Author Jill Mansell on designer notebooks, commissioning art and the family bear

Author Jill Mansell

I use a new Christian Lacroix notebook to write down all my ideas for each book – any old notebook just won’t do. I always think the better the notebook, the better my next book will be. They encourage me to keep up my standards.

This 1988 copy of Jilly Cooper’s Rivals, signed by her, changed my life. She was my idol long before I started writing books when I was working in clinical neurophysiology in the NHS. I love her humour and the way she creates characters you want to be friends with.


This big bear, only just a bit shorter than me, lives in our fireplace. I spotted him in a shop and fell in love with him, so my partner Cino bought him for my birthday one year. We dress him up for special occasions – he’s become a part of the family and he makes me smile.

I commissioned the artist Rose Popay to paint this scene of me writing a book by hand and my daughter Lydia typing up my notes. My mum Gwen used to do it – it’s why there’s no sex in my books. Lydia keeps me in check if I put old lady things in the mouths of young characters!

I bought this life-sized horse sculpture a few years after I wrote Take a Chance on Me. I sit and look out of the window and can’t believe how lucky I am to have written a book that helped me buy something so beautiful.

It’s funny to read my diaries from when I was about 11. One of my New Year’s resolutions was ‘to keep up my writing and try not to be so ambitious’. If only I could go back, I would tell the 11-year-old me that I would end up becoming an author.

My stepfather – and my dad since I was two – gave me this gold-plated fountain pen six or seven years ago. I’ve always written with pens, but this one is my nicest. I like to use bottles of coloured ink, too, just for fun. When I come to the end of nine or ten pages, I change to another colour.

My father Nigel was a photographer, but he died when I was a toddler. I only had three pictures of him until about four years ago. Just before my stepfather John passed away, he remembered that there was a suitcase of photographs under his bed, including this one of my parents on their wedding day. People say that my dad was an extrovert and the party started when he entered the room.

After my mum died, she left me a tangle of jewellery that I didn’t want to throw away – or wear. I had some pieces melted down to make this bangle, studded with diamonds, which I now wear every day.

Jill’s new novel This Could Change Everything will be published by Headline on 25 January, price £12.99. To pre-order a copy for £10.39 (a 20 per cent discount) until 28 January, visit or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15

By Fiona Mccarthy