The Summer Seaside Kitchen by Jenny Colgan

Summer Seaside Kitchen: A Young Woman’s Journey into Her Past

An exclusive AUTHORLINK interview with Jenny Colgan
The Summer Seaside Kitchen (Sphere, 9 February 2017)

Columnist Anna Roins

July, 2017

The Summer Seaside Kitchen
by Jenny Colgan

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Jenny Colgan, the Sunday Times bestselling author, has sold more than 2.5 million novels of romantic-comedy, as well as Doctor Who sci-fi adventures worldwide.

Her latest release, The Summer Seaside Kitchen is a charming, heart-warming story set in the mystical Highlands of Scotland about a young woman who’s forced to face her past, just when she was living out her future.

“Well I think most people know what it’s like to have a crush on someone so I wanted to write a bit about that . . . .”

AUTHORLINK: Ms Colgan, thank you for joining us today to discuss The Summer Seaside Kitchen. Your books are light and funny yet also tackle serious issues, like bullying in the workplace. The character, Joel, is described as, “mean to people so they notice him and want him to say something nice”. Why this is so, we discover later. You also touch upon love (or infatuation) and how it can affect some of us – that unsettling feeling of turning into an awkward teenager again… Did these themes evolve naturally, or did you want to inlay them into the story from the beginning?

COLGAN: Well I think most people know what it’s like to have a crush on someone so I wanted to write a bit about that, and what it might be like when that actually worked out! Also Joel is very damaged; he’s quite a messed-up person and I was interested in what it’s like to fall in love with somebody who’s very difficult. Because I knew it was going to be a trilogy I knew I’d have lots of time to explore that, and sure enough I’ve been doing a lot of that in the second book, The Endless Shore. 

AUTHORLINK: We’re looking forward to the next instalments. You once said you tend to ‘cast characters in your head’ with actors or famous people. Who did you have in mind when you wrote about the characters of Flora, Joel and Colton?

COLGAN: Oh yes I always do, but it’s only a physical resemblance. It’s only the boys I tend to cast in my head, the girls are slightly fuzzier, not because I don’t think about them but I like them to be someone you could easily imagine yourself to be – does that make sense? So I don’t want to be too didactic as to what the heroines look like. Let me see, Colton looks like Steve Jobs; that tall slightly gangly kind of very clever person who always looks slightly at odds with whatever room they’re in; Joel looks a bit like that American actor Josh Charles and he has Harry Styles’ hair. Because that kid has GREAT HAIR.  

AUTHORLINK: Yes, too true! In The Summer Seaside Kitchen, the reader has access to information about each character that some of the other characters don’t know. This is usually called the third-person omniscient point of view (POV). It’s a method of storytelling in which the narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of all the players in the story, as opposed to the more common, third-person limited, which adheres closely to one protagonist’s view. Why do you prefer this all-seeing POV?

COLGAN: I don’t, I always work on whatever I feel works best with what I’m writing. A lot of my books are first person for example. With this, though, I like the funniness of when you are mad about someone – like Flora is about Joel- and they are literally never thinking about you at all.  

“Genre is something other people bestow on you; for writers, it’s just writing. “

AUTHORLINK: Yes. There are two versions of Jenny Colgan. There is ‘Jenny Colgan’, author of novels of the romantic comedy genre and children’s books, and then there’s ‘Jenny T. Colgan’, who writes science fiction including Doctor Who tie-in novels. What made you try your hand at different genres and is it tricky to pull off (although you make it look very easy)?

COLGAN: Genre is something other people bestow on you; for writers, it’s just writing. Where I’m shelved isn’t really my job, I’m lucky enough to get to tell the stories I want to tell – and I do feel very lucky, believe me! But I like stories about far flung destinations, and food, and puffins, and space aliens too. Loads of people read different types of novels and have broad tastes and I’m just the same.  

AUTHORLINK: You were once asked, “How long was it between deciding to take writing seriously and your first novel being published?”and your response was, “I have never taken writing seriously”which was great.Can tell you expand on this?

COLGAN: Hahah. Well, I grew up before lots of creative writing courses and things so I’ve always just kind of got on with it, and not thought too much about theory or research. I always figure, just write a book first and no matter how it turns out, you can always improve it later. If you think too much about the mechanics of it as you go along, that can be absolutely paralysing for your writing I think. Fix it in post is always my motto.

AUTHORLINK: Yes, good advice. How do you deal with constructive criticism? What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

COLGAN: I don’t read either; it’s genuinely not good for me. Obviously everyone is different, and some people learn from them, or truly don’t care (I’m not 100% convinced about this latter group!), but a good review makes me feel embarrassed, and a bad review makes me feel bad, so I figure the best use of my emotional energy is just to avoid them completely. I’m really more interested in seeing the books out there; nothing makes me happier than someone sending me a pic of them reading on a far flung island or finding a copy in a bookshop in Laos or something. That’s tremendously exciting and joyful for me. And obviously if I’ve helped someone through a tricky period and they let me know, that’s very special. But otherwise, I just steer clear; I can’t control what people think, I can just do the best job I can do then set them loose

“I write the book, rewrite it once through, then it goes to my editor and agent, they suggest changes . . . .”

AUTHORLINK: Very wise. Do you let your books stew – leave them for a month and then come back to them later for editing? Do you proofread/edit all your own work or do you get someone to do that for you? How many drafts do you usually write before you show your first reader(s)/editor?

COLGAN: No, I have an editor and a copy editor, thank goodness. I write the book, rewrite it once through, then it goes to my editor and agent, they suggest changes, I do them, then it moves on through line-editing and copy-editing, which I approve.  

AUTHORLINK: Interesting. How do you think you’ve evolved creatively since you first started out? What advice would you give to your younger self, and where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?

COLGAN: I take more risks now in terms of writing outside my own experience and trust myself to be able to be convincing. I would tell my younger self all sorts of things – take a presenting course; take a screenwriting course so you don’t mess up cool opportunities – but she wouldn’t listen, which is quite right. In five years’ time I would like to be still growing the way we are now, reaching more people and hopefully making readers happy!  

AUTHORLINK: What are you working on now? Can you tell us a bit about it?

COLGAN: I’m writing the follow- up to The Summer Seaside Kitchen, which also incorporates characters from A Very Distant Shore; and working on the next two in the Class series, about an English boarding school – it’s very Mallory Towers

“The most overrated virtue is modesty.”

AUTHORLINK: Sounds exciting! To finish off, we thought we might ask you a few Proust Questions…What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Which talent would you most like to have other than writing?

COLGAN: The most overrated virtue is modesty. I’m watching the Handmaid’s Tale at the moment, can you tell! And I would love to be able to sing and dance really really well.  

AUTHORLINK: Ms Colgan, it was great talking to you today on Authorlink. We hope the very best for The Summer Seaside Kitchen and for all your novels in the future!

COLGAN: Thanks! 

About the Author:

Jenny Colgan is the author of numerous bestselling novels including Christmas at the Cupcake Café and Little Beach Street Bakery, which are published by Sphere. Meet Me at the Cupcake Café won the Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance 2012 and was a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller, as was Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop of Dreams, which won the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2013. 

Jenny was born in Scotland and has lived in London, the Netherlands, the U.S. and France. She eventually settled on the wettest of all these places, and currently lives just North of Edinburgh with her husband Andrew, her dog Nevil Shute, and her three children: Wallace, who is eleven and likes pretending to be nineteen and not knowing what this embarrassing ‘family’ thing is that keeps following him about; Michael-Francis, who is nine and likes making new friends on aeroplanes; and Delphine who is seven and is mostly raccoon as far as we can tell so far.

Things Jenny likes include: cakes, far too much Doctor Who, wearing Converse trainers every day so her feet are now just gigantic big flat pans; baths only slightly cooler than the surface of the sun and very very long books, the longer the better.

For more about Jenny, visit her website and her Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter: @jennycolgan.

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About Anna Roins:

Anna Roins is a lawyer, previously of the Australian Government Solicitor, as well as a freelance journalist who writes about social and community issues and has edited dissertations, websites, and books.

She has studied creative literature with The University of Oxford (Continuing Education) and the Faber Academy, London.

Anna enjoys writing novels and is a regular contributor to AUTHORLINK assigned to conduct interviews with best-selling authors.

You can find out more about Anna Roins at and