Author Interviews
4:12 am
Sun October 20, 2013

Helen Fielding On Bridget Jones: Still Looking Good At 51

Originally published on Sun October 20, 2013 6:58 am

Who could forget that slightly manic — but ever so endearing — single gal looking for love in London: Bridget Jones. From her first diary entries in 1996, to her portrayal on the big screen in 2001, to her most recent ramblings in this year's Mad About the Boy, we've gotten to go inside the mind of Bridget Jones and see the truth, the whole truth about what it's like to be a woman most definitely now not in her 30s.

The woman behind the diaries, Helen Fielding, tells NPR's Rachel Martin that Bridget now appears — at least on the outside — to have grown up a bit. And yes, as you've probably heard by now, her dashing Mr. Darcy is no longer. "I was quite surprised by the scale of the reaction, certainly in Britain, to Mark Darcy's death," Fielding says. "I was watching the news one night, BBC, and there's the Syrian crisis, and then, next story was headline news: Mark Darcy's dead!"


Interview Highlights

On writing about a situation many people find themselves in

They are single again, and they are a bit older, and the dating landscape has completely changed, and they have to get out there again. And when Bridget was single before, there was no email, even — all those messages she sent to Daniel in the office about 'you appear to have forgotten your skirt,' and things, were just an archaic office messaging system. So Bridget's now back out there dating, dealing with texting, with Twitter, with online dating, and with children — and with the fact that, you know, life is busy and complicated, and you're juggling work and all these other things, and that seemed to me to be a very rich area to write about.

On Bridget's age

The first novel, I didn't say how old she was, I left it vague. And I was going to do that this time, and then I thought, I'm just going to dare to do it. I'm going to say that she's in her 50s. Because I think that just as when I wrote the first Bridget, the 30-something spinster, as she was then called, got such a bad press, that hadn't caught up with what was really going on. You know, Bridget felt in some part of her brain that she was Miss Havisham, and she was going to end up dying alone and being eaten by a dog, just because she hadn't got a boyfriend when she was in her 30s.

And I think there's the same sort of thing going on with idea of the woman in her 50s, that she should somehow be staring morbidly at a lake, or knitting, and have a tight grey perm and a shopping trolley. Whereas in fact, what I see around me is it's the same — women are still looking good, still dating if they're single, still feel the same inside ... there shouldn't be this outdated notion of 'a woman of a certain age,' which in itself is a patronizing thing to say, and never applied to men.

On whether there will be more Bridget

All I do know is, I won't write another book unless I've got something I really want to say. I mean, I do think one thing that could be quite funny — but it wouldn't really work — to write about someone becoming a celebrity would be funny, because there's so many things, even when you're on a book tour — I remember when the first Bridget Jones book became successful, coming back to my flat in London, and there was a photographer on a motorbike outside. And I was wildly indignant, and why can't they leave me alone! It's intolerable! But then it was a pizza. Domino's delivery man. And I was really disappointed ... that's quite a rich seam, too. But I don't think it's right for Bridget. Maybe.

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Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Who could forget the slightly the slightly manic but ever-so endearing, single gal in London looking for love, Bridget Jones. From her first diary entries in 1996 to her portrayal on the big screen in 2001 to her most recent ramblings in this year's "Mad About the Boy," we've gotten to go inside the mind of Bridget Jones and see the truth, the whole truth about what its like to be a woman most definitely not in her 20s.

The woman behind the diaries, Helen Fielding, joins us from our studios in New York to talk about this latest installment in Bridget's life. Helen, thank you so much for talking to us.

HELEN FIELDING: Oh, it's a pleasure.

MARTIN: So Bridget is all grown up now. Really grown up.

FIELDING: On the outside she is, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: She is raising kids.

FIELDING: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: This is a little bit of a spoiler alert. But in the first few pages its devastating news. But we find out that Mr. Darcy is no longer. He has passed.

FIELDING: That's right. I was quite surprised by the scale of the reaction, certainly in Britain, to Mark Darcy's death. I was watching the news one night, BBC, and there was the Syrian crisis. And then, next story was headline news: Mark Darcy Is Dead.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Perhaps not on the same scale.

(LAUGHTER)

FIELDING: Well, yeah. No one has actually died. But it was quite touching that I think that people care about Mark Darcy so much. But what I wanted to write about was a situation that many women find themselves, and many people find themselves in, that they single again and they are a bit older, and the dating landscape has completely changed, and they have to get out there again. And when Bridget was single before, there was no email, even. All those messages she sent to Daniel in the office about - you appear to have forgotten your skirt, and things, were just an archaic office messaging system.

So Bridget is now back out there dating, dealing with texting, with Twitter, with online dating, and with children. And with the fact that, you know, life is busy and complicated, and you're juggling work and all these other things, and that seemed to me to be a very rich area to write about.

MARTIN: So we should say she's in her 50s, right, at this point?

FIELDING: Yeah. Do you know, the first novel, I didn't say how old she was, I left it vague. And I was going to do that this time, and then I thought, I'm just going to dare to do it. I'm going to say that she's in her 50s. Because I think that just as when I wrote the first Bridget, the 30-something spinster, as she was then called, got such a bad press that hadn't caught up with what was really going on.

You know, Bridget felt in some part of her brain that she was Miss Havisham, and she was going to end up dying alone and being eaten by a dog, just because she hadn't got a boyfriend when she was in her 30s.

(LAUGHTER)

FIELDING: And I think there's the same sort of thing going on with idea of the woman in her 50s, that she should somehow be staring morbidly at a lake, or knitting, and have a tight grey perm and a shopping trolley. Whereas in fact, what I see around me is it's the same. Women are still looking good, still dating if they're single, still feel the same inside, still feel they can wear the same clothes. And there shouldn't be this outdated notion of a woman of a certain age, which in itself is a rather patronizing thing to say and never applied to men.

MARTIN: So Bridget discovered Twitter and this really turns out to really be her medium.

FIELDING: Well, it's a natural for Bridget really, because it feeds, number one, her neurosis. Because she discovers that Twitter is, to a degree, a giant popularity contest. So there always will be people, they're a lot more followers than you. And, of course, and she didn't understand it to start with, then she doesn't realize how to put a photo up so she just has the egg thing...

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: She's very put out she get more followers.

FIELDING: Yeah, she spent days going, number of followers, naught. Maybe tomorrow I'll have gone viral.

(LAUGHTER)

FIELDING: Still no followers, and then she gets drunk and tweets. And then she tried online dating. And then she gets sad. When she's online shopping and she put the address in her basket, and that it doesn't wink back at her.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: So, did you miss her? I mean, you've taken some time away from her.

FIELDING: Hmm. Well, it was a conscious decision that there was a lot of pressure to write another one. And I'm really fond of Bridget. I think it's sort of about the gap between how you feel we were expected to be and how you actually are. And I guess with this book, the gap between how you feel how your life should turn out that how it actually does.

And so I didn't want to just churn out more and more diluted versions of the same thing. I wanted to write - if I was going to write a "Bridget" book I wanted to write a novel, but was a slice of life as I saw it, and was full of funny things that I would see happening around me. So I waited until it just came quite naturally, really.

MARTIN: Helen Fielding, her new book is called "Mad About the Boy." She talked to us from our studios in New York. Thank you so much for talking with us, Helen.

FIELDING: Thank you, it was fun. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.