Lisa Jewell has released NINE novels (every one of them awesome) since her debut, Ralph's Party, was published in 1999. Lisa's most recent novel is The Making Of Us. We're well pleased she answered some questions for Novelicious.
1. Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
Every day is exactly the same. I take my eldest to school, take my youngest to the crèche at the gym, do a rather pathetic forty minute workout, meet the babysitter at the cafe, have a double macchiato and a chat, say goodbye to youngest, go to Waitrose, head home, do some housework, hang out a wash, make the beds, then finally, at about 11.30am, sit down at my desk. I reply to emails first, then I surf, then I have lunch, then I surf some more, then eventually, some time after 1pm, I will begin to write. I don't have a daily word count as some days I really just can't pull out any words. Ten books down I know that I always make my deadline however much it often seems like I won’t! Then I finish work whenever the babysitter has to go which changes every day. I like days when she stays late as I always seem to get into the flow at around 3pm.
2. When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
Vaguely. The Bee Bearhorn character was based on Betty Boo (who I mistakenly thought was dead!) and there are shadowy representations of various aspects of different people I know or have passed in the street scattered here and there. Books are like melting pots of things you’ve actually seen and things you've only imagined.
3. What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
I have rarely read as book as quickly or with as much awe and pleasure as I read the Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell. Having said that, I read Jemima J by Jane Green in about two hours flat one sunny afternoon.
4. What is your writing process? Do you plan first of dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I am the most chaotic writer I know. I slightly hate other writers for being so organised with their whiteboards and first drafts and their thousand words a day and then lunch. I come to a book with nothing more than a sense of how I want the book to feel, a couple of characters and a vague idea of what I want to happen to them. I stumble around for the first hundred pages having absolutely no idea what’s going on, spend weeks writing barely nothing, then finally get a light bulb moment and think, aha! that’s what the book’s about, feel elated for about five minutes and then disconsolate again when I hit another brick wall five minutes later. I don't do a first draft. I do a bit of editing here and there, but usually pass on a complete manuscript to my editor which I have only finished the day before. Writing really stresses me out because I seem to have no control over it. Which is why I so love holding the book in my hands for the first time, because it is proof that beyond all the chaos and lack of planning I have, against all the odds, managed to write a book.
I was a secretary. Then I was a bored secretary thinking it would be fun to do a creative writing course on the side. Then I was a redundant secretary reading High Fidelity thinking, ooh, I’d like to write a book like that. Then I was a temp secretary writing a book like that on a dare from a friend. Then I was a temp secretary being offered a six figure book deal from Penguin for my first two books. Then I was not a secretary any more 🙂
6. What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That it's fun. It is not fun. Well, actually, being a novelist can be fun, when you're not writing. Going to book launches and drinking Margaritas at the Groucho is fun. But writing a book is unbelievably difficult and painful and frustrating and unsatisfying and not fun at all. I think, also, as a hangover from the 90s when there was a lot of money in publishing, people may still be under the illusion that writing books is a path to great riches. It used to be, but it is not any more. Only a very, very select few make the big bucks these days and big advances are a thing of the past. You have to want to do it for more than just the money.
7. What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Do it. I know a novelist who writes her book in two hours every morning in Starbucks. Find two hours a day and do it. Stop talking about it. And also heed what I say above, do not over romanticise the process. It's really hard. But you have to work through the pain if you want a hundred thousand words you can show to a publisher.
8. What are you working on at the moment?
I am halfway through my tenth book. It is a love story set in Soho in the mid-90’s. Unlike my previous three books, it has no dead babies or neglected children or sperm donors, just lots of Brit pop, fast food, dodgy flatmates and a love triangle. I really hope everyone will like it!
Thanks for taking part, Lisa.
VISIT LISA JEWELL'S WEBSITE