Top author Jill Mansell on how Cornwall inspires her creativity

With her 25th novel The Unpredictable Consequences of Love set on the Cornish coast, bestselling novelist Jill Mansell explains what keeps bringing her back to this beautiful part of the world.

Oh Cornwall, I have such a crush on you! 

Since I first clapped eyes on Cornwall as a child I loved everything about it with a passion, and the feelings have never faded. More and more often these days, I find myself dreaming of buying a house overlooking the sea. Only one thing stops me: it would be too perfect and I'd never get any work done because – basically – I know what I'm like. 

When you're a writer and as easily distracted as me, you simply can't afford to live somewhere that beautiful. I'd spend my days gazing at the incredible views. I'd be off, exploring beaches and cliff-tops and the fabulous moors. And my publishers would never be able to reach me to ask when the next book might be finished because there wouldn't be a next book and I would be reduced to hiding from them like a fugitive on the run.

I get to invent my own fantasy seaside towns and villages...

So it's sad but it makes far more sense for me to stay away from the temptation of actually living there, and make do with setting several of my books in Cornwall instead. It's definitely the next best thing – and it serves me right for being so lacking in self-control. Plus, this way I get to invent my own fantasy seaside towns and villages, combining all the best bits of real-life Cornish settings without the palaver of having people contact me to say things like, ‘I think you'll find the garden in that hotel isn't south facing and doesn't have direct access down to the beach.’ 

I created the small town of St Carys and fell in love with it...

For The Unpredictable Consequences of Love, I created the small town of St Carys and fell in love with it – and if you read the book, I really hope you will too. It has a gorgeous hotel, an esplanade (how I adore that word!), quirky shops, bars and restaurants and a fabulous surfing beach. Our most recent holiday was in St Ives, from which I inevitably stole lots of ideas for St Carys – although the characters in my book found parking a little easier, I have to say. (You see? That's the joy of being an author – I can even install a couple of extra car parks!)

Basically, I write feel-good fiction that sweeps readers off to a place they'd love to live in themselves – and what could be nicer than setting a book in Cornwall, somewhere stunningly beautiful by the sea? Oh, it's no good, all this talking about it is giving me withdrawal symptoms. I'm going to have to book another holiday there now...

My Top 5 Things about Cornwall

  1. Scallops! My favourite food. If scallops are on a restaurant menu, I have to have them. And Cornish scallops are amazing. My favourite place to eat last year in St Ives was the Porthminster Beach Cafe - we had some fantastic meals there, and the setting is pretty spectacular too. Busy, lively and fun. And scallops!
  2. Surfers! I never tire of watching surfers ride the waves. It's just the cleverest thing, and a skill I've never even attempted to master myself. There are so many excellent surfing beaches in Cornwall – it's endlessly entertaining, and I always hold my breath until they either run out of water or fall off their boards. Great stuff. Favourite viewing has to be at Watergate Bay.
  3. Sandcastles! Ooh I do love a good sandcastle. As a child, I once won a sand-art competition with my depiction of a mermaid and I remember almost bursting with pride when I was presented with my prize, although for the life of me I can't recall what the prize was. But seriously, who can be presented with a stretch of pristine, freshly-washed beach and not yearn to start building a good sturdy castle complete with moat? Has to be done. I think the last really good one I built (with the help of my children) was on the beach at Looe.
  4. Seagulls! I know, I'm sorry, everyone knows seagulls are right pests who scavenge and annoy people and steal their chips... but they cheer me up. Like drinking sherry reminds me of Christmas, hearing the cry of a seagull reminds me of being on holiday. The sound instantly takes me back to being a child on the beach. We don't have seagulls where I live, so it's still a rarity and a treat. And since I discovered that birds' voices vary depending on where they live, I love to think of the gulls I hear on holiday chatting away to each other in a Cornish accent.
  5. Starry starry nights! OK, let me explain. At the end of each day of our last holiday in Cornwall, my favourite bit happened as we left that night's restaurant late in the evening, full of lovely food and delicious wine. Hand in hand, we headed back on foot to our apartment, enjoying the almost-empty streets and the opportunity to stop and admire the paintings in the windows of the art galleries en route. (I'm always searching for new favourite artists...I'll never stop.) Then, back at the apartment, we'd sit out on the balcony with one last glass of wine, listen to the sound of the waves breaking onto the beach below and gaze up at the stars in the ink-black sky. 

What could be more perfect than that?

The Unpredictable Consequences of Love is available in paperback June 5 2014. The ebook is out now. You can follow Jill on Twitter @JillMansell.

Win a kindle! And a fab beach bag for your hols! 

Now Jill has revealed her favourite things about Cornwall Scallops, Surfers, Sandcastles, Seagulls and Starry nights. Tell us in 5 words below what you love most about Cornwall and our favourite answer will each win a special beach bag, including a copy of Jill's latest book, a beach towel and a Kindle. Closing date Friday 13 June 2014.  

Terms and conditions

The prize consists of a beach bag, a copy of Jill's latest book, a beach towel and a Kindle. The prize is valued at up to £200, there is no cash alternative available. Entrants must be 18 or over to enter, and must not be an employee of Cornwall Development Company. The judges decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.