In part two of our exclusive interview with Author Jane Green, she talks about her passions for cooking and gardening, how great it felt to be put in her place by French chefs, how mortified she was when her step-daughter's friends started reading a sex scene she'd written and the kind of books she loves to read when she can find the time – and it might not be what you expect! As she was reaching the end of her UK book tour, Green also took the time to go puppy-hunting and ended up adding a gorgeous new dog to her family's collection of animals which already included one dog, two cats and seventeen chickens.
Where do you do most of your writing? I understand you don't write at home.
JG: No, I don't do any of it at home now because I just get horribly distracted. I go to this little writers' room that has opened up in my town. It's a little – well it's sort of a little shop. It's really cosy and the walls are painted sunshine yellow. It's just got tables and chairs and a couple of armchairs. It's quite quiet and they hold classes upstairs. They've given me keys because I'm always the first one there as soon as the children go off to school. I take my laptop and I go off to this little writers' room and I make myself a coffee. That is my office! [laughs]
And you have your own key! That is quite an honour
JG: Exactly! I love, LOVE having my own key and I really love having somewhere to go to because it feels like I'm going to work. Working in the house just doesn't work for me. I do have an office at home and I do edits at home. I have this huuuuge computer, this massive Mac that takes up almost half the office because when I edit – well it's much easier if you can put more pages on the same screen at the same time, when you're moving chunks of copy around. For writing, I write on the tiniest computer you can have, it's minuscule!
I'm such a hermit that if I didn't leave my house [to write] I would never leave my house! I buy everything online, friends come to me. But once I'm out I may as well stay out. I don't have to scurry back to the safety of my house.
"The chef would shout at you and I couldn't just say 'Excuse me, I'm a bestselling author, do you mind?', I just kept saying 'I'm sorry Chef, yes Chef, sorry Chef.' I really loved it!" – Jane Green on doing a course at the French Culinary Institute.
You have strong interests (and talents) in areas other than writing, for instance the interior design posts about Figless Manor and the cookery and recipes on your blog – have you ever thought of writing a non fiction or self help book?
JG: Er, [laughs] self help book – no! I do quite a lot of public speaking, key-note speaking at charity events, things like that. I definitely try to put a lot of thought into it and make it – you know – motivational. I wouldn't write a book about it thought, I've got no place really doing so.
Non-fiction though, like a cookbook or something, yeah I'd love to do that some time! I garden obsessively as well. I just love everything to do with the home really.
Sounds like you could be the new Martha Stewart!
JG: You never know, you never know [laughs]! I actually know Martha Stewart very well. I'm the diametric opposite to her really. With Martha, everything is rather perfect and I'm rather sloppy and messy. There's piles of papers and books and clutter all over my house. You don't really get that at Martha's.
What kind of books do you like to read? Do you even have spare time to get any reading done?
JG: Oh yes, I read an awful lot! I read a bit of everything. Most of the authors we have in America are very different to the authors over here [in the UK]. There isn't a lot of crossing over. What I'm reading right now is a fantastic book called To Be Sung Underwater by Tom McNeal, which I'm loving and I've also got my hands on the new Marian Keyes which is called The Mystery of Mercy Close. It's not out till October and I have to tell you, it is fantastic! Oh God, it is Marian at her funniest. You have got to get yourselves a copy because it is just wonderful Marian back on her top form.
See, Marian did a cookery book.
JG: She did! See, I'm not a baker. Baking is not my thing. I can bake and I do from time to time but again, because I'm sloppy, I'm completely imprecise. I have – as my husband puts it – the patience of a fruit fly. Baking is much more precise and I just can't really be bothered.
Speaking of cooking, I understand you did a cooking course at the French Culinary institute last year. How did that go?
JG: Yes, it was really lovely! I was about the oldest person there. They were all 20-somethings. They were all going on to become chefs – apart from me! Normally when I'm out in the real world, I'm out as a writer. I live in a little bubble! I live in a small town, by a beach, where I'm mum.
When I go out to New York and such, it's usually something connected to work. So, what was fantastic about this was that I was in New York every day but it wasn't for work – it was as a student! I had the chef shouting at me! They were French, and very, very serious! It was a bit like those television shows like Hells' Kitchen. It was exactly like that [laughs]!
The chef would shout at you and I couldn't just say 'Excuse me, I'm a bestselling author, do you mind?', I just kept saying 'I'm sorry Chef, yes Chef, sorry Chef.' I really loved it!
They had no qualms then putting you in your place?
JG: Many, many times! I think I learned that I'm not actually that good a cook! I'm fine and I learned a tremendous amount. I think there are some people who are just naturally wonderful, wonderful cooks but it's a bit like Russian roulette with me – you never quite know how it's going to turn out.
So you won't be opening your own restaurant any time soon then?
JG: [Laughs] No! I did learn a tremendous amount, as I said, but what I learned was the science of cooking. It has changed my cooking because I understand now about the foundations of cooking. Meanwhile, of course, I think I overdosed on cooking so much I've barely cooked since [laughs]! We've basically lived off takeaways for the last year because I just can't be bothered.
Sorry, we went off on a bit of a tangent there! I was going to ask you who your favourite author is.
JG: Hmm, favourite author…
Is that like asking you who your favourite child is?
JG: Yeah. I don't think that I could name one. There are authors that I love, that I will always read and buy their new ones – Patrick Gale is one of them. Armistead Maupin is another. Marian Keyes, of course. Ann Patchett. Barbara Trapido. Jane Gardam.
What kind of books do you go for normally? Do you prefer happy, cheerful books or something slightly darker?
JG: I think because I write the books that I write, I'm less likely to read the type of books that I write – only because that's what I do, not because of any judgements I hold. I'm just less likely to pick up a commercial women's fiction book. I quite like to tax myself a little bit. I also really enjoy memoirs and biographies.
You mentioned earlier in the week that the bathtub scene in Mr Maybe makes 50 Shades of Grey seem like Enid Blyton. Do you have plans to revert back to your Mr Maybe days and bring more sex and raunchiness to your future books?
JG: I think I might need to make them a little raunchier and actually it's something that one of my editors has been saying to me for a little while anyway. I don't think I could make them too raunchy though because I have children! I can't! I actually wrote a steamy short story for Cosmopolitan last summer and of course my step-daughter came home and said 'Jane, did you really write that?' and I said 'Yes,' and she said, 'all my friends are reading it.' I said 'I'm so sorry' and we just had this moment where both of us were mortified. I just can't do it any more. It was all too much. Maybe I should do a line of erotica, under a pseudonym. J.S. Purple [laughs].
"I think it would have to be Jemima J, just because it is the most filmic… it is the fairytale." – Jane Green on which of her novels she'd love to see adapted onto the big screen.
You've written a lot of incredibly popular books but none have been made into films. If you could have one of your books adapted, which would you love to see on the big screen?
I think it would have to be Jemima J, just because it is the most filmic and it is the fairytale. Although, there was something rather lovely about The Beach House. A group of people coming together in a house on Nantucket.
Hollywood's so peculiar though. For years, they say 'we don't do ensemble films'. Then, all of a sudden a film comes along – like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – and it does incredibly well and you know that they're going to be saying, 'ensemble movies – that's what we need!'
It hasn't been my time for whatever reason and hopefully it will be soon!
You've said that it's lovely to be back in the UK for the book tour. What do you miss most about the UK when you're back in the States?
JG: Actually, I miss the British sensibility. Americans do take themselves quite seriously. It's more than the sense of humour, it's more than the sarcasm. We just don't take ourselves very seriously here, which I really miss! I'm actually having so much fun here, all day, with everyone. What else? Well I make a decent cup of tea but it's not quite the same.
I also miss the café culture. Everything moves very fast in America, everything's very intense. Here [in the UK] everyone talks about their holidays all the time – where they're going, where they've been. Nobody really goes on holiday in America – or if they do, it's not to Europe and staying in a lovely hotel with a swimming pool. You pile all your earthly possessions into some great big SUV – I know this because I've done it – and you drive up the coast to places like Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard where you've rented a house. Every day, you and your family hoik down to the beach with beach chairs and coolers and food and blankets. Then you sit there, with other families, and at the end of the day you come back and do laundry and cook and wonder why you didn't just stay at home [laughs]. We went to Nantucket for two weeks – I've never worked so hard in my life [laughs]!
So you needed a holiday to recover from your holiday!
JG: I did! You know, I dream of anywhere with a hotel and room service and somebody who makes my bed in the morning. I think that's why I love book tours! Honestly, Penguin are working me so hard, they keep apologising for how hard they're working me, but they don't understand – this is wonderful! I feel more relaxed than I have done in years.
What's next for Jane Green?
JG: Well I've got a few weeks to finish the edits on the new book, which comes out in March, which is called Family Pictures. Then I'm starting the next book which I've started thinking about but I want to draft an outline and synopsis for that. That's the foreseeable future. Then, towards the end of the year, I'll start thinking about Jemima J.
Exciting stuff! What can you tell us about Family Pictures?
JG: It's about two women who are quite different on the surface. One, on the east coast, is very wealthy and appears to have everything – she's quite cold, not very involved in her family, very caught up in charities and committees. The other one, in California, doesn't really have very much. She has one child, she had a husband who died. They don't know each other and seem like two women who would never have anything in common but then over the course of one terrible weekend, you discover that they have far more in common than they know…
Huge thanks to Jane Green for chatting to us and to Katya Shipster at Penguin for organising our meet!
You can find out more about Jane Green at her website