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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 08:40 GMT
Colgan's chick lit success
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By Helen Bushby
BBC News Online
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As part of World Book Day, best-selling chick lit author Jenny Colgan told BBC News Online about her work as a writer.

Just four years ago, Jenny Colgan was a down-in-the-mouth NHS Trust worker, who found her job "boring, boring, boring".

Having tried her hand at being a cartoonist and a stand-up comedienne, Colgan settled on writing, which proved to be a very lucrative decision.

Her 1998 debut, Amanda's Wedding, was snapped up by publisher Harper Collins and later by Warner Bros, which bought the film rights.

Jenny Colgan
Colgan: Can tell the difference between foie gras and Hula Hoops
The book, about two twenty-somethings who sabotage their so-called friend's wedding, struck a chord with young women on both sides of the Atlantic.

Her next two books also flew off the shelves and were bought by film companies, but Colgan, 29, is showing no signs of letting up.

She has just finished her fourth book, The Arthur Project, about a man who hates his job as a town planner, and has plans for her fifth in the pipeline.

But she has not just sat quietly in her study, writing her books.

Colgan is also a staunch defender of her chosen style of writing, chick lit, which was under fire recently after Booker-shortlisted author Beryl Brainbridge described it as "froth".

World Book Day logo
World Book Day gives a 1 book token to every schoolchild in full-time education
Perhaps the most famous writer in this field is Helen Fielding, who penned the highly successful Bridge Jones's Diary, which was also made into a box-office hit film.

"Young women aren't stupid," Colgan said in response to Bainbridge's comments.

"We do actually know the difference between literature and popular fiction. We know the difference between foie gras and Hula Hoops, but, you know, sometimes we just want Hula Hoops."

She puts chick lit's roaring success down to the fact that it is "funny - good, solid comedy writing".

As well as Fielding, Colgan was inspired by Jilly Cooper, famed for her books about romps in the stables and other such upper-class goings on.

Looking for Andrew McCarthy: Colgan's third book
Looking for Andrew McCarthy: Colgan's third book
She thinks that the chick-lit phenomenon, which has seen such books sell in their millions, is showing "no signs of slowing", with writers such as Wendy Holden holding her own in the best-seller lists.

"Science fiction is everlasting," she said, adding that she did not see why chick lit would not be just as successful.

And she also hit back at press reports that if you are young, female and attractive you have a much better chance of being published.

"I don't think being female has anything to do with it," she said.

"But I do think that you have an advantage if you're good at marketing yourself with the media, if you're easy-going."

'Fantastic'

Although Beryl Bainbridge does not appear to recognise Colgan's merits as an author, it did not stop Amazon asking her to be on their book prize judging panel.

And Colgan is happy to extol the virtues of World Book Day, which aims to promote the pleasures of reading, saying it is "fantastic".

She is all for the Get Caught Reading initiative, and said the most exciting book she read recently was House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski, which was "so different" to anything she had read before.

"I have the best job in the world," she said, adding that she loves reading because it "opens a door to somewhere else".

"I can't imagine a world without it."

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