Sophie Kinsella has just come into possession of diamonds that once belonged to Agatha Christie. The three-stone ring, which, along with a brooch, was lost for years and discovered locked away in a trunk, was bought for her as a surprise by her husband. The gift is particularly appropriate for Kinsella, who is a big fan of Christie’s and Kinsella’s irrepressible heroine, Becky Bloomwood Brandon, is always on the lookout for a fantastic find. Kinsella has recently released the ninth Shopaholic novel in the series, Shopaholic to the Stars. She chatted with us about how in the latest book, Becky embraces the LA lifestyle with glee when her family moves to Hollywood. Naturally, Becky’s plans to make friends with celebrities don’t go as anticipated and she is shocked to cross paths with a despised old nemesis…
In your new book, Shopaholic to the Stars, Becky Brandon is as into shopping as ever, but this time out is also seduced by the glitz and glam of Hollywood, isn’t she?
She definitely gets seduced by the LA lifestyle. She hits Hollywood with great excitement and optimism. She can’t wait to hang out with celebrities and lead a new, fab, glamorous LA life…but at every turn she runs into trouble.
What inspiration, if any, did you get from your time behind the scenes on the set of Confessions of a Shopaholic?
I saw that whole experience partly as a giant research trip. I was lucky enough to go on a film set, the red carpet, studios…and of course indulge in some shopping in LA…and the whole time I was thinking: “What would Becky do?” “How would she react to LA?” I knew she would go on quite a journey and I couldn’t wait to write it.
Did you find Hollywood fun or freaky?
LA is a place of crazy extremes so definitely a hint of both!
You tackle the concept of fame in the book — and the whole notion of what’s real and what isn’t — don’t you?
Yes, this is definitely a lesson that Becky learns in the book. You earn the glamour in whatever way. Whether it’s hard work — people work incredibly hard in Hollywood. Or they’ll make sacrifices. A lot of people will sacrifice their own privacy. That’s what this book slightly touches on: this whole kind of instant celebrity, but at what cost? Is celebrity a real thing, or an important thing in life? Or are family, friends and values?
On that note, do people confuse you with Becky? How are you the same/different?
Certainly I think there is a little of me in each heroine I write — when I write Becky, it’s all instinct and it always has been. I can honestly say that some of her thoughts are the exact same thoughts I have. And I definitely have my own Becky-like, shopaholic, carried-away moments. Maybe not quite as many as Becky! But, like Becky at the end of the books, after the madness has passed, I am able to take a step back, examine my own thoughts, think: “I was crazy!”
This is your ninth Shopaholic book. How do you keep Becky fresh and fun for your readers — and yourself?
Becky has gone through the kind of life stages that many of us go through, and she has grown and learned lessons with each one, and so there is more resonance to each plot. There are also lots of interesting dynamics within her family and friends, and I think each book becomes their story, too.
You also write books under your real name. How are they different from the Shopaholic series?
I had written as Madeleine Wickham for several years before Sophie Kinsella was even a twinkle in my eye. I enjoyed the style — third person, ensemble pieces with a hint of social comedy. But then I had the idea for the first Shopaholic novel, and I knew at once this had to be something different. The Shopaholic series is definitely a different brand of comedy.
You almost ended the Shopaholic series in the past, but it’s clear there will be another one after this. Can we hope for even more?
Don’t worry, I’m hard at work writing the sequel. Let’s just say that Becky is on the road…
What do you hope readers take away from your books?
I hope they enjoy them. That they laugh and can see themselves in my characters.
What’s been the most memorable moment in your career to date?
When I’d had my very first book deal, for The Tennis Party, it was an extraordinary whirlwind — the book went to auction with seven publishers bidding and I simply couldn’t believe it! I will never forget that feeling.
Quick & Dirty Qs for Kinsella
Best advice you’d give?
To writers? Cherish your ideas.
Book you wish you’d written?
Anything by Agatha Christie, and Alice in Wonderland, a firm favourite.
Best book you’ve read recently?
The Circle by Dave Eggers; it’s brilliant.
If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you do?
Probably working in journalism, which is how I started out.