Alison Kervin is a British sports journalist who created the loveable footballer's wife Tracie Martin and her hilarious rules of WAGdom in the novels The Wag's Diary and A Wag Abroad. Her latest novel, Celebrity Bride, is out this month - and she's already working on its sequel.Interviewee A to Z
What inspired you to write Celebrity Bride?
I am fascinated, like a lot of people, by the whole concept of fame and celebrity - what is it? Why do people want to be famous? Why do they yearn to be recognized by complete strangers in the street and have their lives dissected and in many cases ruined by constant intrusion? When I wrote The Wag's Diary and A Wag Abroad - my first novels, they featured a character who embraced the whole fame thing and adored being a Wag and everything that entailed, so I wanted to create an "anti Wag" character in the next books - someone who didn't want fame at all and was very happy leading a low-profile life. I came up with the idea of Kelly Monsoon who's a lovely, beautiful girl who has no desire to be famous, but meets and moves in with the most famous actor on the planet. How would she cope if she had fame thrust on her against her will? Would her lovely, happy life have to change? Starting off on that premise took me on a rollercoaster ride of a plot which sees Kelly all tied up in a murder investigation as well as seeing her happy life erode around her. It's very funny and very silly and loads and loads of fun!! It highlights all the silly, funny little problems with going out with a celebrity (like Heat magazine voting you as having the "biggest bum of the month" and having to get your nails done all the time and always look nice when you'd rather just eat pizza in your pyjamas. He goes to meet her parents and half the town descends on the house to get a look at him). In the end, the book asks the question - can she keep a life she loves and have the man she loves as well? I won't give away the ending, but it's a comic novel about the bizarreness and hilarity of being a girl with two great mates, living in a party flat in Twickenham and suddenly finding yourself in the spotlight against your wishes.
Describe your new character Kelly Monsoon.
I've probably covered this one in the first answer, but she's a very beautiful girl - curvy with long wavy hair and a traffic-stopping smile. She's kind and thoughtful and good through and through, but she's desperately naive. Her naivety is almost her undoing but her decency and well-meaning save her from utter disaster on several occasions.
Is her famous groom based on a real-life actor?
No, Rufus George is actually based - physically - on a guy who walked into a coffee bar one day. I sat and stared at him for about an hour (all in the name of research, you understand!) and made lots of notes and drawings because he seemed to have this colossal aura about him. He was incredibly handsome and people couldn't stop staring at him. The waitress asked him about 150 times whether he needed anything, and people were walking into walls trying to look at him. He became Rufus right there and then. Hollywood-wise, I suppose I'd have to say he was closest to Hugh Jackman or George Clooney in looks.
Did you enjoy writing about the clash of cultures between Americans and Britons?
I didn't write too much about that in the end because I wanted most of the clashes to come about because of the fame element. It was as if celebrity and fame were third characters in the book who caused trouble for our lovely heroine! The only American clash comes with his mother who's a very unpleasant creature!
Which celebrity have you been most excited to meet in person?
I was a gymnast when I was younger and a huuuge fan of Nadia Comaneci. I did a sports interview series for The Times a few years ago, and Nadia was one of the interviewees. It was so surreal to meet someone who'd been a childhood heroine. She was very sweet and extremely chatty in the interview, but what you tend to forget about childhood heroes and heroines is that they exist, in your mind, only in the moment that they're being admired. So I went to interview Nadia, expecting a quiet, intense, 14-year-old Romanian girl in a white leotard and with her dark glossy hair in pigtails, and of course it was nothing like that. I met a 40-year-old with bright blonde hair and an American accent who was bursting with confidence and dripping with jewellery. I think I actually wrote in the piece that she was desperately interesting and a lovely person to interview, but I kind of wish I hadn't interviewed her, because heroes aren't designed to be interviewed. You probably shouldn't meet them at all.
Can we expect any more adventures from WAG Tracie Martin?
I really hope so. I'd love to do one more book with her because she was enormous fun to write and she has a terrific fan base (she gets Christmas presents and birthday cards!!)
Would Kelly and Tracie get on as friends?
Yes, I think they would, but there'd be a huge clash of cultures, aims and ambitions, and I think Kelly's flatmates would think that Tracie was hysterical! There's a Wag-like character in Celebrity Bride and Kelly really likes her, so I think Tracie and Kelly would get on (you see - this is what's weird about writing - what we're doing now is discussing whether the people in my head would get on with one another!!!)
Who is your favourite real-life WAG and who would you most like to be a WAG to?
I'd hate to be a Wag and I'd be a really bad one, but if forced to marry a footballer, I'd have to say that David Beckham would probably be the one I'd go for. As to my favourite Wag, I think that Abigail Clancy is the most beautiful, Cheryl Cole the most incredible when you think of what she's got up to since Wagdom struck . . .beating women up in toilets, tattoos all the way up her leg, a loyal wife who stands by her man when he had an affair, mega superstar and people's princess on X-Factor. She always strikes me as having a level of complexity that a traditional Wag doesn't have, and that's quite refreshing. The other Wag who's fascinating is Victoria Beckham. I think her ability to take the knocks she takes - over her music, her looks, her husband's alleged infidelities etc. and bounce back is astonishing. I love that she launched a fashion label and the world was waiting to laugh heartily at pink hotpants and leopardskin boots, but she actually turned out a great collection that had fashionistas wanting to wear it, not laugh at it. I know it's easy to knock Victoria and there is something very steely and unapproachable about her (in direct contrast to Cheryl Cole, oddly) but you have to admit the girl's got balls, and I like that quality in a Wag!
Victoria Beckham was once quoted as saying she'd never read a book in her life. What do you think her reaction to The WAG's Diary and A WAG Abroad would be?
I'd love her to read them and see. I imagine she'd start out thinking they were going to knock Wags then realize that Tracie, the central character, is an absolute star. The aim of Wag's Diary was to create a character who was Wag through and through and never swayed from her Waggishness, but was entirely likeable at the same time, so I hope that if Wags read it (I wonder whether any have??? If you're a Wag and you've read it - please email me through my website to let me know - I'd be fascinated to hear what you thought). I imagine that most Wags reading it would come away from the book loving Tracie and thinking it was just a load of fun and made them laugh.
What are you working on now?
The sequel to Celebrity Bride. It's going to take the story on to a whole crazy new level, so please, please, please read Celebrity Bride now, so you are fully prepared to come on the next crazy journey with our reluctant celebrity when the next book comes out and her celebrity status hits the roof!!
How did you get into sports reporting?
I've always loved sport, trained as a journalist and worked in local newspapers, then I just kept coming up with ideas for the national newspapers and sent them in until they started using them! A lot of success in journalism, and perhaps most things, is pure persistence.
Are you sporty yourself?
Yes, I love the gym, play tennis a couple of times a week, swim ... things like that.
Do you happily embrace the chick-lit author tag
Kind of . . . except that I don't really know what it means. Most books are bought by women, and women buy books with good strong female characters. The best soaps, fairytales and life experiences involve good, strong characters put under strain and triumphing in the end. I'm not wholly sure what the distinction is between Lisa Jewell, Jane Austen, Marian Keyes and Emily Bronte. I'm not being funny - I'm not suggesting they're all the same. I just don't know what the defining characteristics of chick lit are, and what it all means. Which of those names are chick lit, and why? The bottom line, for me, is that if people buy my books and they make them laugh and they enjoy the stories and the characters, then I'm happy, whatever people chose to call me!