Jilly Cooper: “I think I’ve only got time for one more novel”

The romance novelist – and author of over 40 books – warns that her writing career might be nearing its final chapter

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Jilly Cooper has just published her latest novel Mount! and is currently working on a new book about football (called, wait for it… Tackle) but the 79-year-old reckons she’s “only got time for one more” novel. 

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Speaking to Clare Balding at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, she said, “I’m going to be 80 in February. I’d like to write more books but I just thought I’d better not get too excited.” 

Besides delving into the world of the beautiful game, Cooper revealed the tale she’d still like to tell around her heroine Dora Belvedon. “I want her saving a local newspaper because I’m very serious about local newspapers – they are the guardians of our morality and they dig around in places like Stroud and Cheltenham and find awful things happening.

“It won’t happen if the local newspapers go because the police are far too busy and [local papers] are wonderful and they bring people’s lives together and bring communities together and they’re just closing down like mad, it’s so sad. So I want [Dora] to – Rupert [Campbell Black]’s going to take over a football team so she’ll follow his football team.” 

In her discussion with Balding, the romance novelist also revealed that she had once been sexually assaulted while at work. “I got jumped on by my boss’s husband. It wasn’t my fault but he did while loading up a car. It was five in the afternoon.”

The incident led her to quit her job immediately. “I didn’t sneak. I just said public relations is not for me so I left.”

Cooper also dismissed self-publishing as “vanity publishing”, a phrase used by her late husband, publisher Leo Cooper, and bemoaned the letters she receives from writers wanting help publishing their own work. 

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“I don’t mean to be mean but every single day I get about three people writing to me saying, ‘Dear Jilly, I’m writing a book, will you help me get it published? Will you help edit it? Will you find me an agent?’ I don’t mind but I think I’m busy, really.”