A Shopaholic Speaks

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Bantum Dell

Author Sophie Kinsella.

Grab your charge card! We recently caught up with bestselling British author Sophie Kinsella — more than eight million of her books are in print — on the first day of her nationwide U.S. book tour. Befitting her role as the writer of the Shopaholic series, Kinsella showed up decked out with snazzy new duds: a sparkly tweed dress; a belt from Reiss studded with faux jewels and rhinestones; black suede L. K. Bennett shoes; and a zebra Jimmy Choo bag. Kinsella, 37, who lives in London with her Latin teacher husband, is one of the leading lights in the chick-lit world. Her delightful new book, Shopaholic & Baby. soared to No. 1 immediately on both the U.S. and British bestsellers lists. After a serious discussion about clothes, we got down to business:

TIME: Tell us about your heroine, Becky Brandon.

Sophie Kinsella: Well, I love her dearly. She's the heroine of my books and when we met her she was a financial journalist, just like I was. Not the best financial journalist in the world, just like me. She's a wonderful person. She's warm and good-hearted and she's a genius. She's savvy and she just has one major flaw, which is that she loves to shop. Too much. And this gets her into trouble again and again. So we've seen her through different life stages. We've met her lover, to-be husband, and her family. I feel it's a world that, to me, really exists. This whole Becky world. And now in the latest one she's having the biggest adventure of all, which is having a baby.

What a coincidence — we hear you just had your third son.

I just had a new baby boy... well, eighteen months ago. I didn't have a baby just to research the book.

What are the other similarities between you and Becky?

I think we both fantasize. I'm living most of my childhood dreams, and I do have all the same fantasies that she does. Like you meet a celebrity and they become your best friend. You just hang out in Hollywood and it will be so cool. I think we're really quite optimistic, but I think we're quite grounded. On the one hand, she's leading a rather glitzy life and shopping at high-end stores and buying a big house and her husband's very successful. But actually deep down, she's still just the girl who loves her parents and comes from a normal family, and she never loses sight of that.

What was life like as a financial journalist?

I found it really boring. I never did any training in journalism or in finance, so I really was in the deep end. I got very good at going to press conferences and nodding. I'd figure it out when I got back to the office. Charts and numbers. I've never been great with facts, ever, my whole life. For a journalist, that's not a very good trait. As a novelist, it's fine because you just make it all up and so when I found fiction, I thought, oh, OK. This is more me. I can just make it up.

How did you get into the chick-lit biz?

I don't think anyone sits down and thinks, I know, I'll be a chick-lit writer. You write the book that you want to write and then other people say, oh, that's chick-lit. You say, OK. But it's not like you look around and go to a careers fair and there will be someone at the chick-lit author stand.

Does chick-lit get enough respect?

It goes in waves, I find. There was a hoo-hah about chick-lit a few years ago and everybody said, oh, what is this? Why are people writing about women? I thought everyone had come to terms with it. And then recently there seems to be another little hoo-hah about it. I just think there are people who love it and they know they love it. And if a few people want to make rude comments about it, then that's fine. I feel I'm writing for my readers. I'm not writing for commentators.

What's the difference between romance and chick-lit novels?

In a really straight romance novel, everybody would be quite passionate and things would go wrong and then they'd come right, but everybody would take it all desperately seriously and there would be lots of heaving of bosoms and moppings of brows. And I think in what I do and what they call chick-lit, everyone doesn't take life quite so seriously. Everybody's a lot more wry or ironic or will crack a joke rather than have their bosom heave.

Last question — are you also a shopaholic?

I have my moments. I'm not as bad as Becky, but I definitely have my moments.

For more chit-chat about Becky Brandon and the shopping life, go to Sophie Kinsella's web site.