'I couldn't have finished the book without him'

Former secretary Lisa Jewell, 32, wrote last year's best-selling début novel, 'Ralph's Party', with the financial support of her partner, Jascha Gordon, 35. Now Lisa is helping Jascha to achieve his dream career. The couple live in north London
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Lisa

Lisa

I met Jascha in June 1994, when I was a secretary at a shirt-making company. He was the contracted computer-programmer. I fancied him the first minute I set eyes on him. I was married, but I thought Jascha was my destiny. He was cool, funny and down-to-earth.

We started going out for platonic lunches the following January. Soon Jascha told me he had fallen in love with me, and that he couldn't just be my friend. He needed to know whether I would leave my husband. So I went home that night and left him. Jascha and I hadn't even laid a finger on each other then. We started seeing each other, and I got divorced that September.

In October 1996, I was made redundant. I was devastated - I loved that job. We went on holiday with some friends, and I started chatting with one of them, Yasmin, about temping. She asked me what I really wanted to do and I said I wanted to write a book. I'd always thought it was something I would do when I was a lot older and more wise. She told me that I didn't have to write a whole book to get a publishing deal, but that I could just send in three chapters. She said she would take us to our favourite restaurant if I did so, and we made a bet on it.

I didn't have an idea for the story until I sat down to write it. The three chapters took me a month. Yasmin said they were brilliant, and told me to send them off to agents. The first nine replies were rejections, but then in January 1997, an agent wrote back saying they needed a lot of work, but that she wanted to see the rest of the book. I just lost it - Jascha and I were unbelievably excited.

I was temping at the time and didn't think I would have time to do it. So Jascha suggested I moved in with him and he would pay the bills. So I did and only took part-time work. I finished the book at the end of the year. I went to see my agent and she said she wanted to set up a bidding war. When I came home, Jascha and I just screamed like a pair of kids. We just couldn't believe it. A few weeks later, I was offered £120,000 for a two-book deal. Jascha went to the off-licence and bought two bottles of champagne. It was one of the most exciting days of our lives.

Jascha then got involved in a start-up software company. He started off being paid, but they ran out of money, so he asked me whether I minded being the sole provider. It was weird at the beginning. This was the first time I'd ever had money and someone was asking me to give it to them.

It was a bit of a mental leap for me. All my intellect was saying "this man didn't think twice about supporting me", and here I was feeling a bit uncomfortable doing the same thing for him. But a year down the line, I'm used to it and very happy with the situation.

I would never have finished the book if it hadn't been for Jascha. I'd have ignored the letter because I couldn't see a way round it, and I'm intrinsically lazy. We got married in July. I think he's the best human being in the entire world. He taught me what real love is. He's so sweet - you should see him with our cat.

Jascha

The first time I met Lisa, she was just one of many people in the office, and didn't stand out. It took a few weeks before we started to chat, and then I suddenly realised there was chemistry there. I probably became somewhat obsessed, I think. My excitement was tempered by the fact she was married. But I couldn't control myself, I was drawn towards her - there was a magic about her. Over lunch once, I ran out of small talk, and laid it on the line. Her reaction was very encouraging.

I thought it was great when she first started writing. Why not give it a go? But I didn't expect anything to come of it. I don't think Lisa did either. I was gobsmacked and excited when she got the letter from her agent. I thought this could actually come to something.

I told her she had to do it - it was too good an opportunity to miss. It was the practical answer, to ask her to move in. I wanted to give it the best chance that we could. And she did far better. When she got the book deal, we danced around the flat for a couple of days. It was probably about that time that her champagne habit started!

Just over a year ago, I joined forces with somebody and set up a company to develop software. In the end I had to ask Lisa to support me. It was a bit strange. I'd always been in a relationship where I've earned substantially more and so paid more. To turn that around was a bit of a psychological battle. There were a few heated moments at first, before we both got our heads round the idea. It then settled down fairly quickly. It's a smooth process now. I still do consultancy work for pocket money. I don't have to say: "Can I have 50 quid? I'm popping out."

Still, I'm not entirely comfortable being kept. I didn't think it would go on this long - I thought it would be six months, but hopefully it won't be too much longer. I probably wouldn't have done it without Lisa, it would have been too big a gamble. If I had to sum up my feelings for her, I'd say we're totally in love. She's my life.

'Thirty-Nothing', the new novel by Lisa Jewell, is published by Penguin on 7 September, at £6.99

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