Jane Green was born and brought up in London. After abandoning a Fine Art degree and a stint in journalism, she went into public relations and worked for a time on This Morning. Jane then went back into the newspaper world and became a popular feature writer with the Daily Express, before going freelance and starting her first novel. A string of international bestsellers and marriage to an American later, Jane now lives in Connecticut – but flies home to London as often as four children and lots of animals allow.
Jane Green is the internationally bestselling author of Straight Talking, Jemima J, Mr Maybe, Bookends, Babyville and Spellbound, and has sold over a million copies of her books worldwide. The Other Woman is her latest book. Here we find out more about Jane.
Who or what always puts a smile on your face?
My children laughing uncontrollably, usually at something completely ridiculous, and inevitably when they're either in the car, or just before bed when it's supposed to be 'quiet time'.
What are you reading at the moment? Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre, Fluke by Christopher Moore, Grace & Power by Sally Bedell Smith. (Always find it odd when people are asked this question that they name three books, but it's true - I have all these books on the bedside table and pick up whichever one I'm in the mood for).
Which author do you most admire? JK Rowling, for obvious reasons.
What's your earliest memory? I remember clearly lying in bed when I must have been about three, looking at the window at night time and being terrified the big bad wolf would appear there. Around the same time also remember watching my mother bathe my brother in the bathroom sink, although that may be a memory created from a photograph - so hard to distinguish.
What is your greatest fear? Disloyalty.
How would you like to be remembered?
As being a great mother and friend. Oh, and of course as being spectacularly beautiful, gracious, stylish and kind. In fact, if people could remember me as Jackie Kennedy that would help enormously.
Have you even done something you've really regretted? I once behaved appallingly with a friend of mine, way back in my early twenties. We had an odd relationship which once crossed the line into something more, then settled into friendship, but always with a frisson. He once came to stay with me in Manchester and I realised as soon as he arrived that I didn't want him there, and I practically ignored him the entire time. We spoke once when I phoned to apologise and he expressed his disappointment, and I've always felt terrible about it because he was a lovely man and deserved better.
How do you spoil yourself?
By shopping compulsively, usually for bags, and usually horribly expensive ones.
What's your favourite word/book?
Favourite books are still Brother of the More Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido, The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford, The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett and Bilgewater by Jane Gardam.
Who do you turn to in a crisis?
I am very lucky to have three great girlfriends, and lucky because I found them all after I'd moved to America, at a time when I think it is hugely easy to make acquaintances, and incredibly difficult to make real and lasting friendships. I tend to go to Heidi because she has wisdom and great common sense, and Stacy and Dina to pick over all the emotional elements.
What makes you angry? Rudeness, and being taken advantage of.
Have you ever had any other jobs apart from writing?
Gazillions. I have worked as a bartender (at university), as a temp, as a journalist, as a PR, as a shop assistant...the list goes on and on.
Are you in love?
With my family. I am blissfully happy and content, in a way that I never thought I would be.
What's your worst vice?
Not remembering people.
What are you proudest of?
Clichéd though it may be, my four children.
Where do you write?
I used to work at home but now find I spend far more time messing around on the Internet or playing spider solitaire, so I take my computer to the library, find my spot which overlooks the river, and work from there.
Where's your favourite city?
Probably New York - still find it so energising and exciting.
When was the last time you cried?
Two days ago. I had brought a dog home from a rescue shelter as a companion to our other dog, and when I tried to move his food bowl he attacked me. My husband said he'd never heard me scream before, which I was completely unaware of - I was just aware of trying to prise his jaws off my fingers, but it was enormously shocking and upsetting.
One wish; what would it be? To keep my family safe from harm.
Did you enjoy school?
Not particularly. I wasn't a terribly happy child, and never really felt as though I fitted in, which I now believe is not uncommon amongst children who are more creative. Most of the fantastically talented people I know were disasters within the rigid confines of schools and universities.
What do you believe in most?
Do as you would be done by: treating others with kindness and respect.
The author of bestsellers such as Mr Maybe, Bookends, Jemima J, Straight Talking and Babyville, Jane Green shot to fame as one of the leaders in women’s contemporary fiction. Now she has brought us Spellbound, a story about marriage, happiness and beautiful old house in Connecticut. Jane Green talks exclusively to penguin.co.uk about heroines, happy endings and handbags!
What made you switch from writing about slingbacks and cocktails to marriage, motherhood and babies? I’ve always written about real places, real bars and real parties in my books, but my life has moved on: I'm not twenty-something any more and it's been a long time since I lived that lifestyle, I just didn't have the energy any more to start going out and researching where people were going and what people were wearing. When you're working from home and you've got children, a big night out is going to Pizza Express down the road.
Chick lit was amazing and I was thrilled to be part of it. It's really been the biggest phenomenon in publishing for years and years and has brought in so many new readers, but it's gone on for too long now.
What do you think now when you look back at Straight Talking, your brilliant study of relationship angst? Straight Talking feels like a lifetime ago, as does my single life, although every now and then I do find it hard to believe that I'm actually married with a baby. And even though you're not supposed to say this, there are times when I'm desperately jealous of my single friends, living it up and going clubbing and drinking, and pulling gorgeous men, but then I remember the loneliness and the times when I was treated horrifically, and I thank my lucky stars I'm married to the perfect man with a gorgeous baby, and don't have to be 'out there' anymore.
Jemima J discovers love on the internet. Do you spend time in chat rooms? What's your favourite website at the moment? I have spent many a night in an internet chat room, but not since I've been married. I don't do the chat rooms anymore, but I have become completely addicted to eBay. I keep bidding outrageous amounts on luxury items that I suddenly decide I absolutely must have, and then feel completely sick in case I actually win and have to pay out, because of course as soon as I make the bid I realise that I don't actually need that diamond-studded pashmina lined with caviar after all.
Libby in Mr Maybe has to choose between love (gorgeous, messy Nick) and comfort (adoring investment banker Ed of the unfortunate moustache). Do you think every woman has an Ed? I don't think every woman has an Ed at all…thank God. I, unfortunately, have had a couple of 'Eds' in my life, and I can very safely say that they're actually rather a dangerous breed. The real life Eds had all sorts of peculiar fetishes and habits, and really, I can't imagine what I was thinking ever getting involved with them in the first place.
Friendship plays a key part in all your books - the title of Bookends is about Cath and Si, and how old friends can be the best. Do you think friendship is as important as love? I think friendship is more important than love, but that love that grows out of friendship is the very best of all. I've always been a real sucker for that 'When Harry Met Sally' idealised notion that best friends who become lovers make the greatest relationships. But everything I say in Bookends about friends becoming our 'family of choice', I absolutely believe. I am closer to my friends than my family, and my husband is my best friend of all, which is exactly what I always wished for.
You create such great characters. Do you feel really close to them when you're writing? And do you ever wonder what happens to them after the books end? I'd like to think I'm not quite so pretentious as to think my characters go off and live their lives once I've written the final page and switched the computer off. Having said that… I do feel fantastically close to the characters in Bookends, more so than in any of the other books apart from perhaps Jemima. I think it must be because Bookends has an incredible amount of warmth. I wrote the second half while I was pregnant, and having the wonderful sensation of a new life growing inside of me undoubtedly contributed to the writing.
In the end, your heroine's dreams always come true - though not necessarily as they might have expected. It must be an amazing feeling to be able to give people happy endings. Actually, they're not always supposed to have happy endings. When I wrote my first book, Straight Talking, Tash was supposed to end up on her own with a billion cats but happy with who she was. Unfortunately my friends ganged up on me and said they refused to countenance such a thing, and that she had to end up with a gorgeous man or they'd never buy another book again. I don't particularly like having very sugary endings, and Bookends definitely has a bittersweet ending, which is far more to my taste.
A little bird tells us you have a passion for handbags. What's your favourite bag at the moment? Oh God. Bags. I have a ridiculous and irresistible passion for bags, and unfortunately, thanks to three bestsellers, I have far too much money to spend on them. My favourite bag right now, and probably until my death due to its unbelievable cost, is a classic Hermes Kelly bag in a beautiful indigo.
Back to work … Do you have a special routine around writing? I think we probably imagine novelists still sitting by open windows with fountain pens … I sit by a closed window, facing the computer, silently pleading for the phone to ring to ease the pressure of having to finish the page. I'm also completely addicted to solitaire, and can quite happily spend hours playing. But I do have to be in the mood to write. No point sitting down every day and just writing. If I'm bored my readers will be bored, so I always wait for inspiration to strike.
Is it like going to the gym - can you treat yourself to a special new outfit as an incentive to write? If only life were that easy…
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