Writing life: Jilly Cooper

One of the UK’s most celebrated authors: her racy romps have been titillating readers for decades. Here, she explains how she starts a day’s writing, including the one tool she can’t do without.


A haunted hideaway

I get up at 7am and cook breakfast for my animals. Then I grind up croissants, fruit cake and breadcrumbs and feed the birds.

Every morning I look through my post – I get about 20 letters a day. I seldom start work before noon.

I write in either of two disgustingly messy tips. One is a room at the top of the house. The other is a shed at the bottom of the garden, in the Cotswolds, which I adore.

It’s called a gazebo (rather grandly), it has beautiful views of the valley and it’s haunted. When I first worked there, none of the dogs would go in because they were so frightened of the hauntedness. Two monks are believed to have hanged themselves there, but I’ve never seen them.

The indispensable Monica

I go down there, where I have wonderful Monica, who I think is the first typewriter that’s ever had an acknowledgement in a book. Monica is a very, very old manual typewriter, and I bought her in 1982. She had on the side, Monica, and I didn’t know whether it was the make, or whether a girl in a typing pool had slapped the name Monica on her.

All my big books, from Rivals onwards, have been written on her. She just bashes away. All the computers go down in the house, and you can hear the foul language coming up the chimney, but I’m in the gazebo, tapping away on Monica.

I do write an awful lot in longhand but, being a journalist, I think onto a typewriter, so most of it’s done on Monica.

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