ON the seventh page of Jenny Colgan’s new book The Summer Skies, after the puff quotes that extol her virtues as a writer, but before the title page, the indicia and the dedication, there is a list of the author’s other titles.

In Colgan’s case that list takes up an entire page.

There are 35 novels named in all. And a novella. Sitting in Colgan’s first-floor sitting room in Fife, the author and I are sipping tea and trying to work out a rough count of how many words that represents.

“Let’s think,” she begins. “90,000 words a book?” I ask. “80,000 to 100,000,” she agrees. “Times 30.”

I pluck a number out of the air. “A million words?”

“No, we’re closer to two and a half million,” she points out. “Wow.” Even she sounds impressed.

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Colgan looks at the list of her novels (and lone novella). “Those are just the ones we kept! Boy oh boy, we chucked a lot away. Those are the good ones.”

It’s also worth noting that nearly all of those books have been written this century. And the list isn’t even entirely up to date. She wrote The Summer Skies two years ago, she says.

“I’m always about two years ahead of where I am. So, the book I am working on just now will be in paperback in spring 2026.”

In short, Colgan, the Prestwick-born teachers’ daughter, is now one of Scotland’s most prolific novelists (2,500 words a day is the aim, she says). She is also one of the country’s most successful, having sold somewhere in the region of nine million books in 26 languages, which, even distributed between 35 and a half titles, is still a remarkable figure.

Colgan wears that success lightly alongside the T-shirt and Havaianas flip flops she’s sporting today. It’s the last bank holiday in May and the sun is shining on Fife. We’re sitting in the 20th-century castle which Colgan shares with her marine engineer husband Andrew, their three teenage children and two dogs (one of whom, Nedward, seems to have fallen in love with me).

From the terrace at the top of the tower you get a remarkable view across the Firth of Forth, from bridges to Edinburgh and beyond. A shimmering, picture-perfect vision of Scotland that wouldn’t be out of place in one of her books.

The Summer Skies takes place rather further to the north, though. It tells the story of Morag, a pilot born into a family of fliers, who has to take a break from her job flying holidaymakers to Alicante to return home to the Scottish Highlands where she starts island-hopping in her grandfather’s rickety old plane until … Well, no spoilers but, yes, there is a man involved. More than one actually.

Colgan says that she can be surprised by what happens in her books as much as her readers. “Very few writers are planners. Even plenty of crime writers won’t know who the murderer is until they’re done.

“Part of the fun and joy of writing is discovering things. If you’re invested in your characters, and I always really am, they don’t always do things you want them to. So you take a pencil for a walk and see what happens.”

What surprised her about The Summer Skies? “There’s a lot more about chickens than I expected.”

The Herald: Jenny Colgan in the gardens at her home Picture: Stewart AttwoodJenny Colgan in the gardens at her home Picture: Stewart Attwood (Image: FREE)

What won’t surprise any of her readers is how readable the novel is. Colgan merits all those puff quotes at the start of the book. She is one of the leading lights of romance fiction and one of its most vocal advocates.

Romantic fiction is, she reminds me, the single biggest genre in publishing. That’s why the upcoming First Date, Scotland’s first ever romance festival, under the auspices of Edinburgh’s Lighthouse Book Festival at the Scottish Storytelling Centre later this month, is long overdue, Colgan says.

Crime, horror, sci-fi, fantasy and literary fiction all have their own festivals and get coverage in newspapers. Not so romantic fiction. Until now.

“Romance outsells every single one of those genres put together. It outsells crime by a factor of two. Most people would think crime is the big seller. It isn’t. It’s romance and romantic comedy and it’s almost completely ignored for pure snot box reasons. It’s because women read it and write it; older women and working-class women.

“Publishing is trying to be more inclusive and it is trying to reflect more lives. And certainly in romance we’re trying to reflect more gay romance, or just a broader definition of romance. And yet you’re still facing all the time this barrier of entry to books that older working-class women like and it’s just nonsense.

“If we go and do a community hall in Paisley we’ll get a fantastic crowd and we’ll have a brilliant night. If I do a fancy literary festival we’ll get like six people. They’ll go and see a Guatemalan poet who’s been in prison. It’s just snobbery really.

“So, yes, I think it is needed and I think it’s really nice that we’re partnered with Lighthouse, which is a women’s bookshop and a queer bookshop. It’s great and it’s a nice thing to be a part of.”

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This is, perhaps understandably, something of a personal crusade. She is by any measure a Scottish publishing success story, but she’s not sure that’s always recognised.

“The BBC ran a book programme for years and I’ve sold nine million books about Scotland written in Scotland by a Scottish person. They didn’t have me on once. Not one single time.”

Why, she asks? Is it because our idea of Scottish literature is “heroin and dead babies and folk murdering them”?

She takes a sip of her tea before adding, “And by the way, there’s nothing wrong with those.”

Are you saying, Jenny, that crime fiction has a cachet that romantic fiction doesn’t? “Oh yeah, because men read it.

“I don’t really believe in genre. You tell a story you want to tell. Sometimes people die, sometimes they get married. You’re just telling a story. There’s great examples of work in every genre and shit in every genre.

“But the idea that a genre itself would be more acceptable is just nonsensical.”

What are the parameters of romantic fiction, I ask her? If every crime novel needs a murder …

“Romance needs loooove,” She pulls the word out like she’s stretching chewing gum. “Falling in love. You’re trying to capture that amazing feeling of something being reciprocated and how exciting it is. It is endlessly interesting. And not just to women. And also,” she continues, “you’re not very likely to come across a dead body or go into space. But choosing the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with is the most important decision I’d say most of us ever take in terms of how it knocks onto your happiness and your health and your general life.

“Choosing your partner is incredibly important. It feels like you have to get everything right, line everything up”

And even then, she points out, it can still go badly wrong. “It’s just fascinating. And not everybody, but most people would like somebody to share their life with. And somebody really simpatico they can rub along with. It just never stops being interesting.”

As she says this, Nedward is demanding my attention. He is on my lap and cooried into me. “Look at you and my dog,” she says, laughing.

Colgan’s readers are largely women, and often older women. Does it matter if men read them? “No, I don’t suppose it does, really. Is it always a delight? Yes, it’s really lovely and I think it says a lot about any kind of person who will read what they want to read regardless of what the Sunday Times tells them is supposed to be decent literature.”

Maybe the better question, Jenny, is what could men learn from reading your books?

She laughs. “Have you seen that meme about the airport dad? It’s kicking around. It’s lovely. It’s a TikTok and it’s a bunch of lads on a lads’ holiday. They’re about 18, 19, and one of the guys in the group is the airport dad and he takes everyone’s passport, he checks the tickets a million times. They’re so early they can’t even check their bags in. He’s got his pillow ...

“The funny thing is it’s been posted as a joke, but it’s got 100 comments underneath by women going, ‘Yep, that’s exactly the kind of man I would like.’

“Men can sometimes get it really wrong – and you can see that with Andrew Tate – about what women actually like. And also this idea that women only like really muscular men is so weird.

The Herald: Andrew TateAndrew Tate (Image: free)

“I would hope men might realise there are lots of different ways to be a very attractive man.”

I read her a quote I’d read on Twitter earlier in the day from the advice columnist Philippa Perry, in turn quoting the sexologist Jack Morin: “Attraction + Obstacle = Desire.”

Sounds about right, Colgan agrees. “Nobody likes anything that comes too easy. It doesn’t feel worthwhile.That’s just a truism about human nature. It’s nice that my dog is really keen to be petted, but if that was a human being you’d probably think that was a bit weird.”

After 35 and a half books presumably she is not just mining her own romantic past?

“My romantic past is so far in the rear-view mirror now. Andrew and I have been together since the millennium.

“That’s the other weird thing. I’ve never been on Tinder. My dad’s been on Tinder. I have no idea how internet dating works. I’ve never dated with a mobile phone. I dated with a payphone, so that in itself is weird trying to figure out.

“I tend to not figure it out. I tend to set everything on islands that have very bad mobile phone reception.

“And I know a lot of people do meet online but I think there is a bit of a yearning for people to meet in real life even though I am informed by the younger generation that meeting in real life would be considered terribly naff and possibly dangerous if somebody actually chatted you up. What a depressing thought.”

That’s not to say heartbreak hasn’t played a part in her own story. “Only once when I was very young. I was so heartbroken that I went off and joined a night class in stand-up comedy which I was terrible at, but found that I quite liked funny stuff and wrote a book off the back of it. I always remember that they had huge posters for the first one in the Tube and I thought, ‘Ah, he has to go to work through the underground stations. He’s got to see it every day.’”

There is another romance going on in Colgan’s books, of course. A romance with Scotland. Colgan returned home eight years ago, to be closer to her mother who was seriously ill at the time (she sadly passed away in 2016). Before, Colgan had been living in England, Europe and America for 20 years. What is the country she has found since she returned?

“Do you know? A much more confident country than when I left. I left in 1992 and came back in 2015. It feels much more of a separate country and also that sense of – you immediately had to go to London … That has gone really.”

I’m a little distracted from what she is saying at this point. Nedward is essentially vibrating in my arms. “I’m so sorry. My dog has fallen in love with you.”

Colgan’s Sliding Doors moment came, she says, when she had moved to Santa Monica. “The Guardian offered me to be their LA film critic. And that would have been very interesting. I came back to sort out the flat in London and get my visa and then I went to Miami and met Andrew and that was the end of that. Funny how life changes.”

How does she measure the distance between then and now, between Prestwick and a castle in Fife?

“Only with complete and utter disbelief. I didn’t have connections. My dad taught woodwork. It’s just amazing.

“Also I think about my mother. My mother was born in a slum. She was part of the slum clearances in Glasgow. There were eight of them in two rooms with no toilet. In fact, her journey to a bought house was much more dramatic than my journey, which was from a nice family obviously to a silly house. But apart from that, my life hasn’t changed in the way that hers changed.

“Hers changed from going hungry … My grandfather never learned to read. He was in a mill by the time he was 11, he had no fingers. So I think that generation’s jump was so big and then my generation’s jump was university.”

In some ways things have gone backwards since she was in her 20s, she worries. “I bought a flat in London. I had a s***** admin job and I made 25 grand a year. That’s still what they are paying now. I don’t know how the system works. I used to think I understood it but I don’t understand it any more. I don’t understand how anybody does anything. It seems really unfair.”

But she is not one of life’s pessimists. Perhaps you can’t be if you write romantic fiction. “Humans are very resilient. I don’t think things are ever quite as bad as they are painted to be. I’m not saying things are brilliant, but things are better for humans now than they ever were in the broader sense. Particularly for women.

“Even the statistic that there are a lot more fat people in the world than there are starving people … That’s a fabulous statistic.”

Colgan is 51 now. Her children are growing up. How have her ambitions changed? She thinks about this for a moment.

“There is ridiculous ego in writing a book. ‘I want you to sit down for at least four hours and listen to me.’ It’s an egotistical thing to do. I was quite ambitious about that. Now I’m kind of like, if people like it, that’s fine. If they don’t, that’s alright too. So I’m feeling mellowed out these days knowing that’s a very luxury feeling to be able to have. I’m not studying chart positions and stuff. We had a nice big number last year. That was fun.

“But also I’ve seen several of my friends become extremely successful and it can bring a lot of pressure.”

Colgan mentions Alexander McCall Smith in passing. She has just been in Iceland with her fellow writer, who is 75 this year. Can she imagine still writing 24 years from now?

“Well, my husband does say to me from time to time – because he’s working on a big job at the moment, a big build but that will come to an end – and he said, ‘Maybe we’ll take a couple of years off.’”

But she is not convinced. “I don’t think writing is something you give up. There’s only so much piano you can play. You just end up working on something. Actually, Ian Rankin is on a year off and every time I see him I say, ‘Are you doing any work? ‘Just a bit.’”

It is time for her to get changed for her close-up. Nedward gets a bit annoyed when I move to leave. “I can’t believe that in an interview about romantic comedy a romance was started,” Colgan says.

You’ll be pleased to know the wedding’s planned for September.

The Summer Skies by Jenny Colgan is published by Sphere on Thursday, £14.99. First Date, Scotland’s new Romance Fiction Festival, takes place at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh on June 25