Well, the film of “Tulip Fever” is now pretty well completed and it should be released this autumn. It looks pretty wonderful, from what I’ve seen. Sixteen years in the making, but I think it’s worth the wait….More later, when I’ve seen the final version.
Meanwhile the sequel to “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is hitting the cinemas, with the hilarious addition of the pulse-quickening Richard Gere. Tamsin Greg is fantastic in it, too; otherwise it’s the original cast minus Thingy, who died in the first film – I say Thingy in case you haven’t seen it yet.
I went to the Royal Premiere, where Leicester Square was bedecked with marigolds and rickshaws and the stars tripped along the red carpet to the popping of a squillion flashbulbs. Charles and Camilla were there, too – well, it is their age group. Judi Dench is in both “Tulip Fever” AND “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, how great is that?
My new novel, “Something to Hide”, is published in July. I’m a news junkie and spend far too much time reading the papers when I should be writing. Just occasionally, however, something triggers my imagination and I ferret it away for future use. This novel started like that.
Many years ago I read a newspaper article about “hoodia”, a plant eaten by the Kalahari bushmen which was snapped up by some pharmaceutical corporation and marketed in the USA as an appetite suppressant for the overweight. The corporation was sued by the tribesmen, who won their case. This fascinated me on many levels – David versus Goliath, the obesity epidemic, the magical landscape of Africa. I kept thinking it would make a marvelous film – those sunsets, those animals! – but then other plots crept in.
A few years later I went to Ghana as a guest of Plan International, to visit women in various villages and write a story about them. When I was there I chanced upon a mobile phone charging booth, in a market. Mobiles are a lifeline in rural Africa but there’s a chronic lack of electricity, so on market day people get theirs charged up at one of these booths. What happened, I wondered, if the booth-owner started listening to the messages and reading the texts? What mischief could he wreak?
Then I read another story, this time about the Chinese using American surrogate mothers in order to get US citizenship for their child. This, too, triggered all sorts of thoughts, but how on earth could I knit all these elements together?
In stepped Petra. She’s a woman I know well – my sort of age, living in London, a veteran of various romantic disasters and emotionally pretty fragile. She’s not quite me, but she was familiar enough to lead me into foreign territory and these big global plots.
Petra suffers the most terrible emotional battering but I was with her every inch of the way – hardly surprising, as I wrote her – and grew very fond of her. She’s not perfect – who is? But I hope you enjoy her companionship as she takes you on a journey into a modern Heart of Darkness. And there’s some fun to be had, on the way.
So far, I’m appearing at the Chagford Literary Festival in March, the Bridport Film Festival in April, the Hay Festival in May…more to come, and I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile do got in touch if you fancy, email@example.com