I’m delighted to welcome you here today, Jill.
I’ve just been to your website to look at your list of books and found myself smiling at fond memories as I the read the blurbs. I also realised there were a few I’d missed so obviously I have some catching up to do. In the meantime, allow me to ask you a few questions.
You’re a prolific writer but each plot is different. Are you aware when you begin a new book of how it’s going to pan out? Do you plot or, ahem, make it up as you go along?
I start out with little more than the spark of an idea, some interesting scenario that I might pick up from a TV show, a newspaper or website. Then I create the characters and gradually build up from there, sticking scribbled-on post-it notes to a very long timeline as future ideas come to me. I'm sure planning an entire plot out beforehand would be easier but I just can't seem to bring myself to do it. I prefer writing 'into the mist'...
Your heroines are all different. Some are efficient, some scatty to say the least, some are married with children and some are single. All are appealing. So where do all these diverse characters come from?
Thank you! I don't really know, but most of them are probably versions of me at different ages. My daughter used to find it impossible to read my books because she said all the characters sounded just like me. But I'm definitely scatty and untidy rather than organised and efficient - that's just wishful thinking on my part.
Regarding the nuts and bolts of the job, do you have a system? That is to say, is your workday carefully mapped out or is your writing inspirational in the sense that you might wake up in the middle of the night with an idea and have to deal with it ‘right now’?
I mainly work school hours, even though my children are no longer at school. I like to take weekends off, but it depends how busy I am - at the moment Three Amazing Things About You has just been published so I'm doing tons of online promo and writing blog posts for various sites. I do this in the evenings and whenever I can - it's not something that comes easily to me so it takes ages. Also, I still don't know how to type and have no idea where the letters are on a keyboard so I make millions of mistakes and have to keep going back to correct them. As for inspiration, I would never wake up in the night with an idea and actually go and write it, but I might jot the idea itself down. Nothing more frustrating than knowing you had a great plot twist but being unable to remember it the next morning...
You made a dramatic career change when you moved from the field of clinical neurophysiology to writing. Did they at any time run in tandem? What prompted the changed and have you ever had any regrets?
They ran in tandem for a couple of years - it was surreal, switching between glitzy events in London and wrestling with difficult patients back in Bristol. (Once I was speaking on the phone to my editor and a patient was trying to bite my face.)Then I discovered I was pregnant so it seemed a good time to give up the day job. I did wonder if I'd have the discipline to write at home, but if you don't get the book finished you don't get paid, so that meant I had to do it! And no, no regrets - that little baby who never slept and scribbled all over my manuscripts now types up my books for me, so she turned out to be a pretty good investment in the end!
It seems there is always a recently published or eagerly anticipated ‘Jill Mansell’ book. How long does a book take from inception to publication and what route does it take?
It takes me a year to write a book, then it's another year before it comes out. I don't do lots of drafts - I just write the book, then go through it once to divide it into chapters and tidy it up. (It was many years before I discovered that this was called an edit - I had no idea! All I do is improve the flow of some of the sentences - I never alter the plot.)
It’s rumoured you’re not the world’s best cook. Something that you don’t like doing or, unlike your writing, proves to be unsuccessful?
I can cook lots of things but I find it quite boring so it's not top of my hobbies list. I make fantastic roast potatoes. Baking cakes is what I'm really bad at, but as I can't really eat cakes (thanks to side effects of gastric surgery) it doesn't bother me. I do like watching the Great British Bake Off though!
In this brave new world social networking can take up a huge amount of time (don’t I know it!) Do you limit your access or is it random?
I don't limit my access. I probably should, but I like it too much. I bet my publishers wish I'd spend more time writing books and less time on Twitter...
I’ve just been back to your website and seen Jill’s A-Z of Happiness. Must get myself one of those. In the meantime, and finally, what makes Jill Mansell happy?
At the moment, hearing from people who have finished reading my new book and have loved it. Out of all the novels I've written, this is the one I'm most proud of. (It's also the first time I've ever had a really good idea for a plot!)
It’s been a pleasure ‘talking’ to you, Jill. I wish you every success with Three Amazing Things About You
No. 1 bestselling author Jill Mansell’s novels regularly go on to the Sunday Times bestseller list in both hardback and paperback. Jill lives in Bristol with her family. Three Amazing Things About You is her latest novel and her favourite – we hope you think so too!
Follow Jill on twitter @JillMansell or visit her Facebook page/OfficialJillMansell.