jane blanchard
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The author of hilarious fortysomething novels In Cahoots! and Nailing Harry, talks about writing her third, Getting It, which is published in September 2003.

What inspires you to write?
Situations, jokes, throwaway remarks. I’ve spent thirty years (so far) in the media so I have absolutely heaps to draw on. Believe me, I’ve hardly scratched the surface. It’s mad in there.

How long does it take you to write a novel?
About a year. I have a very frantic day job as features editor of a television company so I write at very odd hours of the day and night.

Do you have a writing routine? If so, what is it?
I aim to do at least three evening sessions a week plus at least one very full morning. I write in a tiny office at home with curtains firmly drawn and I’m usually in my jim jams. It seems to work better that way. Positively no music or internet surfing allowed. Only cups of decent coffee. If I’ve had a good session, I award myself several games of computer solitaire. If I haven’t, then I still play anyway.

Is it harder to start or finish a novel?
I think it’s much harder to start. There’s a huge amount of laying down all the ground rules for the characters and getting to know them. Then I worry about the long and lonely road ahead. But to me, finishing is somehow a triumph over adversity. I always give a loud cheer, punch the air and do a bit of a victory roll around the office when I type THE END. But it’s very sad to say goodbye to characters with whom you’ve lived for the past year. They become secret friends.

How did you go about finding an agent and do you think it's necessary to have an agent?
I was lucky in that I knew an agent and I was even luckier that she took me on. I think it’s absolutely essential to have an agent, not just for the obvious, like getting you the dosh. Mine is an ex editor so she’s much more than an agent. Also the legal side gets taken care of and you know your books are properly handled and out in the market place.

How do you cure writer's block?
I think I’m helped by the fact that I have to write all day every day in a very pressured environment. With minutes ticking to a bulletin or programme, you have no choice but to get on with it. The same approach works with writing novels. I don’t believe anyone needs to suffer from writer’s block. It’s a question of plotting. I do my stint and then list bullet points about what happens next so that I can pick up the thread immediately. I was warned from the start by my agent never to sit down in front of a blank screen wondering what to write.

What is your all-time desert island book?
Probably Bill Bryson’s Notes From a Small Island which never fails to make me laugh. Especially that chapter about going into a pub and asking directions. It’s soooooo absolutely our local pub. I also figure that if I’m stuck on a desert island, I’d want to be reminded of home.

What's the biggest myth about being a writer?
Earning shed loads of money for a start. Everyone assumes that it gets easier and that the film rights are snapped up immediately. There’s also a perception that you just waft into your office, and happily tap tap tap away at your computer, sip away at a glass of wine, listen to a bit of Chopin. Oh and of course you’re able to break off at any moment to take phone calls.

What advice would you give budding authors?
Don’t do it for the money. Do it for the sense of achievement. Write about what you know and don’t discuss it with anyone. Otherwise you’ll get constant ‘how’s that book going then, eh’ followed by loads of suggestions for storylines. Everyone will tell you that they too have a book in them – if only it could fight its way out. My advice: shut your mouth, shut those curtains, put on your pyjamas and get cracking.

What can readers expect from Jane Blanchard in the future?
My next book is called Getting It – it’s about two women who lie about their ages to clinch jobs at a new TV shopping channel called Getting It that is starting up in their town. They fancy a bit of fame and fortune but the channel is a complete disaster with products that go wrong day after day. Result – viewing figures and sales rocket and the bosses have to decide whether to carry on doing it badly. I’ve always loved accidental television. You know that magic moment when you realise that the programmes are actually terrible but nobody’s bothered to tell the performers. As a child I used to have hysterics watching Come Dancing with all those permatanned hairdressers and bank clerks doing the paso doble wearing next to nothing and a few sequins. Then came the shopping channels with all those terrible products you never knew you needed – until now. I’ve several mates who work on them and I think they’re the bravest people on the planet. This book is for them.