I Turned My Love Life into a Novel by Jenny Stallard, author of Boyfriend by Christmas

Today on Becca's Books, I'm thrilled to be welcoming Jenny Stallard, author of Boyfriend by Christmas, to the blog. Jenny will be sharing a fabulous piece she has written on how she managed to turn her love life into a novel. Enjoy, lovely book folk!


How I Turned My Love Life Into a Novel
By Jenny Stallard

This time last year I was anticipating the release of my first novel, Boyfriend by Christmas. It tells the story of a writer who is a 'dating correspondent’ for a lifestyle website, and told she needs to find a man or a new job. 
But to say this was an idea out of the blue, nothing to do with my own life, would be untrue. 
I've been single bar a couple of three to five month 'relationships' for 18 years. 
As those years went on and I developed my career as a journalist I also developed something of a 'can't beat em? Better join em!' mentality. I'd always been drawn to confessional journalism, always wished to be a columnist - why not use the 'predicament' of being single to my advantage? 

And so it began some 5 or so years ago. I wrote some magazine pieces about being single, even about having never been told 'I love you'. (I know, don't feel too sad, it's ok, they paid me).

Then, in October 2014, I pitched a column to Metro newspaper (I was freelance then, and am staff at Metro now). The idea was simple: I would spend the next three months charting my ups and downs of single life, under the banner of 'Boyfriend by Christmas'.
I went to every event I could – including pheromone dating where you sniff strangers’ t-shirts and pizza dating) as well as signing up to countless apps and sites. I had a date at the services on the M4, wore a fake ‘tache at Movember dating and was set up by my dad.

Then, halfway through this mayhem that I’d created for myself, I had a call from a literary agent, who felt the column could become a book. The dream, people, the dream! He pitched it to a publisher, Penguin Michael Joseph, and they commissioned Boyfriend by Christmas. My love life was indeed becoming a novel…

But, well, 500 or so words a week about a dating event, was quite manageable. But 80,000?! That was a different kettle of fish. And the deadline was a tight one. So it was that I began charting not just what happened each week, but just about every date I'd been on, every high and low of emotion and encounter. It all went into Boyfriend by Christmas.

I channelled the highs and lows of being single, the moments of fun and laughter but also the moments of aching loneliness and confusion over ‘why not me?’. I really wanted to portray all sides of being single, the raised hopes, the eternal rounds of first dates, the fun in feeling free, of cheeky nightclub snogs, and having single mates to bounce life experiences off.
I wanted to reach out to women and men, single and coupled up, and catalogue a moment in time, in my life. But with bells on, since this was fiction, obviously! A bad date for me became a terrible date for my main character Genie Havisham. I imagined many dream scenarios – meeting a man on the Eurostar, and even matching with a workmate on Tinder.

Genie Havisham is my heroine. And yes, now about 10 people have pointed it out, I know how close to Jenny it sounds! Maybe it was my subconscious.  But I did set out for this to be fiction and to me, it is.
Well for a start she has three men interested at one point - chance would have been a fine thing!

Turning your love life into fiction is a strange self-editing process. Just because I found a date funny, interesting, or emotional, doesn't mean a reader would. Sometimes I wrote paragraphs that only made sense to me, and would never make sense to anyone else.  
And you know you’ve reached peak sex scene when your mum asks if the saucy bits all happened! No of course they didn't. As I say, chance would have been a fine thing!

The other flip side of turning your love life into a novel is, of course, keeping it funny as well as real. There have been moments I have hated being single and even times I was jealous of Genie when she had a man who liked her, who called and wanted to date. Why wasn't that happening for me when I could make it happen for her?!

So as another Christmas rolls around and I think to my book, its festive theme and how it's something of a memoir for my days as a single woman, I can't help but feel nostalgic. I might have hoped for a boyfriend, and got a book deal instead but I feel happy and no regret that I turned my love life into a novel.

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US

Blurb
It's bad enough to be perpetually single, without also being the dating journalist for a major lifestyle website. And Genie Havisham has just been set her toughest deadline yet: find a boyfriend by Christmas or find a new job.

Determined not to end the year alone and jobless, Genie sets out to find where all the eligible bachelors in London have been hiding, using whatever means possible.

But among the terrible dates, one night stands and the unexpected return of her 'supposedly reformed' ex-boyfriend, could Genie have overlooked what's been right under her nose all along?

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