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Lola Jaye Interview

Posted on 27 August 2008. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

WriteWords talks to Lola Jaye

Tell us all about your writing background- what you’ve written, what you’re currently writing

My passion for writing started around eleven years old when I crafted a weekly series of stories written in the solitude of a top floor bedroom. They were called ‘Karen and Terry’ and explored the exciting adventures of two teenaged girls. Snogging, school and… snogging, I think. But it was after putting together a really long research thesis for my Masters Degree, many years later that I began to think; if I could write 20,000 words, surely I could write 80,000?

It was an interesting challenge I was determined to conquer. And I suppose because I did, I also believed finding a publisher within weeks of finishing that first novel was also quite realistic. How wrong was I?

Put it this way, almost eight years and three and a half novels later, here I am. It has finally happened. A publishing contract with Harper Collins. Although it took ages to get ‘here’, the book that was accepted, took six months to write and the ‘yes’ from an editor was almost overnight! Funny how these things can happen.

So, my newly published book is called By The Time You Read This… and centres on Kevin Bates, who with six months to live, decides he is going to write a manual for his daughter Lois - something she can live by, laugh at and follow right up until she is thirty years old. He begins it as follows:
‘This is my (Kevin Bates) manual for my daughter Lois. The love of my life.
Rules of the manual:
1. You must only read each new entry on your birthday
2. This is a private manual between you and me.
3. No peeping at the next entry unless it's your birthday!
When Lois Bates is handed the manual, she can barely bring herself to read it as the pain of her dad's death is still so raw. Yet soon Kevin's advice is guiding her through every stage of her life - from jobs to first loves and relationships. The manual can never be a substitute for having her dad back, but through his words Lois learns to start living again’.

The book has been out for three weeks so I am still in that excitable stage, having had a launch party and seen the book in bookshops and supermarkets. My heart leaps if I see anyone so much as glance at a copy but I have yet to see someone reading it on a train or something – now that’s something I would love to experience.

I am currently working on two books at the moment. One is the second of the two book deal with Harper Collins and the other a non fiction ‘Quick Read’ aimed at adults in the UK with reading difficulties and those who don’t usually read books. In between all that, there’s the day job and editing By The Time You Read This… for my American publisher! It’s a lot of work, but I will not complain. I have waited for these moments for a long, long time.

Other work besides writing; i.e. Editing, dramaturgy, tutoring, and how it works for/against your own writing

have the day job - helping people to stop smoking- but I must admit it really helped taking some annual leave off recently to focus on promotion and writing. You know, to fully absorb the complexities of being a full time writer (okay, a lot of time was spent indulging in day time telly, but the thought was there!). Of course, editing is also a huge part of the process and you will probably get to the stage where you’re quite sick of your characters because so much time can be spent going over each line and action. However, I’m at the stage with my new book where it’s still fresh and new and I am just getting to know my characters. Oh, the bliss!

Who are your favourite writers and why?

The simple answer is, I can’t name a particular writer, but can think of a number of books that have for some reason influenced me or touched me or just made me laugh out loud!
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is such an amazing book. Beautifully written, thought provoking and moving to the very end. A particular scene involved the lead character coming face to face with an old family pet and was one of the best scenes I had ever read. A simple yet very powerful passage. I also like reading about dysfunctional families and Terri McMillan did this best in A Day Late, a Dollar Short. Also, when a writer is able to transport me into a different time and culture, I can easily get hooked and Arthur Golden did this with Memoirs of a Geisha.
A writer who is able to make me laugh out loud is rare but I found The Best a Man Can Get by John O’Farrell and The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella were able to do just that.

How did you get your first agent/ commission?

After years of rejection by agents, I finally got Judith Murdoch to take me on after meeting her at the Winchester Writers Conference. I was already ‘known’ to her through a constructive rejection letter she’d sent some time before (I think it’s only in publishing that a rejection letter can be described as constructive!). Anyway, she asked to see the remainder of my manuscript and the rest is history… In fact, I advise all Write Words members to book onto the next Winchester Writers Conference in June 2009. There are no guarantees, but just being around ‘the industry’ can be a great motivator.

Anyway, finally got an agent after around four years of trying. Again I thought the rejections would finally be over.
The rejections merely reappeared via a second party – my agent, as publishers turned down my manuscript. It was another three years and a couple of books later that I actually got a publisher. So, I suppose the moral of the story here is; getting an agent doesn’t automatically mean you will get a publisher straight away, but it does give you a much better chance. Oh and WELL DONE for getting an agent. It isn’t easy.

What's the worst thing about writing?

Sometimes it’s just so hard to get the motivation going- especially when stuff like changing the vase water suddenly seems like the most important thing in the world. But luckily, once you start it’s easier to really get into it and then it’s all lovely again. But then there’s the dreaded writers block. Don’t get me started on that…

And the best?

Someone telling you your book made them laugh AND cry. Priceless. Brilliant. Amazing. And makes all the writers block, lack of money, editing, rejection slips and staying in on sunny days, worthwhile.

Tell us what kind of responses you get from audiences\ readers.

In addition to someone telling you how moved they were by your work, a real life person actually dissecting each of your characters like they are real people can be really cool. And scary.

But another person telling me how inspired they were by my story of never giving up on my dream – well that’s just so rewarding. A girl has written to me and said that after reading my book, she has decided to travel to Australia and take driving lessons (when you read the book, this will make sense!). Another person wrote the following on my Guestbook; ‘Thank you for getting me to like reading again.’

What was your breakthrough moment?

A few spring to mind; meeting my agent at Winchester and watching Oprah a few years later when the idea for By The Time You Read This… hit me. That was a very heartfelt moment as I just knew that the story of a man who is dying but wants to guide his daughter as she grows up, was the story for me. I wrote six thousand words after watching that ‘Oprah’ episode. A definite ‘breakthrough’ moment.

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Comments by other Members

Account Closed at 16:14 on 27 August 2008  Report this post
Fab interview, Lola, inspiration for us all - and i need a bit of that as i'm about to start my 4th (unagented, unpublihsed - jeez, i haven't even got a plot at the moment;) book.

Hope the sales go well and enjoy the ride.

Just don't let me know if you meet WS again, my eyes are still green.

Casey x

PaulaBlake at 16:42 on 27 August 2008  Report this post
amazing how many similarities I found in this interview with you, and myself!

I too often have the TV on, but volume down, and repeat one song over and over on my ipod to get the gist of the character/scene.

Music inspires me and plays a huge part in 'Creep' I hope that by taking your advice I, one day, will have just a smidgen of the guts it takes to show it to someone!

Thanks for the inspiration!


ricgalbraith at 20:55 on 27 August 2008  Report this post
great little interview there, many congrats to lola. Just goes to show how hard getting into the industry is, as a first time novelist myself looking to potentially get the bugger published in the near future it's a bit of a reality check.

But, head down and hard work and you'll get there. Really enjoy the idea of the story as well. hope it does well.

charlottetheduck at 20:56 on 27 August 2008  Report this post
What a really lovely interview Lola! Very interesting, and very positive! Gives me hope

I'm actually sitting here right now with the TV on but on mute - I thought I was the only one who does that! A waste of electricity, but somehow I find the flickering screen comforting...weird.

Anyway keeping my fingers and toes crossed that the book's a big hit!!!


lola2004 at 11:01 on 28 August 2008  Report this post
Hello all!
I'm so GLAD you took something away from the interview. It's funny, I met someone the other night who mentioned he was writing a book. One of the peices of advice I offered was; 'Read other novels in your genre. Look and see how they did it. Don't copy, but learn somthing from their methods...'
But he wasn't having any of it and was 'confident' in the fact he didn't need to learn anything else becuase he had it down to a T!!!

It is his first attempt at a novel.

I didn't tell him I was now published (I am very funny about that). But what I did say (and mean) is that I am STILL learning
everyday. I edit, I get rid of sentences when my Editor says so (even though I think it's the best sentence ever written!!!!) Because I am published does not mean I have it all sussed.
I guess what I'm trying to say here is be prepared to continuasly hone your skills. Those of you that are on your third, fourth.. go back to the first and see how much your writing has 'grown' I bet it has! We evolve (hopefully)as people and we also evolve as writers (hopefully) over time.

Okay, I'm off my soapbox now.

Thanks for all your positive comments and do tell me what you think of the book...


Lola Jaye

Gillian75 at 09:36 on 29 August 2008  Report this post
Lovely interview! Well done on your success Lola

Luisa at 10:48 on 29 August 2008  Report this post
More congratulations, Lola! I really enjoyed reading your interview.

Jane Elmor at 17:43 on 30 August 2008  Report this post
Ooh - how synchronicitious! (Is this a proper word?! You know what I mean!) I've just seen your book in Smiths and was DRAWN to it! Picked it up, had a good look, thought what a GREAT idea, read the first page or two...! Decided it was definitely for me and I'll take it on holiday to read in a couple of weeks! And now I've come home and logged on and found out who you are! Hurrah! Loved your interview, SO impressed with your perseverence - and inspired by it too. Congratulations Lola! Can't wait to read your novel now! Love Jane

preppieb at 11:58 on 02 September 2008  Report this post
How ironic to read your article this morning: right after having just received another rejection email from my agent (my first novel). I'd hoped this particular publisher would be 'the one', so am really knocked by their 'no'. It gets worse each time, doesn't it?

Hearing that you've suffered many rejections too (I'd thought yours had been an immediate 'yes', has helped me pick my chin up off the floor and give myself a good talking to.

We're all green - but happy for you too! Well done.


I didn't put that smiley face there. It was a close bracket. How did that appear? It wasn't there when I previewed it. I hate smileys. It's not mine, okay!

lola2004 at 10:28 on 03 September 2008  Report this post
Preppieb, I'm so glad it helped.
Just one thing: To get an agent with your first novel is absolutely amazing!!! Well done!
I know the rejections are hard and you really have to use this 'thick skin' and it does get boring sometimes and one gets tired of it all... but you did the right thing, you've picked yourself up again. Oh, the life of a writer... mad, mad, mad...

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