> Tess Daly backs new 'Strictly Come Dancing' judge Darcey Bussell
For anyone who doesn't know, can you explain what The Camera Never Lies is all about?
"Well, it's all about Britt Baxter; she's a model, she works in the fashion industry, she's coming towards end of her career - you have a short shelf life as a model. So, she is wondering what to do with her life, when suddenly she gets a huge break. The type that will set her up for life - a huge worldwide advertising campaign. But, she refuses to succumb to the casting couch and she loses the job. Suddenly her life is spiralling out of control... until she is spotted by a TV producer! Then she lands a gig on the nation's biggest breakfast show. Her life takes on a whole new direction, and it's all about her new life, celebrity, the spotlight, the glamour, the drama, the divas backstage behind the cameras. A little bit of drama, backstabbing and romance."
Reading that, some might wonder if this is really fiction - did you worry about people reaching that conclusion?
[laughs] "Yes a model-turned-TV presenter, I've been asked this before! Obviously, there are a lot of parallels between Britt Baxter and my own life; I've walked in her shoes a lot of the way. While there is some fact, there is some fiction in there - and the fun part is trying to decipher which bits are which!"
Was it nice to have the freedom to exaggerate the experiences?
"That's what has been so much fun about the whole creative process. You can make your characters have adventures that you haven't had and might wish to have. It's almost like having an alter ego; you can have as much fun as you like and take them wherever you wish. Britt really got under my skin. I would think what would she do in a situation, she's met a guy who she is hugely attracted to, but she's in a long-term relationship - what is Britt going to do? Going to bed at night, I used to think, what would Britt do next? It becomes more realistic. The whole process was brilliant. I enjoyed every minute - but I don't enjoy the pressure of a deadline!"
When writing, did you find it difficult to make Britt do things which you yourself might not have?
"That's a really good question; I had to keep making decisions and reminding myself that she wasn't me. She's not me. She's a fictional character! For example, when she's in a situation which I wouldn't be in myself, I have to stop and think; hold on a minute, this is not you. This is removed from reality. It's tricky separating fact from fiction in that way, especially when you are empathising with the character and walking in her shoes. It is tricky separating yourself from her; she becomes another factor of your imagination, a factor of yourself. So that is quite a challenge."
Would you say Britt is a flawed individual?
"She's a down-to-earth, warm-hearted lass. She's a good girl, a girl's girl, a girl you are going to have as a mate. I think she's a character that a lot of women will relate to because she comes from quite humble beginnings and finds herself thrust into the spotlight; something she wasn't necessarily prepared for, and the subsequent rollercoaster ride she goes on. It's something she's never experienced, and never expected to really."
There are many teenage girls who might have ambitions of modelling and TV presenting. Would you advise that they pick up the book?
"It's a peep behind the scenes at life in the spotlight. A lot of people always ask me about what life is like. Yes, it's glamorous, it's glitzy, but there is a lot more goes on than that glitz and glamour you see in a photograph or on a red carpet. There's a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that I hope people will find really interesting."
How real is this behind-the-scenes drama?
"Honestly, that stuff is fiction! It's tongue and cheek. I haven't experienced any of that backstabbing myself, although I'm sure it does go on! There's so much goes on, you just wouldn't dream of it when you see two presenters calmly on the sofa, warm smiles, reading their lines with ease. Behind the scenes all hell could be breaking loose; and you wouldn't know that at home! It's a sneak into that world of entertainment and what really goes on."
Setting it in breakfast television was also very appropriate, given how programmes such as Daybreak have featured in the headlines over the last year.
"Yes, I did think it was very topical as I was writing it. Breakfast TV was in the news. Of course, if I had written about Saturday night TV, people would then have refused to believe it wasn't about my own life!"
"This is something I've always wanted to do. Before I got into television, I was working in New York. I interviewed a few people there, wrote a few articles for a fashion magazine out there called Paper - which I hugely admired. I interviewed people like Quentin Crisp and musician Lee 'Scratch' Perry. I actually met Quentin again, and this time asked if I could film him. I made a little, amateur video reel - filmed by a friend - it was useless. I sent it off to a production company in England, and they got me a screentest and gave me a job - and that's how I got into television. So it was the writing which led me to television really, it's something which I've always loved doing. My editor taught me the process; there has been a lot of hand-holding. It's been a real education. And I'm really proud of the results, and loved the feedback I've had. The ultimate compliment is when people say that they started reading it and couldn't put it down. I'm so proud of it. I'm working on the sequel already; I'm talking Britt back to New York!"
You've answered my next question - you're already working on the sequel then?
"[laughs] Yeah, so I'm going to take her to New York! I lived there for five years - I really loved it, and I never really got it out of my system. I'm now starting with the plot and the characters. It's about six months. End of January to July; from start to finish, about 88,000 words. And then another month editing. I kept editing The Camera Never Lies thinking this should change, and this wouldn't happen with Britt, we won't have quite so much sex in this scene because my mother will have a heart attack!"
Can you see the story hitting the big screen?
"That would be my dream. My absolute dream. I'm going to see a friend of mine this weekend who is a film director, and I'm going to put a copy in his hand! It would be my dream come true. Let's get Britt Baxter on the big screen!"
I'm imagining a big screen version as being The Devil Wears Prada meets Morning Glory...
"Yes, thank you! I would describe it as The Devil Wears Prada meets maybe a bit of Sex and the City perhaps - maybe a lot of Sex and the City when she goes to New York; cocktails and high heels!"
So working on the sequel and the new series of Strictly Come Dancing is on the horizon; what else is next for you?
"Well, getting the sequel done, and then it's my dream to bring The Camera Never Lies on to the big screen! It may be a pipe dream, but a girl can dream. My kids are my priority. Everything else is just sugar on top! I'm making the most of life and appreciating all the positives."
Tess Daly's The Camera Never Lies is available in paperback now.