Jill Mansell: The five things I can’t live without as a writer

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By Jade Craddock

Bestselling author Jill Mansell has twenty-six novels to her name, having seen the recent release of the superb Three Amazing Things About You. Here she gives us an insight into the five things she can’t live without as a writer.  ♥


I like to break up my writing time with little rewards throughout the day – tiny cups of coffee, packets of crisps, fruit gums, liquorice wheels, dried fruit and basically anything small and delicious that might be lurking in the kitchen whispering my name…

My copy of the Yellow Pages!
I always like to read through this in search of interesting ideas for jobs my characters might like to do. I have a lot of characters in my books so I’m always on the hunt for useful careers. It sounds daft, but one of the most difficult jobs I ever wrote about was office work – having never worked in an office I had no idea what it entailed and had to ask people who knew!

I am endlessly nosy and love to eavesdrop in bars and restaurants or on journeys – in my search for ideas, I also love to listen to other people’s phone calls. When I’m on a train up to London I always yearn to know why everyone else is going there. Once the train was stopped for an hour, we all started talking to each other and I actually found out all their stories, which was just brilliant. I also love the way falling into conversation with strangers can result in discovering you have things or friends in common – all of us are so much more interlinked than we think. And nothing is ever wasted – you never know what small but fascinating discovery you might be able to use in a book.

A Timeline!
I started creating a timeline for my books a few years ago and it’s become invaluable to me. I tape together many sheets of A4 paper then add sticky notes along its length, bearing details of small plot points that have to happen in time order. It helps me see where I’m aiming to get to, and stops me reaching the end of a book then suddenly remembering a certain tangential plotline that I’d started but forgotten to finish!

Since I first started writing book-related things in notebooks I’ve kept them all and when I’m stuck and in search of ideas I still get them out and look through them. You never know when a sentence you once scribbled down twenty years ago might suddenly leap off the page and spark an idea for your next book. (It also makes me smile to see the cheap little notebooks I bought back then for 20 pence. Over time, I have traded up and splashed out on more glamorous ones and nowadays only use those by Christian Lacroix – but the handwriting and the ideas in them are just the same!)

Jill Mansell lives with her family in Bristol. She used to work in the field of clinical neurophysiology but now writes full time. Find out more at: jillmansell.co.uk.


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