Sophie Kinsella: From shopaholic to finding Audrey


  • Books
  • Monday, 27 Jul 2015

Finding AudreyAuthor: Sophie Kinsella Publisher: Doubleday Childrens, fiction

Listen up, Sophie Kinsella fans – and there are many – her newest Shopaholic book will arrive in stores in November.

Titled Shopaholic To The Rescue, its plot is described (on Amazon.com) as such: “Becky (Bloomwood)’s biggest ever challenge takes her to Las Vegas and beyond in a fast-paced, fun-filled, road-trip adventure”.

It is worth noting that this is Kinsella’s eighth – eighth! – installment of her bestselling series; the first, The Secret Dreamworld Of A Shopaholic, made its debut way back in 2000.

Since then, a 2009 film adaptation was made (starring Isla Fisher) and Kinsella’s books (which included non-Shopaholic titles like Twenties Girl and Remember Me?) have been translated into over 30 languages.

For the uninitiated, Shopaholic is about the misadventures of Becky, a financial journalist who cannot manage her own finances. The series focuses on her obsession with shopping and its resulting complications for her life.

Born Madeleine Sophie Townley, Kinsella (her pen name) lives in London with husband Henry Wickham. Married since 1991, they have four sons and a daughter.

Although her novels are global bestsellers, including in this part of the world, Kinsella has not travelled to Asia much.

sophie-kinsella
Sophie Kinsella's novel Confessions Of A Shopaholic was adapted into a movie starring Isla Fisher.

“I hope I will have the chance in the future,” she says in an exclusive e-mail interview with Star2. “I once visited Hong Kong many years ago when I was a financial journalist (like Becky), but I spent all my time in boring meetings and presentations!”

She has also written several stand-alone novels (The Gatecrasher, Sleeping Arrangements) as Madeleine Wickham. Most, if not all, of the 45-year-old British author’s books have been in the chick lit realm.

So it was a surprise – to this writer, at least – that Kinsella’s current offering, Finding Audrey, is in the young adult (YA) fiction genre.

However, Kinsella insists that she didn’t actually set out to write a YA book.

“I came up with the idea of (teenaged protagonist) Audrey and her family, and instantly knew I had to write her story,” reveals Kinsella. “It was then I realised I would be telling the story through Audrey’s eyes, and this would be a YA novel.”

Creating Audrey

Fourteen-year-old Audrey struggles with anxiety disorders and depression. Since being hospitalised after an unspecified incident at school, she shies away from interaction with anyone outside her family.

Audrey can’t even take off her dark glasses inside her home – a house that her chaotic but well-meaning family fill to the brim with their big personalities. Despite the heavy subject, Finding Audrey has several moments of levity. The LOLs are provided by Audrey’s over-protective mum, Anne, who is easily the scene stealer throughout.

Did Kinsella base Anne on anyone she knows? “Actually, no. But my children assume it is me,” she answers, the wryness coming across even in an e-mail. “In fact, every mother I know says their children think the mum is based on them.”

Like all of Kinsella’s fictional creations, Audrey is a flawed character with her insecurities and moody temperament. “I don’t intentionally think, ‘What flaw shall I give this character?’” says Kinsella. “But everyone is flawed in one way or another, and it is from the flaws and humanity in each character that you get the drama, fun, and romance.”

Asked what qualities in Audrey are apparent in her, Kinsella replies, “I’m very close to my family, and this is one of Audrey’s strongest characteristics.”

Kinsella hopes that teen readers will be inspired by Audrey’s journey. “I hope they laugh and are touched ... she is so brave and good-humoured and her story is a positive one. I hope that anyone suffering from anxiety, bullying or even just teenage woes can take heart from her.

“I also hope the book entertains parents of teens, though they’ll probably read it in quite a different way!” adds Kinsella, who just finished reading Wonder, a children’s novel by R.J. Palacio.

“It’s the story of August, a boy with acute facial disfigurements, who is venturing into the world of school for the first time,” explains Kinsella.

“The author lets us witness his journey from multiple viewpoints, reflecting his family and community. It’s thoughtful but never preachy. A great book.”

Last question: If Finding Audrey is ever made into a movie a la Shopaholic, which current actress best personifies her character?

“That’s really tricky,” says Kinsella. “Actually, I can’t imagine a well-known actress in the role, because Audrey is so individual. It would have to be a brilliant unknown teenage actress. Do you know any?”

We’ll forward your suggestions to her, readers, so tell us at star2@thestar.com.my

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