On The Table Read, “The Best Book Reader Magazine in the UK“, author Jane Green talks about her prolific writing career, and her new book, Sister Stardust.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author Jane Green about her life and career, what inspires her to write, and the creative work that went into her new book, Sister Stardust.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
Jane Green. Writer. Londoner transplanted to America 21 years ago. Mother of six. Former art student. Author of 21 novels and one cookbook. Mostly tired.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
When Freya North wrote Sally and I thought, hang on, I could do that too. I was a journalist on the daily express at the time, and had read Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity and realized no-one was doing this for women. Little did I know that Helen Fielding was in her flat a mile away crafting Bridget Jones’s Diary.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I was already a journalist. Nick Lloyd left as editor of the express, and the new editor had me writing about giraffes instead of relationships. It was clearly time to make a change. I very stupidly left my job, and gave myself three months to write a book AND get a publishing deal. Miraculously, there was a bidding war for my first book, about two days before that time period was up.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
I think a year.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
About three years, but it is historical fiction, set in the sixties in London and Marrakech, and required intensive research, including moving back to London for a bit.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Sister Stardust?
I’ve been obsessed with Talitha Getty ever since seeing the famous rooftop picture of her taken by Lord Lichfield when I was a teenager. I could never find out very much about her, but when my editor asked if I would consider writing historical fiction, I immediately knew I had to find out her story and tell it.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Sister Stardust?
That there is so little known about her. The circumstances around her tragic death were mysterious, and the story kept changing. As so often happens with wealthy, powerful families and tragedy, they shut down. I had to make lists of anyone who had ever been in her circle, and read everything I could get my hands on.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
My protagonist is a young girl born in Dorset who is desperate to get to London as London bursts into color in the sixties, at a time when the Beatles and the Rolling Stones ruled the world. I grew up with stories of my parents and their friends in London, at the clubs, shopping at Biba, rubbing shoulders with the great and the good, so it very much felt part of my DNA.
Did you plot Sister Stardust in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I always have a rough idea of the plot, but the more I read, the more the story changed. I ended up doing a deep dive into the Rolling Stones, who took the story into a completely different direction.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Sister Stardust need?
My editor is with the publisher. This is the first time I had worked with him, and it didn’t need much. I was enormously grateful that he is young, and picked up on issues that might be sensitive, in a way I didn’t see.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
It requires a PhD: persistence, humility and discipline.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I have just finished the sequel to Sister Stardust, following two characters a few years on, in 1979, but this will be coming out exclusively as a podcast in the Autumn. It may or may not be printed afterwards. I’ve also finished a book I love called Table for One which is loosely inspired by the daughter of Steve Jobs, plus the old movie from the eighties, Working Girl.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I’ve had eighteen New York Times bestsellers, numerous bestsellers all over the world, with over 10 millions books in print. It’s been quite a ride, but if I had to start again today, I wouldn’t do it. The whole landscape has changed, and as proud as I am of my twenty one books, I’m not sure how much longer I can write in today’s world.
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