Tuesday Chit-Chat with Lisa Jewell

Today, we proudly welcome to Romaniac HQ, best-selling author, Lisa Jewell…

LJ image

Hi Lisa, thanks so much for joining us. It’s a huge week on the excitement front, with your eleventh novel, The House We Grew Up In, launching on Thursday. What sparked the idea for this story and can you give us a little teaser about what to expect?

I had been trying to write a psychological thriller for three months and had just come to the terrible realisation that I couldn’t make it work. I gave myself two weeks to come up with another idea and I spent most of those two weeks just walking around aimlessly waiting for inspiration to strike. On the last day of the two weeks I was walking past a mansion block on Finchley Road and noticed one of the windows was completely filled up with junk. I’d been watching TV shows about hoarders and knew that there was always some deep psychological trigger for the hoarding compulsion to strike and it made me wonder about who lived in that flat and why they had started hoarding and as I thought that, I suddenly pictured Lorelei and her big family and her scruffy cottage and I started writing it the next day.


In the book,  Lorelei likes to, how shall we say, “collect” things.  Are you a hoarder or can you de-clutter at will?

I am a disgusting hoarder. My problem is that because I live in a very big house it hasn’t quite hit me yet just how much ridiculous, pointless crap I have accumulated. If I had to downsize and fit it all in a smaller house I think I would be horrified. Unlike Lorelei, however, I don’t have an emotional attachment  to my crap. I would love someone to come along and get rid of it all for me. (Apart from my books – nobody touches my books!)

Just how busy has your pre-publication agenda for this novel been, and how will you be celebrating, come Thursday?

So far I haven’t had any pre-publication duties to attend to at all. But these things can sometimes be a bit last minute so we’ll see. As for celebrations, I have nothing official planned but have been invited out for – unconnected – drinks with some local mums. I shall use it as an excuse to drink champagne with impunity. It’s also my birthday the day after so I will be drinking champagne yet again. And then it’s the weekend, so, you know. More champagne.

You’ve held some fantastic author events and signings over the years, with some equally fab competitions. Any upcoming dates/features we should know about for our diaries?

Could I direct your readers to my blog in answer to that question? For some reason after years of being NFI I am suddenly very in demand for events and panels and I have a comprehensive list of everywhere I’m going to be for the rest of the year here: http://www.lisa-jewell.co.uk/blog

Your characters truly come to life on the page, Lisa, which is what makes them so memorable and, in turn, drives such great stories.  Are you a people-watcher? If so, where are your favourite places to pick up those ideas and snippets of gossip?

The book I’m writing at the moment was inspired in part by a feature I saw on the Jeremy Kyle Show. It was about two sisters who’d shared a childhood trauma so haunting I couldn’t shake it from my consciousness. Another strand of the story was inspired by old neighbours of ours. It was the husband’s third family and I was fascinated by the idea of how some people can go from family to family, children to children, and make it look so unremarkable. I wanted to look at all the painful moments that lay behind those decisions. 31 Dream Street was inspired by a crazy house I saw near my sister’s place and Toby was inspired by a man outside my local tube station holding a placard for a comedy night. Arlette’s story in Before I Met You came from an article I read on the net about a real-life jazz orchestra. Betty’s story was inspired in part by Meg Mathew’s arc from Guernsey girl to Queen of the Primrose Hill scene. So, I guess what I’m saying is that there is no ‘favourite place’. I don’t even have to leave the house sometimes to find inspiration! You just need finely-tuned antenna that can pick up on the gems within all the white noise and wallpaper.

If you could read an excerpt from The House We Grew Up In to an audience at any venue, worldwide, which venue would you choose and why?

For greatest effect I would actually like to read a passage from it whilst in a hoarded house, the audience maybe sitting on tops of piled up boxes and squashed between bin-bags. But if I were to be truly indulgent, probably on the beach at the Eden Rock Hotel in St Barths. Who’s coming?! (Room for nine, Lisa?!) LJ blog pic 3

The fabulous Eden Rock…


And finally, a few for fun …

Perfect day out in London?

I think I may have had this yesterday actually. I spent the morning on the South Bank with my youngest daughter, then had lunch at home in the garden with my husband and brother-in-law and our children, then I met my sister and a friend at Barbican and we sat in the afternoon sun in Postman’s Park. There’s an art nouveau tiled memorial there, each plaque telling the story of an ordinary person who sacrificed their life to save somebody else’s. It includes  lots of children rescuing younger siblings. There’s a whole novel contained on each plaque and every one is heartbreaking and fascinating. LJ blog pic 2

We then wandered up through to Farringdon and got the tube to Kings Cross to a cool canal-side bar called Shrimpys where we drank beer out of plastic cups and laughed till we cried.

Biggest writing myth?

I think the greatest misconception people have is that easy to read books are easy to write.  They are not.

Author  you’d love to interview?

JK Rowling.

Most unusual place you’ve ever seen or heard about anyone reading one of your books?

Someone once wrote to tell me they’d picked up a rather ragged copy of Ralph’s Party at a remote trekkers’ hostel in Mongolia.

Glastonbury or Notting Hill Carnival?

Neither, thank you!

Three words that sum up Lisa Jewell?

Lazy, happy Londoner.

Thanks so much, Lisa. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you. Best of luck with The House We Grew Up In ahead of its launch on Thursday, and Happy Birthday for Friday!

Available to pre-order : http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-House-We-Grew-Up/dp/1846059240?ie=UTF8&tag=randomhouse&linkCode=as2&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=1846059232

Connect with Lisa on Facebook via:  http://www.facebook.com/LisaJewellofficial

Follow Lisa on Twitter @lisajewelluk

Tuesday Chit Chat with Gillian Green

Today, we are delighted to have Gillian Green, Ebury’s Commercial Fiction Editorial Director joining us. Gillian has been very busy developing Ebury’s Fiction lists so we’re very honoured that she has managed to pop by for a Tuesday Chit Chat. (Now, where did our best biscuits get to?)

Q: What attracted you to a life in publishing?

Unsurprisingly I’ve always loved books but as a working class girl from Devon I don’t think it ever occurred to me before I started my first degree that a) someone edited all the books I devoured and b) that someone could be me…. I also did a creative writing course in my final year in which we had to edit each others’ work which also got me started thinking about it as a career.

Q: Do you manage to keep your job ‘9-5’ and if not what aspects do you take home with you?

Most fiction editors read outside of office hours and at weekends. I actually relish my commute as reading time. If I lived closer to the office I’d get a lot less done!

Q: What’s the most rewarding/challenging aspect of being an editor?

I love working with authors and seeing a book you’ve worked on hit the shelves and get the readership it deserves. The most challenging aspect is probably getting the right package for a book – jacket, blurb etc – so you can give a book its best shot in an ever competitive market.

Q: Do you have any guilty reading pleasures?

I love the True Blood series by Charlaine Harris – I’m not sure I feel guilty about that though. And I have always loved the late Maeve Binchy books – they’re my go-to comfort read. I was very sad to learn of her passing.

Having worked on Nora Roberts’ books for so long at Piatkus,  I’ve also been known to dip back into my mum’s collection when I’m visiting. She also has a lot of the romances I published at Piatkus and I will happily re-read Julia Quinn or Susan Elizabeth Phillips.  (My Mum would say the most rewarding thing  about having a daughter who is an editor is that she never has to buy books!)

Q: Away from work, what do you do to wind down?

I read! Or I catch up with friends. I like old movies and musicals. I’m trying to get fit –  not so much the gym but I do classes and I love Zumba.

Q: Have you ever wanted to be on the other side of the table and write a novel?

Well, way back when I did my creative writing course, perhaps but now I’m very happy being the midwife rather than the one in labour, having a baby once a year  so to speak!

Q: How important is the synopsis?

It is a punishment that we editors like to inflict on authors! (Cue evil laugh!) I know authors hate them – in fact I’ve only ever had one author in my entire publishing career who loved writing them. However,  for new partial submissions we do need an idea that you know where your story is going and that it’s a good one. Also, that your sweeping historical romance doesn’t suddenly have aliens arrive etc…

With commissioned writers we need to know what future books are about so we can plan and brief jackets and write advance information sheets.  I think authors panic because they think I’m going to hold them to every word.

Q: What makes a good book title?

For commercial fiction they have to be short and snappy. I like intriguing titles that tell me something about the hook of a book. I’d also say though that new writers shouldn’t get too hung up on titles as we publishers often suggest changes. (Did I mention we’re evil?)

Q: What are the most common mistakes you see in manuscripts?

Info-dumping – whether it’s authors dumping all the research they’ve done into scenes or delivering too much back story in one hit. Starting a story in the wrong place happens quite a lot. A lot of the women’s fiction I read on submission rushes the ending when I think readers, having spent a whole book getting there, like to bathe in the happy ending a little more. As my authors will attest, I’m a big fan of epilogues in women’s fiction too.  On a more practical note:  spell check – you’d be surprised how many people don’t even do the basics.

Q: What are the deciding factors that take a novel from e-pub only to paperback?

With Ebury Press and Black Lace I’m commissioning titles that will go to print and simultaneous epub. Rouge, our digital first romance list, we are now publishing two titles a month in print as well as two titles a month digitally. We’re cherry-picking titles at the moment as we have a wealth of romance titles on the list. What informs my ‘cherry-picking’ – well, all the Rouge titles are great romances and all of them would work as print titles. However, I can only do two a month so it usually comes down to what genre/theme/title I think will work the best – and personal taste.

Q: Have you ever had ‘one that got away’?

Every publisher has – whether it’s books you miss out on at auction stage or can’t get enough support for in house. Or books you love that just don’t fit your list.  Or sometimes you do miss something. Some go on to be huge successes and you have a mutter to yourself – or at colleagues –  and move on. Or sometimes a book goes for a  huge sum of money and then sinks without a trace. And then you give an evil laugh and move on…

A big thank you to Gillian for taking the time to come and chat to us.