Jane Fallon was born in north London, the youngest of five children of Irish-Catholic-meets-East-End extraction. Her parents ran a newsagents and the family of seven lived in the flat above. On days when it snowed and all the paper boys skived off, Jane would be sent out to do the paper rounds. The shop, which was open seven days a week (with half day closing on Wednesdays and Sundays) had a small paperback book stand and Jane would write ‘novels’ (eight handwritten pages plus illustrations) and try to persuade her father to sell them. He refused, of course.
When she was a teenager they moved to a nice house in the commuter belt and Jane attended Slough Convent School, where the highlight was the day one of the elderly nuns died and the whole school was compelled to line up two by two, to be shut in a room with the body for two minutes, while another nun timed them from behind the closed door. Aged 14 she watched ‘The Paper Chase’ and decided she wanted to be a lawyer. It’s always a mistake to mention something like this in a school not famed for its academic achievements and she was never allowed to forget it. Consequently she arrived at University College London to study for a law degree and soon realised it was a grave error. Two months later, having been told by the English and History of Art Departments that they would give her a place but only for the following academic year, she switched to History because they said ‘start tomorrow’. She got a 3rd.
On leaving she was unemployed for eighteen months. Jane would try to ignore the job advertisements which her father used to cut out of the paper and send to her, until one for a ‘Girl Friday’ in a Theatrical and Literary Agency arrived. She got the job. She then worked as a script reader and for several years as a script editor before ending up as the series script editor at ‘EastEnders’. After a year and a half she was made a producer (one of three) and stayed for another year. Towards the end of that time she went in to meet Tony Garnett at World Productions who was in talks with the BBC about a new show, ‘This Life’. Jane ended up producing both series, thirty two episodes in all. Both the first and second series received multiple awards and nominations. She went on to produce ‘Undercover Heart’, a six part crime drama for the BBC starring Daniela Nardini before developing and Executive Producing the hit tv show ‘Teachers’. ‘Teachers’ ran to four series and during its run Jane also developed and Executive Produced ‘Single’ for ITV and ‘20 Things To Do Before You’re 30’, which she co-created with Liz Lewin and which ran for eight episodes on Channel 4.
One night in October 2004 when she couldn’t sleep (being a life long insomniac), she came up with the idea for ‘Getting Rid of Matthew’. At the same time she realised that she never wanted to make another TV show again. So she didn’t. She gave in her notice and wrote a novel instead. Writing proved to be a joyous experience for someone with such a misanthropic outlook on life. Luckily Penguin bought the book thus enabling her to continue her new life style of spending all day in her pyjamas and avoiding all human contact.
Jane Fallon, author of Getting Rid of Matthew, on writing in leaky conservatories, Eliza Bennet and Ollie the cat.
Which newspaper do you read?
I skim read the Guardian, Metro and the Telegraph every morning and then spend the rest of the day trying to do the Telegraph crossword. I can never resist reading all the tabloids online especially at the weekend. My favourite day of the month is the day Vanity Fair drops through my letterbox.
Who / what is your biggest influence?
Undoubtedly discovering Praxis by Fay Weldon when I was 16 had a major effect on how I viewed literature.
What books are you reading at the moment?
Jodi Picoult’s amazingly ambitious and thought provoking My Sister’s Keeper, The Real Oliver Twist, a biography of Robert Blincoe by John Waller and I’m rereading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte for about the fifth time.
What books did you read as a child?
Anything I could get my hands on but if I had a choice Noel Streatfield.
Which literary character would you most like to meet?
Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.
Where / when do you do most of your writing?
My favourite place to write is on my roof terrace but the weather dictates I spend most of my time in a leaky conservatory.
Have you ever had any other jobs apart from writing?
I was a TV Producer for about 10 years before I gave it up to write a novel but I’ve also been a room service waitress, a shop assistant, a receptionist, a chambermaid. Basically anything that involved serving or cleaning.
Who or what always puts a smile on your face?
My cat Ollie, and pretty much any other animal. Apart from spiders obviously. Only a maniac would smile when they saw a spider.
How would you like to be remembered?
I don’t understand why people get hung up on being remembered. You’re dead. Who cares?
Where’s your favourite city?
New York just beats London into second place.