My guest, international bestseller, Wendy Holden. She writes juicy romantic comedy with a lovely edge of the satirical and biting wit. You can't help but laugh and shake your head over her lively, well drawn characters.
Today she talks about her research into creating her characters and the fun she had in writing her anti-heroine, Alexa.
Current events inspire most of my books. The one that inspired my latest novel, Marrying Up, was the recent Royal Wedding in Britain because I’m fascinated with Kate Middleton’s social trajectory. One thing’s for sure, it didn’t come about by accident. That girl worked her ass off to get that guy.
What I’m most interested in is how people move between social classes, or try to. For a comic writer like me, the trying is the where all the best comic material is and in Britain we have a very long tradition at laughing at people who try to ‘better themselves’ as it’s known. It’s a strange contrast to the United States, where no one thinks it’s odd to try and improve one’s circumstances and it’s the American Dream to move up in the world. In the UK, we try to keep people in their place, although, of course, people have no intention of staying in their places, and why should they? I didn’t keep in my place, that’s for sure (see my website if you want to know more, www.wendyholden.net)
The British class system looks rigid and impenetrable from the outside but in actual fact it is extremely flexible. You can get all the way up, just like Kate Middleton did, despite having a mother who was an airhostess. Although of course being an airhostess has in itself bagged other women men with titles – Queen Noor, for example, met King Hussein on a transatlantic flight. You see what I mean? I’m very interested in all that, in the loopholes and rear doors that allow people with ambition to move from humble circumstances to more exalted states.
In Marrying Up, my anti-heroine, Alexa, is a sort of disaster version of Kate Middleton. She’s desperate to bag herself a titled husband. She’s no aristocrat herself, but she works the system as best she can. Her first effort is to get a job on a society magazine so she can get invited to smart parties and meet smart people. That doesn’t work so she tries hanging out at posh funerals and picking up men there. She’s incorrigible and pretty immoral, but I admire her spirit and her guts. I actually like her better than the book’s real heroine. Wicked characters are much more fun to write than good ones! Perhaps because they’re closer to real life.
Marrying Up is partly set in a glamorous Mediterranean kingdom a bit like Monaco, so it allowed me to use one of my favourite settings. I’ve loved the South of France for 25 years but of course things change so much so I simply have to go back every single year and make sure it’s all still the same! I’m so glad I write glam romantic comedies instead of inner-city slasher novels, as the research wouldn’t be half so much fun. My subject area also requires that I read enormous numbers of glossy magazines and celebrity lifestyle publications. Funnily enough, many of these – British Hello and OK especially - have some quite subversive writers on them who use the unthreatening context to ask their famous (and usually pretty dumb) interview subjects some pretty subtle questions. I get a lot of inspiration from this sort of thing, although I’m not interested in sleazy celebs, just the very rich ones. Their route upwards is always fascinating and gives me ideas for future characters in the Alexa vein. Anyway, I hope you enjoy Marrying Up, it was a blast to write and I’ve been lucky enough to get some great reviews for it in America. This is thrilling to me, an obscure foreigner, to make any sort of an impact in your great and glorious country. I feel extremely fortunate and completely amazed.
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MARRYING UP: A RIGHT ROMANTIC COMEDY
Beautiful but broke student Polly and scheming social climber Alexa may have grown up in the same place, but they couldn't be more different. Polly's just fallen for Max, a handsome country vet. But Alexa can't be bothered with love—any guy with a pedigree will do, mind you, as long as he comes with a title, a mansion, and a family tiara.
Alexa wiggles her way into friendship with Florrie, a clueless aristocrat who could support entire countries with her spare change. Suddenly the grandest doors swing open for Alexa, and a new life is so close she can taste it. Polly could care less about Max's money, but his mysterious habit of disappearing scares her. What's he hiding?
Wendy Holden was a journalist on The Sunday Times, Tatler and The Mail on Sunday before becoming a full-time author. She has written nine novels, all Sunday Times Top Ten bestsellers. She is married and has two children.