Jill's children were home on holiday and having computer issues when she responded to my questions so her answers are brief; but, I think you'll find she's fun regardless of how long she's able to chat. My questions (and some commentary -- just try to shut me up) are in colorful bold to match the book cover; Jill's replies are in italics.
Bookfool: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Jill: When I was little I used to write happy-ever-after stories where nothing bad ever happened. I also badly wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder and wished we could have bears in our garden. Life was very tame in our corner of the UK ...
BF: Apart from the occasional tornado, I think my childhood in Oklahoma was equally placid. :) How long does it take you to write a book?
Jill: I write one a year, but my U.S. publishers are bringing out three of mine this year and three next year. I’m so excited!
BF: Wahoo! I'm excited, too! ("It's about time," says the die-hard Jill Mansell fan). What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Jill: I write while the kids are at school. When they’re out of school, like now, I mainly just referee their fights.
BF: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Jill: I have lots! I write by hand, with a Harley Davidson fountain pen, and always have to have the TV on while I’m working. I only divide the book up into chapters right at the end. When I’m writing notes for the plot, my handwriting is completely different from the handwriting I use to actually write the book itself – it’s like two people are doing the two different jobs. Oh dear, is that weird?
BF: My opinion: My handwriting seems to change dramatically with my mood or what kind of writing I'm doing, so I'm inclined to think you're just fine and dandy. ;)Are you excited about having your books released in the United States (and wherever else -- I'm getting Canada and Australia vibes from the comments on my review of An Offer You Can't Refuse)?
Jill: I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to finally be published in the States! I’ve done a book tour of Australia and NZ and that was great. I’ve never visited America and would love to. Thanks to the internet, I feel I know so many people there now. And now I know you too! Your blog is brilliant, by the way. Love it.
BF: Wow, thank you, Jill!!
Jill: I eavesdrop on trains and in restaurants, hear funny comments and weave them into a story. There are also great websites called Overheard in New York and Overheard in London which save me having to leave the house...
BF: That information is going to get me in all sorts of trouble. When did you write your first book and how old were you?
Jill: My first attempt at a full length novel was when I was in my mid-twenties. I wrote it by hand, gave it to a girl to type up (she worked with my husband and had volunteered herself for the job)...and never saw my manuscript again! So the moral of this story is, always keep a copy of your work. I still wonder what happened to it.
BF: Oh, my goodness. I just have to say -- what a horror to lose an entire manuscript! What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Jill: Socialising, seeing friends, watching TV, shopping...and of course reading lots and lots of books!
BF: What does your family think of your writing?
Jill: I think they’re proud, but I have embarrassed my kids over the years. They’re getting used to it now.
BF: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Jill: That when I write a sad bit I can make myself cry. That seems very weird to me. Other people’s books can make me cry but it feels wrong that I can have that effect on myself...
BF: I think that's lovely. If you can make yourself cry, you're probably doing well (remember Joan Wilder crying over her own manuscript in the movie "Romancing the Stone"?). How many books have you written? Do you have a particular favorite?
Jill: Don’t ask that question! It’s cruel! I’ve written twenty in all. My readers all have their own favourites.
BF: Oops, sorry, don't mean to be cruel. I don't have a personal favorite; I just love them all. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Jill: They say lovely things and make my day, especially when they tell me they’ve been going through horrible times in their lives and my books helped them through it. I write feel-good fiction and that’s what it’s for. But you don’t have to be unhappy to read them – cheerful people can enjoy my books too!
BF: Your books have helped cheer me, many times. I read them to perk up and just for fun. Many thanks for the joy you give your readers. What do you think makes a good story?
Jill: Characters you can care about. Needing to know what happens next. That’s about it.
BF: Do you have any favorite authors or specific titles you can share with us?
Jill: I’m a big fan of Sophie Kinsella and the Shopaholic books. Also Marian Keyes, especially Rachel ’s Holiday . And a book for very young children that ALWAYS makes me cry, called Are You My Mother? It’s by P.D. Eastman and I used to read it to my kids. My daughter’s sixteen now and I bought her a new copy last Christmas. And it still made me cry!
BF: I absolutely love Are You My Mother?!! And, yes, it makes me cry, too.
Thank you for your time, Jill, and I can't thank you enough for the wonderful, upbeat stories that you tell. Best of luck with your releases in the United States!!