Sophie Kinsella International Q&A
Did you base Katie’s tricky experiences when moving to London on anything or anyone’s experiences? The commuting scene came directly from personal experience. When I was in my first couple of jobs, in my 20s, I had mammoth commutes, from south London to Holborn. More recently, I used to live in Wimbledon, and whenever I had to take the train at rush hour, both platform and trains were always crammed. It really is warfare, like Katie says!
Her flat was inspired partially by the famous sale of a ‘broom cupboard’ in Knightsbridge. More recently I read a piece in the Evening Standard, about the pressure on London property. I got very interested in this, and looked online. Some rooms for rent were really tiny and Katie’s hammock came from me thinking, ‘Well, where would you keep your clothes’?
Her exhilaration at being in London also comes from real life. I remember starting work in London and thinking ‘Wow, I’m part of it’. I worked at one time for the FT Group, and it gave me such a buzz, walking over Waterloo Bridge, holding my FT and feeling like I was part of a huge, important city life.
Social media is a big theme in the book. Do you feel any pressure to keep up with social media trends? Social media has become an integral part of my life and I’m not sure how! I’m not one to post my children every five seconds, but when I’m out and about, I am always thinking, ‘Ooh, shall I Instagram that’? I try not to get too hung up on it, though, and in fact, writing this book gave me perspective!
Did you research the glamping element of the book? Of course! I went glamping especially. I’m a total sucker for all that kind of thing – yurts, bunting, fires, wellies and flower garlands and feeling all rustic and down to earth, but with a nice hot shower available. I am definitely a glamper rather than a camper!
Demeter is a multi-layered character and the reader’s opinion of her evolves throughout the book. When you started writing, did you plan for this shift in perspective or were you surprised by how her character changed over the course of the novel? I always knew there were hidden depths to Demeter. One of the joys of writing the book was portraying her through Katie’s eyes and gradually seeing Katie awaken to the real Demeter, underneath the glossy image. I think that’s how relationships work in real life, too. We see someone who appears successful and glamorous and confident, and can make the mistake of taking them at face value. Especially in a workplace situation, where everyone has to play their role. But if I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that everyone has issues and problems; everyone has their ‘stuff’. No-one has it all perfect.
Have you got any tips for looking and feeling great on a Katie Brenner budget? I think Katie does really well by going to markets. I have a market near me in London and there are some amazing bargains. Katie buys a lot of clothes in black and that’s sensible. Have your black basics, and then find pops of colour with scarves or necklaces. Charity shops are a total joy.
As for beauty, my latest all-purpose discovery is coconut oil. You can use it on your skin and your hair and a little goes a long way.
Have you had ever any nightmare bosses? I have been lucky in my bosses, but I have heard plenty of horror stories from friends! I think Demeter is probably in a league of her own, though…
Who came first in your head, Katie or Demeter? The two popped in together. From the start, it was the dynamic between the pair of them that interested me. I knew I wanted to write about two women, one older and glamorous who ‘had it all’ and one who was struggling. The characters unfolded from there.
Where will Katie, Demeter and the rest of the cast of characters be in 5 years’ time? Demeter will mellow, become a little more ‘mindful’, and start mentoring young girls to get into the industry. Katie will soar ahead in her career. She has such talent and drive. Alex will come up with five new ground-breaking ideas. He will have occasional urges to run away, around the world, but Katie will steady him. Mick and Biddy will flourish. Mick will learn the tube map! Flora, annoyingly, will return from her travels, begin an organic beauty company based on some essential oil she discovered on her trip and do really well at it. Alan will still have a garage full of whey powder and chicken stock. Steve Logan will invite Katie to the christening of his first child and make a pass at her.