Jan Casey

Students & Alumni. Creative Writing.

Jan Casey speaking at event

Jan Casey graduated from our MA Creative Writing course in 2010, and has since established herself as an author of historical fiction, publishing four novels through Aria Fiction, an imprint of Head of Zeus which is part of Bloomsbury Publishing.  She is now working on a fifth.

Where did you study before coming to ARU?

I grew up in Southern California and went to primary and high school there. When I moved back to the UK, I worked and had a family before I undertook my BA English Literature with Sociology at ARU followed by a PGCE at the University of Cambridge.

Did you always know that you would go to university and if not, what changed your mind?

I always desperately wanted to go to university, but due to a series of family issues I had to put hopes of a higher education to one side. Years later, I was in a position to start a BA and, as a single parent, I opted for my then local university – ARU – and I’m glad I did.

Jan Casey

Is there one thing that inspired you to do what you do now?

From the time I understood what a book was I knew I wanted to write one. To have a book of mine in the library, where someone might pick it up and enjoy it, became my lifelong ambition. As of next May, I will have five novels available online, in bookshops and in libraries.

Whilst studying for my MA, I had to begin work on a novel. I thought long and hard about a subject but then one seemed to present itself to me. I was on a Thames River cruise and the guide said that we were passing beneath Waterloo Bridge – also known as The Ladies’ Bridge – because it had been rebuilt by women during World War 2. I had never heard that particular story before so began to look into it and discovered it was an event that had been whitewashed from history. In my opinion, the story definitely needed to be told and I was happy to do that in my first novel, The Women of Waterloo Bridge.

What’s the most valuable thing you took away from your education?

The most valuable thing I took away with me was that one should never give up. If you have an ambition, hold onto it and strive towards your goal. On a practical level, the need to edit and edit again was an invaluable lesson I learned.

Jan Casey reading from book at event

Which aspects of the course most helped your career development, and why?

The MA Creative Writing course gave me so much confidence. During seminars when the students workshopped each other’s writing, I was given excellent feedback that enabled me to move forward with my writing.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

Take advantage of all the education you can possibly get. Love learning for learning’s sake and try not to waste precious time.

Jan Casey

What was your favourite thing about studying in Cambridge, and what did you learn about it that you didn’t know before?

The facilities at ARU, for example the library, are incredible. Also, I wouldn’t have been able to get through any of my diplomas without the support I was given as a mature student with family responsibilities.

With its long academic history, Cambridge lends itself to study.  ARU is steeped in that culture and students thrive on the opportunities to meet, discuss and exchange ideas not only on the subject they are studying but on many diverse topics.

Cambridge is a buzzy, compact city, which means it is easy to get around and take advantage of everything it has to offer.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m in the process of editing my fifth novel, The War Artist, which is scheduled to be published in May 2024. All of my five novels are set during the Second World War so I’m currently spending quite a lot of time thinking about whether to continue writing about that era or delve into a different period of time.

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