To begin with, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I’m English. I was born and raised where Surrey meets Greater London, and went to school nearby, but I now live about 250 miles north in North Yorkshire.
I did a degree from home with the Open University, rather than going away, but physics turns out not to be that useful in writing chick lit or looking after a toddler. Who’d have guessed? Frankly, as a self-published author, the most useful subject to study would have been marketing.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I don’t know that I did. I just wrote. I knew I wanted to write a novel someday, and I did that at 20 with The Dr Pepper Prophecies, but it was a personal challenge rather than a career choice. This was long before the e-reader, when self-publishing was very expensive.
Having been given a Kindle by my husband (despite much resistance on my part), I discovered you could publish on Amazon and put up TDPP on a bit of a whim. Before I knew it, I was a fully-fledged self-publisher.
What is your writing style like?
The Dr Pepper Prophecies is very Sophie Kinsella-like, but as I go on my style is developing. Like her, I write as my main character, in the first person and present tense. My grammar checkers scream at me for sentences that are fragments, or that start with ‘And’ and ‘But’. The thing is, when you’re writing in this style, you have to write as your character would speak. And very few people use perfect grammar.
You’ve published 2 novels and 2 short stories so far. Are they all stand alone novels are do readers have to read them in any special order?
Wedding Hells is a prequel to The Dr Pepper Prophecies. After Wimbledon, Flights of Nancy and my new book Early Daze are stand-alone.
You've just published a new novella, which is called Early Daze. What is it about, and what inspired you to write it?
Early Daze is about Jess, whose life is turned upside down when her baby arrives three months early. The book follows her first few months as a mother, while her baby is in the hospital.
I did the best kind of research for this: I lived through it. My daughter was born in Jan 2012, two days shy of the end of my second trimester. Jess’ daughter, Samantha, is based closely on her. The Facebook posts Jess writes to update friends and family are adapted from the actual ones I wrote, and I also used the diary I kept. Can’t get more authentic than that! Jess and her relationships, however, are fictional. It’s not a memoir – my life is too dull for that!
Who designs your book covers? They are lovely!
They were done by JelenaM at 99 Designs. On that site, you run a competition among designers. I did that for The Dr Pepper Prophecies and then commissioned the ones for After Wimbledon and Wedding Hells privately. The cover for Flights of Nancy I did myself in the same style (I bought the pictures – I’ve no skill in that area!).
For Early Daze, I wanted something a bit different as it’s women’s fiction rather than chick lit. I’ve done my own cover with a stock photo, but I may well get one custom made later on.
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Everything I’ve read says it does. I know I pick up books based on whether I like it. You really only have your cover and title to attract a browser.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Well, I have a toddler, so I don’t have a lot of time. I do Zumba classes, and I like walking. I read some (not nearly enough). We’ve just bought a new house, so there’s a lot of work to do there.
I do amateur dramatics and operatics with local societies, although not every show because they take up a lot of time. I like playing characters that are slightly evil or mad, because they’re more fun. I keep thinking I should write a book about an am dram group, but I’m afraid some people I know might creep into the characters. That’s never a good plan.
Do you ever experience a writer's block?
All the time. Having one right now. It’s a miracle I ever write anything.
What is next for you? Are you currently working on a new novel?
I’m working – slowly – on a sort-of-sequel to The Dr Pepper Prophecies, only this time I’m writing about Mel’s sister, Brittany. I did think about a straight sequel, and I knew what would happen to Mel next, but I was having trouble making it work as a novel. This book will catch up with her, while letting me explore another character.
Jennifer Gilby Roberts book releases
Thank you for reading this interview!