Fielding: Mad About The Girl
Creator of Bridget Jones is Back, as Real as Ever
Sara Nelson | Omnivoracious - October 21, 2013
It can be tricky, as a writer
or a reader, to revisit the characters who enthralled you in your youth.
Will they still have “it” – whatever “it” was that made you
pay attention to them in the first place? Helen Fielding, best known as
the author of the game-changing novel Bridget Jones’ Diary in
1998 and a follow up in 2000 has been lying low for a couple of years.
Until last week, that is, when she burst back onto the scene with Bridget
Jones: Mad About the Boy. Darcy-less and the mother of two, Bridget
must find her way again in the world. To find out what re-entry was
like, I sat down with Fielding in New York.
Or, as we hope Bridget would say:
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Sara Nelson: Even after all this time, you say you’re still
“amazed” by Bridget’s success – and by extension, your own. How
is that possible?
Helen Fielding: Well, I think if you’re a writer, you’re probably an introvert.
And I suppose I’m most comfortable sitting with my laptop and a few
close friends... I like talking to people, but I’m not always
confident about going on the telly, for example. I’m always afraid
I’ll do something straight out, like, lift up my skirt, or jump into a
SN: You mean something more like Bridget, whom I don’t think of as an
HF: Well, I think that what you get with Bridget is her diary, her
perspective, so you don’t really know how she’s appearing to other
people. I think that I didn’t understand initially why she became so
popular... and it was really only when I started going on book tours
that I started to understand that all these beautiful, really attractive
and successful women – I remember discovering this in Japan, for
example – identified with the feeling that they were too fat and not
good enough. So I think the books are about the gap between how people
feel they’re expected to be, how they present themselves and how they
SN: The themes of this book are the same as the others: women finding love
in a complicated world. How is dating different today than it was back
when Bridget started?
HF: One of the things that’s different now is that there are more areas
of echoing silence when you break up. There’s no tweeting any more,
there’s no texting any more. There are no phone calls, no emails.
SN: Central to the new book is harried, fifty-something Bridget’s
relationship with a much younger man nicknamed Roxster, whom she meets
on the Internet. Is this taken from real life?
HF: All the characters are based on
bits of people I know, in the way that Bridget is based on bits of me
but not all of me. I like the relationship between Bridget and Roxter
because I think they’re just two people who found each other in the
flotsam and jetsam of Cyberspace. They connect over their sense of humor
and general take on life. They’re both quite unpretentious and kind of
childish and fun loving. I also like Roxter because he hates it when
people refer to older women as “cougars” because it implies that a
woman interested in a younger man is horribly cat-like, and she’s
going to eat him like a tiger or something. And Bridget and Roxter’s
relationship is quite equal: no one is exploiting anyone else. He’s a
real character and not an Abercrombie and Finch fiction. In a way I
think they’re like Daniel Craig and Judy Densch in Skyfall.
I think she was the Bond girl, the one he really loved, and even though
there’s a big age difference between them, you can see that they
really loved each other.
SN: At the end of this book, Bridget is still very much alive and active.
Do you think she’s going to appear in another book?
HF: We’ll have to see. I care very much about my characters and about
myself as a writer. I really wanted to write this book, to tell the
truth about a woman, who, like a lot of women, let’s face it, finds
herself single and has to get back out there... As to what happens next
in my writing ... well, before you can know, you have to live some life
first and have some things to say.
SN: [People who haven’t read
the book yet and are planning to might want to skip this next question
in the interest of preserving a plot point... but, for the rest of you,
here goes...] We learn at the very beginning of the book that
Bridget is a widow – her husband, Mark Darcy having died in a very
noble way. That was a very brave thing to do, to kill off Mr. Darcy...
HF: I had a moment when I was in my pajamas watching the BBC news coverage
of the Syria crisis and the next minute they were saying “Mark Darcy
is dead” on BBC news! I couldn’t believe it. I knew people would be
surprised, but I wasn’t expecting that level of reaction to a
fictional character’s death. In people’s mind, Mr. Darcy from Pride
and Prejudice was merged with Colin Firth and Mark Darcy.
People cared so much. I came out of a local restaurant in London and
someone ran up to me shouting “You’ve killed Colin Firth.” So I
began texting with Colin back and forth about it – he’s the
loveliest man – because we both understood the irony of this
situation: Nobody has died!