jenny colgan
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Former NHS Trust worker Jenny Colgan turned her hand to stand-up comedy before landing a book deal with Harper Collins. Here she talks about commercial fiction, Justin Timberlake, and the persistant worry of arse spreadage.

What inspires you to write?
The thought of the alternative ways of making a living!

How long does it take you to write a novel?
Nine or ten months

Do you have a writing routine? If so, what is it?
Yes, I think you have to. Waiting for the muse to strike I imagine is pretty high risk. I get up at eight and try to write book before I go to the gym about eleven (it is a very sedentary job: arse spreadage is a constant concern), then in the afternoon I write journalism pieces. I have to write three pages a day. That's why there's so much dialogue in my books- it takes up more space!

Is is harder to start or finish a novel?
Neither; being in the middle is the tricky bit. You know where your characters start, and how you'd like them to end (although they won't always do what you ask), but moving them about in the middle can get a bit frustrating.

How did you go about finding an agent and do you think it's necessary to have an agent??
It's imperative. I realise I was lucky with my timing; I was looking for an agent for young commercial women's fiction four years ago. But the only way to do it is buy a good handbook (I recommend the Writers & Artists Yearbook) and follow its instructions to the letter. And don't get too worried; there aren't thousands of fabulous books being submitted every week. About 97% of everything agents get is barking (christian nazis, porn, that kind of thing), so if you can write a sentence grammatically you're already beating the odds.

How do you cure writers block?
No such thing; or else, every day is writer's block. You'll notice everyone that gets it (Alex Garland, J.K. Rowling) has millions and millions of pounds. I think it's that more than anything else! I wouldn't work either.

What is your all-time desert island book?
Couldn't say. But I deliberately haven't read War & Peace, in case I accidentally get sent to prison, so I suppose that one. Or A Dance to the Music of Time, all of it.

What's the biggest myth about being a writer?
That it's a lonely, sad profession. I think people want to think that; I'm always asked if I'm lonely at home. God no! It's fantastic! And we're free during the day so we can meet for lunch and go to the movies at 3pm. And there are lots of parties. Ooh, the other one is that it's harder or somehow different to write a 'literary' novel as opposed to a 'commercial' novel. This is complete bullshit. You write your view of the world, from your head. If it's funny and quirky or if it's deep and meaningful, the process is exactly the same.

What advice would you give budding authors?
Writing is more democratic than you think. Yes, there are some 'daughters of...' around, but really, people are just looking for what will sell. I found it much easier to get a novel published than to get a job at the BBC or a look in at advertising.

What can readers expect from you in the future?
As usual, I always think my *next* book will be the best one. The one I'm working on has a thirty year old trapped in the body of her sixteen year old self to see if she can get it right second time around, and I'm having lots of fun with that. Well, it's a very good exc
use to go see Justin Timberlake in concert and call it research...