1. Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
When I’m writing a new novel I tend to try and get up early and start writing straight away – before answering emails or making phone calls or any of that stuff. I write between 2-4 thousand words (on a good day!) and then stop, go to the gym, run errands, answer emails, do admin stuff. In the afternoons I find that my fiction writing brain doesn’t really work well, so I’m more like to do research/reading then. Also write any articles or journalism that I might be working on. At the end of the day or at some point in the evening, I’ll often try and do a little bit of planning for the next day – nothing too detailed, just working out what’s coming up next so I can leap straight in the following morning. I don’t always manage to do that, but I do notice the difference when I do.
2. When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
Occasionally, but never really as whole people – I’m more likely to notice a mannerism someone has, say, or the way they speak, and use that. I’d never just ‘cut and paste’ someone I knew into a book, so to speak.
3. What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Oh God. I don’t think I can choose a single favourite. One that I love and have re read may times over the years, though, is The Divine Secrets of the Ya Yay Sisterhood. I love the way it portrays female friendship, and the characters are brilliantly drawn.
4. What is your writing process? Do you plan first of dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I have a vague plan before I start; I need to know who the main characters are that I’m writing about, and have an idea of what the book’s about – what the world of it is, what the main conflicts are and a sense of the journeys the characters are going to go on, if you like. I’ll usually write an outline of a couple of pages in almost a blurby style to help me get the tone right. And I spend some time working out the relationships between the characters, and naming them – their names are hugely important, I can’t start until they’re spot on. Then I’ll plan as I go. I write in a programme called Scrivener which I love – it allows me to divide the book up and move things around easily and see where I am. In terms of drafts – as many as it needs! It really varies.
5. What was journey to being a published author?
I wrote a chunk of my first novel – about 25,000 words or so, and sent it off to Simon Trewin, who took me on on the basis of that and an outline. I then carried on writing the book with his input which was invaluable. Basically I went against all the good advice which tells you to finish the novel and get it as good as you possibly can before sending it out – and that’s still what I’d advise other people to do! But luckily it worked out for me. Headline were one of the first publishers to express interest when it was finished and they published LUXURY in 2009.
6. What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That you have to wait for your ‘muse’ or for ‘divine inspiration’ to strike every day before you can start writing. Just get on with it…
7. What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Well, like I said above, ‘just get on with it’ is pretty good advice. Keep writing and working on your ideas and keep reading. But most importantly – keep going. The big difference between people who’d like to write a novel and people who have written a novel is tenacity. You just have to keep going, until it’s done. And then work on it some more…
8. What are you working on at the moment?
I’m writing my fourth novel which will be published next year by Headline Review. I’ve got quite a tight deadline on it as I’m having a baby at the end of May so need to get it finished before then! I’m loving writing it and am really excited about it.
Thanks Jess and congratulations about the baby!