. Once a week we send out an e-blast that share the three shows that I’ve done for that week so people can just go directly there. So yeah, I could probably do more of that but I spend most of my time putting books together, which is what my true passion is.
Tim Knox: Right, okay, we’ve come to the point in the program where we have to talk about the talking dog, Zoey. I just think this is so clever. I’ve got a dog. He doesn’t even have to speak to me. He has me so well trained. How did you come up with this concept? I mean Zoey’s building quite a fan base isn’t she?
January Jones: Oh yeah, she’s got her own life on the internet. She’s on YouTube and people probably look more at her than they do me. Zoey came about because a wonderful fellow I work with, his name is David Jones, and he does all my commercials for my shows. He does the introductions, the conclusions. He’s got a great voice and he sent me a video, a YouTube he had put together of another dog. As soon as I saw it I said Zoey must have that. So what we did is I did the recording and we sent him pictures and he put it together. I think it’s quite brilliant.
Tim Knox: I think it is. I think it really is. I think Zoey and who is it, the angry cat, maybe should do a show together.
January Jones: I know. And I do lots of crazy pictures of Zoey. I photograph her all the time and then I put her in my e-blast. I try to help her career as much as I can.
Tim Knox: Maybe I should try that with my dog, Buddy, and see how that goes. We’ll of course edit it out but I had to take a break in the middle of this conversation to go let one of the dogs in the backdoor. It’s a dog’s life. They have us well trained but they give us lots of love.
January Jones: That’s for sure. I adore my dog.
Tim Knox: We’re closing in on the bottom of the hour here. If you had to give one piece of advice to our audience, to authors who are trying to get published, trying to get an agent, working on their book – what’s the best advice you’re going to offer these folks?
January Jones: Okay well I can… this is the advice I give every time I end my show and I always say to my listeners remember my mantra – if you think it then you can do it. So for now dear friends, please stop with the whining and then start smiling and then start sharing our show with everyone you know. And if that doesn’t work then start eating chocolate, lots and lots of chocolate.
Tim Knox: Oh that’s so good. That is so good. January Jones, this has been a pleasure. Tell folks where they can find out all about you – find your products, your shows, that sort of thing.
January Jones: Oh for sure. Just go to www.JanuaryJones.com. If you sign on with your name and email you will then be subscribed to my weekly e-blast. Also you can download the first two chapters from Priceless Personalities for free. The first two chapters are fantastic chapters. I think your listeners will enjoy reading them.
Tim Knox: Excellent. We’ll put all of these links on the page on our website. January Jones, this has been a pleasure. I know we are also going to talk to you on another show about your book specifically so I’m looking forward to that. In the meantime, go eat some chocolate.
January Jones: Okay, will do.
Tim Knox: Alright, thank you.
January Jones: You’re welcome.