The Darker Side of Love, a book I really enjoyed and would definitely recommend. I was lucky enough to get to ask some Jessica some questions about the book, amongst other things, so my thanks go to Helena at Headline for organising the interview, and Jessica for answering my questions!
Q1. Please tell me about your new book The Darker Side of Love.
The Darker Side of Love is about a group of four women and their other halves, friends and families, set against the backdrop of London during the credit crunch/recession. They all have outwardly successful lives, but none of them are quite what they seem... There's almost a thriller aspect to the book as well, with a mysterious event that is only revealed towards the end.
Q2. All of the characters in the book are very flawed in their own individual ways. How hard was it to write the flaws of these characters and try to keep them as likeable people, that we'd like in spite of their flaws? Do you find it easier to write characters with flaws?
All my characters are flawed - I can't imagine writing a perfect character, it just doesn't ring true to me. I'd find it really difficult to write a convincing character that didn't have some weak spots.
Q3. There are quite a lot of characters in The Darker Side... , how do you go about keeping track of them all when you're writing, do you have copious notebooks with millions of notes in them?! Also, where did you get inspiration for them all? Are they based on any real people that you know?!
No, I don't really have a problem keeping track of them, once the characters are fixed in my head then I feel like I know them. I do have a problem keeping track of dates and ages though, so I keep a document as I'm writing with birthdates, how old they are at certain points in their lives/the book etc, otherwise I get myself into a terrible tangle... No, I never base characters on real people, though of course I steal bits and pieces from life - fragments of dialogue and mannerisms or expression, for instance, might well work themselves into something I'm writing. I do observe how people behave and interact constantly, though - I imagine all writers do.
Q4. I adore the cover for The Darker Side of Love, it's really gorgeous, yet very different to your previous two covers. Is it intentional that each of your books have had a unique cover style, and could you pick one as your favourite?
Thank you! Yes, I'm very pleased with this cover as well. I couldn't pick a favourite really, as like you say, they're all so different!
Q5. How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have a specific way of doing things, such as sticking to a strict schedule, and which bit of the whole writing a book/publication process is your favourite?
Well I've been publishing approximately a book a year, so that's the time frame I have for each one - I do alot of thinking before I start writing, and then I tend to write the books reasonably quickly. I find I write best in the mornings, so you'll often find me up and working by six. I'm useless for fiction writing in the afternoons so unless I'm at the end of a book (when the momentum is such that it's hard to stop) I'll tend to do other work then - marking for the courses I teach or journalism, or research - and often come back to the novel in the evening. My favourite part is the ideas and planning stage probably, where I am shifting characters around and it's all still a wonderful possibility...
Q6. Did you always want to be an author? How long did it take you to get your publishing deal for your first book 'Luxury'?
I've always written, but only started writing fiction in my late twenties, when I signed with my agent and got my deal for Luxury. It's hard to measure how long it took, because it all happened in different stages - but I was lucky enough to be signed up by Simon Trewin, who now represents me, on the strength of the first 25,000 words of the book.
Q7. What do you when you aren't writing books?
I teach online creative writing courses (http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/how-to-write-a-novel.html), I'm a freelance journalist, and I'm also in the process of working on some TV projects. I'm also having my first baby in the Spring so will be taken up with that for a bit!
Q8. What are your thoughts on the term "chick lit"?
I think it's overused. I think of chick lit as quite a specific thing, whereas sometimes it seems as though it's applied to any book written by a woman now, which annoys me.
Q9. Who are some of your favourite books and authors? Do you have an all-time favourite book?
My all time favourite novel is Asylum, by Patrick McGrath. I love all sorts of writers - some of my favourites are F Scott Fitzgerald, The Pursuit of Happiness by Douglas Kennedy, Jay McInerney, Penny Vincenzi...
Q10. Are you yet working on your fourth novel?
Yes, I'm working hard on it at the moment, it'll be out early next year.