The paperback of my latest novel, “Something To Hide,” is in the shops now – do buy it! – and I’m adapting it for BBC Films. It’s complicated, as it takes place in Beijing, Texas, a fictitious African country and Pimlico. Juggling the story-lines is a bit of a challenge but then I think of some of my favourite films – “Short Cuts,” “Babel” and “Syriana” – which weave in multiple plots and realize that when it’s done well it’s thrilling. I’m constantly astonished by the way our lives are linked, how coincidences pop up in the most unlikely places and how globalization has shrunk the world, and I love stories that reflect this.
I’m also adapting “In The Dark,” my novel set in the First World War, for the BBC, and “Heartbreak Hotel” for ITV. Because I’m doing this, I now have a faintly seasick feeling about the original novels. The plots have shifted around and the characters have morphed into different people during the sea-change that takes place when one turns a novel into a screenplay. As draft follows draft, this intensifies – and then, with any luck, actors will arrive to bring their own transformations.
Hopefully, one or more of these projects might actually get filmed. I’m so longing to step onto a set again, as I did with “Tulip Fever,” where I was an extra, playing a 17th century Amsterdam matron, complete with ruff and clay pipe. The sets were truly magical, it was like walking into a Vermeer painting. It’s been quite a rollercoaster, the whole process, as the book was written eighteen years ago and it’s taken this long to get it to the screen – I’ve written about this drama in earlier blogs. Hopefully the film will be released early next year – at last! It’s very beautiful and really worth the wait.
Meanwhile I’m appearing at various literary festivals this autumn – Budleigh Salterton on 15 September, Wigtown on 1 October, Cheltenham on 8 October, Wells on 16 October and Cardiff on 30 October. Do come along to one of them if you can – Google them for details.
I hope you’ve had a great summer. Do email me if you fancy at email@example.com.
I keep delaying this blog in case I’ve heard something about the release date for the film of ‘Tulip Fever’. Well, I still haven’t. Hopefully it will be sometime this spring, which I can’t help noticing is almost upon us if those daffodils are anything to go by. But then it has been a weird winter all round.
‘Something To Hide’ is coming out in paperback in June; meanwhile I’ve been adapting it as a movie for BBC Films. It spans continents – China, Africa, the USA and the UK – but knowing the ingenuity of film-makers that won’t be a problem. After all, a scene set in Beijing could just be a skyscraper and a lot of smog. It’s been a pleasure to adapt because it has two stonking parts for women of a certain age – as we know, there are not a lot of those around. Parts, not women. And both these women have a huge secret; there’s nothing an actor likes more than to not say what they mean – the mouth says one thing and the eyes another.
I’ve also been adapting ‘In the Dark’, my novel set in a shabby boarding house in Southwark during the First World War. I could never write about what happened in the trenches; like the Holocaust, it seems simply indescribable – by me, anyway. But I was interested in what was happening on the Home Front. My grandmother was born in 1890 and remembered it well; her first husband in fact was killed in action – as was her brother, and eleven cousins. So though those years have now slipped out of memory and into history I still remember her words so vividly I had to write a story that drew on her experiences. It’s grimy and sooty and very filmic; I can picture those dank alleyways with a glint of the river beyond, and the tenements hung with washing, and singing heard in the pubs, and the urgency of illicit sex when one might be blown to smithereens the next day.
The other adaptation I’ve done is ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, which I’ve been writing for ITV. After months of struggle – I simply couldn’t nail it – suddenly it became the most enormous fun and fell into place. It’s strange how that happens, and thank God that sometimes it does. Often one simply needs a break. William Trevor used to put a short story into a drawer for months, then take it out and start work on it all over again.
Otherwise I’m appearing at the Aldeburgh Literary Festival on March 6, and various venues from Leominster to Warsaw in the next few months, will keep you posted. Meanwhile do email me if you fancy on firstname.lastname@example.org
“Nobody in the world knows our secret… that I’ve ruined Bev’s life, and she’s ruined mine.”
Petra’s romantic life has always been a car-crash, and even in her sixties she’s still capable of getting it disastrously wrong. But then she falls in love with Jeremy, an old chum, visiting from abroad. The fatal catch? Jeremy is her best friend’s husband.
But just as Petra is beginning to relax into her happy ever after, she finds herself catapulted to West Africa, and to Bev, her best friend who she’s been betraying so spectacularly. Meanwhile, on opposite sides of the world, two other women are also struggling with the weight of betrayal: Texan Lorrie is about embark on the biggest deception of her life, and in China Li-Jing is trying to understand exactly what it is her husband does on his West African business trips…
It turns out that no matter wherever you are in the world, everyone has something to hide. Can Bev – can anyone – be trusted?
Well, the film of “Tulip Fever” is now pretty well completed and it should be released this autumn. It looks pretty wonderful, from what I’ve seen. Sixteen years in the making, but I think it’s worth the wait….More later, when I’ve seen the final version.
Meanwhile the sequel to “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is hitting the cinemas, with the hilarious addition of the pulse-quickening Richard Gere. Tamsin Greg is fantastic in it, too; otherwise it’s the original cast minus Thingy, who died in the first film – I say Thingy in case you haven’t seen it yet.
I went to the Royal Premiere, where Leicester Square was bedecked with marigolds and rickshaws and the stars tripped along the red carpet to the popping of a squillion flashbulbs. Charles and Camilla were there, too – well, it is their age group. Judi Dench is in both “Tulip Fever” AND “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, how great is that?
My new novel, “Something to Hide”, is published in July. I’m a news junkie and spend far too much time reading the papers when I should be writing. Just occasionally, however, something triggers my imagination and I ferret it away for future use. This novel started like that.
Many years ago I read a newspaper article about “hoodia”, a plant eaten by the Kalahari bushmen which was snapped up by some pharmaceutical corporation and marketed in the USA as an appetite suppressant for the overweight. The corporation was sued by the tribesmen, who won their case. This fascinated me on many levels – David versus Goliath, the obesity epidemic, the magical landscape of Africa. I kept thinking it would make a marvelous film – those sunsets, those animals! – but then other plots crept in.
A few years later I went to Ghana as a guest of Plan International, to visit women in various villages and write a story about them. When I was there I chanced upon a mobile phone charging booth, in a market. Mobiles are a lifeline in rural Africa but there’s a chronic lack of electricity, so on market day people get theirs charged up at one of these booths. What happened, I wondered, if the booth-owner started listening to the messages and reading the texts? What mischief could he wreak?
Then I read another story, this time about the Chinese using American surrogate mothers in order to get US citizenship for their child. This, too, triggered all sorts of thoughts, but how on earth could I knit all these elements together?
In stepped Petra. She’s a woman I know well – my sort of age, living in London, a veteran of various romantic disasters and emotionally pretty fragile. She’s not quite me, but she was familiar enough to lead me into foreign territory and these big global plots.
Petra suffers the most terrible emotional battering but I was with her every inch of the way – hardly surprising, as I wrote her – and grew very fond of her. She’s not perfect – who is? But I hope you enjoy her companionship as she takes you on a journey into a modern Heart of Darkness. And there’s some fun to be had, on the way.
So far, I’m appearing at the Chagford Literary Festival in March, the Bridport Film Festival in April, the Hay Festival in May…more to come, and I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile do got in touch if you fancy, email@example.com
The thrilling news is that “Tulip Fever” is going to be filmed at last….fifteen years after it was destroyed by Gordon Brown in his tax clampdown. I really thought it would never happen, so it’s fantastic that the cameras will start rolling on 19 May. Three cheers for its producer Alison Owen, who has at long last got this off the ground through sheer passion and perseverance, and for Harvey Weinstein. Justin Chadwick will direct – he directed “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” , and has done some wonderful TV work including “Bleak House”, one of my favourite series of all time. Christopher Waltz will play Cornelis, Alicia Vikander will play Sophia and Dane deHaan will play the young artist. This is extremely interesting casting as the two younger actors are rising stars, just on the cusp, and by the time the film is made they’ll be familiar names. And Christopher Waltz, who has appeared most recently in the last two Tarantino films, is simply dazzling. So phew all round.
Meanwhile the sequel to “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is shooting in India; in addition to the original cast they have Richard Gere, David Strathairn and Tamsin Grieg (who, incidentally, played Mrs Frank in my adaptation of “Anne Frank’s Diary”).
Talking of films, I was on the jury at the London Film Festival and we awarded Best Film to “Ida”, directed by the marvellous Pawel Pawlikowski. When it’s released you must see it – we all agreed unanimously that it was a rare and deeply affecting movie. It’s set after the War, in Poland, and tells the story of a young novitiate nun, her raddled and world-weary aunt, and the secrets they discover about their Jewish past. It’s shot in black-and-white with a largely non-professional cast. Another film we loved wa the Indian movie “The Lunchbox”, about a lonely young wife in Mumbai – great film-making in the humanist, Ray tradition. Watch out for them.
For the past couple of months I’ve been sitting at my desk trying to think up a plot for my next novel. Sitting at ones desk is not the best way to do it. Those of you who write, know that ideas don’t come when you try to think of them, they ambush you unawares. Still, my Puritan work ethic stops me from gallivanting around in the mornings, hoping for lightening to strike. During this fallow period, however, a couple of nice things have happened.
I’ve been awarded, of all things, the Daily Telegraph Churchill prize for being a Power-Pensioner! In other words, it’s for achieving stuff at an advanced age. Some of my fellow winners, in other categories, are Nicholas Parsons (90 years old, unbelievably), Dame Helen Mirren, the great John Byrne (Art) and Sir Alex Ferguson (Sport). It also honours local heroes. I was especially glad about Peter Neal (75) who organized the anti-Tesco protest in Sherborne (the town’s first demo since their riot over the 1832 Reform Act), which saw off the monster supermarket and saved the small shops.
We need people like him to join the growing opposition to the utterly insane HS2 rail project. It’s only recently that people have seen the true scale of destruction that it would cause, should it go ahead – to thousands of lives, homes and businesses in North London; to thirty ancient woodlands…Do Google it and lend your voice to the opposition.
Anyway, the other nice thing is that my daughter Lottie’s first novel, “Kiss Me First” has not only been shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award but she’s won the Specsavers New Writer of the Year prize. It’s just out in paperback. Do visit her website, www.lottiemoggach.com. And you can find out more about my son Tom Moggach’s book, “The Urban Kitchen Gardener” on his website, www.tom-moggach.com. I’m very proud of both of them, needless to say.
Meanwhile, if you want to get in touch, do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s always nice to hear from you.
The most thrilling news this autumn is that my daughter Lottie’s novel, “Kiss Me First”, has been shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. This covers both fiction and non-fiction, and is voted for by book clubs – in other words, normal readers – as well as professionals. At this very moment her book is also top of the Amazon Literary Fiction list. It’s an extraordinary novel and very different to anything I’ve written which is a relief I think for both of us. It’s a complex situation, having a parent who’s a writer – I should know, as both of my parents were writers too. She’s negotiated this with spectacular results, so do read her novel – “Kiss Me First” by Lottie Moggach.
As you might know, my son Tom has also written a book. “The Urban Kitchen Gardener” was published last year and is filled with entertaining information on how to grow food in the city – he works in primary schools, encouraging children to learn about plants and cooking. There are lots of interesting recipes too. That’s your Christmas sorted.
Other news is that the sequel to “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, which is called – not hugely unsurprisingly – “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, is due to start filming in India in the New Year. It’s the same cast on board – all except for Tom Wilkinson, for the simple reason that his character died in the first film. There are also rumours that Richard Gere is going to join the cast, which would give even more of a zip to things. Lucky them, I say, spending two months in Jaipur with their mates…
I’m busy trying to adapt “Heartbreak Hotel” as a movie. This is more difficult than I thought as there’s a huge amount of back-story in the novel, which of course one can’t put into a film, so the present-day, ongoing action has to be beefed up. This leads to all sorts of changes, which also alter the characters – would they really do that? Where will that lead them? In a book, characters can have muddled motives – the author might not even know what they are – but in a film script the writer has to be absolutely confident of what it’s all about – if not, how can the actors get their heads around it? So it’s turning out to be an interesting process but not without its problems.
I’m also adapting a novel called “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” by Helen Simonson. It’s been a big bestseller, and features a crusty old Major who falls in love with the Pakistani woman who runs the village shop. I can see why people love the book – it’s charming and funny and touches lightly on themes of racism, both overt and subconscious, as well as love in later years, which seems to be becoming something of a speciality of mine (both on and off the page, as I’ve just got married again at the ripe age of 65).
There are also murmurings about “Tulip Fever” and I will hopefully have some news on that soon. Meanwhile I’m trying to think of a new novel whilst also whizzing around the country performing at events and also trying to learn the tango for a cameo appearance in the Presteigne panto – how closely does life resemble “The Archers”! Or indeed visa versa. (Presteigne, by the way, is the town known at Knockton in “Heartbreak Hotel”).
Meanwhile I send you my best wishes and do get in touch if you feel like it, at email@example.com
Heartbreak Hotel is just out in paperback, and has also been chosen for the W H Smith/Richard and Judy Book Club, which is great – do have a look at their website as there’s lots of extra stuff about the book: podcasts, Q&As and whatnot. Their edition of the paperback also has extra content, and even a new short story I’ve written, set in the fictional town of Knockton.
This is where the novel is set. In real life this is Presteigne, Powys, one of my favourite places in the world. It’s gone through a sea-change, however, and now exists in two dimensions – in my novel and in reality. This will soon be joined by the television Knockton as I’m adapting the novel for the BBC and have just finished Episode One. It’s been a weird process because the characters have slightly changed, as indeed have the events, so I now have three Knocktons lying on top of each other like holograms.
Those of you familiar with the plot know that it’s about Courses for Divorces. People who’ve just split up enrol on a residential course – Car Maintenance, Cookery for Beginners and so on – to learn the skill the other person had in the relationship. In the TV drama I hope to open each episode with an explosive row. In quarrels, of course, all sorts of accusations come pouring out, so we can learn the couple’s back-story as the plates are flying. Then we have the titles and get into the episode proper. I loved this technique in Six Feet Under, the terrific American TV drama about an undertakers, which started with the person’s death.
I’ve been whizzing all over the country this summer doing events, and there are still several to go – see that section of the website. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’ve even done a couple of them with my daughter Lottie, whose novel “Kiss Me First” has also been published this year to huge acclaim – and has just been longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. I’m hugely proud of her, and indeed of my son Tom, who sets up vegetable gardens in primary schools and whose book, The Urban Kitchen Gardener was published last year. That’s three generations of writers as my parents also wrote – my father calculated that he must have written 120 books. That’s an awful lot of trees.
I hope you’ve been having a great summer. It’s been such wonderful weather that I’ve been swimming every day in the ponds on Hampstead Heath, which is the most magical experience, and even better when the fairground is in full swing in the nearby meadow and one can have a ride on the dodgems afterwards. Who needs Abroad?
Do get in touch if you fancy, I enjoy hearing from you. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org