Apr 7, 2009

Interview With Jill Mansell, Author of An Offer You Can't Refuse

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!

So this has been me. I do hope you’ll look out for my book, An Offer You Can’t Refuse. If you enjoy sparky, feel-good fiction, give my work a try. Fingers crossed, you might like it. I do hope so!

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.


Anna said...

Great interview! I can't wait to read Miranda's Big Mistake. My interview with Jill will be posted later today. Obviously, no need to enter me in your giveaway!

Diary of an Eccentric

Serena said...

Anna: I just love her answers to this interview.

Heather Wardell said...

From her answers here, Jill writes the same kind of fiction I do, and I haven't heard of her before! I will definitely get something by her soon! If I WIN one, that's even better. :)

bermudaonion said...

Great interview. Wow, I didn't know anyone wrote a book in longhand these days - what a labor of love.

Serena said...

I still do that on occasion, though it often ends up only being a few chapters.

Erika Powell said...

I am in love with the cover of this book! It is so colorful and fun. I can't wait to read it.
sports dot erikalynn at gmail dot com

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Heh. I have two Harley Davidson pens; the roller balls made by Waterman. LOVE LOVE them; they are my go-to pens. Unfortunately, they now look it, too.

No need to enter me, Serena (not until I'm more caught up around here!). I wanted to let you know I've posted about this at Win a Book.

Serena said...

Susan: I had no idea that there were such things as Harley Davidson pens until now.

Anonymous said...

I had never heard of her before yesterday, but this book sounds erally fun. I'd love to be entered. Thanks.

carolsnotebook at yahoo dot com

Amber said...

Thanks for the giveaway and interview :) The cover art looks fun too!

Unknown said...

I love the cover of that book!! :)

I'm almost caught up!! Thanks for all the links.

Your interview has been added to About the Author - An Author Interview Index! ~ Wendi

Serena said...

great thanks wendi!

donnas said...

Great interview. I have read so much about this book lately that I am definately going to be on the lookout for it. Its nice to see what the process used is behind the story.

bacchus76 at myself dot com

robynl said...

would love to read some "sparky and feel good" books so please enter me. They sound like my kind of read.
Love the colorful cover- draws me in.

teabird said...

Not only does the book sound wonderful, but how could I not love a book written in fountain pen?


teabird 17 %%at%% yahoo dot com

Lenore Appelhans said...

Her writer's group sounds wonderful! And they've had a lot of success too.

Marie said...

I really enjoyed the interview, it's nice to find authors who are new to me in this way!


Robin Lemke said...

What a great interview! I can tell I will love her writing by the answers she gives. ;)

I would love to be entered.


Jake L said...

I hadn't heard of this book before, but after the interview it sounds good.


Unknown said...

I'd like to read this.


Anonymous said...

This was a great interview. Thanks for that. Now you have me fantasizing about writing in a nice and fancy leather-bound journal with one of those fancy fountain pens. Now, if I could do that, that would be an inspiring writing situation.

Please enter me for the giveaway. Thanks!


Valorie said...

I too am slowly but surely beginning to discover that romance just may not be for me. Yet, I keep trying!


Lisa said...

Pick me pick me! (Sorry, you said not to, so I HAD to! Or maybe I spend too much time with my 3 year old.)

I can't imagine writing an entire book in longhand- I can barely write out thank you cards.

Darlene said...

Great interview. I love the fitness question-I eat a lot of junk while reading too. lol. Oh and I can't eat two either, it must be 3. Strange, but true. I'd love to win a copy of this book Serena.

Luanne said...

No need to enter me Serena. I really enjoyed your interview!~

Unknown said...

I just learned of this book today and it sounds really good! I love chicklit and the cover is awesome.
unforgetable_dreamer_always (AT) hotmail (DOT) com

Ladytink_534 said...

Full-time work and yet you still got a book written? Wow! Looking forward to reading Miranda’s Big Mistake soon as it sounds like a good story :) Great interview Serena with really different and interesting questions (and answers!).

Linda said...

I liked the author's comment about writing women's fiction with both drama and humor. Sounds like the kind of writing I want to read. Please enter me in the giveaway. Thanks

CherylS22 said...

I enjoy reading author interviews. It gives me a little insight into the process of writing a book & allows me to learn a little about the author.

Please count me in - Thanks!

scottsgal said...

Your writing space views sound wonderful. I'd like to look out at a beach, a lake or the crystal blue of the caribbean. Enjoyed the interview

msboatgal at aol.com

Debs Desk said...

Please include me in your giveaway.

Unknown said...

Looks like I'm just squeaking in under the deadline! That's what I get for not going back to check on things that I bookmarked.

I can't believe Jill writes her books by hand. Makes my fingers hurt just thinking about it!

jgbeads AT gmail DOT com