Jennifer Gilby Roberts

Women's Fiction/Chick Lit Author

New Author Interview

on December 20, 2013

I did this interview for TBM at Making My Mark.

Tell us about your background and how you ended up writing.

I wrote plenty of stories as a kid, but – like a lot of writers – I got started for real writing fanfiction.  The first stuff was for a science fiction TV show called Farscape, when I was a member of a forum which included several other writers.  We were all very into one of the supporting characters and wanted there to be more stories about him, so we wrote them!  I’ve also written fanfiction based on Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion and Torchwood.  Really, I should be writing science fiction as I also have a degree in physics, but my main interest has always been the relationships between the characters.

I’d always meant to write a novel and it was on my gap year that I sat down and wrote The Dr Pepper Prophecies.  I’d just read Sophie Kinsella’s Can You Keep a Secret? and just killed myself laughing over it and I wanted to try and write something that would make people laugh as much.  After Wimbledon, which I wrote several years later, was more about exploring feelings I was going through at the time.  The first draft was rather angsty, but the final version is considerably lighter.

How would you describe your writing?

It’s probably closest in style to Sophie Kinsella’s.  My books feature dry humour, sweet (occasionally sexy) romance, things going tits up and happy endings.

What’s your book, The Dr Pepper Prophecies, about? How did you come up with the title?

It’s a modern version of Jane Austen’s Emma, although the lead character is closer to Bridget Jones.  Basically, it’s about a young woman who sets out to improve the lives of the people she loves and makes a complete hash of it.

The title is a reference to a series of adverts for the soft drink Dr Pepper (I found out later that they were only shown in the UK) that had the tag line ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ and featured worst case endings to various scenarios.  They were very popular when I wrote it and can still be viewed on YouTube.

Why did you decide to self-publish?

Over the years I’d thought of trying to get an agent and then a publisher for The Dr Pepper Prophecies and had even drafted query letters, but I’d never actually sent them out.  My husband bought me a Kindle – after much resistance on my part, I have to admit – and shortly afterwards I discovered that anyone could publish Kindle books on Amazon.  I just sort of did it, with very little thought or knowledge.  I should probably have learned more about the process first, but then I might have chickened out again!

I read that you wrote After Wimbledon after being in Melbourne for the Australian Open. Are you a tennis fan? Who is your favorite player?

I do enjoy tennis.  I went through a phase when I was very into it and that’s when I wrote After Wimbledon.  I don’t follow it as much now, but I still watch Wimbledon.  My favourite player is Roger Federer.  I was lucky enough to see him play in Melbourne in the Rod Laver Arena (the equivalent of Centre Court at Wimbledon) and that was brilliant.  Though sadly it was just about the time he contracted mono, which ended his total dominance in the game.

Do you plot out your novels from the start or do you let the story develop along the way?

The Dr Pepper Prophecies had quite a detailed plan and character sketches before I started out, which is probably why the final version is so close to the first draft.  When I wrote After Wimbledon I had a basic plan of major events – especially who was playing what when, as it’s based around the Wimbledon Championships – but a lot of the plot developed along the way.  With my third novel, I’m trying something different.  I have no written plan and I’m not even writing it in order, just adding scenes as they come into my head.  At some point I’ll have to pull it all together and fill in the gaps, but so far it’s working pretty well.

It doesn’t really matter which approach you use.  The very structured approach is good for avoiding writer’s block, because you always know what needs to be written next.  Giving yourself more freedom can result in some really good ideas that you might not otherwise have thought of, but you’re also likely to cut out a lot when you start editing.

Who are your favorite writers?

I think the best writer I have come across is Erich Segal.  He is best known for Love Story, but I prefer Doctors, Acts of Faith and The Class.  They are full of amazing characters and incredible detail and just bring different worlds to life.  I’ve read each of them many times and they lose nothing from familiarity.

Which book do you wish you had written?

I can’t deny that, from a financial point of view, it would be nice to have written something wildly popular like Harry Potter or Twilight.  But then I would end up famous and I don’t actually want that.  When I walk down the street half-asleep with something sticky down my front (I have a toddler), I do not want people asking for my autograph.  I never know what to say when someone says they’ve read my book, even when they’re people I know.

What advice would you give to authors?

  • Don’t start editing until you’ve completed the first draft, otherwise you’ll never finish it.
  • Always proofread on paper and get someone else to look at it as well.
  • At least in the beginning, write what you want to write and don’t think about what will sell.  There’s an audience out there for everything.

3 responses to “New Author Interview

  1. TBM says:

    Thanks for participating and wonderful meeting you!

  2. […] did an interview recently where I was asked about how I got started writing and I said I began writing fanfiction.  This is fiction based on someone else’s work […]

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