LIVE READ 2011 - Transcript

April 04, 2011
Here's the transcript of the live Q&A I did with the Liverpool Daily Post and the Liverpool Echo for LIVE READ 2011 - A big thank you to them for letting me share it with you all!

AWARD-WINNING romantic fiction writer and Daily Post columnist Jane Costello answered Daily Post and Echo readers questions in a live online interview as part of the newspapers' online literature festival LiveRead 2011.

Laura Davis:
Welcome to the third LiveRead live author interview.

Laura Davis:
Jane Costello is live with us now. Thanks for agreeing to take part Jane.

[Comment From Kirsty Novelicious: ]
Hiya Laura and Jane! How many drafts do you go through until you have a completed novel?

Jane Costello:
Ooh... lots of questions already! Right - I'll start with the first one. How many drafts I complete - the answer is: lots of them. The first draft always takes the longest, but then I'll probably do four or five after then - just to get the writing as tight as possible, to get my characters saying and doing exactly what I want them to... and of course to add as many twists and turns to the plot as I can. Once I'm entirely happy with it, it goes to my publishers, who suggest various changes or alterations. I normally look at their critique and say: 'ah yes!' - it's often a real lightbulb moment. So then I re-draft the book again. That happens a couple more times and then - hopefully - we're there!

[Comment From Kirsty Novelicious: ]
Are there any moments when you're not sure what to write next - if so what do you do to overcome this?

Jane Costello:
Writers block can be a nightmare - sometimes you're very much 'in the zone' and it flows easily. Other times - especially at the start of a book when you're not yet familiar with your own characters - it's not. The way I overcome this is to plan as much as possible in advance. So, even if I'm having a day when I'm not feeling particularly inspired, I know I can at least push forward and get SOMETHING written in the knowledge that I can always go back and amend it. Plus, if I'm really stuck I go for a run. It works every time!

[Comment From wannabewriter21: ]
How long does it take you actually complete a first draft, and then the whole book?

Jane Costello:
The first draft of a book normally takes me six or seven months, but that's a bit deceptive as I'm usually doing other things at the same time - promoting whichever book I've currently got on the shelves, and editing the next one. So it's always a stop-start process. But I'm committed to writing a book a year, so absolutely HAVE to make sure it's all done within that time frame. I used to be a journalist so have had it drummed into me how important it is to never miss a deadline.

[Comment From Hustle T Davies: ]
Your first book is about a woman who works for a newspaper in Liverpool. I just wondered, where do you get your ideas?

Jane Costello:
Ha! Well, I'm not sure if you're alluding to the fact that I used to work for a newspaper in Liverpool.... Ideas come from all sorts of places - some of which are from real life, others simply from the depths of my far-too-vivid imagination. Some of the comedy in my books is pinched from real life quite a lot - but just eeked up by about 10%. The only thing I never do is base characters on people I really know. That'd be far too embarrassing!

[Comment From bookworm: ]
Hi Jane, was it a tough transition from the journalistic style to writing novels? Did you have to change much about how you approached your work?

Jane Costello:
I had to change EVERYTHING about the way I wrote. With journalism - especially news journalism - you are taught to put all the most important information at the very top of the story. It wouldn't make for a very compelling book if you did that with a novel! So you have to learn all sorts of new skills... characterisation, how to develop a plot, how to interweave different stories throughout, and of course how to come up with that killer ending! It really was completely different - and a skill that took me years and years to be able to get right. At least right enough to be published - I still feel as though I'm learning

[Comment From AJ: ]
Hi Jane and Laura. Jane, was Bridesmaids the first book you had written or did you write others before breaking through to being published?

Jane Costello:
I'd tried for years to start books - but only ever got to chapter three then got myself in a right muddle! Bridesmaids was the first one I was ever really serious about - I told myself: right - this is it Jane, make or break time. Enough messing about .. you've got to see this one through. There were two big turning points for me: first, I plotted out the entire book from start to finish - so I knew where it was going. And second, I sent my first three chapters to some agents and got one brilliant one - Darley Anderson - phoning me up to say he wanted to represent me. After that, I knew I just had to finish the book or I'd have had one heck of a lot of regrets in life!

[Comment From jo-rose: ]
Is it tempting with chick-lit to always have a happy ending for your heroine and does your publisher try to steer your towards that?

Jane Costello:
Oh, let's face it - we all love a happy ending so it'd be a brave - or foolish - rom com author who left her heroine wallowing in misery! The trick however is to try to make the journey to that ending as unpredictable as possible. I throw some horrendous obstacles at my heroines to try and stop her getting there... it makes it so much more satisfying then when she does!

[Comment From Sarah: ]
Do you have any odd writing habitS/superstitions - like having to have certain writing paper or pens, or always drinking six cups of tea before you start?

Jane Costello:
Well, I do tend to drink six cups of tea before I start... but that's less out of superstition and more out of my spectacular ability to procrastinate!

[Comment From Kirsty Novelicious: ]
Which of your characters are most like you?

Jane Costello:
Ooh - tricky one. There's a bit of all of my characters in me actually. I share with Lucy from My Single Friend a fantastic ability to put my foot in it - I don't tell fibs like she did, but I have a portfolio of embarrassing anecdotes (which I won't be repeating here!) so really loved writing her. And my heroine in Girl On The Run - Abby - is one I absolutely love. She's ambitious and happy in her own skin, someone who never sits still and is constantly wanting to do better. I can relate to that. Of course, she's terribly, terribly flawed in lots of ways too - which I can thoroughly relate to as well I'm afraid!

[Comment From wannabewriter21: ]
What's a typical day like for you, as a writer?

Jane Costello:
Well, there isn't really a typical one these days - it's often a mixture of writing whatever book I'm working on and promoting another. Today, for example, I've spent the morning working on my fifth book - the deadline for which is looming in April, but I'm also obviously doing this now, then later this afternoon I'll be doing some filming for a promo video for Girl On The Run. When I'm thoroughly ensconced in writing a book, it really is just a question of me sitting down at 9am and writing and writing until 5pm (with a few little dips into facebook of course). But there's lots of other exciting elements these days too to do with the promotion... I'm even off on a foreign trip to promote the books soon. Hey, it's a hard life...

[Comment From Chicklit Fan: ]
Are you tempted to write for any other genre?

Jane Costello:
No - I'd never turn my back on romantic comedy because it's what I love and that's what I'm good at. I think as a writer your style chooses you, rather than the other way round. The way my books are written, well that's just me - they're very much a reflection of me, my personality, my sense of humour etc. So I'm not sure I've got it in me to write something really dark and haunting, or a crime novel. My plan is to stick with what I'm good at!

[Comment From jennyrogers: ]
which female writers have been the most inspiring for you?

Jane Costello:
Gosh - another good one.

I love all kinds of books and have never read only one particular genre. So I love the classics - Wuthering Heights is my favourite book of all time... although could you imagine Heathcliff as a chick lit hero? I don't think so! Then there's everyone from Audrey Niffernegger - who wrote the Time Travellers' Wife - Alice Sebold (The Lovely Bones), Daphne Du Maurier (Rebecca), plus a whole host of brilliant commercial fiction writers from the wonderful Jackie Collins to Jilly Cooper. And of course, I've always loved chick lit - everyone from Marian Keyes to Sophie Kinsella to Adele Parks have all written books I've loved. That's quite a long list, isn't it? I suppose what I'm saying is that I've been influenced by virtually every book I've read in a tiny way - even if I haven't enjoyed a book, I usually come away with something I've learned from it.

[Comment From Bee: ]
Hi Jane, are you planning to write a sequel to any of your books? I always want to know what happens next to the characters

Jane Costello:
Sequels... now that's an interesting subject. People are always writing to me asking me to write a sequel to Bridesmaids or the Nearly Weds or My Single Friend and I've resisted so far. Mainly because I do love the twists and turns you can put in a classic 'boy meets girl' storyline - one that starts with them meeting and ends with them getting together. Part of the thing that makes me resist is that for a sequel to be truly compelling, you'd have to have something happen that REALLY challenged the happy ending in the last one. Otherwise, I'm not sure it'd be much of a story. And I suppose I'd just prefer them to stick with their happy ending! All that said, I don't think I would rule it out. The big question is: which one would I choose? I love all of the books in different ways so it'd be a really tricky choice.

[Comment From Lauren: ]
Hi Jane, is there a lot of rivalry among authors in women's literature? On twitter everyone seems to be quite supportive of each other

Jane Costello:
Well, I've been doing this for coming up to five years now and I've seen absolutely no evidence of rivalry in women's literature. Everyone really is that nice to each other - and I've made lots of friends who are authors since doing this. I even went to stay with Milly Johnson - author of A Summer Fling and The Yorkshire Pudding Club - recently we've become such good mates. And it's interesting you should talk about us all being on Twitter: this is such a solitary job in some ways, it's nice to have others to gossip with, even if they're on the other side of the country.

[Comment From Kath: ]
Hi Jane, have you had any offers to make your books into films? I'd love to see My Single Friend on the big screen

Jane Costello:
Me too! As you can imagine though, there are lots more books published than films are produced, so these things take quite a long time. It'd be lovely if it ever happened, of course. Although I still have SO many ambitions as an author before we even think about that, there's plenty to keep me busy!

[Comment From ria: ]
Is it hard to be the one answering the questions after so many years as a journalist?

Jane Costello:
Not at all - I love answering questions about writing, it's a subject I could discuss all day because it's my passion in life. So I don't mind being interviewed at all - it allows me to indulge in one of my favourite pastimes: talking!

[Comment From SakJ6: ]
Hi Jane, do you ever find yourself in a book shop putting your books at the front of the shelf?! I'd do that!

Jane Costello:
Well, obviously! No, just joking. When I was first published I would scour bookshops to see whether the book was being promoted, who'd they'd put me next to, whether I was in the right slot etc etc. I didn't have the energy to maintain that after the first few weeks - and I've learned that, basically, if you've got a decent book and a publisher who really kknows what they're doing in terms of promotion, you've just got to sit back and let them do their stuff. Fortunately, my publisher - Simon and Schuster - is brilliant so I do just leave them to it.

[Comment From jo-rose: ]
would you ever write one from the hero's perspective, or would it be too hard to get inside a man's head to do that?

Jane Costello:
That would involve understanding men, so - no! Seriously, though, that's a really interesting question and it'd certainly be a great challenge. But I do think that one of the things that appeals to female readers about my writing is the fact that it reflects what a lot of us think or feel or react at any given time in our life - be that about the important, monumental issues (e.g. family break ups), or simply the more frivolous stuff (joining Weightwatchers!) All that stuff comes naturally to me, so I'd have to think long and hard about going down the route of trying to write from a hero's perspective. I wouldn't rule it out though - I'd have to rope in my male friends to the experiment. It could be a laugh actually!

[Comment From Tina Hindle: ]
There are loads of words in your books, but is there one word that you've never used in one of your books but now wish you had?

Jane Costello:
ONE word?


Maybe 'gobsmacked'. I'm not sure what they'd do with that one in the Russian translation!

[Comment From KGreen: ]
Have you ever overheard anyone talking about your books or been recognised from your photo?

Jane Costello:
No - but I have seen people reading them at bus stops or on the train. I've normally got less make up on than in my author photo at the front of them though so haven't been recognised yet! It's also a bit weird when you're in Waterstones and see someone flicking through one. If they put it down and pick up a Sophie Kinsella instead I feel terribly indignant!

[Comment From mk25: ]
Hi Jane, I've read you use a pen name - how did you choose it and why didn't you write under your real name?

Jane Costello:
Well, my real name is Jane Wolstenholme and one of the first things my agent said to me was: you are going to HAVE to change that - it's too long, people will struggle to remember it, plus, on the A-Z bookshelves in the shops, you'll be right at the very end. He told me to go away and think of another one - but added that he's always had lots of good luck with the authors he represents whose names began with C. He also looks after Martina Cole and Lee Child for example. Now, I'm not remotely superstitious - but I thought I'd give him the benefit of the doubt given they're both global success stories! So I sat down and drew up a shortlist, and Jane Costello just felt right. it still does. It's just become me now.

[Comment From Karen: ]
Is it difficult to write sex scenes?! Or is it best left to the imagination?!!!

Jane Costello:
Well, I do have one or two slightly steamy scenes in the books, but they're relatively tame, largely because I know my mother reads them! I'd definitely say that if you're not careful, sex scenes can sound distinctly naff - which isn't a quality any author aspires to. So you do have to treat them with care, no doubt about it!

Laura Davis:
I'm afraid that's all we've got time for. A massive thanks to Jane Costello for taking part and to all of your for such a varied range of questions.

Jane Costello:
Thanks everyone - thoroughly enjoyed this!

Once again, thanks to the Liverpool Daily Post and the Liverpool Echo for allowing me to share this with you!

My First Reviews!

April 20, 2010
I would like to issue an explanation for the attention of my fellow customers in the newsagents round the corner from my house.

I was leaping up and down and grinning dementedly last week not because I am a case for the men in white coats, but because I’ve just seen this week’s Heat.

This is what the magazine’s reviewer says about My Single Friend: ‘5 stars out of 5 – Riotous … thoroughly enjoyable and laugh-out-loud hilarious.’

Between that and another magnificent five star review from, it’s fair to say I’m a happy woman.