Having been a wedding photographer’s assistant for five years, what could be better than to be helping celebrate the publication of Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings by Wendy Holden? I’m delighted that Wendy has agreed to tell me about her writing and Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings in particular.
Published by Head of Zeus, Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings is available for purchase in e-book and hardback here.
Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings
She’ll need a triple-barrelled name for the castle one. She’ll need a gallon of glitter for the woodland one. She’ll need a lobster-shaped hat for the Shoreditch one.
Laura Lake longs to be a journalist. Instead she’s an unpaid intern at a glossy magazine – sleeping in the fashion cupboard and living on canapés. But she’s just got her first big break: infiltrate three society weddings and write a juicy exposé.
Security will be tighter than a bodycon dress, but how hard can it be? Cue disappearing brides, demanding socialites – and a jealous office enemy who will do anything to bring her down…
An Interview with Wendy Holden
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Wendy. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing . Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?
Hello Linda, and thank you so much for asking me to do this. It’s a joy and a privilege to answer your questions. About me; I was born in Yorkshire, went to school there, then went to Cambridge and afterwards moved to London where I worked for many years on glossy magazines. The perfect preparation for writing comic novels about glossy magazines!
Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings?
With great pleasure! At the beginning of the novel, Laura is desperate to break into journalism. She lands a prestigious glossy magazine job through her wits rather than any fancy connections. It’s only an unpaid internship, and as she is skint she has to sleep secretly in the fashion cupboard and live on canapés. Her big break is when she is commissioned to write an article about high society weddings. She isn’t invited to any of them but she has to infiltrate them somehow. One’s an arty bash held in a Shoreditch loo, another’s a mystic Celtic handfasting under an ancient oak and the third is all castles and carriages and tiaras. To keep her job, she must write a big article about them. But will she manage it, or will it all go horribly wrong?
When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?
When my first novel, Simply Divine, was accepted by my agent. I wrote it in instalments before work, mainly to see if I could actually do it. It was inspired by the job I had at the Sunday Times when I ghost-wrote a column for Tara Palmer-Tomkinson. She became very famous as a direct result, while I remained skint and obscure. I was cross about it until I had an epiphany and realised that here, at last, was the plot I had been looking for. Simply Divine was an instant hit and was about a downtrodden hack writing a column for a partygoing socialite.
As an ex-English teacher myself I’m interested that you were inspired by your own English teacher. Tell us a bit about that.
Until I reached the sixth form at school, my favourite subject was history. Then Mrs Symons burst into my life and from that point on it was all about the Romantic poets and Shakespeare. I could see for the first time how literature reflected and explained – in the most beautiful, memorable way – real life, and it was the only subject for me after that. I went on to read English at Cambridge, but I have to say that none of the teaching I received there was a patch on Mrs Symons’!
So, when you’re not writing, what do you like to read now?
I read a lot of books for review for the Daily Mail. This is interesting as I see what is coming through. And of course I read every mag and paper I can get my hands on. This leaves very little time for reading the whole of Shakespeare and Proust, my endlessly-deferred annual resolution!
How far do you think growing up near the home of the famous Brontes has affected your impression of what it means to be an author?
The Brontes are completely fascinating; their whole story is amazing. Perhaps the aspect I relate to most is their experience of being governesses; they came from a relatively poor background to work with rich people who did not respect them and this inspired aspects of their novels. I went from a working class family to Cambridge and the hilariously self-indulgent world of glossy magazines. I think that I share the Brontes’ satirical view of the doings and behaviour of the wealthy!
Your writing is unashamedly chick-lit (which I love) in style. What would you say to those who eschew chick-lit as less worthy a genre?
Plenty of people think that comic novels are somehow less worthy than those that make you cry or fill you with horror. My view is that making someone laugh is a lot harder to do than shocking or upsetting them. It’s also a much better thing to achieve. There are too few comic novelists in the world and entertainers like me are more necessary now than ever. I am proud of what I do and I think humour is more than important, it is crucial. We all need to laugh.
Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings is part of a series of Laura Lake books. How do you manage your plotting for a series?
Laura is a journalist and in each of her adventures she investigates an aspect of how we live now, paying particular attention to anything excessive, glamorous, upmarket and amusing. Hipster Weddings was a romp through the crazy overstyled world of contemporary weddings and the fact that these days anything goes. Her next adventure, Laura Lake And The Celebrity Meltdown, moves the action to a fashionable Suffolk village full of famous people. I haven’t decided what the next adventure will be, but there is no shortage of funny possibilities; Laura Lake And The Clean-Eating Retreat, Laura Lake And The Artisan Cheesemakers etc. There is a short story coming out in July called Laura Lake And The Luxury Press Trip, in which a glam magazine jolly to a palm-fringed island has unexpected consequences!
And how did you create the character of Laura Lake?
I wanted to create a new kind of heroine, one with guts, glam and a sense of humour. There didn’t seem to be anyone like this around. I wanted her to be someone readers can relate to whether they are eighteen or eighty. I wanted her to work in a glamorous world and report on glossy things, yet be able to see their ridiculous side too. Laura is a sort of female Tintin; her journalistic adventures take her all over the world. She is funny, courageous and clever, but fiercely loyal and relatively uncomplicated. She isn’t in thrall to a man, she isn’t congenitally miserable and she doesn’t have demons. She’s a woman of action, self-reliant yet kind. She is also really cool and chic, thanks to all the style advice from her indomitable French grandmother, Mimi. It’s Mimi who tells her that smiling is the best facelift, and that sensuality beats sexuality every time. ‘Why corset and truss yourself up? You are not a chicken!’
You’ve worked in similar environments as Laura. What do you miss about that lifestyle now that you’re a full time writer?
Writing is a lonely business and I do miss working with other people. But there is absolutely no way of getting round it. If you want to be a writer, you have to ‘sit down on your arse and do it,’ as my fellow Yorkshirewoman, the great Barbara Taylor Bradford, puts it. A glossy magazine office is also an endless sequence of hilarious minidramas, most of which have to be seen to be believed, so I miss all that too.
If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?
A cartoonist – I used to do them a lot and was published everywhere from Vogue to Private Eye. I also used to do caricatures, often as presents for my friends at their weddings. They were probably horrified but used to pretend to be thrilled. I met my husband when I was drawing caricatures of people at a university ball. I was there with my sketchpad and he was in a jazz band right behind me.
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
I write every day in my hut in the garden. It’s the most amazing place; started as a flatpack put up by the previous owner and used to store garden furniture. I have added a whole new wing – a ‘hutstention’ – and also a deck in the front. Inside there are rugs, a chaise longue, a turntable, a red telephone, a phrenologist’s head, an electric organ and lots of fairy lights. Oh, and a set of framed Aubrey Beardsley prints that I bought at auction. It’s the best place to work in the world. So far as hours are concerned, I try and do a normal working. But I m horribly easily interrupted. “Is that the postman?!” etc.
How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?
I observe people closely and I read a lot of magazines and newspapers. There is endless inspiration in them; the killer detail is always something so ridiculous you could never make it up. Hello magazine in particular is a publication of amazing subtlety. That sounds like a contradiction in terms, but there are some deeply subversive interviews in which hilarious facts are unearthed.
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
I find conversations and funny incidents are the easiest and descriptions the most difficult, because you have to pause instead of romping ahead with the action. The trick is to make descriptions funny; Evelyn Waugh and P G Wodehouse were masters at this.
Do you have other interests that give you ideas for writing?
I am still passionately interested in history and always having ideas for historical novels. The past is full of stories. But I am also interested in how people interact with the past, and the characters at historical sites. In Stratford-upon-Avon recently we came across someone dressed as Shakespeare’s schoolmaster. He wouldn’t get out of character and said things like ‘yea, verily mistress’ to whatever you asked. That struck me as utterly hilarious. And there is a whole series of comic novels in National Trust properties. My last book, Honeymoon Suite, was a comedy set on a historic estate and among the characters who lived there; the modern-day ‘servants’ in the farm shop and Visitor Welcome Centre.
Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings has a Andy Warhol popart style cover to me. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?
I am thrilled you think it’s Warholesque. We wanted it to stand out and be striking. The bright colours and bold design tell you that the story is uplifting, glamorous and fun. And about a strong woman, who will make an impression!
If you could choose to be a character from Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings, who would you be and why?
Laura is my favourite. She is a version of me; I identify with her struggles to break into journalism because I went through something similar myself (though never had to sleep in the fashion cupboard!). But I also love her friend Lulu, the famous international socialite, and her self-obsessed actor friend Caspar. Those two are definitely going to appear in every book.
If Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings became a film, who would you like to play Laura and why would you choose them?
Someone chic, clever and a bit offbeat; Kirsten Stewart would be perfect.
And finally, if you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings should be their next read, what would you say?
It’s really funny and glamorous and Laura Lake will be the next big thing.
I’m sure she will! Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions, Wendy.
You are welcome!!
About Wendy Holden
Number-one bestselling author Wendy Holden was a journalist on Tatler, The Sunday Times, and the Mail on Sunday before becoming an author. She has since written ten consecutive Sunday Times Top Ten bestsellers. She is married, has two children and lives in Derbyshire.
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