TV presenter Fern Britton discusses what inspired her latest novel A Seaside Affair and her publishing experiences.
Given the success of your previous novels, does this put added pressure on your latest novel?
If anything, I’ve learned it doesn’t get easier, but instead it’s actually harder as I want to write something better each time. I argue with myself a lot as I’m writing, worried that I’m not doing very well and the book’s not good enough. I want to write stories that people want to read – something cheering and uplifting. And the reception so far has been wonderful, so thank you to you all for enjoying them.
How would you describe A Seaside Affair?
A Seaside Affair is my new novel, out on the 24th April, and it’s all about the theatre. The Pavilions theatre in Trevay specifically, which is the fictional Cornish village I write about, based on the real village of Padstow. Left to rack and ruin, not supported by the local people or the local council, it’s on the brink of closure, until a giant coffee chain step in and prepare to buy it. Of course, the community quickly rallies round and a host of villagers decide it’s worth saving! Actors and celebrities descend on the town, and there are affairs, flings, misunderstandings – lots of fun.
Where did you get the idea for the novel?
I suppose with all of my novels something just pops into my head – I try not to think too hard about it. You could say I just wait for the writing angel on my shoulder to give me inspiration! A Seaside Affair is inspired by my recent tour with Strictly Come Dancing. I used to be a stage manager myself in the 70s, and when I was on tour I spent a lot of time with the stage management crew, sharing stories about all the scandals that went on, and thinking, yes, I want to write about the theatre next!
Do any of your own experiences find their way into the novel?
If anyone in my books represents me at all – and largely, they don’t – it’s Helen Merrifield, who is the main character in Hidden Treasures and who also appears in A Seaside Affair. Her experiences are a bit like mine.
Has anything surprised you about the world of publishing?
I’ve had a wonderful career in TV for over 34 years, and I’ve loved it. What’s really surprised me about publishing is how relaxed and nice the people are – yes, there are deadlines, but everyone is on your side and wants you and your book to succeed. As an author you’re not part of a big team as you are in TV – it’s only your name on the book, but everyone behind you is so supportive, and my team at HarperCollins are fantastic.
Have books always been a passion of yours?
I read a lot, and I really do love it. If anything I’m even more of a reader since I’ve been writing. I like to steer clear of books that seem like they might be similar to mine as I don’t want to absorb a character or a storyline unconsciously and accidentally reproduce it. Most recently I received a copy of Val McDermid’s reworking of Northanger Abbey, which is part of HarperCollins’ Austen Project, and I can’t wait to get started on that one.
Which authors do you enjoy reading?
I like people who write about people’s lives and relationships, like Rosamund Pilcher. I’m also a huge fan of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind!
How do you feel about the chick lit label?
Many people talk about this, and about the idea that it’s somehow demeaning to be pointed towards a product just for women. My thoughts are, yes, most of us are feminists – and you may not call yourself one, but if you believe in equality for women and children and men, then you are one! – but as a feminist there are so many things I could be affronted by that I can’t be bothered to let the label chick lit be one of them. I don’t mind being signposted to things that will appeal to me. And if men are brave enough to go and buy my book for their wives and girlfriends, what do I have to worry about!
Are there any more books in the pipeline?
There are three more coming in fact, and I’m working on the first of them now. It’s all about fishing families in Cornwall – the fleet, the relationships between the families – I’ve only just started, but I’m very excited about it! I hope you like it too.
When the residents of the Cornish seaside town of Trevay discover that their much-loved theatre is about to be taken over by coffee chain, Cafe au Lait, they are up in arms. It is up to Penny Leighton, hotshot producer and now happily married Cornish resident, to come up with a rescue plan. Armed with only her mobile phone and her contacts book, she starts to pull in some serious favours. The town is soon deluged by actors, all keen to show their support and take part in a charity season at the theatre. One of the arrivals is Jess Tate, girlfriend to TV heart-throb Ryan Hearst. His career is on the rise while hers remains resolutely in the doldrums. But when opportunity comes calling, it isn’t just her career prospects that are about to change. Trevay is about to put on the show of its life – but can the villagers, and Jess, hold on to the thing they love the most?
Fern Britton is a British TV presenter. In 2008, she released her autobiography Fern: My Story. Several novels followed including New Beginnings and The Holiday Home. Fern is deeply committed to a number of charities, in particular those working with and for women, children and childbirth. She lives with her chef husband Phil Vickery and her four children in Buckinghamshire.