CHICK-LIT queen Sophie Kinsella discovered she had some surprise competition — after the star of her hit Hollywood movie Isla Fisher also became an author.
The 48-year-old is an international best-seller thanks to her Shopaholic book series which was made into a blockbuster film with the former Home And Away actress.
But when Sophie branched out into writing children’s books, she found Isla had beaten her to it.
The actress, who left Bathgate, West Lothian, when she was six for Perth, Australia, with her Scottish folks Elspeth and Brian, penned her first book, Marge In Charge, in 2016.
Sophie released her Mummy Fairy And Me earlier this year, but she says: “I’m really not surprised. I think Isla’s great and she’s very, very funny.”
The London-born writer met Isla, who has three kids with Ali G star Sacha Baron Cohen, in action during the making of the 2009 movie Confessions Of A Shopaholic.
And she admits she was left in awe as Fisher brought her character Rebecca Bloomwood — a journalist with a shopping addiction — to life.
She says: “I had never been on a film set in my life so it was an incredible learning curve.
“But suddenly I was watching my characters coming to life right in front of me.”
And Sophie insists the movie set experience helped her own writing, with her novel Can You Keep A Secret set to transfer to the big screen with American Horror Story actress Alexandra Daddario as a woman who spills her secrets to a stranger on a plane.
She says: “What was really useful was understanding how scenes were set up. It’s made me think very visually, so I write in scenes and tell a cinematic story in my head.”
And as we are now giving every primary in the country the chance to pick up 105 Collins Big Cat titles worth £550, Sophie maintains that writing for adults and children are essentially the same.
She explains: “The stories are shorter but you’ve still got to put everything you’ve got into them.
“Writing the kids’ books make me laugh but then again I laugh when I’m writing for grown-ups too.
“It still takes the same energy and thought process as I’m trying to make comedy.
“I can’t do as much with wordplay and irony so it’s got to be full-on farce. But because it’s dealing with magic there’s an inventive side to it.
“I’ve really loved coming up with spells and a world where I’m trying to blend traditional magic with modern technology.
“It’s a nice break from reality. I wish I could bring some magic into the world of my other heroines too.”
The author, who lives in London with hubby Henry and their five kids, admits she tried out her new characters on her own brood first.
Sophie, a former financial journalist, who penned her first hit book The Tennis Party when she was just 24, says: “I started telling these stories to my children.
“I was actually a bit nervous at first because I know they’re probably quite biased, but I didn’t know if they were good enough to publish.
“But I think they have an appeal because everyone loves a laugh and a predicament. For me that’s the most important thing.
“So I will start with a normal situation that everyone gets and then it gets a bit farfetched and ridiculous, but that’s when you get people rooting for your characters.
“That’s when they think, ‘What if I could fly?’ or ‘Wouldn’t it be great if my phone could turn into a magic wand?’.
“And imagine if their mother really was a fairy.” Sophie believes laughter is the key to promote childhood reading.
She says: “You see a baby that has a surprise and it laughs. We’re all hardwired to love a surprise and to giggle.
“These brilliant early board books play on that as you lift a flap you turn a page and you get a surprise.
“We’re all grown-up versions of that. So I think anything that invites you to turn the page, whether it’s a cracking fast-paced story or a pop-up, is great.”
And Sophie knows what she’s talking about because before her days as a high-flying journalist and a successful author she also worked as a teacher.
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She recalls: “It was always stories that would make their little faces light up in class.
“The best history teachers were the ones who turned the past into a story and would break off on a cliff-hanger.
“It’s just children realising that words, that might look a bit boring, are the way into an amazing tale.”
She adds: “Children gravitate towards a story in a video game, but it’s showing them that a book is also a story too.
You just need to give them the skills as early as possible so they can get through the barrier of the words and into the story which they will love.”
However, Sophie has one classic book suggestion she believes is almost guaranteed to turn kids into readers — Roald Dahl’s Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, first published in 1964.
She says: “It has the most fantastic feel-good opening with a golden ticket and chocolate — how could you go wrong? There was also something about the way Roald Dahl wrote.
“He was so clever and even the language he used managed to be ageless too.”
The writer is currently finishing off her latest adult book before she returns to her third Fairy Mum outing — which are set to hit the small screen next year.
And she doesn’t mind if her old Shopaholic friend Isla is now a competitor.
Sophie jokes: “Isla is one very talented lady — so I don’t mind at all that she’s now a rival.”
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