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Last Updated: Friday, 7 November, 2003, 13:19 GMT
Fielding's spy inspirations
World Trade Center shortly after the 11 September attack
A number of writers have written in response to 11 September
Writer Helen Fielding has said her latest book - Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination - has been inspired by the West's response to the 11 September attacks and the War On Terror.

Fielding - most famous for Bridget Jones's Diary and its sequel, The Edge Of Reason - was formerly a journalist and spent time in Sudan, where conflict between Muslims and Christians has been ongoing for many years.

She said she had been inspired to create the character of Olivia Joules - an idiosyncratic female spy - after seeing the way that the hunt for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been conducted.

"I've been very interested in the whole al-Qaeda thing, because I did spend quite a lot of time in the Sudan when I was a journalist, and loved it," Fielding told BBC World Service's The Ticket programme.

"There was a cartoon after 11 September which said 'Osama bin Laden is hiding somewhere in this jolly scene - can you find him without reducing the whole area to a pile of smouldering ash?

"I really liked that cartoon, and I realised part of the reason I liked it was I thought I actually could find him - or I could probably do better than these armies crashing around and making a big noise and losing him."

Bond inspiration

In the book, one of Olivia's missions is to investigate a suspected branch of al-Qaeda in Miami that is making face creams.

Helen Fielding
It's been less than a year since I started it, and I really enjoyed it
Helen Fielding

Much of the book focuses on Olivia's attempts to prevent terrorist activity by getting close to the perpetrators.

"When they were talking about invading Iraq, I thought, 'Well have they at least tried sending a female spy in, or someone to interview him and put a poison thing on his tie?'" Fielding said.

"So I suppose that was the germ of the idea."

Fielding said she had also noticed that it was often much easier for women to seemingly innocently go to areas where a man's presence would be instantly challenged.

"With Bridget Jones, because I travelled a lot promoting the book, I spent a lot of time on my own in hotels and airports and things.

"I started to realise that a woman travelling alone gets into all sorts of places that people would like to get into without arousing suspicion."

The plot of the book sees Olivia travelling around the world, although mainly in glamorous locations - Los Angeles, Miami and the Caribbean.

Meanwhile, her "overactive imagination" leads her to suspect a suave, rich Frenchman of being a major international terrorist.

Olivia is in many ways a female version of James Bond, and Fielding said she had very much enjoyed the original books by Ian Fleming.

However, Olivia Joules places more of an emphasis on sex - she is positively against violence, getting "quite cross" when asked to carry a gun.

"They try to give her a hairdryer that's been doctored with nerve gas," Fielding said.

"She explains that she's trying to seduce a terrorist, what she needs is a hairdryer that will dry her hair."

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