LIVES Mini-view: Andrea Semple, comic novelist
"Life is nothing like a box of chocolates. Forrest Gump was wrong."

Getting started: I'm not someone who goes out and sits in coffee shops scribbling observations about people.

I think the inspiration to write comes from inside, not outside, but it's impossible to be more specific. There's certainly no magic inspiration cupboard you can open up and grab new ideas from.

The length of time needed to complete a novel is also pretty nebulous. It depends. I completed my first novel, "The Ex-Factor," in about three months (writing for about nine hours a day).

I was surprised that my mum liked it. Given all the sex scenes, I thought she'd disown me.

My second novel, "The Make-Up Girl," took longer - almost a year.

Quirks: I write everything down on paper before typing it up. Don't ask me why.
I just find that ideas come faster with a pen in my hand than when I'm staring at the keyboard.

Cities I dream about: Paris, without a doubt. In fact, the next place I move is definitely going to be there, I've already been looking at apartments.

Oh, sure, it's an arrogant city, but it's earnt its rights. Walking around the Latin Quarter in evening light is close to heaven.

My favorite downtime reads, for news and book stuff - "The Guardian"
For a laugh - my boyfriend's site.

Fave authors: Emily Brontë, Arundhati Roy, Matt Haig (he's my boyfriend, but he's still very good), Jonathan Franzen, Nick Hornby, Charles Dickens.

Historical fiction faves: My favorite is a line from "Jane Eyre": 'Reader, I married him' - because it is the simplest, most intimate connection between the writer and the reader in literature. And that's what writing is all about - connecting.

Writer’s Block: I think it's more accurately called writer's fear because writer's block is really just the fear of writing stuff you'd later be ashamed of. The trick is to not be afraid, by realizing you can edit out the crap later.

The Myth: The biggest myth about writing is that everything which comes out of your mouth is going to be wise or witty or interesting. Most of the time I speak a load of crap.

If I wasn't a writer, I'd be: a synchronized swimmer (see answer above).

Things I wish I'd known:

Writing life - Don't spend the money before the cheque is in the bank.
Personal life - Getting 'romantic' in the shower can result in serious injury.

Life is: nothing like a box of chocolates. Forrest Gump was wrong.

Author bio: Andrea Semple is the author of "The Ex-Factor" (Piatkus) and "The Make-Up Girl" (Piatkus, July 2004).

She's also worked as a freelance journalist, completing lifestyle features for "The Guardian", "The Independent" and "Eve" magazine. She publishes a monthly email newsletter for writers. Before her writing career took off, Semple worked as a nightclub manager in Ibiza. Semple lives in Leeds (UK), with partner Matt Haig, who recently published his first book, "The Last Family in England". Read the first chapter of "The Make-Up Girl" here.

Catch more Books/Writers features in the July 2004 issue of "Arte Six".