Showing posts with label Jilly Cooper. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jilly Cooper. Show all posts

Sunday, 23 September 2012

School Ties - a new novella set in a school

Downthorpe Hall is a posh boarding school in the wilds of the Oxfordshire countryside.

Fresh from working in an inner-city comprehensive, Will Hughes has just been appointed as the new head. He knows there will be a host of challenges ahead. Tricky parents, rebellious teenagers and teachers who will fight his attempts to reform the school.

He doesn't expect a battle for his heart.

But when he meets two women - the fiercely ambitious deputy head and a brilliantly smart science teacher - Will realises that the ties at Downthorpe are not just the kind you wear around your neck.

What follows is a tangle of competing ambitions and desires that leave Will bemused - and could force him to choose between the job he has always wanted and the woman of his dreams.

That’s the blurb for my new novella School Ties, a romantic e-book set in a school.

From Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers to Jilly Cooper’s Wicked!, I’ve always thought boarding schools provide brilliant settings for novels. So when Endeavour Press asked me to write one, I jumped at the chance. It’s out this month and I’d love to know what you think…

School Ties by Emma Lee-Potter (Endeavour Press, £1.99)

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Jilly Cooper's verdict on Fifty Shades of Grey

My children still haven’t got over the embarrassment of walking into my office last week and seeing my desk covered with erotic novels. From Jane Eyre Laid Bare to Eighty Days Yellow, they were piled up all over the place.

I was reading them for a newspaper review (really) but even so, my son and daughter shut the door hurriedly and scuttled off to laugh about it with their friends.

Scores of erotic novels have been published following the massive success of Fifty Shades of Grey (now the bestselling book of all time in the UK) and judging by the ones I’ve read they vary hugely in quality. Some are sassy and entertaining, while others are absurd and downright degrading to women.

But as I read through the torrent of erotica I kept thinking one thing - “actually, I’d far rather be reading a Jilly Cooper novel.”

I’ve been a fan of Jilly’s books since Emily was published in 1975 and have read every single one since. Her novels are full of sex too (though thankfully not so graphic as the ones I’ve been reading) but what sets them apart is that they’re also witty, funny, poignant and above all, well written.

I’d been wondering what Jilly Cooper would make of Fifty Shades of Grey and the rest – and now I know. Not a lot. In an interview with Stefanie Marsh in The Times today she describes Christian Grey (EL James’s lead character) as a “terrible, terribly silly man” and reckons “you would hate him in real life.”

She also stresses the importance of plot and characterisation in novels – whatever their genre. “…If you have a terrific plot and terrific characters,” she says, “it doesn’t really matter what they do, because you want to know what happens to them. You’re biting your nails to discover whether they do get into bed or they have a fight or they fall in love. I haven’t read any of the new genre of books but they don’t seem to have any proper characterisation, and what they do have is from books or screenplays written by other people. So it’s not writing in that sense, or even a reimagination of a text.”

Jilly adds that she’s a huge fan of writers like Shirley Conran, Jackie Collins, Penny Vincenzi and Barbara Taylor Bradford – because, like her, their key aim is to tell a good story.

She loves writing about horses, dogs, the countryside, laughter” and reckons that “for sex to really work in a book it has to be funny and it has to be loving.”

“There is always a massive amount of research that goes into writing a bonkbuster, “ she says, “and there’s less sex in it than you would imagine. My books are usually about one-50th actual sex scenes, if that. But Christian Grey is at it most of the time, isn’t he?”

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Mascara, blueberry muffins and Jilly Cooper

Even though it was my number one ambition in life, I didn’t start writing my first novel till my thirties. But that’s late these days. I’m gripped by the story of 20 year old Samantha Shannon, whose sci-fi series has just been snapped up by Bloomsbury for a six-figure sum.

But now I come to think of it, my daughter and her pals self-published their own book at the tender age of 17. In between studying for exams they wrote a guide covering everything a 21st Century teenage girl needs to know about fashion, beauty, parties, schoolwork, health and saving money. I found my copy the other day and realised it contains quite a lot that a middle-aged mum needs to know – tips on applying mascara, the best vintage shops in Oxford and a divine recipe for blueberry muffins.

They also hit on the idea of asking a handful of celebrities for their top tips for teenagers. Lovely Jilly Cooper wrote straight back saying: “Don’t be too sad, because love is so excruciatingly painful at your age and I just want to say, if it really hurts you, you will get over it. When I was your age I found huge comfort in reading poetry. It seemed to mirror my sufferings and anguishes and longings and made me feel I wasn’t alone and that I would get over my unhappiness.”

Meanwhile TV chef and supermodel Sophie Dahl told them: “Always, always, always wash your face before you go to bed if you're wearing make-up. Otherwise you wake up like an old harridan. I use very basic stuff, cold cream and rose water without alcohol from the chemist.”

Their book is out of print now but it contains some pithy advice for teenagers embarking on exams. “It’s really easy to get stressed out by your friends during the exam period,” they wrote. “Everyone always exaggerates how little or how much revision they have done, so try not to take notice of other people when they talk about it.”

At their age I was gauche, unsophisticated and not half so smart (and no, I haven't changed much). I certainly didn’t know how to cope with exam stress, open a bank account or use a pair of hair straighteners. And with that in mind, I’m off to buy that rose water...

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

From Rory Balniel to Rupert Campbell-Black

I’ve loved Jilly Cooper’s books since I was a teenager. Emily, her very first novel, started life as a serial called Circles that she wrote for 19 magazine. She later completely rewrote it, and like every other reader I was hooked from the memorable first line – “If Nina hadn’t bugged me, I’d never have gone to Annie Richmond’s party.” And if that hadn’t happened, as you’ll no doubt remember, heroine Emily would never have met the wild, irresistible artist Rory Balniel and been whisked off to his ancestral home on a windswept Scottish island.

Jilly Cooper has written a multitude of bestsellers since and the great news is that her sparkling new novel is just out in paperback. Jump! is set in the glamorous world of jump racing and like Riders, Polo and Wicked before, it features all the favourite Cooper hallmarks – witty one-liners, a massive cast of characters (the devastating Rupert Campbell-Black makes a welcome return), gorgeous countryside and lots of steamy sex.

This time round, Cooper’s heroine is sweet-natured Etta Bancroft, a widow in her sixties who’s spent her life waiting hand and foot on her domineering philanderer husband. When he dies, her dreadful children force her to move into a “blot on the landscape” bungalow near them. They not only expect her to work as an unpaid nanny for their tricky offspring but purloin her precious paintings, ban her from having pets and tick her off for drinking with locals at the village pub.

But Etta is not to be crushed. One night, on the way back from babysitting duties, she stumbles across a mutilated filly in the snow and lovingly nurses her back to life. Christened Mrs Wilkinson, the tiny creature turns out to be a well-bred racehorse and, cheered on by the rest of the village, embarks on a dazzling racing career. Heroic, brave and devoted to Etta, the filly becomes, as one race-goer puts it, “the People’s Pony.”

The plot rattles along at break-neck speed and while I had to keep my wits about me to remember exactly who’s who (luckily there’s a helpful cast list at the front ), Jump! is impossible to put down.

Cooper meticulously researched the tough world of jump racing and her sheer love of the sport shines through. There are lots of human villains in the book but the horses are noble to a fault - fiercely loyal creatures who race their hearts out for their owners, jockeys and grooms. Jump! is hugely entertaining, touching and funny. I loved it so much that I’ve now gone and bought the audiobook too.

Jump! by Jilly Cooper is published by Corgi at £7.99.
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