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Science of Imagination

Jan Reber’s published novels

By Chrysa Keenon | Echo 

When passing by the biology department on the third floor of Euler, you might see a few novels sitting on the windowsill of the office of Jan Reber, Professor of Biology. These are the books that she has written and self-published.

Reber has authored four complete novels, three of which are have been published. Her favorite genre to write is romance, though she has dabbled in the subgenres of adventure and time travel. Her novels take place anywhere from contemporary South Dakota to medieval times.

Her love of writing stemmed from her love of reading. Her family has no television, so whenever they want to have evening entertainment, they turn to more creative methods.

“We read or write books,” Reber said. “My daughter likes to draw.”

According to Reber, she started writing her own books after continuously getting frustrated by the endings of novels she would have written differently. Eventually, she decided to write her own book, ending the story the way she wanted. Her first novel, “The Sword of Fairvern,” was self-published in July 2015.

Reber’s day job consists of teaching animal biology, which often provides a full schedule. Between grading papers and writing exams, she keeps to a strict agenda. Because of this, Reber’s biggest struggle is finding time to write.

“It was easier when my kids were younger, because I could send them off to bed and have a few hours to write,” Reber said. “Now my daughter is in high school, and every evening has some kind of activity.”

Still, Reber makes time to get behind the keyboard, either on the weekends, during the summer or on holidays. Having access to other departments in the university has proven to work well for Reber, because she has had help throughout the publishing process. Her mother, who has worked as executive secretary in Taylor’s vice president’s office for many years, is her copy editor. Linda Taylor’s manuscript to book course edited one of her manuscripts and Mike Saunier’s layout and design course designed its cover.

“Being at a university, I have access to people who are creative and knowledgeable,” Reber explained. “(Working on a book cover) gives (students) an opportunity to put something on their resume.”

Though Reber has gone the self-publishing route, one of her novels, “Maid to be a Bride,” got accepted for publication in a major publishing house. However, Reber was unhappy with the revisions they requested and chose to publish the book on her own. According to her, self-publishing is easier because she can set her own deadlines, which fits well with her day job as a professor.

Reber has taken many writing classes offered at Taylor. She is a member of the writers group Writers Bloc, which meets every Friday and consists of about 10 other members, including Dennis Hensley of the professional writing department. According to Reber, the group has been beneficial for her to submit writing to be critiqued by other members. Submissions can range anywhere from newspaper articles, to nonfiction, to chapters of a book or poetry.

“(I believe) everybody is a real writer, but not everyone is published commercially,” Reber said. “Everyone’s got some kind of creativity in them.”

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