Jim Naughtie talks to the bestselling author Sophie Kinsella about her new book My Not So Perfect Life.
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Sophie Kinsella's new novel is called my My Not So Perfect Life,
It's about a woman in her 20s who leads an apparently
glamorous life in London, although the truth is much more
prosaic, and has to move back home to the country when she is sacked,
But the life she finds there is not quite what she expected.
Sophie Kinsella has written a string of worldwide bestsellers,
including the Confessions of a Shopaholic series,
And if you are wondering - well, she does not mind
the term "chick-lit", but she much prefers what one book
You are talking in the book, introducing us
Do you think that that is the truth about the way that people live these
I think that all of us are suckered into projecting the perfect life.
I think that social media has not helped this tendency.
You know, back in the day you would have your portrait
But I think my forebears would have aimed to look as rich and prosperous
and happy and wonderful as they possibly could.
Then, the portrait would be hung on the wall and you could go
I think now what we do is constantly throw out portraits of ourselves
through social media, and also through our professional
Although we know that it is invented, we sort
This book seems very much of the moment, in that this
picture which is built up, say, on Instagram,
which really is a construction which is quite fake.
She goes back and lives in a little one room place,
although when she is out and about, she looks quite glamorous.
This really is a bit of a problem for us, not for us all,
I mean, social media has exploded, certainly in my lifetime,
from not existing to almost being a planet that we have
We have colonised it and had to make it work for us as humans and I think
it brings out the best and the worst.
I love the connection but this measuring and judging is not good.
You write about women with particular feeling,
not just women, but particularly for young girls, teenage
The world that they are introduced to, you talk about measuring,
Whether it is how you look, your sexual experience, whatever -
it is the sort of thing where, in your young life and my young
Absolutely didn't exist, you had your own teenage struggles.
Perhaps you would tell your diary about them,
We spent a lot of time with one person, whose
voice you could hear, by the way.
As humans, we respond to so many signals.
And on social media, there is a barrier.
There is a visual construct and this wretched "liking" which everyone
becomes addicted to, and a validation that we have
It can only lead to addictive reliance on it.
We should not give the idea that the book is a meditation
When you get an idea like that, does it gnaw
away at you until you've written the book?
Yeah, I think that I go around the world with a sort of radar.
So, when I see people shopping too much, that goes in.
And when I see people projecting lives and feeling anxious
because they are not living up to some sort of measure of success,
But what I try to do, as you say, I try to make people laugh,
whip over the pages, see what is coming next.
It's not a thesis, the thesis is sort of there between the jokes.
What do you think you have got that makes you a good storyteller?
I think from what my readers say, they relate to my characters.
They sort of see themselves in the characters, they see
But what I do is push it to the nth degree,
whether it is getting into ridiculous situations.
I love a bit of farce, silly situations, and
But you start off with somebody that you relate to.
It is the old story, isn't it, that if the reader doesn't care
about the character, not necessarily total affection,
but does not care in the sense that is not interested in...
You can have an antiheroine, but you need someone
All of my Sophie Kinsella novels I have written in the first person.
What is the advantage of writing in the first person?
I find an instant intimacy with the character.
I know these characters so well, and I did used to write
There was a slight level of detachment.
I live these plots, and actually my husband can tell
when things are going badly for my character,
You know, it is quite an emotional journey.
And when you're in the throes of a story, once you have got
the idea, you think that you are there as a character who has
I spend quite a lot of time working things out, turning points
Also working out what I want to say, because you can have an idea
for a story but you're not sure what you are trying
What do you want to say about the world?
I think all of my books want to say, look at us, we are human!
Look at the pickles we get ourselves into...
And, by the way, we are all like this, but never mind.
Are you one of those writers who goes around either literally
with a notebook in the pocket, where you scribble down things.
Or, at least a notebook in your head, and you spot somebody
in a coffee shop or somewhere and go right, I've got her...?
I do, and I think I do it all the time.
I never have the right person for the right chapter.
If I could go to a coffee shop and find the right character
and put them in now, that would be very handy.
But you store them up, or store up a little facet
of something you've heard, and it comes back to you later.
Do you think about your readers when you are doing this?
You have a vast army of readers out there,
do you ever think about them and what they want?
I connect with them, and when I meet them,
interestingly it is the same wherever I go.
What do they ask you, what kind of questions do they ask?
They want to know what is happening next with my characters.
I know that they love to laugh, but to be honest, I don't visualise
So I write the book that would please me as a reader.
I love a plot, some comedy and something to think about.
Well, I sometimes think, you know what?
No, I haven't, I haven't done the gut-wrenching tragedy
So far I've not been ballsy enough to do it.
Sophie Kinsella, thank you very much.
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