Tuesday, November 17, 2009

STAR GUEST! Jessica Ruston, author of 'Luxury', on being posh and a blockbuster writer

I should say, before I begin, that when the delightful Jessica Fellowes asked me to write a post on here about being a posh girl writer of blockbuster novels, I had a moment where I panicked that I was Not Posh Enough.  My parents work in the arts, rather than being landed gentry, after all.  I put the milk in first (I know, SHOCKING. But it tastes nicer).  So in an attempt to discover what the barometer for posh was, I turned to twitter (as I do for so many things now).  What words marked you out as posh, I asked?  And answers came there many.  Garage, tooth, bath, praline, glass… Ah.  By the pronunciation of scone shall you be known, it seems, and if you go by this benchmark then I am definitely posh.

So.   What’s a nice girl like me doing writing a book like LUXURY – which, although it is hopefully well written is firmly in the realms of commercial fiction, containing as it does plenty of sex, money, ambition and betrayal?  (Not that these themes run contrary to the concerns or pastimes of the posh…).

Despite the insurance of a number of decidedly un-posh tomes in recent years – see Kerry Katona’s Tough Love, for instance, books are, in and of themselves, a relatively posh affair.  There are plenty of people who think that books are ‘not for them’ – that bookshops are intimidating places where they won’t know where to begin and will be looked down on for not knowing their Bookers from their Left Foot from their Right Ho Jeeves.  I had a drink with a friend the other day who told me that he had read one book in his entire life.  One.  This is not a stupid person, or someone who could not get any pleasure from books if he were to find something he enjoyed – rather, someone who doesn’t see himself as a reader and who thinks books are for other, posher people.

Some of the best ever blockbusters have been written by deeply posh women.  I can only aspire to the success, not to mention cut glass accents of doyennes of the genre such as Penny Vincenzi, Jilly Cooper, and Shirley Conran.  And it’s not just blockbusters – how much poorer would the world be without the heavenly novels of Nancy Mitford, or Joanna Trollope’s canon of books that are known somewhat irritatingly as ‘Aga sagas’ but which are far more incisive and astute than that slightly patronising moniker would suggest?

But while these writers are light years ahead of me, I hope I can begin to follow in their green wellied or LK Bennett heeled footsteps (depending on whether they are in town or the country)  and create books that people will want to read – not because they feel they should, or because they will learn something from them – but just for the sheer and simple pleasure of being told a jolly good story.  And if the person telling them that story does so in a voice that would never dream of rhyming garage with marriage, then so much the better…

*Editor's note: see more of this delightful girl on Jessica Ruston's website

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