Helen Fielding: Mad About The Girl 

The 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 waterfall.

 You mean something more like Bridget, whom I don’t think of as an introvert...

 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 feel inside.

 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?

 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. There’s nothing.

 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.

 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?

 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.

 [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...

 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!