I think us readers all have one or two authors who are very special to us. Y’know the ones; maybe they’ve written books which have stuck with you, books which you know that you’ll undoubtedly read again and the special thing about these authors is that they never, ever disappoint. Lisa Jewell is one of my special authors. Her books never fail to enthrall, astound and compel me and her storytelling is wonderful. In case you hadn’t already picked up on it, the truth of the matter is that I love Lisa Jewell. Therefore I was delighted when I was given the opportunity to kick off the blog tour for her latest brilliant release, I Found You which is out today. It was an absolute privilege to be able to quiz Lisa on her writing inspiration, publication day nerves and how it feels to have written her FOURTEENTH novel!
Hi Lisa, welcome to Bookaholic Confessions! Thank you so much for participating in this interview, I am absolutely DELIGHTED to have you on my blog! Would you like to start by introducing yourself…?
Hello there BC! And thank you for having me here on my publication day! I’m Lisa Jewell and I’m the author of fourteen novels. The first, a romantic comedy called Ralph’s Party, was started as a bet with a friend back in 1996 when I’d just lost my job as secretary. It scored me a big publishing deal with Penguin and was the bestselling debut of 1998. My books have become darker in tone and theme since those early days and now I would say I write psychological family dramas.
Can you tell us a bit about your new novel, I Found You (released 14th July 2016 with Century)?
I Found You is the story of Alice, a single mother of three children by three different fathers and the owner of three dogs, only one of which is hers. She lives in an East Yorkshire seaside town, often on the edge of chaos. One day she sees a man sitting on the beach in the rain and goes down to ask him if he’s OK. He tells her that he has lost his memory, and against her better instincts she invites him into her home. Meanwhile, in Surrey, twenty-one-year-old Ukrainian Lily is waiting for her brand new husband to get home from work. When he fails to return she calls the police. They run a check on his passport and discover that it is a fake, that Lily’s husband does not technically exist.
I am completely intrigued by the storyline for I Found You; it sounds incredible. What was your inspiration behind the story?
I took a strange roundabout route to get to the storyline as it now exists. For ages I’d been wanting to write a novel about two people who meet on a suicide pact forum and end up falling in love, could they save each other etc. But every time I mentioned this idea to someone they’d recoil. So eventually I abandoned the idea, but I was still left with this intriguing couple, this coastguard’s cottage and this gorgeous East Yorkshire seaside town. So basically I had to come up with another story I could shoehorn them all into!
I Found You is your 14th novel (Congratulations!) Does releasing a book get any less nerve racking?
Thank you! And no, publication is always, always stressful. If the last book was really well received you’re nervous that the new one will let everyone down, and if the last book was not well received you’re worried that you’ve written another turkey. You worry about bad reviews, and then you worry about poor sales. Tuesday afternoons when the sales figure come through is basically just spent sitting with your finger over the send/receive button on your email, feeling a bit queasy. It never gets any easier!
As a massive fan of your novels I obviously love all of them, but my absolute favourites are The Making of Us and The Girls. This is a really evil question but do you have any personal favourites out of all of the novels that you’ve written?
That’s not at all evil! And yes, I do have two absolute favourites. The first is from the earlier, more relationship based novels; Vince & Joy. I loved all the subsidiary characters in it, particularly Vince’s family and various flatmates. I loved devising way to keep Vince & Joy apart yet so tantalisingly close for so long. It’s such a great love story and I must re-read it one day! The other favourite is The House We Grew Up In. It was one of those books that just wrote itself, again with a cast of weird and fascinating characters that I just adored writing about. And finding out more about hoarding disorder was so interesting.
…Or how about any favourite characters from your novels?
I love Toby from 31 Dream Street, Vince’s dad in Vince & Joy, Lorelei from The House We Grew Up In, Gordon and Tyler from The Girls, and Alice from this new one. Some characters are just so good to get your teeth into, they come pouring out onto the page as if you’ve known them forever.
Talking of characters, are yours always fictional or do you ever base them on anyone in real life?
All my characters are fictional. Some of them are probably lightly informed, shall we say, by people I’ve met or heard about in real life. Lorelei in The House We Grew Up In, for example, was inspired by the mother in a hoarding memoir I read as research. Others are entirely, uniquely their own person; Alice, for example, in I Found You, who is not inspired in any way by anyone real.
Do you have any tips for all of the aspiring authors out there?
On a practical level I would say do not under any circumstances attempt to write a novel on the same computer that you use for checking your email and surfing. And better still, try and work somewhere without Wi-Fi. My writing life has been revolutionised by taking my laptop out of the house and working in cafes. Another thing that’s transformed my writing life has been instigating a strict thousand-word-a-day minimum word count. Before I would just write ‘as much as I could’. Often this would translate as ‘nothing.’ Push yourself to get those words out and don’t let yourself do anything nice until you’ve done it. It doesn’t matter if they’re bad words. You can sort that out later. And if you’re working Wi-Fi free, you’ll be amazed by how quickly you can sometimes reach your goal.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I wanted to be a writer as a small child. Very much so. But as I entered adolescence my interests changed and I lost interest in reading and writing and became completely obsessed with music. My ambition then was to become a music journalist. However, I didn’t follow any of the routes I needed to follow to become a music journalist and ended up working in fashion retail for quite a long time. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I started reading again and that reignited my latent desire to be a writer.
Who are your favourite authors and which type of books do you enjoy reading? Do you have any favourites from 2016 so far?
There are no authors whose books I will buy simply for their name. I always wait to hear a bit of feedback or see some reviews, to get a feel for whether it’s going to be a good one or not. I have read all of Maggie O’Farrell’s books on that basis. I also love Harriet Lane, Tammy Cohen and Louise Millar. My favourite book so far this year is, by a very long way, The Girl In The Red Coat by Kate Hamer.
And finally – can you tell us a bit about what you’re up to at the moment?
Right now I am halfway through book fifteen. It has the working title of ‘Poppy’ and is about a woman called Laurel who sees a teenage girl on a street near where she used to live who looks exactly like her own teenage daughter, Ellie – who disappeared fourteen years earlier. It’s not a mystery as such, as we see Ellie in flashbacks interwoven into the story and we know what happened to her. It’s more of an adventure I would say, as Ellie’s mother puts together the various pieces of information that could lead her back to her daughter. And I’m also starting to formulate book sixteen which I’m very excited about but which will have to remain to secret for now I’m afraid!
A huge thank you to Lisa for answering my questions and to Gemma at Cornerstone.
Click here to get hold of your copy of I Found You.