Books, Film & TV Sunday, May 22nd

Quick fire questions with TV and film writer Deborah Moggach

If it's award-winning writers, Oscar-winning films, sparkling oratorio or street puppeteers you're looking for... Leominster Festival is the place you'll find it.

The festival, taking place from May 27 and June 5, promises 'something for everyone' with family events, music, literature, talks, walks, performances and films. Now in its 32nd year, the 2016 theme is 'Nature and landscapes' and there'll be strong output from local artists, authors, actors and musicians. 

One of the highlights is an audience with award-winning Presteigne writer Deborah Moggach, who has penned 19 novels, many of which she adapted for screen.

'These Foolish Things' became the movie 'The Best Marigold Hotel' and her novel 'Tulip Fever', set in Vermeer's Amsterdam, will be released later this year. One of her earlier success stories was the screenplay for Anne Fine's 'Goggle Eyes', broadcast in a primetime slot by the BBC. 

Deborah's adaptation of 'Pride and Prejudice', starring Keira Knightley, was nominated for a BAFTA. Her latest novel is 'Something To Hide' and she's just adapted her comedy 'Heartbreak Hotel', set in Presteigne, for ITV.

She is also the judge the 2016 Leominster Festival's writing competition. Phew. 

Here's our quickfire Q&A with Deborah.


You're taking part in an ‘audience with’ event at Leominster Festival. How it is appearing in front of an audience when you're normally 'behind the scenes' of a novel/film?

Yes, I love an audience! I'm a bit of an actress-manque.

As guest of honour at this year’s festival you're judging its writing competition. Is there anything in particular that you'll you be looking for?

Freshness, truthfulness, a confident voice.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (based on Deborah's novel These Foolish Things) seemed to be telling viewers to be open to new experiences regardless of age. Was this its most important message? 

Exactly that one - that it's never too late. We all live longer nowadays and you can have a whole new life if you're up for it.

Why did you choose India as the setting? 

Because I know it, having lived in Pakistan for two years. And because it's warm, cheap, exotic, and people there know how to respect older folk.

Did you visit the set during filming? What reaction does the author get from the actors bringing those characters to life? 

I went for a couple of days. It was thrilling, seeing actors of that calibre becoming my characters. They adored doing it - not surprising, as who wouldn't like being in India in November, in a lovely hotel, doing a job with one's friends (they all knew each other of course).

When you're writing a book do you ever think ‘this could be made into a film’? 

Yes, I'm afraid I do. I'm rather a visual writer, and like strong plots - both of those things are rather filmic.

How do you make your characters carry the plot along in your novels and screenplays? 

That's a huge question, and an interesting one. Basically, you have to know your characters very well, then they pull you along and make up the plot with you.

Is it easy to give up creative control when a story you've put so much into is being made into a film? 

Not really! But one has to. And often the results are rather wonderful. If they're not it's no use whining, everyone knows you've made a lot of money so it looks ungrateful.

We read that you've appeared as an extra in most of your films. What's the appeal? 

Because I pathetically want to be one of the gang, and a part of the filming process. And I like the other extras, it's fun.

An adaptation of your novel ‘Tulip Fever’ will be released this year. Any news when it'll be out? 

JUST HEARD! July this year, at last!

You’ve adapted your comedy ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, based in your home town of Presteigne, for ITV. How is life on the Welsh borders?

I love it here. I love this town, this whole community, and I love the utterly wonderful countryside. Wish I'd moved here years ago.

You wrote the screenplay for Anne Fine's book 'Goggle Eyes'. The book focuses on a teenager whose divorced mum starts dating an older man. In the screenplay the portrayal of Gerald's a very rounded one, in contrast to the traditional way step-parents are seen. Was that deliberate? 

No, I wrote it because I was in that situation - new man etc - and my daughter loved the book so I asked to adapt it. I wanted parents and children to watch it together and I particularly wanted the new man in her life to be a real person with good and bad things about him, to enlarge our sympathies and help families in this situation. 

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Deborah Moggach will appear at Leominster's Grange Court on Friday, May 27 at 7pm.

Tickets £4/£4 with accompanied under 12s free. 

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