Jenny Colgan's latest novel is the delicious MEET ME AT THE CUPCAKE CAFE.
1. Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
Yes, it’s quite regimented. We live in France because that’s where my husband works. We’re up, get my two boys to school, then hand over the baby to a nice lady who comes round and does the housework and looks after her, then I go for a run along the beach near where we live, shower, change, write one project (normally an alternative writing pitch) from about 10.30 to 11.30 then go to my local coffee shop, have a coffee and a pain au chocolat and write my current novel till about 1pm. I’ll write 2000 words of it, usually. If I have time before my help leaves at 1.30 I try to do my piano practice. Then in the afternoon I hang out with the baby, shop, cook supper, see friends etc till it’s time to pick up the boys at 16.30; they often bring friends home to play in the garden. Supper is ideally outside when my husband gets home, quite early, then kids to bed by 7.30, some box set telly for us, then I like to read for an hour or so in the bath then we go REALLY early to bed- 9.30 is not unusual for us at all!
2. When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
Sometimes I do, usually for the men if I am looking for a particular type of romantic hero; someone boy bandish, or a kind of science geek or someone like that. For Do You Remember the First Time, Justin Timberlake was just getting famous whilst I was writing it, so I made the young hero quite a lot like him. Sometimes you see a picture in the paper of someone who looks just like the person you’ve imagined in your head; that’s always really weird.
3. What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
That’s a hard question to answer. If you mean any novel written by a woman I suppose it would be something like The Fortunes of War, which I love like a bunch of friends I actually know, or Middlemarch. If you mean more ‘chick-litty’, then like a lot of people I adored I Don’t Know How She Does It, and The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic.
4. What is your writing process? Do you plan first of dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I don’t plan, it always changes. I get on with it, then rewrite it as many times as I have to. I hate rewrites, but they are so necessary to get where you want to be. And my editor is brilliant, which always helps. Whatever she suggests is nearly always right.
5. What was journey to being a published author?
Everyone’s journey is different. My masterplan was to fail at almost everything else- sketch writing, stand up, poetry, cartooning, children’s books- then when I wrote the novel it got picked up and sold very quickly- I was taken on by the second agent I wrote to- but I had had a million people say no to me about other things first. My real fantasy was always to be Charles Schultz.
6. What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
The two big myths are that everyone earns a living, and that it is somehow different from sitting down in an office and working every day.
I’m always surprised how surprised people are that writers write a set amount every day rather than waiting for the muse to strike. I promise, I met loads of unbelievably talented people when I was just starting out, and the only difference between those of us who got published and those who didn’t is that we got the words on the page on time.
Write for yourself, write what you want to write, don’t follow fashion, don’t show it to your mates, and set yourself a goal- there’s no reason why you can’t write 1000 words a day, none at all. I know you’re tired, or you’re busy and overworked, but if you take, eg, half an hour when you normally watch Eastenders and write instead, you’ll have a book in six months, I promise.
If you really can’t find the time, you may have to admit to yourself that you don’t really want to do it after all. Like when I wanted to be a stand up comic, I loved the idea of it but hated doing the gigs so much I was always avoiding them. It really wasn’t me at all.
8. What are you working on at the moment?
I am writing a book about a girl who goes to work in her great-aunt’s sweetshop. There’s secrets and heart ache and cola cubes, and I’m having huge fun with it. I’m also working on a secret project that if it comes off will make me very happy indeed.
Thanks Jenny. Good luck with the secret project!
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