This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
There’s certainly no shortage of Christmas books to get stuck into this month. Jenny Oliver’s The Little Christmas Kitchen is one of them. Here, Jenny talks about her path to publication including how her first book, The Parisian Christmas Bake Off, was written in longhand on holiday because she had run out of books to read.
Everywhere! Whether it’s eavesdropping on the bus, listening to friends or watching TV it’s learning about people what motivates them, their hopes, ambitions and histories. I think the biggest understanding for me was realising just how different everyone is!
I found a title idea the other day on a flier on a noticeboard in town. It was a genius moment.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I don’t think there is a typical writing day. I do it around my day job and family so it’s really whenever I can find the time. I’m always thinking about what to write next, what the characters will be like and what their conflicts might be. If I’m on a deadline then I will cancel all other work and just write till I’ve run out of ideas and energy. Once I’m past the halfway mark my hands are just trying to keep up with my head because I know exactly what’s going to happen, it’s just getting it down on the page.
I also can’t start writing unless I have a tea or coffee next to me. I don’t even always drink it, but it’s a time wasting ritual!
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
Ha, yes probably! Although I’m not meant to say that am I? Lena Dunham said in an interview yesterday on Radio 4 that however smooth her life was her friends could always provide ample fodder for her stories. I’m probably a bit like that! I’m either inspired by things that have happened to me, friends or people I’ve listened to on the bus … just all heightened to the extent that it’ll make a story.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Probably Jilly Cooper! She’s awesome! Everytime I read Rivals or Polo I find myself swept away to this brilliant world of scandal and sex but also real heart and emotion. There’s truly no better hero than Rupert Campbell Black.I also re-read Bridget Jones’s Diary the other day and loved it. I’d forgotten quite how dark, cool and hilarious it is. The film dilutes some of Helen Fielding’s sharp wit and snappy characters and it was a pleasure to revisit.
What female writer has inspired you?
I love Curtis Sittenfeld – both Prep and The American Wife I could read again and again. Her style, language, characterisation blows me away. Her books are so amazingly character driven which is a phenomenal skill. She’s writing the retelling of Pride and Prejudice and I can’t wait.
Can you give us three book recommendations?
Prep – Curtis Sittenfeld.
Dusty Answer – Rosamund Lehmann (She could also go in my female writer inspiration pile, as well as Barbara Pym who I also adore.)
Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell. I’ve enjoyed all her books but this was the standout for me.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I do a lot of planning, then I dive right in, then I realise that it’s all wrong and my planning was dreadful so I start again. When I finally admit defeat I go and talk about it with someone – usually my mum or husband – who laughs at my motivations and mocks my ideas and pushes me to be better. I know when I’ve got the plot because it suddenly just feels right inside. I usually then do one or two rounds of revisions with my editor. If time was on my side, which invariably it isn’t, I’d just keep tinkering forever.
I had a number of books in my bottom drawer that I had written at home after work on the kitchen table. Actually I just found the very original book I wrote when I was ten and made all the supermodels the central characters (without knowing they were supermodels, just girls in my sister’s Vogue – I’m sure they’d be delighted with the parts I gave them!)
Then last year I was on holiday in Italy, had finished all my books and the town had no English books that I could buy, so instead I got a notebook with kittens and glitter on the front and started to write something instead. We were also watching Bake Off on the ipad in our apartment when it rained and the town had Christmas decks strung across the street – the two merged in my head and I wrote The Parisian Christmas Bake-Off by hand in my notebook.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That once you’re published it gets easier.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Keep going! And don’t throw anything you’ve written away. I still use passages and characters from my ‘under the bed’ books that didn’t work at the time but slot into place in a new book.
What are you working on at the moment?
My next summer book! So just as Christmas is upon us I’m done with it already and onto summer. As fellow author Jenny Hale said: "It’s time to start sniffing suntan lotion and getting out the rum". Although I’m more of a beer on the beach girl!