Monday, April 06, 2009

Author Snapshot: Jill Mansell

While it’s possible you haven’t heard of Jill Mansell, that’s likely about to change. The Bristol-born author’s books have sold over three million copies in almost every place outside of North America. January Magazine caught up with her on the eve of her U.S. debut to ask her a few silly questions, a few important questions and a few that seemed designed to do little beyond determine what a good sport she is.

Twenty books into an exciting career, Sourcebooks today debuts An Offer You Can’t Refuse.

Says Booklist: “Mansell’s novel is the perfect read for hopeless romantics who like happily-ever-after endings.”

A Snapshot of Jill Mansell
Most recent book: An Offer You Can’t Refuse (Sourcebooks)
Born: Bristol, UK
Reside: Bristol, UK
Birthday: June 16th, many moons ago...
Web site:

What’s your favorite city?
Venice, Italy.

You only have six hours to spend there. What do you do?
Gaze around in awe and wonder, and fall in love with the place all over again. Sit outside a café in St Mark’s square and people-watch. Take a trip along the Grand Canal. Get lost down narrow side-streets. Look in the windows of real estate agencies and wish I could live there.

It really is completely magical. One warning though, that teeny-tiny cup of coffee at the café in St Mark’s Square will probably set you back 25 dollars...

What food do you love?

I’m a huge potato fan. (I don’t mean I’m huge, I just love them a lot.) Roast potatoes, creamed potatoes, fries, chips, sliced and baked with heavy cream and cheese... I’ve never found a way of cooking a potato that I didn’t like!

What food have you vowed never to touch again?
I was doing back-to-back phone interviews from an Australian hotel room earlier this year. I was really hungry, so during the minute-long break between calls I ripped open the packet of wasabi-coated peanuts I’d saved from my flight on Singapore Airlines. Briefly pausing to wonder what wasabi might be, I emptied the packet into my mouth... and my head nearly exploded. I then had to do a live radio interview with my mouth on fire and sweat breaking out on my forehead, whilst acting as if nothing was wrong. I think we can safely say I shall be steering clear of wasabi in future.

What’s on your nightstand?
Books, lip-balm, nail file, alarm clock. What should also be there is a notepad and pen for those brilliant plot ideas that always occur to you in the middle of the night, but the moment I put them there, you can guarantee someone will come along and steal the pen. A member of the family, that is. I'm not implying a burglar will break in and make off with it.

What inspires you?
The fear that if I don’t produce a book, my publishers will demand their advance back, which would be awkward as I’ve already spent it. Then they’d dump me and I’d have to go back to working in the real world. And I’d really hate that to happen because I like it too much in this unreal one!

What are you working on now?
My current book is about a female limo driver -- I was being driven to an event last year and got chatting to my chauffeur, who told me such amazing stories about his job that I knew I’d have to put some of them in a book. Some snippets of gossip are just too good to pass up...

Tell us about your process.
I write by hand, with a Harley Davidson fountain pen. I write the book itself in A4 pads, and keep notes and plot ideas in beautiful decorative notebooks. Weirdly, my handwriting is completely different in the notebooks. My mum used to type the novels up for me. Now my daughter is doing it. This is why there are no explicit sex scenes! Plot-wise, I tend to know what’s going to happen in the next chapter or two, but that’s it. If I try to plan out a whole book before writing it, I’ll get better ideas as I go along, so there’s no point. It’s scarier but more fun to improvise.

Lift your head and look around. What do you see?
I’m writing this in bed, with a great view from the window of the sports ground beyond our garden. It can be distracting sometimes, having fit hunky men playing soccer and tennis out there all day long, but I just have to tolerate it!

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I used to write a lot when I was a kid but never imagined I’d get to do it for a living -- it was a fabulous dream, right up there with wanting to be Miss World and sob photogenically on stage in a swimsuit and diamond tiara.

If you couldn’t write books, what would you be doing?
I’d go back to my old job -- I was an electroencephalographic technologist, which means I recorded the electrical activity in people’s brains. I worked in a neurological hospital for 18 years and loved it.

To date, what moment in your career has made you happiest?
The day my editor phoned to tell me that I was number one on The Sunday Times bestseller list. I burst into tears.

For you, what is the easiest thing about being writer?

Getting stuck in commuter traffic on the way to and from the hospital every day used to drive me nuts, so being able to work from home is an absolute joy.

What’s the most difficult?

Getting the book written is all down to me -- I can’t ask someone else to take over when I get to a tricky bit or realize I’ve made a hideous mistake that needs sorting out. I wish I could!

What’s the question you’d like to be asked?
“Jill, my angel, would you pleeeease let me buy the film rights to your book and allow me to star in the movie?”

And I’d like George Clooney to be the one saying it.

What question would you like never to be asked again?
“Have you never wanted to write a serious book?”

(No, I haven’t wanted to! Never ever! Stop asking me!)

Please tell us about your most recent book.
It’s romantic comedy, feel-good fiction about a girl who runs a bookstore in London and is desperate to win back the love of her life. If you enjoy movies like Notting Hill and Four Weddings, you’ll like my book. And if you don’t like those kind of movies, you’ll really hate it!

Tell us something about yourself that no one knows.
George Clooney is madly in love with me and has asked me to marry him. But it’s a secret, so don’t tell anyone I told you.

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