Connect with Jessica
I never wanted to be a writer. My earliest fantasies were about being a nurse (courtesy Lucilla Andrews) or living on a vast outback cattle station with a man who wore a hat and dusty boots (fantasy copyright Lucy Walker). The nurse fantasy was crushed early on – everyone told me I'd be a terrible nurse because I'd argue with the doctors – but I held on to the dream of Australia, and eventually I did go and work as a cook on a cattle station in north-west Queensland, an experience that provided the inspiration for a number of outback romances from 'Woman at Willagong Creek' to 'Outback Boss, City Bride'.
It's funny how a book can change your life. One day I read Sharon Penman's The Sunne in Splendour, and I thought: 'I know, I'll do a Ph.D. in medieval history.' Mad. I'd already completed a degree in French (which I followed up with a string of travels and short term jobs) but once I'd decided I wanted to go back to Uni, that was it. I just had to find a way to fund myself...
Like everyone else, I'd heard about Mills & Boon. Like everyone else, I assumed they were easy to write. After all, I'd always been good at writing. Hadn't I knocked out poems on the school bus? Hadn't my essay about our cat Sooty been read out on BBC radio for schools? I was practically a writer already. Ergo, I would knock out a book, M&B would hand me a fat cheque, and I would be able to pay my university fees. Easy.
Er, not so easy, as it turned out. I had three rejections before my first novel A Sweeter Prejudice was accepted in 1989.
Although I started writing for money, the more I write, the more interested I am in how romance works and why. One of the things I like most about being a romance writer is making connections with readers around the world. Over the years I have developed a profound respect for the romance genre, and am proud to be part of the romance writing and reading community. It's true, I still yearn sometimes for those wide horizons, and I head for them whenever I can, but it's my books that do the real travelling now, and they have gone further than I ever could.
Now I spend most of my time in York, where I live with a cat called Douglas and the uncertainties of a long-distance relationship that is so on-and-off-and-on-again that I never know whether to mention it or not… I'm often asked how I can write romance when I've never been married (a bizarre question, I know), but trust me, I know a lot about relationship problems and can sympathise fully with my heroines in their search for a happy ending!
The Year of Living Dangerously