I first met Jenny Haddon (aka Sophie Weston and Sophie Page) at an M&B authors’ lunch. She was the organizer and was so kind to me, as a wet-behind-the-ears newbie. Actually, she went way beyond the call of duty and came all the way from London to Norwich for the launch party of my first M&B. And I might add that that was on a day when the weather was so bad that the trains stopped running! (So she stayed overnight at our place – no way was I sending her off to a hotel.) And she’s the one who sent me my very first feather boa. And she bought me a cup of tea in the Ritz, which made me feel really special instead of the scruffy oik I normally am. I loved her Sophie Weston books for M&B, and her ‘To Marry a Prince’ (as Sophie Page) is fabulous.
Anyway, over to Jenny:
Happy 50th, Kate. What a star you are. It is not so long ago that I came up to Norwich to dance at the launch of your first book! I remember coming to spend the night afterwards and finding with relief that, in spite of your impressive diligence and organization, there were places round the edges where your workspace was almost as relaxed as my own feline-friendly one.
Thinking about how I love your books set me to wondering about that special hook that captures me as a reader. A great story, of course. And I have to admit that I want a satisfying ending, preferably happy. But the thing that binds me to a book with hoops of steel is the characters.
Sometimes these are lovely people I want to have as my friends - and you do great friendly and responsible heroines, Kate. But what makes them special is that they have the potential to be completely different from their normal selves. I am not talking about the Heroic Journey, like Hamlet or Sydney Carton, who change, achieve and die. I am talking about the Other Me in all of us, the one who makes the choices we reject and knows that one day we could, maybe even will, do the 'out of character' thing in real life. And even if we can't actually do it, we can still imagine the feelings, the desires, the achievements of Other Me.
One of the best examples of this I know is Jilly Cooper's Rupert Campbell-Black, a ruthless, witty, charming don't-give-a-shit sexpot all through Riders. He looks the same in Rivals and then suddenly, after a weekend visit from the children of his now ended marriage, he sits in the den in front of the television, with one arm round his dog, weeping over Lassie. It shows his Other Me, embracing the one thing Rupert rejects and, you would say, has no time for at all: innocence. It sent chills up my spine, that scene, when I first read it.
I suppose I'm saying that, for a character in a novel to be real to me, they have to have the capacity to behave out of character. And yours do. Heck, it's even in the title of Dr Cinderella's Midnight Fling! And now I'm fully expecting to find it in The Hidden Heart of Rico Rossi. Scrumptious. Thank you, Kate.
Jenny’s giving away a copy of ‘To Marry a Prince’ – just tell her what draws you to a book or leave a comment below.
You can find out more about Jenny at her website http://www.jennyhaddon.com or on her blog at http://jennyhaddon.com/?page_id=121
Or follow her on Twitter @jennyhaddon