January 2015


Jill Mansell is a Bristol-based author who published her first novel in 1991. Her latest, Three Amazing Things About You, was released this month, She used to work in the field of clinical neurophysiology but now writes full time. (Interview by Jade Craddock)

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  1. 1. Readers already think you’re pretty amazing but can you tell us three amazing things about you?

    Oh dear, that's a difficult question!
    - OK, I once won a competition in a nightclub by tearing a telephone directory in half, faster than any of the other competitors who were all big muscly men. They were outraged!
    - I never have the faintest idea what the characters look like in my books. Even at the very end, I still have to refer to my list of their physical attributes to find out if their hair is long or short, blonde or dark. I know everything about their personalities but have no visual image of them in my head. (Is that weird? Most people seem to know what their characters look like!)
    - I've now sold over ten million copies of my books worldwide. That is pretty amazing to me, considering I never expected to sell a single one.

  2. 2. What three words would you use to describe your new novel?

    Funny! Sad! Emotional!

  3. 3. Your story centres on three characters - Hallie, Tasha and Flo. Did one of these characters come to you first?

    Oh yes, Hallie was my first character. I realised I'd never once read a novel about someone with cystic fibrosis. I also knew that whenever I've watched people with CF being interviewed on TV I've always been struck by their astonishing attitude, personality and charisma. Having worked in a hospital for almost 20 years, I do think that people facing up to severe illness acquire a new way to view life and death, and I really wanted to explore and demonstrate that. I hope I have.

  4. 4. Did you always plan on weaving their stories together?

    Definitely. This is the first time I've had a clear-cut plan for a book, knowing that certain pretty dramatic things had to happen to the various main characters. It was difficult in one way because so much medical research was involved, but easier having the basic aspects of the plot mapped out in advance.

  5. 5. Did you face any struggles with the novel?

    The medical research! It's 22 years since I stopped working in a hospital, so any medical knowledge I still do have might now be out of date. Everything had to be carefully checked and I'm hugely grateful to my friend Dr Jo Cannon, who read the entire manuscript to ensure I hadn't made any mistakes.

  6. 6. What message do you hope readers take from the book?

    The message that organ donation is a good thing. It not only saves lives, it helps the friends and families of those who have died and had their organs donated. Again and again, these people have said it made them feel their loved one hadn't died completely in vain. If just one person reads my book and decides to sign up to the organ donor register as a result, I'll be so happy.

  7. 7. This is your 26th book, what do you put your longevity down to?

    I honestly don't know. I never imagined I'd write so many novels. It helps a lot that readers keep asking me to keep on writing them! And maybe one day I'll run out of ideas, but it hasn't happened yet. As soon as I finish a book, I'm on the hunt for a new plot and new characters to keep me company for the next year.

  8. 8. Does it become easier or harder to write each successive book?

    The only thing that's hard is making sure I don't repeat myself. Sometimes I get a brilliant plot idea and start writing, then later realise it's very similar to a storyline I used twenty years ago. I try very hard to keep each novel fresh and different, but it's not always easy.

  9. 9. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

    Try different ways of writing until you find out what suits you. I've tried writing in the first person but I just can't do it at all. I've tried typing rather than writing by hand but it's disastrous. Find what works for you, then stick with it. And keep reading your favourite authors too - when I first started I was in love with Jilly Cooper's style and longed to emulate her. I couldn't, of course, but my own style evolved naturally as a result.

  10. 10. What are your plans for 2015?

    Well I'm currently writing the last few chapters of the next book, as well as helping to publicise Three Amazing Things. As soon as they're both done I shall start searching for the sparking-off idea for my next book. And a holiday at some stage would be nice too, if we can manage to fit one in!

October, 2010 

Interview by Angela Smith

  1. 1. What inspired your latest novel Take a Chance on Me?

    I was at a famous horse riding event and saw the work of a wire sculptor who had created stunning larger than life-size sculptures of horses. They completely captured my imagination and sparked off the original idea for the book. Shortly afterwards I was being driven in a limo by a chauffeur and he told me so many fascinating stories I knew I had to have a chauffeur featuring in it too. That was the start of the story.

  2. 2. What made you want to be a writer?

    I was looking for a way to make some extra money and supplement my meagre hospital-worker’s salary. Then I saw an article one day in a magazine, about women becoming best-selling novelists, and thought I’d give it a go. And guess what? It worked...!

  3. 3. What other careers did you undertake before becoming a writer?

    For 18 years I was an electroencephalographic technologist in the field of Clinical Neurophysiology. I tested people’s brainwaves in a neurological hospital. Loved it.

  4. 4. What can we expect from your 2011 novel To the Moon and Back?

    It’s set in glamorous Primrose Hill in North London and features a young widow learning to rebuild her life with the help of friends old and new. It will hopefully make readers laugh and cry. Apparently it’s very moving but still funny as well.

  5. 5. What are you working on now?

    It’s set in Bath and features a girl returning to her home town after 18 years away, with her 18-year-old daughter in tow. It’s time for her ex-boyfriend to get the surprise of his life…

  6. 6. Out of all your titles, do you have a personal favourite?

    I like different aspects of different books, so it’s almost impossible to choose a favourite. My readers all like different ones too – there’s no clear winner. Every time I start to write a new book I try to make it my best one yet.

  7. 7. Is it true you always write your books by hand, rather than use a computer?

    Absolutely true, I just can’t write onto a computer at all. It’s hard enough answering these questions. I use a Harley Davidson fountain pen and wouldn’t want to use anything else.

  8. 8. What are your crucial ingredients for a romantic comedy?

    Sparky humour and sizzling chemistry. And lots of it!

  9. 9. Which of your characters would you most like to befriend?

    I love my main female characters, but my daughter (who now types up my manuscripts for me) says that they’re all exactly like me, personality-wise, so that would be like befriending myself. Which would be quite weird!

  10. 10. Which other authors inspire you?

    Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella, Jilly Cooper.

  11. 11. Are you happy to have your books labeled chick lit?

    I don’t mind at all, although I wouldn’t want people to think I only write about girls in their 20s. I have a wide age-range of characters in all my books – something for everyone!

  12. 12. What is your favourite rom-com movie?

    Four Weddings and a Funeral, I think. Perfect in every way. But I also love When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle. If you like those films, you’d like my books…

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