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Books

Sophie Kinsella: 'A book should take you out of yourself'

She's the best-selling author of the "Shopaholic" series, featuring Becky Bloomwood. In this DW interview, the British writer Sophie Kinsella gives tips on how to write fun books - and how to tame a shopping addiction.

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Best-selling chick lit

DW: How did you decide to become a writer?

Well, I used to commute a lot and I used to read novels, all the time, morning and evening, and I loved reading them, but suddenly I looked at my life and thought: "You know what, I want to do this, I want to write one." And it was like a light bulb moment, and that's where it all began.

How do you venture into a story - be it the "Shopaholic" or one of your other types of novels - how do you start?

Well, every book starts with a tiny idea and I let that idea stick with me, and then I start to plan it out. I go to coffee shops - great inspiration - and I sit and I plan for ages, and then when I really know the story, I know the characters, and all the issues, then I start writing properly.

What's in store next for Becky Bloomwood - or is she about to retire?

Oh don't say she's going to retire! In my head she'll go on forever. My trouble is time. I have so many stories I want to tell, and I have been working on a great new stand-alone novel. But I do have ideas for Becky, and I'm really excited about what she has in store.

Why do you think Becky and the "Shopaholic" books appeal to so many women?

What's interesting is that it's not just about shopping. There's plenty of people who say to me "You know what's weird, I don't really like shopping, but I love Becky!" And you know what, it's because she is loyal, she's fun, she's ingenious and she always solves problems for other people. So she's just a great person who happens to have this tiny flaw that she loves shopping.

But she does have a bit of a problem, I mean, it's not such an unserious problem - addiction to shopping. Does she offer any solutions?

Oh, you know, I think she has helped a lot of women who take from Becky that perhaps they need to reign in a little. She has a lot of practical tips to stop shopping, from, well, to make your own coffee, to make your own lunch, to use all the clothes already in your closet. Don't go and buy new ones, look at what you already have. She actually has a lot of practical tips, and they really can take those away. Now, whether Becky herself actually follows her practical tips, is another matter, but you know, the information is there and I think the issue is addressed albeit in a comedic way.

Has your success altered the way you write?

I don't think success has anything to do with writing. You know, writing is me and my story, and it's a very intimate thing. And when I'm in my room alone with my story, I'm kind of unaware of all of the millions of readers, or the countries, or the film, or any of these 'successful' trappings. I'm just trying to tell the best story I can, and that's all that matters.

Sophie Kinsella, Copyright: DW

Madeleine Wickham aka Sophie Kinsella loves to write in cafés

You write under two names - Madeleine Wickham and Sophie Kinsella. Sophie Kinsella is the combination of your middle name and your mother's maiden name. Tell me about the differences and the way you write depending on which name you choose to use.

Well, I'm a bit schizophrenic with these two author names, but you know what, writing any book is about taking on a voice and a character, and has a different flavor. And I think the Madeleine Wickham books have the flavor of a bit more serious, drama issues, some comedy but that's not what they're really about.

Whereas the Sophie Kinsella books are fast, funny, all about comedy, very contemporary, somewhat silly, sometimes quite outrageous plots. So they have very much their own space. And when I switch from one to the other, I kind of step into those shoes, and I start to see the world through those eyes. It's just another extension of what I do, which is just finding voices and telling stories.

What do you feel makes a good book?

What makes a good book? I love that! A book should take you out of yourself, so I want to be transported, I want to whip out with the pages, I want to be surprised, I want to be entertained, maybe love, maybe cry - I love to cry at a book - and at the end I want to feel like I have been to a different place, and that I have to just gradually return to the real life.

Do you have any male readers?

You know, I do have male readers. I do. And I think some of them probably read the books with some other books hiding it, but I have met them at readings, I have met them almost admitting that they also love to shop, just with different things. You know shopping is not just a female pursuit. Men like to buy cars, and okay I'm being completely stereotypical now, but it's true. Men shop. I find it they spend more money than women is the truth of it.

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