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Interview with Jane Green

Bestselling novelist Jane Green is the author of Straight Talking, Jemima J, Mr Maybe and Second Chance among others. Her novel Girl Friday (Dune Road in the USA) was published in June 2009.

Why do you write?

I write because otherwise the stories in my head would drive me mad. And I write because it’s cathartic, and because I can – it has helped me immeasurably in sorting out my feelings about seminal moments in my life. And really, it is people that inspire me, emotions and how they deal with the things that life throws at them.

Who do you admire?

Patrick Gale for his warmth and inclusiveness, Ann Patchett for her lyricism, Marian Keyes for her humour, and countless others besides.

Describe the route to your first novel being published.

I was extraordinarily lucky in writing the right book at the right time. I sent the book first to agents, and then, when I had a number of agents who were interested, I phoned publishers to find out their opinion of the agents. Of course, as soon as they heard the agents were interested, they were curious about the book… There was a bidding war for Straight Talking, and it has gone on from there.

When did you first know you would be a successful writer?

I suppose on some level, with that first bidding war, although I never dreamed the success would continue and built as it has.

How have agents helped you?

I am blessed in having extraordinary agents. Because I now live in America, I have an agent both in the US and UK, both of whom I adore. Anthony Goff at David Higham is my friend, my mentor, the first person I turn to when I need a wise ear, and I have much the same with Deborah Schneider at Gelfman Schneider in New York.

Describe a normal working day…

When I am writing, I have to force myself to leave the house and be at the local public library by around 9am. I take my laptop, grab a coffee en route, and sit in a quiet room at a cubby until my quota of words is on the page. I always write my notes long hand first, and then type, and occasionally I need to change venues – various coffee shops around town have hosted me.

As an author, what else do you do connected with your books?

I have a blog which is hugely time-consuming, but worthwhile, and gives me a wonderful opportunity to connect with my readers. I do signings, a couple of big book tours a year, radio, television, public speaking, and writing for other publications and online websites.

What’s the next step in your writing career?

Sadly although options have been picked up, there are no movies in the immediate pipeline as far as I can tell, but that would be my hope for the next step.

What’s your advice to an aspiring novelist?

Write what you want to write, not what you think will sell, don’t be put off by rejection, and don’t hand your book out for everyone to read to seek validation, for too many cooks will definitely spoil your broth.

Do you suffer from writer’s block?

Always, and continually. I keep writing through it. Writing requires a tremendous amount of discipline, and I force myself to sit at that desk until the words are on the page.

Is there a book you would have liked to have written?

Harry Potter, for obvious reasons.

Have you ever received a rejection from an agent or a publisher?

The first agent I approached with my first novel was at Peters Fraser and Dunlop. I received a letter back saying my characters were immature, the situations lacked credibility, and my work was “frankly, unpublishable”. I sank into a deep depression, but thanks to some advice, sent it out again to 13 agents, nine of whom loved it. I found out, some years later, the girl who wrote to me wasn’t even an agent. She was his secretary. The fact that the book was the first of ten best-sellers is somewhat satisfying, it has to be said.

Jane Green was born and brought up in London. After abandoning a Fine Art degree and a stint in journalism, she went into public relations and worked for a time on This Morning. Jane then returned to the newspaper world before going freelance and starting her first novel. She now lives in Connecticut and her novels include Straight Talking, Jemima J, Mr Maybe, Bookends, Babyville, Spellbound, The Other Woman, Life Swap and Second Chance.