Jane Green
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A Novel Idea in The Lady Magazine, by Jane Green

August 28th, 2015

Hours spent Cooking: 2

Hours spent on Facebook: 2

Hours spent having tea with friends: 1.5

Hours spent food shopping: 1.25

Hours spent tidying/organizing: 1.5

Hours spent writing: 0


I have a tiny office in our local theatre, the Westport Country Playhouse. I moved in several months ago as their ‘unofficial writer-in-residence”, decorated it with beautiful trays, lamps and throws, then disappeared.

I get emails and Facebook messages from them saying they all miss me terribly, and I am now their “unofficial writer-out-of-residence”

Being busy with other things is not good for the business of writing novels. This year I wrote a cookbook, several articles, then went on book tour to promote the novel I wrote a year ago. I am looking for all sorts of ways to procrastinate, and this must stop.

But not today. There is cooking to be done. Tonight we have new friends coming for dinner. A couple we met last week, the husband of whom is from Belsize Park. This is not terribly exciting to anyone living in the UK, but when you have spent fifteen years living in Westport, Connecticut, and you find someone who grew up five minutes away in the old country, it is hugely exciting.

When we were introduced, he narrowed his eyes in a semi-good-natured way before accusing me of writing about him in all my novels. Apparently I give him different names every time, but I have, at various times, got his school right, his University right, and even his coat of choice (Barbour. What else?).

It is a funny thing, writing novels. When you do use someone for inspiration, within a handful of pages, they inevitably develop a character of their own, quite unlike whoever you had in mind.

Interestingly, you are only ever accused of writing about people when they have never crossed your mind. I once heard a woman in this town – Valerie – was “furious” with me, because I had written about her. I couldn’t recall anything, I barely knew her, so I grabbed a copy of Spellbound off the shelves, and found, on page 42, and 43, a brief mention of a seductive French mistress called Valerie. Oh dear.

I have also apparently written about a local obstetrician, at least one hairdresser, and many, many of the housewives.

With the exception of Valerie (who clearly wasn’t the Valerie in the book, and I’m quite sure she wasn’t furious either), all the people I haven’t written about are delighted! Enormously flattered! They dine out on it for years!

And so the man from Belsize Park I have not ever written about is coming for dinner tonight. I am making my most impressive Asian Steamed Bass, and I will quiz him for details of his life, because I now feel obliged to have a touch of Belsize Park man in every future novel.

It clearly wouldn’t be the same without him.

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