1. Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I try to go for a walk or a run before I start work in the morning. Let’s be honest, it’s pretty much always a walk. And sometimes it’s a lie-in. Then I head to a local cafe where they know my order before I even ask, which makes me feel pleasingly like Norm from Cheers (only less rotund, I hope, thanks to that walk/run). I find I can’t work from home – it’s too easy to be distracted. In the cafe, I aim for about 1000 words a day which, with revising and re-reading, takes about four hours.
2. When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
I don’t think so – although sometimes when you’ve written a character, you go back and re-read the book and think, blimey, you are very obviously X even though I hadn’t realised it at the time. But I reckon it’s probably safest to stick to your imagination rather than lose all of your friends by mining their lives for plots.
3. What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Like an awful lot of people, my vote goes to Marian Keyes’s Rachel’s Holiday. It has a flawed but loveable heroine and one of the best heroes in women’s fiction (Real Man Luke in his dodgy timeshare leather trews). I’ve returned to it again and again; it’s a very wise and lovely book. Also extremely funny.
4. What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I think I’m still too new at this to have it all figured out – although I am beginning to suspect that maybe you never do have it all figured out. The first book I didn’t plan at all, it just sort of structured itself, so I was lulled into thinking I didn’t need to bother with plotting in advance. The second book I found much more difficult, and I learned the hard way that it is good to plan ahead. A proper chapter breakdown really helped when I got stuck halfway through. I’d say I go through two or three drafts.
I wrote a big chunk of Lizzy Harrison Loses Control, then shoved it in a drawer for a year because I got the fear – what if it was awful? Who was I to write a book anyway? Then I decided to send the chunk to a few agents for feedback. I hoped they’d be able to tell me if it was worth continuing and thankfully they were all very encouraging. I had an agent within a few weeks. I think getting an agent is usually the hard part, so I was pretty lucky. Then my agent got me a deal with Macmillan.
6. What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
I really did believe that I would sit down to write and be drawn into the magical world I’d created, where my characters would come to life and I’d barely even notice the time passing. I’d get up a few hours (and several beautifully crafted chapters) later, refreshed and creatively sated. It is so not like that for me. It’s more staring out of the window, wondering why I can’t write anything decent today, deleting the thousand words I wrote yesterday, and wondering if a piece of cake will help things. For me it’s definitely a case of enjoying having written, than enjoying writing.
7. What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
The best advice I got was to stop self-editing and keep writing. I do still find myself fiddling with the same paragraph for far too long, but now I remind myself to get on with the writing and revise it later. Once the book’s finished it’s easier to see where things need to change.
Pippa's second Novel UNSUITABLE MEN is out now