News Article from 2004

Pilcher's Winning Formula

Originally from   February 24, 2004
Riazat Butt
SHELL SEEKER: Rosamunde Pilcher

ACCORDING to her fans, you know when you've read too much Rosamunde Pilcher when "you long to wear cotton dresses every day," "boarding school sounds fun," and "you'd give anything for thick, thirsty, expensive writing paper" that you use to scrawl hasty messages - with a fountain pen, of course.

The comments, posted on websites, are endearing and affectionate tributes to a prolific novelist.

Rosamunde Pilcher writes about a genteel world that most of us wouldn't recognize, but her novels are immensely popular and she is no stranger to best-seller lists.

Her career started in 1949, when she was an author of Mills and Boon romances.

Writing under the name Jane Fraser, she published 10 novels. The first novel under her own name was published in 1955 and, in 1965, she began to use her own name full time.

It was The Shell Seekers, a story about family secrets, passion and heartbreak, that sent her profile into orbit.

The novel has sold more than five million copies worldwide and has now been adapted for the stage by husband and wife team Terence Brady and Charlotte Bingham.

Rosamunde is delighted with the result.

She says: "I knew Charlotte and Terence because Charlotte's aunt had been my great friend during the war. Charlotte thought the book would make a very good stage play. That was some time ago.

"I wasn't involved in the production, although I did read the script. It's the first time that my work has been performed on stage.

Successful writer
"To be a successful writer you have to touch people, you have to make people want to turn the page.

"At the moment, I'm reading Joanna Trollope's latest novel, Brother And Sister. I particularly liked The Rector's Wife. It was the most moving book, intensely sympathetic.

"When I read a book and I don't like it, I bin it. I won't give it house space."

I'm too scared to tell Rosamunde that I have never come across her work, but it's clear that the writer is happier talking about books than she is talking about herself. "I find the new breed of satirical female writers rather brittle. You need depth to write. Have you read The Suit Of Love, by Nancy Mitford?" she asks.

"You must read it. You giggle your way through it and then you turn the last page and you're in floods of tears. Go and buy it in paperback."

I tell her that the last brilliant book I read was Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier. "I think Rebecca was the first grown-up novel I ever read," she tells me. "I was about 14. I wish I'd written Rebecca or The Suit Of Love."

But she wrote The Shell Seekers - and it changed her life.

"It's rather daunting being a successful writer. The Shell Seekers meant that we were able to help our grandchildren go to college and help the children buy houses. It hasn't changed our lives stupidly. I don't have a mink coat or own a Rolls-Royce.

But we have reached the time of life where health is the most important thing. We've not been on a Saga holiday."

Even though Rosamunde is 80 in September, she is remarkably spry and witty. How will she celebrate her birthday?

"Well, I'd rather let it slip away but my children have said that I must have a party. I have four children and 14 grandchildren, so Christmas is expensive," she jokes.

"Money and sex are great life enhancers, but as soon as you start talking about them, they become very dull. Keep them in control and they can be lovely things."