In day two of our #WonderWomen celebration, Veronica Henry joins us to talk about her literary heroine.
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My literary heroine/author crush/person I would like to be most in the world is Jilly Cooper. I feasted on her novellas as a teenager, never quite sure which eponymous heroine I loved the most – Bella, Imogen, Octavia … just their names a source of envy. Then when Riders burst onto the scene, with its breathtakingly raunchy cover, a whole new world was opened up to me. I devoured every one of her books as it emerged, reading long into the night, not emerging from between the covers until the last word had been savoured.
Her books have everything: intricate plots that rattle along, impeccable research into the escapist worlds in which they are set (showjumping, television, art, opera …), sumptuous descriptions. But it’s the characters that make Jilly Cooper’s writing so outstanding and memorable. Once read never forgotten: they are three-dimensional, red-blooded and get right under your skin, whether they are incorrigible bounders with wandering hands or hapless heroines with endless legs and a warm heart.
It was Jilly who taught me that it is characters who bring your writing to life. Nail them and everything else falls into place around them. And the importance of creating characters that readers want to spend time with in spite of, or perhaps because of, their faults. Rupert Campbell Black really is the ultimate romantic hero: impossibly handsome, appallingly behaved, but boy would you want him on your team – or in your bed.
The other thing her writing taught me is how important it is to infuse your books with your sense of self, so they are truly authentic. Anyone who wants to understand the notion of ‘voice’ should turn to Jilly Cooper. Her books perfectly capture her warmth, her wit, her wisdom. And they are naughty in the nicest possible way.
Catch up with yesterday’s #WonderWomen posts from Fearne Cotton and Kate Williams, and head over to the Gollancz blog to read about Charaine Harris’ literary heroine