Deborah Moggach | Best-selling Author
A warm, witty and wise novel about the unexpected twists that later life can bring, from the hugely popular author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Tulip Fever.

Sometimes a character in an earlier book simply refuses to go away, hanging around long after the party’s over. Buffy, the boozy old actor in “The Ex-Wives”, was one of these. So I wrote him another story, this time set in Wales. I’d fallen in love with a man who lived in the Welsh borders and wanted to write about his town. I’d also had the idea for a money-making scheme which Buffy, being a wily old fox, dreams up. Like “The Best Exotic Marigold”, this novel is set in a hotel – but wetter and even more ramshackle than the one in India. I had fantastic fun writing it; by this time I knew Buffy so well that he practically wrote it himself. Here’s the plot:

When retired actor Buffy decides to up sticks from London and move to rural Wales, he has no idea what he’s letting himself in for. In possession of a run-down b&b that leans more towards the shabby than the chic and is miles from anywhere, he realizes he needs to fill the beds – and fast.

Enter his master plan of ‘Courses for Divorces’ and a motley collection of guests: Harold, whose wife has run off with a younger woman; Amy, who’s been dumped by her weedy boyfriend and Andy, the hypochondriac postman whose girlfriend has become too much for him to handle.

Some actors have put on samples of the courses for you, see COURSES FOR DIVORCES!

 

“A comic performance so footsure it almost tap-dances.” (Sunday Times)

“Extremely funny…the joy lies in the delightful characters and the wry, pin-sharp commentary on their shenanigans. Bliss.” (The Times)

“A hilarious romp that showcases Moggach’s loving understanding of human foibles and which you will finish reading feeling a whole lot better about yourself.” (Red)

“There’s all the warmth and the humour you’d expect from Moggach, as well as moments of beautifully expressed insight into her lonely hearts.” (Observer)

“Moggach’s glorious sense of humour, the ease with which she inhabits her characters and her affections for them are apparent on every page. An astute and funny exploration of love and longing.” (Sunday Express)

 

Courses For Divorces

In the Heartbreak Hotel Buffy has the bright idea of running Courses for Divorces, where the newly-separated can come to his hotel and learn the skill the other person had in the relationship.
In the book, however, nothing quite turns out as planned. So I decided to make some short films where you can learn some of the skills yourself. I hired some actors and a director and shot them mostly in my daughter’s flat. Not wanting to alter the reader’s image of the main characters, I gave to parts to minor characters who are scarcely mentioned in the book.

I just did these films for fun. They were a hoot to make and I hope you have a laugh watching them – and that they add a certain frisson to the book.

How to make a sponge cake

Basic car maintenance

How to change a plug

 

Welcome to my website. Here’s a very basic autobiography, but there’s lots more information about my books – how they came about, what inspired them, plots, reviews and so on – if you click onto individual titles. There’s also an extract from “Tulip Fever”, “These Foolish Things” and “In The Dark”. And there’s an Interview, Photos, a Newsletter with the latest developments and events, a page of Contacts, and an email address if you’d like to get in touch and ask me some questions: moggachdeborah@gmail.com.

Both my parents were writers – my father wrote naval history, biographies and children’s books; my mother wrote and illustrated children’s books. I had three sisters, and we grew up to the sound of typewriters tapping in the veranda, where our parents sat side by side, working. I wasn’t a particularly writerly child, however. I preferred playing with cars and animals. I didn’t like girly things and my hero was William Brown.

I went to Bristol University, worked in publishing for a bit, did some waitressing, taught riding, trained as a teacher, and then got married. In the mid-70s I went to live in Pakistan for two years. After an English upbringing this was incredibly liberating and it was here that I started writing – both articles for Pakistani newspapers and my first novel, “You Must Be Sisters”. This was a coming-of-age, autobiographical novel as was my next, “Close To Home”, which was the story of a mother with small children (by this time I had returned to London , to live in Camden Town, and had a son and daughter).

I then left my own life behind. “A Quiet Drink” is the story of a cosmetics rep with a beautiful but dumb wife, while “Hot Water Man” is set in Karachi: a comedy of manners between East and West, Islam and America. “The Ex-Wives” is a comedy about a boozy actor and his chaotic marital life. “Driving In The Dark” is the story of a coach driver who travels around Britain searching for his unknown son, the result of a one-night stand many years earlier. “Porky” is a spare and rather unsettling novel about incest, set on a pig farm next to Heathrow Airport. In fact, the loss of childhood – through kidnap, divorce, abduction – figures in several more of my novels: “Seesaw”, “Stolen”, “To Have And to Hold”.

I began writing screenplays in the mid-eighties and like moving back and forth, between the interior world of the novel and the conflict-driven life of drama. I also like actors because they call me “darling”, and I try to appear as an extra in my own shows. I wrote a thriller about the movie business called “The Stand-In”, which I scripted as a Hollywood movie, and adapted “Pride And Prejudice” as a film starring Keira Knightley, for which I received a BAFTA nomination. I’ve also adapted Nancy Mitford’s “Love In A Cold Climate” for the BBC and won a Writers Guild Award for my adaptation of Anne Fine’s “Goggle-eyes”. The most recent of my own novels I’ve adapted is “Final Demand”, starring Tamsin Outhwaite – a story of fraud, retribution and reptile-breeding. “These Foolish Things”, my novel about outsourcing elderly Brits to India, was released in 2012 as “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and became quite a hit; there’s even recently been a sequel.

Art, illusion, doomed love and a tulip bulb are the themes of my first historial novel, “Tulip Fever”. This was inspired by my love of 17th century Dutch painting – in particular, a painting I bought at an auction, a sub-Vermeer interior of a woman getting ready to go out, her servants poised with necklace and glass of wine. I love the stilled drama of paintings by ter Borch and de Hooch, and wanted to step into those rooms. This novel was an extraordinary adventure to write and was finally filmed in 2015.

My other historical novel, “In The Dark” is set in 1916, a story about war, meat and sex. I’m adapting that one, too, as a TV serial. I’m also adapting “Heartbreak Hotel”, my recent comic novel set in the Welsh Borders and featuring Buffy, the boozy old actor from “The Ex-Wives”.

My most recent novel is called “Something To Hide” and is due to be published in 2015. It’s set in Beijing, Texas, Pimlico and a fictitious African country, and deals with pharma-piracy, elephant poaching and the romantic disasters we find ourselves embroiled in, even when we’re old enough to know better.

I’ve also written two books of short stories, “Smile” and “Changing Babies”, and a stage play “Double-Take”, which was performed at Liverpool and Chichester.

I’ve done quite a bit of journalism and I’ve also been Chairman of the Society of Authors and worked for PEN’s Executive Committee, as well as being a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

My children have long since grown up and in 2014 I re-married – to a motorbike and movie journalist called Mark Williams – and moved to his town in the Welsh Marches. Proving that it’s never too late to start another life…

I loved writing this novel. I stole some of its jokes from my partner at the time, the cartoonist Mel Calman, himself the veteran of several marriages. Its main character, Russell Buffery, isn’t based on Mel but has some of his problems, including a bad back, assorted step-children and a tendency to find himself in vaguely humiliating situations. I became very fond of him, and even fond of his various ex-wives, despite this bad behaviour and his shameless adultery.

Book Description

Meet Buffy.

With three ex-wives, a failing career and only his dog George for company, Buffy’s bachelorhood is looking worryingly confirmed.

Until he meets Celeste.

Dazzled by love, Buffy has no idea that Celeste is systematically researching his ex-wives, children and step-children, and unearthing secrets that will change all their lives…

Reviews

“Wonderfully funny.”(Daily Mail)

“Cracking good dialogue, excellent jokes and laser-sharp apercus. It is meant as a compliment when I say that she is like a female Kingsley Amis.”(Daily Telegraph)

“Marries comedy and canniness into a novel that’s warm, tolerant, shrew and exuberant.”(Sunday Times)

“You’ll be hooked from the first page of this original, funny book…just delicious.”(New Woman)

This novel was written in a rush of emotion; it’s really my love-letter to Dutch painting and that lost world of serene and dreamy domestic interiors. I hadn’t written a historical novel before, and found the whole process extraordinary. It happened like this: I had bought, at auction, a painting by a minor Dutch artist. Dated 1660, it depicted a young woman getting ready to go out. She gazes at us with an enigmatic expression, and, as I gazed back I wondered: where is she going? Should she be going there? She hung in my living room, silent with her secrets.

Untitled-1

 

Here she is.

Some months later, in 1998, I was asked to give a talk about adapting books into films. The venue was the Empire Cinema, Leicester Square. This was where I had been sitting next to my partner, the cartoonist Mel Calman, when he died of a heart attack some years earlier. So giving a talk there was rather traumatic. When I was asked what film I would really like to make I replied, without hesitation: “I’d walk into a Vermeer painting.” So the idea was born, in that dark cinema with its terrible memories.

I went away and swam in the ponds on Hampstead Heath, which helps me think of ideas, and worked out a plot based on a love affair between a painter and his sitter. In researching it, I discovered the tulip mania that had gripped the Dutch during the 1630s and thought this a wonderful symbol of human greed and passion. So the story was born. I sat down, surrounded myself with books of paintings and wrote it in a rush. It was a very thrilling time. I was living with a young Hungarian painter during that period and he built a three-dimensional Dutch interior around me – fireplaces, panelling – as I lay on the floor writing (he was doing up my house), and lit the rooms with candles.

This is a passage from the book that describes what I love about Dutch paintings of the 17th century.

“And hanging in a thousand homes, paintings mirror back the lives that are lived there. A woman plays the virginal; she catches the eye of the man beside her. A handsome young soldier lifts a glass to his lips; his reflection shines in the silver-topped decanter. A maid gives her mistress a letter…the mirrored moments are stilled, suspended in aspic. For centuries to come people will gaze at these paintings and wonder what is about to happen. That letter, what does it say to the woman who stands at the window, the sunlight streaming onto her face. Is she in love? Will she throw away the letter or will she obey it, waiting until the house is empty and stealing out through the rooms that recede, bathed in shafts of sunshine, at the back of the painting?

“Who can tell? For her face is serene, her secrets locked into her heart. She stands there, trapped in her frame, poised at a moment of truth. She has yet to make her decision.”

Before the book was even published Steven Spielberg phoned from his car, in LA, saying he wanted to film it. Many plot twists followed this, as they do with such things, but finally – sixteen years later – it’s changed executives from Spielberg to Harvey Weinstein and has been filmed! It stars Alicia Vikander, Dane deHaan, Judi Dench, Jack O’Connell, Holliday Grainger, Christoph Waltz and Tom Hollander and is directed by Justin Chadwick. Release date is autumn 2015 but see my News section for the latest info.

Book Description

Seventeenth-century Amsterdam is a city in the grip of tulip mania, basking in the wealth it has generated. Sophia’s husband Cornelis, an ageing merchant, is among those grown rich from this exotic new flower. To celebrate, he commissions a talented young artist to paint him with his young bride. But as the portrait grows, so does the passion between Sophia and the painter; and as ambitions, desires and dreams breed an intricate deception, their reckless gamble propels their lives towards a thrilling and tragic conclusion.

Reviews

“A story of love, deceit, changelings, and mistaken identity worthy of a Restoration dramatist.” (Daily Mail)

“A sumptuous and enthralling novel about art, love, illusion and money…with the denouement of a classic.” (The Times)

“A byzantine plot that hurtles towards disaster, while retaining the polished veneer of a Dutch interior.” (Harpers & Queen)

“Sensuous and masterly…a gorgeous novel.” (Mail on Sunday)

“A scintillating story of lust, deception and retribution.(Independent on Sunday)

Just to say that the films connected to “Heartbreak Hotel” (see my previous posting) are now up and running on my website, just click on to Courses for Divorces and learn how to change a plug and make a lemon sponge.

I’ve also written another short story connected to the novel, “An Artistic Streak”, which will be broadcast on Radio 4 on 21 February, after Book at Bedtime (or maybe it IS book at bedtime, I’m not sure). It takes place in Knockton, the town on the Welsh borders where “Heartbreak Hotel” is set. I love playing around with new or peripheral characters and giving them their own stories, it throws little echoes back into the novel.

The novel is published at the end of February and I’m doing various events connected to it…

Horizons bookshop literary dinner in Burnham, on 1 March.
The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai from 5-10 March.
The Lady Literary Lunch, 19 March.
Event at Toppings bookshop in Bath, 25 March.
Event at Rossiter Books, Ross-on-Wye, 7pm on 9 April.
Events at Toppings in Ely, 10 April (I think).
Cambridge Word Spring Festival, 12 April.
You magazine, Mail on Sunday event 11 May. This is an all-day thing.
Hay Festival, some date during 31 May to 10 June.
Althorpe Literary Festival 14 June.
Event in Devizes Town Hall 16 June.
Winchester festival 8 July.
Buxton Festival 17 July.

And probably some more, I’ll update this when they happen.  My daughter Lottie’s first novel, “Kiss Me First” is published in July and I’ll hopefully be doing some events with her. There’s a big head of steam building up around her book so maybe I can ride in her slipstream. It’s payback time! After all, I gave her life itself. (Picador are publishing it; needless to say, it’s great).

Meanwhile I went to the Jaipur Literary Festival in January which was an extraordinary experience, as the film of the “Best Exotic Marigold” was not only set there, but partly filmed in the gorgeous old Diggi Palace Hotel, where the festival was held. It’s free entry to the events so the place was heaving with schoolchildren and students, which gave it a terrifically fizzy atmosphere. I went off to buy stuff in the bazaars and even there they had heard about the film, or indeed seen it; it’s been a big hit in India.

Feb 2013

Best of all I visited a wonderful 84-year-old Canadian woman who has outsourced herself to Jaipur. She’s had a thatched cottage built in the grounds of a rackety old hotel, just like my novel, where she lives surrounded by monkeys and parrots….

More anon, do get in touch if you fancy, I’m at info@deborahmoggach.com

As I write this, the First World War is slipping out of memory and into history. Only five British servicemen are still with us – all aged over 106 – and soon these last witnesses will be gone. All that remains will be silence, and books, and our imaginations.

No other war has affected us so profoundly. It changed history, of course, and set in train the often catastrophic events of the twentieth century. But it’s the senseless slaughter of a generation of young men that haunts us. My grandmother, for instance, lost her only brother and eleven cousins. I often wonder what they would have done with their lives; how their grandchildren would be middle-aged by now; how the world would be a different place with those people in it.

In fact it’s my grandmother’s own story that inspired this novel. Her much-loved young husband Tommy was also killed in action in 1918, leaving her alone with a small son. She re-married a man her little boy hated, with disastrous results (her son, my half-uncle, ended up committing suicide). Nearly a century later and the effects are still being felt in my family – just one small example, amongst many, of the war’s fall-out. That sniper’s bullet changed everything.

I didn’t want to write about snipers, however. I wanted to write about the effect of the war on ordinary lives. This seems to be the missing piece of the jigsaw – we’re deluged with books about the trenches but we know little of what happened on the home front, where women struggled to survive without men, when they had to take over men’s work, when food was short, times were hard but also extraordinarily liberating. Rules were broken, the old world disintegrated and it would never be put back together again. The London of blackouts and bombing raids was a sexually-charged city where, as my butcher says, “women would drop their knickers for a pound of mince”. The dank, dark, gas-lit streets of Southwark, where my novel is set, seethed with secrets and deception. War creates victims but also profiteers, and my story concerns a young widow, who runs a shabby lodging-house, and a racketeering butcher who wooes her with meat. Her son’s hatred of this interloper leads to a chain of events with a dramatic and tragic climax.

Book Description

1916. Pretty Eithne Clay runs a ramshackle South London boarding house with the help of her teenage son, Ralph, and their maid, Winnie. Struggling to keep herself, her lodgers, and her son going as every day life vanishes in the face of war, Eithne’s world is transformed by the arrival of Mr Turk, the virile, carnal, carnivorous local butcher who falls passionately in love with her. As the house bursts to life with the electricity – metaphorical and real – he brings, dark secrets come to light…

Reviews

“From the first, perfect sentence…this novel is a gem.”
(Evening Standard)

“Great narrative skill and emotional intelligence.”
(Time Out)

“One of Deborah Moggach’s strengths as a writer is an ability to bring a contemporary sensibility to bear on richly imagined period detail, the better to illuminate the past…(In The Dark) is both convincingly Edwardian and erotic in a way that only a modern novel can be.”
(Observer)

“Sexuality is a subject that is often described in fiction but rarely explored. Deborah Moggach does it full justice here. the mutual sexual delirium between Eithne and the butcher is wonderfully well rendered…(Moggach) has created such a believable world. Under her perceptive probing the ordinary is shown in all his extraordinary variety, the mundane in its full splendour and magnificence.”
(TLS)

“The great joy of this tender little novel is Deborah Moggach’s sensory imagination…also excellent is Moggach’s remarkable restraint in not dolloping on the historical research too heavily.”
(Guardian)

“The characterization is superb. Moggach has brilliantly resurrected a world of genteel penury and intense, furtive sex, and the book exudes quiet excellence.”
(Mail on Sunday)

“For ‘Moggach”, my computer spellcheck suggests ‘magic’, and this sexy, succulent, witty read fully supports this belief.”
(Daily Mail)

“The Moggach miracle continues – here’s another vivid, gripping yarn from the author of ‘Tulip Fever’…with a plot as twisty as a mountain road. It’s bound to end up on television, but why not read the book first?”
(Times)

“Moggach showed her expertise at bringing the past to vibrant life in ‘Tulip Fever’…she has done it again here: written a very enjoyable story, created characters oozing flesh and blood, and packed it all up in lightly-worn research.”
(Independent)

“Like the recent novels by Ian McEwan and Sarah Walters, ‘In The Dark’ successfully modernizes the past.”
(Sunday Times)

“This wartime novel of ordinary Londoners is atmospheric and buzzing with electricity…with its powerful climax, ‘In The Dark’ is a spirited portrait of lives thrown into turmoil by the Great War.”
(Daily Express)

 

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