I want to provide a warm welcome to Jill Mansell, who is stopping by Savvy Verse & Wit as part of her tour with Sourcebooks. I had an opportunity to interview her, and she was gracious enough to answer a few questions. If you missed my review of An Offer You Can't Refuse, check it out.
1. On average from the first word on the page to publication, how long was the process? What tips could you offer aspiring authors about the process?
I spent a while finding my genre, but once I’d decided to write the kind of books I liked to read myself – contemporary women’s fiction with drama and humour – it was fairly straightforward. I was working full time in a hospital and had a hectic social life, so writing was confined to an hour or two whenever I could squeeze it in. It took me two years to write the whole book, about 160,000 words. It was rejected by the first agent I sent it to, who said that too much happened in it. The second agent turned it down, saying that not enough happened in it! The third agent phoned me up and told me she loved the book and knew she could sell it. That was one of the happiest moments of my life and twenty years later she is still my agent.
Tips for writers – experiment with different writing styles until you find the one that suits you best. I’ve tried so many times to write in the first person, but it just doesn’t work for me and I’ve now accepted that I am a third-person writer. Experiment with genres too. I tried to write straight romance but found I couldn’t keep the comedy out of my novels, which was why they were rejected time and time again. My biggest tip is to use a time-line when plotting out your novel. This keeps characters and events under control and stops you getting to the end of the book then realising you’ve left some vital aspect or character out!
2. Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any "writing" books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott).
Gosh, I can’t now remember the names of all the how-to-write books I devoured – most of them, probably! We’re always searching for the one that will answer the unanswerable questions, aren’t we? And cast its magic spell! But I attended a local evening class in creative writing and loved it, especially for the camaraderie and the sheer relief of finally meeting other people who had the same urge to write that I did. This was in the days before the internet so I’d never known any other writers before that. We supported each other when the rejection slips arrived and celebrated each other’s successes. Twenty-odd years later, several of us are still in touch and we meet for lunch. Four of us are now published novelists.
3. How do you stay fit and healthy as a writer?
Fit and healthy? Yikes! I’m lucky in that I don’t do much at all but so far I seem to be surviving. I eat a lot of junk while I’m writing (by hand, with my Harley Davidson fountain pen, in big writing pads.) I sit on my sofa with my feet up on the coffee table and the TV on (for research purposes.) I joined a gym a couple of years ago but never found it enjoyable and ended up making more and more elaborate excuses as to why I couldn’t get there.
4. Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?
Writing obsessions? Or general ones like: Can’t eat two biscuits, it has to be three? OK, I plan my books initially in beautiful leather-bound decorative notebooks and my handwriting while I’m doing this is completely different to my normal handwriting. I don’t plan the whole book in advance, just a certain amount, enough to start the ball rolling. I have several beautiful fountain pens I use for my novels. My mum used to type my books for me and now my daughter is doing it. (Not out of love, I hasten to add. I have to pay her.) I can’t compose fiction onto a screen – it has to flow out of the end of the pen for me. I write the story first and divide it up into chapters afterwards. Oh, and there’s still nothing lovelier than starting a fat, pristine, brand new writing pad!
5. Please describe your writing space and how it would differ from your ideal writing space.
I write in our living room when I have the house to myself. Big room, red painted walls, French windows leading out onto the garden with sports fields beyond, so I can hear the sports being played while I’m working. If the kids are home from school they banish me upstairs to the bedroom, which is also rather beautiful. There, I sit up in bed to work and have an uninterrupted view of the sportsmen playing soccer, tennis, and cricket in the sports fields over our fence. It’s a tough job, this writing business.
What kind of view would I choose if I could have anything? Exactly the same, but with snow-capped mountains in the distance. I love mountains but sadly we don’t have any in this corner of England. A surfing beach would be pretty cool too. With plenty of fit surfers. Could you arrange that for me? Thanks so much!
6. What current projects are you working on and would you like to share some details with the readers?
I’ve had twenty books published here in the United Kingdom, but I’m just starting out in the United States. The next one to come out over in America is one of my absolute favourites – it’s called Miranda’s Big Mistake and has made more readers laugh and cry than almost any of the others. (I do love making people cry!) Set in London, England, this book features a hairdresser, a journalist who passes himself off as a street beggar, and the world’s most irresistible racing driver. Miranda’s Big Mistake will be in stores in June!
Thanks again, Jill, for stopping by Savvy Verse & Wit, and sharing your thoughts with us about your writing process and obsessions. Good Luck with your U.S. publications.
Sourcebooks has offered 1 copy of Jill Mansell's An Offer You Can't Refuse to one lucky U.S. or Canadian reader.
All you have to do is comment on this post with something other than "pick me" or "enter me."
If you missed the review, you can leave a comment there for another entry.
Deadline is April 11, Midnight EST.