‘I’m a Celebrity…’ producer for my designer handbag

Lisa Mary London

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Lisa Mary London, former producer of ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!’ together with famous Maltipoo pooch Baby-Girl, the canine star of her hilariously witty debut novel Reality Rehab.

My exclusive interview with them is tongue-in-cheek, but Lisa’s answers are honest, fun, fascinating, and at times, gob-smacking. Enjoy!

It was a crisp winter’s morning in upmarket Highgate, North London, as I waited to meet Lisa and Baby-Girl, the world’s first four-legged reality TV star. Word must have hit social media about Baby-Girl’s imminent arrival, as a crowd of eager paw-tograph hunters had gathered – Reality Rehab fans, desperate for a selfie with mutt-of-the-moment.

I checked my phone for messages, then in the distance saw the candy pink stretch limousine approaching. The crowd surged forward as it drew up outside the Village Bistro.  The lady chauffeur, resplendent in a pink uniform that matched the vehicle, shot out to release the door, before Lisa and her famous furry friend Baby-Girl emerged, both wearing designer sunglasses.  My vision was blurred by the snapping of cameras as excited fans strained to catch a glimpse of the cuddly canine star of Reality Rehab.

London’s swanky Highgate is home to A-list celebrities including Kate Moss, Sting, Harry Styles and Reality Rehab’s heroine, soap star Gloria Grayson.  Gloria had generously loaned her beloved pet to Lisa for the day, for our exclusive interview.

Lisa and I escaped the crowd and headed to Highgate’s boutique shops for some retail therapy. Lisa explained that as a celebrity dog, Baby-Girl never walks anywhere. When a human isn’t carrying her, she travels in Gloria’s chauffeur driven pink limo, otherwise known as The Poochmobile.  

Lisa remarked with a wry smile:  “Baby-Girl has legs, but she doesn’t like to use them!”

We popped into one Baby’s favourite pet boutiques, ‘Pooches With Panache’, and listened for her barks of approval as Lisa made various pink purchases. We chatted as if we’d known each other for years. Dressed in a vintage leopard print coat with a fabulous Chanel handbag, Lisa is fun, witty and charming and I was looking forward to our interview.

We bought lunch from a classy deli, (needless to say, Baby-Girl only ever eats human food), and returned to The Poochmobile. The three of us settled on the spacious leather seat and the chauffeur popped in to pour champagne for the ladies, and a bowl of Evian for Baby-Girl. Lisa adjusted the pink bow in Baby’s hair and we started to chat.

Jessie:  Lisa, let’s talk about your book before we eat.  Capture the essence of Reality Rehab in a couple of sentences.

Lisa:  Reality Rehab is a topical laugh-out-loud satire on the cult of modern celebrity, written by myself, a former TV producer on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!

A cast of hilarious characters, cliffhangers galore, and an authentic voice that could only come from a TV insider, Reality Rehab is a must-read novel!

Jessie:  The book sounds great fun and is already getting national media attention. What have reviewers said about Reality Rehab?

At the mention of the book title, Baby-Girl threw her head back and howled, jumped off the seat and retrieved a copy of Reality Rehab from Lisa’s handbag. Lisa laughed and took the book from Baby’s mouth – discreetly wiping down the pink cover with a pink handkerchief.

Lisa:  First, here’s an extract from Chapter Two. Gloria and her agent Belinda arrive at a TV station for a meeting with producers about the hit TV show Reality Rehab, and they step into the lift together

I sneaked a sidelong glance at my esteemed agent. She was 70 if she was a day, pumped to the gills with fillers and on her fifteenth facelift – one more procedure and she’d be facing the other way.

Lisa: I’ve been overwhelmed with the response from readers, they are loving the book’s humour and enjoying a revealing peek behind-the-scenes of reality TV! Here are a few of the rave reviews:

“A sharp and skilfully observed satire that lampoons celebrity culture. The author has worked in TV and is clearly writing about what she knows, with authenticity dripping from each very turn-able page. Enjoy!” Ben Ando – BBC News Correspondent and Author

“Even if you have never seen reality TV, you will be tickled by Lisa Mary London’s hilarious novel. Get ready to read it and weep with laughter. A great pick-me-up… a Bloody Mary of cheerful reads!” Deborah Lawrenson – Bestselling Author

“A book that will lift your spirits, bring a tear to your eye and make you belly-laugh when you least expect it. But don’t be fooled by the frivolity, behind the humour there are some very meaningful themes, moving ideas and wonderful wisdom!” Howard Brenner – Amazon Reviewer

Jessie:  How did you feel when you had finished writing your book and did you miss any of the characters?

Lisa:  I couldn’t quite believe I had actually completed a novel, after endless months of writing, proofing, polishing and editing those 86,000 words. When the initial euphoria wore off, I suffered a crisis of confidence – as most writers do – scared that no one out there would want to read it! To my great relief that fear wasn’t realised, and the book is getting rave reviews!

Reality Rehab’s protagonist, feisty former soap siren Gloria Grayson, has a special place in my heart. I based her on the glamorous actresses I looked up to as a child – sassy stars like Diana Dors, Elizabeth Taylor and Pat Phoenix. Women not girls, who dust themselves down and get back in the race, no matter what knocks and shocks life throws at them. Reality Rehab is Gloria’s story, and as I held her hand throughout her many triumphs and disasters, I must admit I was sad to let go after typing The End!

Gloria’s pooch Baby-Girl is one character I didn’t have to say goodbye to, because thankfully she often keeps me company when I write! Baby-Girl would sell her soul for a sausage and when not eating everything in sight, can usually be found fast asleep beside me, gently rumbling from both ends.

Jessie:  Who would you like to read your book and why? This could be another friend, someone famous, a friend or member of your family.

Lisa: Without doubt Victoria Wood, who I was so lucky to call a friend for many years. I met her as a teenager through my love of comedy writing, and she was a friend, supporter and confidante for nearly three decades.

Vic read an early draft of Reality Rehab, and loved it.  She said the synopsis was ‘hilarious and exciting’, and enthused that if she read that blurb on the back of a book jacket in WH Smith’s, she would buy it. She described Reality Rehab as ‘…really clever and very ‘now’’, said it deserved to be a hit and could translate well as a TV comedy drama. She was of course a brilliant writer and I like to think, in some small way, her influence and guidance over the years rubbed off on my writing. She generously gave me invaluable pointers which improved the structure and flow of the Reality Rehab plot.

Her death last year at just 62 was a devastating blow. She was immensely wise as well as witty, and a wonderful friend.  I was so excited about giving her a copy of my finished book, and I’m desperately sad that she will never read it. Reality Rehab is dedicated to her.

Over the years Vic and I enjoyed many laughs over a cuppa or a glass of wine, and I know my debut novel would have made her chuckle. I’m hugely thankful for the time we shared. And I hope her comments about the book working on the small screen as a comedy drama could one day come to pass. Who knows? Truth is stranger than fiction.

Jessie:  How incredible to receive such an accolade from a British comedy icon. It is such a shame she never got to read your published book. Why should I keep Reality Rehab in my handbag?

Lisa:  Reality Rehab is that fabulous, funny friend you can always rely on to cheer you up when a red electricity bill’s popped through the door, you’ve broken a fingernail or the dog has weed on your new sofa. Carry a copy of Reality Rehab in your handbag, and you’re never stuck for wonderful company that will put a smile on your face, a spring in your step, and bring the feelgood factor to your world!

Jessie:  I am keen to know if you are writing at present?  What’s the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?

Lisa:  I’m currently working on the sequel to Reality Rehab, and the last sentence in my notebook reads: Get tea bags and sausages! I was running low on both items and had to re-stock as priority – I can’t write a stroke without the company of endless mugs of PG Tips and a well-fed pooch!

Jessie:  What’s the biggest challenge for an author?

Lisa:  Staying off social media – the call of Twitter and Facebook is strong and if you’re too quick to answer it, a five minute browse can easily become several hours of lost writing time!

Jessie:  What’s the best advice you’ve received as a writer?

Lisa:  Be a ruthless editor! The best writers delete as much text as they keep, are their own toughest critic, and are never totally content with their work.  A bit of self-doubt is a healthy thing!

I’ve been privileged to come into contact with some exceptionally talented people in my life, and this rule of thumb applies to all of them. They are hard-working perfectionists to a man – and woman – with no concept of complacency. If a writer is smug and thinks they’re the bees knees, chances are their books will tell a different story!

Baby-Girl started to urgently nudge Lisa’s arm with her nose, fixing her with pleading eyes.

Lisa:  She’s telling me she wants her posh deli sausages, Gloria always feeds her about now. In fact Gloria always feeds her – at all hours of the day!

Baby-Girl devoured her bowl of bespoke bangers and we unpacked our deli delights and shared a glamorous limousine lunch, as befits the hot new celebrity satire everyone’s talking about, Reality Rehab!

It was fabulous to meet Lisa Mary London, she is such a unique character.  I know that her wonderful wit and skilled comedy writing will make Reality Rehab a winner.  I look forward to seeing Baby-Girl’s next appearance on a reality TV show. Who knows, maybe there will be a spin-off series – ‘I’m a Celebrity Dog… Get Me Out of Here!’

I will let Lisa have the final word about herself!

Lisa Mary London is… A total one-off
Lisa Mary London is… A fabulous friend!
Lisa Mary London is… A fearsome foe!

Lisa Mary London went from Chief Reporter on a sleepy Cotswold newspaper to become Celebrity Producer on some of Britain’s best-loved TV shows.  Her TV credits include An Audience with Ken Dodd, A BAFTA Tribute to Julie Walters, The British Comedy Awards and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! She’s worked with stars from Sir Billy Connolly to Ant and Dec, and her debut novel Reality Rehab features around 200 famous names.

‘There’s never a dull moment when you’re working with the stars’, says Lisa. ‘One minute you’re sipping champagne with Pierce Brosnan, the next you’re standing in the Ladies’ minding Barbara Windsor’s handbag.’

Reality Rehab is based on her real life, behind-the-screen experiences as a Celebrity Producer. ‘I’ve met many old school stars like my book’s protagonist Gloria Grayson, who curse reality TV and think the cast of TOWIE should be stacking shelves at Tesco, not walking the red carpet.

‘She’s a cross between Diana Dors, Boadicea and Miss Piggy, a glorious, garrulous anti-heroine with bags of attitude – Gloria puts the real in reality TV!’

A journalist by profession, Lisa has written for the Daily Mail and was briefly a News of the World reporter, but made her excuses and left before anyone was imprisoned for phone hacking.

Gloria Grayson’s petulant pooch Baby-Girl is closely based on the book’s cover star, Lisa’s beloved Maltese Dolly-Dog (says Lisa – ‘You couldn’t make her up’).  Dolly-Dog won fame on ITV’s Loose Women when she married Sherrie Hewson’s Westie Charlie, in a ceremony officiated by John Barrowman (available on YouTube).  The couple split acrimoniously and are currently fighting for custody of a chew toy.

 

 

Please see all my interviews at My Guests and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

 

Meet the author whose characters make her leap out of the bath

Adrienne Vaughan

 

 

 

I had just parked my car, at Chartwell House, when Adrienne Vaughan arrived in Scarlet O’Hara, her ancient red soft-top. She was accompanied by Winston and Wellington, adorable Cocker Spaniel brothers.  The dogs were very friendly and happy to get out of the car, following a long journey from Leicestershire. Laughing as the boys bounded off to sniff out the venue, Adrienne removed an over-sized tweed cap to reveal unruly chestnut hair. Her vintage Harry Hall hacking jacket adorned with an elegant horseshoe brooch was perfect. The chocolate moleskin jeans with suede ankle boots, silk shirt and classic pearls completed the striking outfit. Adrienne looked very elegant, with ‘a touch of Hollywood glamour’, and she could have stepped onto a set of Dynasty, with ease. (I love this, my sister and I adore the Collins sisters, wonderful, talented, hardworking girls. Jackie was such a heroine of mine.)

Jessie:  Wow!  I love your vintage clothes.  The brooch is stunning, where did you get it from?

Adrienne:  Thanks! the horseshoe brooch was a gift from my husband, we attended the Derby as special guests of the organiser, he had a ‘good day’ as they say and the brooch has seven lucky diamonds embedded in it, I love it.  I found the classic pearls for £10 in perfect condition, in their box in a charity shop in Lutterworth.

Jessie:  What about the handbag?

Another collector’s piece bought for me by my mom in Dublin in the 1980s, when I first started working on magazines, it’s a ‘folded’ mag, called Papa Razi.

Jessie:  I did expect you to be wearing a scarf rather than a hat.

Adrienne: Only the Queen can wear a headscarf with real style, although when I had my gorgeous dressage horse Marco, myself and the rest of the girls ALWAYS wore headscarves in honour of the Queen’s birthday

As we walked towards Chartwell House, we admired the lily pond reminiscent of Monet’s Garden.  Stopping to take photographs, we took it in turns to keep an eye on the dogs but they were very well behaved.  I carried a vintage picnic basket as we searched for a suitable spot to chat.  Finally, we found a beautiful place in a walled garden.  Wrought iron chairs and tables were arranged on a patio area with a stunning view of the garden.  There were archways of roses and flowerbeds crammed full of flowers – a perfect setting for a romance novel. 

Adrienne placed my vintage Bronte tweed blanket on the table while I started to unpack the picnic.  I had prepared some homemade scotch eggs, coleslaw and sourdough bread. I had also made a fresh tomato salad with tomatoes from my greenhouse. I opened two bottles of Guinness as a nod to Adrienne’s Irish heritage.

Jessie:  I assume that you like to drink Guinness.

Adrienne:  I’m very proud of the fact I was brought up in Dublin 8 which is where Guinness HQ is based, but I must admit it’s not my tipple. I do love Irish whiskey, however and recently discovered one called Writer’s Tears … perfect! The food is great.  How did you know that this would my favourite picnic?

We were so absorbed in the food, drink and the setting that we almost forgot about the interview. Adrienne is lively, fun and incredibly easy to chat with.  Authors love to talk about their work so I prompted Adrienne by removing her book from my bag.  The book is entitled The Hollow Heart and has a wonderfully tempting image on the cover.

Jessie:  Summarise your book in two sentences.

Adrienne: Investigative journalist, Marianne Coltrane uncovers a devastating travesty of justice and with more than her career at risk, takes off to the west of Ireland to save her sanity. There, she meets Ryan O’Gorman, an actor seeking sanctuary from the media and a very dangerous fiancée. What can possibly go right?

Jessie:  I haven’t read the book so could you read an extract to tempt me?

Adrienne:  … the whole episode confirmed one thing; he was the love of her life, but love of her life or not, she would never play second fiddle to Hollywood, his career or anyone else besides.

Jessie:  I know that your books are very popular.  Let’s face it who wouldn’t like ‘romantic suspense with Irish roots and a touch of glamour.’ What do the reviewers say about your book?

 ‘The story is just wonderful, moving from the cut-throat world of investigative journalism, through glamour, glitz and mayhem, and on to the perfectly-drawn setting of Innishmahon, where it continues as a very moving love story with an uncertain outcome and a gripping tale of the lives of a cast of characters I really took to my heart.’ Welsh Annie, Top 500 Reviewer

‘Completely compelling from start to finish. Thoroughly enjoyed this novel, so many different depths and very unpredictable. Not your average romantic story, twists and turns throughout which leave you surprised until the very last page.’ Amazon Customer.

‘This book had me laughing, crying and hoping things would turn out right. If this is the author’s first book, things bode well for the next one.’ L.A. Topp

Jessie: How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?

I missed them all, desperately! Luckily my husband had read the manuscript, so when I told him I was busy plotting my next book he looked at me askance and asked, “Why? The Hollow Heart ends at a beginning. Go back, so we can find out what happens next.”

So I did … genius! Except A Change of Heart was so difficult to write I nearly threw myself off the nearest bridge. Luckily again, I have an earth angel, the historical novelist June Tate, my mentor, she managed to haul me back from the brink – all’s well that ends well.

Who would you like to read your book and why?  This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.  

Meryl Streep. She’d read it and decide she just has to play Miss MacReady in the movie. Great! Because Meryl has the wherewithal to make that happen, and by the time it does, she’ll have roped in Pierce Brosnan to play Father Gregory and Aidan Turner to play Ryan. I already have Bill Patterson ‘signed up’ as Marianne’s gruff Scottish editor Jack. And as for Marianne, well, I’d leave that to Meryl. Though, of course, I haven’t really given it much thought, Jessie, as you can tell.

Why should I keep your book in my handbag?

It’s pure escapism and can be read as quickly or as slowly as you wish. First read, it’s a pager turner, a gripping, roller-coaster of a story that moves right along. The second read is more layered, with descriptions becoming more vivid and the reader’s emotional connection to the characters deepening – well, that’s what I’ve been told, which is extremely flattering and a bit humbling too.

What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?

‘In the first glimmerings of daybreak, with the deathly moon merging its last candlelight in the blueing east, they walked slowly back.’ Sadly, not my work, but an excerpt from Demelza by Winston Graham. I’m late to discover this wonderful author, who allegedly described himself as ‘the most successful author no one’s ever heard of.’ He writes like a dream. I’m always jotting things down that I hope will inspire me to be a better writer.

What is the biggest challenge for an author?

In what today is an extremely crowded, shouty, ‘look at me, I’m the next best thing’ marketplace, I would say visibility. The Americans – brilliant marketeers – call it ‘discoverability’ – meaning how do authors find their readers? It’s more difficult for an indie author – like me – but still hard work even for those with publishers behind them who, at least, give them a shove onto what they hope might be the right platform. We’re very grateful to people like you, and indeed all book bloggers/reviews/flag wavers, without your support most of us would sink without a trace.

What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

‘Never, never, never give up!’ Winston Churchill and ‘Write Crap!’ Julie Cohen. I know Julie slightly better than I know Winston, obviously.

As Winston Churchill is one of her heroes, Adrienne asked to meet at Chartwell. Following the chat, we packed up the picnic and went on a tour of Chartwell.  The interior of the house was bathed in light and so inviting.  It was a joy to see Churchill’s painting.  However, we were both struck by the atmosphere of the informal dining room overlooking the garden. There was a glint of mischief sparkling in Adrienne’s eyes as she looked around the room, and I could tell that she was imagining a dinner party.

Jessie:  Who would you invite to dinner?

Oscar Wilde, of course and because we’ll have two Winstons – Winston Churchill and Winston the spaniel, I’d ask the author Winston Graham – to make three, we won’t forget any names that way and my other fave Agatha Christie – our cat is named after her (because we never know who she’s going to kill next!).

I’d be very quiet though, in total awe of all these ‘greats’ and might not be able to eat any lunch at all!

Have look at this.  I love this picture with one of my heroes, Oscar Wilde, in Merrion Square Park, Dublin. I climbed up to give him a Christmas kiss and there, stamped across his laconic smile was a perfect print of pink lips. Someone had beaten me to it!’

Adrienne is:

… a writer of romantic suspense with Irish roots and a touch of Hollywood glamour.

… always leaping out of the bath to write down what her characters have just said to her, they do pick their moments

… is desperate to be able to write faster, but a book is like a painting, it’s not finished till it’s finished and only the author/artist knows when.

Adrienne: Thanks for the chat and the food – it’s been a fun day.  I loved the Guinness but want to leave you with a bottle of Writer’s Tears to drink when you get home.  I hope you’ll raise a glass to the release of my next book, Scandal of the Seahorse Hotel, which is currently being considered by a number of well-known publishers.  The cover reads, ‘Every summer has a story, but how can one secret ruin so many lives?’

Adrienne was great company and made me laugh throughout the interview. She was forever telling a great yarn so effortlessly and with great humour.  I predict that her books are very entertaining.  I wish her every success with her new release.

You can contact Adrienne Vaughan at:

Website: www.adriennevaughan.com

Twitter:@adrienneauthor

Facebook: Adrienne Vaughan

 

List of novels written:

The Hollow Heart

A Change of Heart

Secrets of the Heart

Fur Coat & No Knickers (Short story collection)

 

Please see all my interviews at My Guests and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.