Place the Big Brother house inside a Tudor mansion, add Ab Fab and shake up with Alexis Carrington’s attitude. Do you like the sound of this diva mayhem? Well tighten your seatbelt then prepare to meet Sofia, Blaire and Gilda.
Let the lovely, sweet Anna be your guide in Planet Celebrity where you will be rushed into orbit as soon as you accept an invitation to ‘The Inheritance’ bash. You will spin around until the plot makes you dizzy ‘darling’. ‘Sweetie’, grab yourself a hot date, a designer frock and a mini bar of something fizzy. Do not, I repeat do not keep your feet firmly fixed on the ground. Indulge yourself in this bizarre world and enjoy! If you are a celebrity addict and reality TV junkie then you will soak up this insight. You might want to invite Ab Fab’s Patsy and Edina along to confuse you even more…
I can guarantee that you will want to bellow at some of the characters. You will want to slay Sofiazilla but that’s part of the fun. Sit back, kick off your Jimmy Choos and do your research into the A-Z of the outlandish celebrity world. The behaviour goes from A for annoying to Z for zany. As I read the novel, I really wanted to believe that these outlandish people really exist. Is this what happens behind the glossy images in ‘Hello!’ ?
Gilda was my absolute favourite! She is wild, independent and cares about her ‘monsters’ (the children) and Anna. Gilda does guild the lily with sparkle and loves to ‘par-tee’! I want an employer who prescribes the seventies ‘Screwdriver’ cocktail when I am having a tough time.
The contrast between celebrity gained status and the old, established titled world is represented in Sofia and Anna. Living the high life is not the same as living in high society. However, the reader is given an insight into how families from established estates were once forced to marry into new money. Fortunately, there is a love story to guide us through the narrative.
Of course, you will meet the eccentric gentry and their servants. The eccentric celebrities are a powerful presence. The battle to maintain the brand as the A class celebrity is ferocious. Following the media gurus as they blaze a trail through the press representation is enlightening. It makes one wonder who is using who in the Paparazzi underworld. The celebrity ‘picks up her pashmina like a matador’ as she goes into battle to fight for the best media coverage that she can find. Everyone seems to be ‘playing a game’ and planning moves. ‘Hey sweetie,’ seems to be a great weapon at all times, along with the fierce glare. In the world of glitz and glamour there are some grey areas. The pursuit of happiness is confused with the pursuit of fame on Planet Celebrity. Lust for fame and fortune is contrasted with love and a respect for tradition. Oh, there is snobbery of all kinds laced throughout the novel. Both worlds seem to be inhabited by eccentricity and the philosophy is captured in the quotations below:
‘The only wire on a gentleman’s estate should be around a champagne cork.’
‘We don’t want a single scrap of sentimentality here.’
This novel is pure, unadulterated escapism! Be prepared to play along with the madness, accept that the rules of the game change and go with the flow. You will hear the drum beat from EastEnders but you will be far from the likes of the Mitchells. As Marilyn Monroe said, ‘…it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.’
It was a privilege to meet Ally Bunbury, at The Grand Hotel, Brighton, while I was on holiday. Ally managed to escape from a project in London to chat about her debut novel. She arrived looking very glamorous in her favourite long sleeved, leopard print dress. She also wore her pearl earrings that were a present from her husband, Turtle. I experienced handbag envy when I noted the gold Longchamp clutch bag. Ally was a little self-conscious and shy at first, but she soon relaxed and lit up when she talks about the characters in The Inheritance.
Ally commented that her character, Gilda, would adore the Grand Hotel and we drank some Bolli in her character’s honour. A man was playing jazz on the piano as we sipped the champagne in the conservatory as we looked at the sea. Finally, we commenced out chat about Ally’s debut novel, The Inheritance. The book is a celebration of romance, country houses, inheritance and celebrity. It a perfect book for the readers who like to indulge in Jackie Collins and Jilly Cooper.
Jessie: Tell me about your glamorous book
Ally: The Inheritance is about an Irish girl named Anna Rose, who goes to work in London for the fabulous “PR Queen” Gilda Winterbottom. At an absurdly opulent party hosted by the Hollywood actress, Sofia Tamper, Anna meets George Wyndham, a dashing art dealer and heir to his ancestral estate in Scotland. Anna and George very quickly fall in love only to find themselves cornered into an impossible situation involving the ravishing but utterly spoilt Sofia, and with his inheritance under threat, George is forced to make a terrible choice. The story takes place in London, Paris, Ireland, Scotland and LA.
Jessie: Capture your review with an extract from the novel.
Ally: ‘Turning away, Anna felt deflated at having lost what she thought might have been a chance with George. Then, seeing crystal photograph frames on a sideboard, documenting Sofia’s life, sun- kissed on a super-yacht, looking divine in a slinky dress at some sort of debutante ball, she had a reality check. Sofia was famous for being an IT girl who partied around the world; Anna couldn’t even begin to compete.’
Jessie: Your book is an entertaining peek into another world. The story narrative sparkles with surprises and mischief. I enjoyed writing the review but what have the reviewers said about The Inheritance ?
“Pitched as The Devil Wears Prada meets Bridget Jones this sparkling debut novels embodies the best of both.”
“A rollicking yarn.”
– RTE Guide
“With threads linking the London party scene, Anglo-Irish family life and a sprawling Scottish estate … there are private jets and Porsches pitted against old money and family tradition. The elite are up to their usual tricks, with sex, booze and back-stabbing aplenty.”
– The Irish Times
– The Irish Examiner
“Jane Austin spiked with a dash of Made in Chelsea.”
– The Irish Independent
“This is a perfect indulgence read.”
– Sue Leonard
Jessie: Why should I put your book in my handbag?
For delicious escapism.
Jessie: Why did you start writing?
Ally: Sometimes the best moves are sporadic, and stepping off the London treadmill to live in Paris during my late twenties was one of them. My father had been ill for many months and when he died at home in Ireland, I needed head space that I couldn’t possibly have found if I had stayed in my PR job, no matter how much I loved it. A close friend suggested I should move to Paris and rent her apartment and I jumped on the opportunity, even though I had no idea what I would do there. And it’s hard to explain, but when I walked into my pretty Parisian kitchen, bright yellow with tall windows, I was felt utterly compelled to write. I sat down at the rustic wooden table and began writing, and as the days went on, I played the saddest possible music, from La Boheme to soulful jazz, and I can remember tears pouring down my face as characters discussed their lives, made choices, had dramas and found love. It was purely therapy and that was how The Inheritance began.
Jessie: Do you have a special writing place?
Ally: At the kitchen table in my house, looking out onto the Irish Wicklow Mountains.
Jessie: Do you feel different, now that you are a published author?
Ally: I feel like the stars aligned, whilst I wrote The Inheritance, and a number of conversations with my close friends (which includes my husband) made my book happen. The feeling of people being behind you, holding you up, really can make good, and even great things happen. I had always known the power of friendship was strong, but before The Inheritance came to be, I hadn’t realised just what a difference self-belief, due to others belief in you, can make. After ten years of marriage, and the arrival of two gorgeous daughters, now that I have started writing again I feel as if a strong flame has been lit inside me and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Jessie: How do you use social media to support you and are you a member of any forums?
Ally: I now Tweet, Facebook and Instragram – and I really enjoy it, though it does take discipline not to get too distracted by the news feeds!
Jessie: How do you manage to find the time to write when you run a PR business?
Ally: The major difference between writing in Paris, and County Carlow, where we now live, is that I am now a mother, and I also run my own PR business, so writing a book in ‘my own time’ is certainly challenging – especially when a room of one’s own is the kitchen! However, having worked in a large open plan office during my PR agency days held me in good stead, as I find I can sit down and write when the children might play Twister or built an obstacle course for their hamster, Mr Nibbles. And if there is one piece of advice I’d like to pass on about writing a book, it is this – ‘If you want to write a book, don’t watch television.’ And it does require discipline, as sinking into a deep sofa to indulge in Netflix after a long day, can be unbelievably tempting, but once you get into the habit of instead settling in behind your lap top with a glass of wine or a mug of steaming tea, it is another form of relaxation.
Jessie: Where did you get the idea for the new novel and did you plan the entire narrative before commencing?
Ally: I begin with a central character and build the bricks from there.
Jessie: Do the characters ever surprise you and take over the story?
Ally: Gilda wrote herself … literally … the works sprang from my fingertips before I could even give them any proper thought. She is such a fast, pacy character. I am currently working on my second novel and really enjoying it. I’m at the delicious stage of creating character detail and as it is a love story, I am feeling quite dreamy on a daily basis. The title is yet to be decided and it will come out in June of next year.
It was a delight to spend a gloriously sunny afternoon with Ally in the beautiful hotel. Ally was completely at ease in the glamorous environment and smiled at me when I insisted on capturing the setting in a photo. Ally didn’t have time to stay as she had to get back to another celebrity party to rescue one of her clients.
A few words about Ally…
Born in 1976, Ally Bunbury was brought up with her three sisters, and a menagerie of animals, in County Monaghan. Following a serendipitous encounter at a dinner party, Ally landed a dream internship with a PR agency on New York’s Fifth Avenue, which, in turn, led to a flourishing career in London and Dublin. Ally now runs her own PR company and continues to create dynamic media campaigns for her clients. She lives in County Carlow with her husband, the historian, Turtle Bunbury and their two daughters, Jemima and Bay. From their house, overlooking the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains, Ally wrote her debut novel, The Inheritance . She is currently working on her second novel.
Connecting with the virtual world of WordPress, Twitter and Facebook has encouraged me to find a message in the ordinary world around us. I am always looking for photograph opportunities to support a tweet, Facebook post or blog. My mind is constantly buzzing with ideas and it’s great. These adventures can result in some fulfilling interactions in the real world, but my photographing adventures can also get me in into trouble.
On the whole people are very accommodating and let me take photographs of their shops, museums, pubs, gardens, houses etc. For instance, the porters on The Grand Hotel, in Brighton, were happy to let me capture the glamorous setting with my camera. I needed the photographs for Ally Bunbury’s book review and interview. The helpful porters even cleared some luggage to enhance the shot. Later that day, a kind gentleman pointed out various signs for me to capture in his grocer’s shop, but I did get a little suspicious when one of the signs read: ‘New husband for sale’.
During my adventures, I have learned to smile at the museum curators and carry on. Unfortunately, I was chastised for photographing Churchill’s writing desk. Though, I was delighted to be informed that Churchills would ‘fight me on the beaches’ if I dared to take photos. Another curator pretended not to see me taking a view of the garden from the window. One antique shop owner looked at me suspiciously when I declared, ‘I need pictures of old spades etc to display as murder weapons.’ I intended to use these in a murder story lark developed, on Facebook, with Angela Petch and Patricia Stoner. On this occasion, I didn’t use the photos but they will be useful at some stage.
Walking through the Beacons, I decided to write a blog about the inspiring environment. I spied an opportunity to throw a stone in the water to represent a big splash. The splash would represent a thought or an idea. Unfortunately, I was chased away from the lake by the people who were fishing for trout. I did ask if they would like me to ‘sling my hook’ but they weren’t amused.
Sue Moorcroft’s ‘Just for the Holidays’ got me into the most trouble. I required some images of holiday items as mine weren’t glamorous enough for a friend of Leah. While shopping in a supermarket, I saw lots of holiday goodies. Bingo! I set to work removing the various items, placing them in better light and clicking my camera phone. The Canadian security guard was not impressed with me and said, ‘Ma’am, would you please follow me?’ I followed him. Disappointingly, I was led to his security post and not his horse. He was very polite and soon accepted my explanation.
The most frightening experience occurred when I was taking a photo of a street sign for Muddles Green. That day, I was in a muddle with editing so the sign was perfect. I stood in the middle of the quiet country lane to snap the image. A motorbike almost ploughed into me as it raced around the corner. It was worth it when lots of authors connected with the message.
Not everyone can connect with my adventures. I asked shop owner if I could place Jan Ellis’s The Bookshop Detective’ in his window display and then take a photograph. Sadly, he wouldn’t allow it as he was concerned that there would be breakages. How did he know that I am clumsy? Maybe, he thought that I was the detective and wanted to get inside of the window display.
It is great fun to think about representing my adventures through social media. It is a bonus that my everyday experiences and thoughts mean something to like-minded people out there in the world. My handbag adventures have enabled me to connect with a wealth of creative people who challenge and inspire me. These connections wouldn’t have happened without social media, and now I am exploring how I can further develop some creative collaborations. I am looking forward to working with Jenni Lopez from @TheJennieration.