Monday, August 27, 2012

50th party blog guest - Jenny Haddon

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 or on her blog at
Or follow her on Twitter @jennyhaddon


Caroline said...

Great blog Jenny. I once read something that went like, "what do your characters do at the end of the book that they would never have done at the beginning?". And for a romance junkie like me that *got* to be fall in love - no matter what the obstacles are/were. Caroline x p.s I also like the back blurb on a book to hook me in too!

Liz Fielding said...

Wonderful blog, Jenny. I have never read any of JC's bonkbusters (although big fan of early romances), but now I want to get to know Rupert.

Sarah Morgan said...

I really enjoyed reading your post Jenny! So beautifully written and illuminating - I didn't know you were the friend responsible for the gift of the feather boa. I seem to remember wrapping part of it round myself when I sat next to Kate at an author lunch. We LOVE that boa :)


Anne said...

Lovely blog -- pity I can't win To Marry a Prince, since I already have a much beloved copy, but someone is in for a treat.

I'm waiting for the next book in the series (hint hint)

Sharon Kendrick said...

What a thoughtful post, Jenny (but then, you are a very thoughtful person!).

I love Jilly Cooper's books - especially the shorter ones named after the heroines (who had the kind of names which someone called Sharon would always lust after....Octavia, Harriet, Prudence etc). In fact, I once wrote her a gushing letter asking if I could be one of the books' characters if ever they were televised and she (diplomatic woman) wrote back to say, yes of course!

PrincessFiona01 said...

HiJenny and Kate, First of all it's great to join in Kate's 50th celebration for an impressive body of work. Jenny, so nice to see what you are doing these days. Your Sophie Weston "No Man's Possession" has been on my keeper shelf forever. In fact I have two in case I wear one out. ;-] I love my happy ending to be emotional.

Anonymous said...

First thing that draws me to a book is the cover. If I find that interesting, I read the blurb. (unless its a favorite author then I automatically read the blurb). If I find that the blurb interest me I buy it.

Desere said...

The first thing that grabs my attention is the author's name as I have quite a few auto buy authors. But if I do not know the author it is the cover and then only if the story on the back cover is something that I know sounds fabulous I grab it as quick as I can.

Thank you very much for the very lovely give away I adore the book title.


Jenny Haddon said...

Caroline, Desere, Anonymous, that back blurb is so important, isn't it? It has to tell you enough to beckon you in and not so much that you feel you know the whole story. And, personally, I hate blurbs that try to pull my strings, saying things like, 'Can she find her way through this maze?' That's enough to make me put the book back on the shelf and walk away.

Liz - I think 'Rivals' is very special. Enjoy'

Sarah - maybe we should have a Boa Chapter?

Anne - my Prince and I thank you. The next book in the series is a little more than a twinkle in my eye now.

Sharon - I loved those early Jilly Coopers, a sort of combination of innocence of heart and pretty crisp sophistication of phrase, like when her calls Harriet 'the distressed gentlefuck'. Wish I'd thought of that!

Fiona - so glad you like 'No Man's Possession'. It was the first book I wrote for fabulous editor, Jacqui Bianchi, who became one of my best friends, and is precious to me.

bn100 said...

The cover draws me to the book first.

Kaetrin said...

What draws me to a book? An author I know, love and trust. A recommendation from a trusted reviewer. The blurb, an excerpt. A sexy hero. Sometimes(but rarely) the cover. So many things! :)

hankts AT internode DOT on DOT net

julie devenport said...

I would have to say the blurb, if that doesn't grab my attention no matter how good the front cover looks or even the author name on the front. If I don't like the feel of the book by the blurb I won't read it. The blurb should give you a taste of the story to come xx

Kate Hardy said...

First name drawn from the hat for 'To Marry a Prince'- Julie Devenport. Please contact me kate(dot)hardy(at)btinternet(dot)com with your details, and I'll get everything sorted :o) Thanks for taking part!