10 questions with author Jill Mansell; ‘I pinch plot ideas from This Morning phone-ins – I’m shameless’

Author Jill Mansell
Author Jill Mansell

There are few more recognisable names in feel-good fiction than Jill Mansell, yet she remains – like her characters – extremely likeable. She has sold, wait for this, more than 13 million books and is one of the top 20 female authors of the 21st century in terms of sales and pretty much always on the best-sellers lists. Yet she still kindly volunteered to come on my blog and I’m over the moon. This article is not the result of some huge PR machine – she sent me the answers and pictures herself, despite admitting she prefers a pen and paper to a computer. Her latest book ‘It started with a secret’ is out now and her next ‘I know you’re back’ is out in January 2021. So here are 10 questions with Jill Mansell.

  1. What’s your name and where do you come from? 

Hello there! I’m Jill Mansell, I grew up in a tiny village in the Cotswolds and now live in Bristol. (So I still get quite excited every time I see a double decker bus…)

2. Do you write fact or fiction and in what genre?

I write feelgood fiction, the kind of romantic comedy that makes you wish you knew the characters and could be friends with them.

3. Are you traditionally or self published and which route do you consider best? 

Traditionally published. I couldn’t deal with the technical aspects of self publishing, but I love that it’s now an option for everyone. 

4. What’s your work schedule like when you are writing? 

I write all my books by hand, with metallic inks in beautiful fountain pens. I lie on my reclining sofa and scribble away in notepads. The TV is always on, and I might pinch plot ideas from the phone-ins on This Morning – I am shameless. When I’ve written the whole thing, my daughter types it all up for me and tells me off when I’ve made mistakes. (I make a LOT of mistakes.)

5. What advice would you give to budding writers? 

Love your characters. If you don’t care about them, why should other people want to carry on reading to find out what happens to them? Deciding that the fictional characters are boring is the number one reason  I’ll lose interest and give up on reading a novel. (Conversely, amazing characters will make me fall in love with them, and stay in my heart for life.)

6. Who/what are YOUR favourite books? 

I love good gossipy autobiographies, and either novels or non-fiction  about the second world war. (It’s nice to clear my mind from the day job by reading a completely different kind of book.)

7.Are you a plotter or a pantster? (i.e do you  plan out your work of fly by the seat of your pants?!) 

Oh, I’m a natural pantster struggling to become a plotter. I tape together many sheets of paper to create a timeline, then stick a million Post-Its along it with notes scribbled on them to give myself ideas and reminders as to what might happen or needs to happen at some stage further along in the story. It stops me forgetting crucial bits!

8. What helps you focus? 

Not much – I’m endlessly distractable. 

9. How long did it take you to write your book/books? 

I write one a year. It would kill me to do any more than that – my poor brain couldn’t handle it. I’m happy if I can manage 1000 words a day, which is roughly five handwritten pages for me. There are lots of crossings-out along the way…

10. Where can we find your book/s? 

In bookshops, supermarkets and charity shops, and on sunloungers and other people’s bedside tables, I hope!

Many thanks to Jill for taking part! You can read more about her work on her website

It started with a secret by Jill Mansell
It started with a secret by Jill Mansell

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