As I harass my friends, family, colleagues, students and any stray acquaintance to check out The Perfect Hero and prepare to shell out their hard-earned pennies, people are asking me, Madeleine Conway, why? Where?
First of all, right from the start, I wanted a pen name. I like my name. The surname is bland, manageable and we share it with a famous UK brand of children's shoes (no, not StartRite) and a coach company. It's easier to deal with than my maiden name, which caused that terminal deafness that people get afflicted by when someone talks to them in a slightly different accent (yes, like the Weight-Watcher woman in Little Britain when faced with the asian slimmer who speaks entirely coherently). At one of my early, more menial jobs, I was sent tons and tons of books for review by publishers, and they would ring to ask who to address the books to. It was a joyous day when I got one that was correctly spelled. My two favourite misspellings are Zabre Zarim and Zebra Kaolin. Now, I am used to my first name, and it would be odd to be called anything different, but it took some time, and the combination of exotic first name and worthy (but dull) surname is just Not Romantic. So I felt a pen name was the thing to have.
Which name? I thought about it, but it occurred to me that my grandmother's name was very romantic. Madeleine Conway. It has sweep and grandeur and an aura of eating Belgian chocolates dressed in a fuchsia peignoire and remaining very slim and elegant. Also, my dear Granny, much as I loved her, was a bit of an intellectual snob. Of course, if you are the sort of woman who has worked hard enough to get to Oxford in the 1920s, you are probably entitled to a smidgen of intellectual superiority. But it brought on a sense of delicious naughtiness to send Madeleine Conway out into the world once again, this time as a novelist of what my Granny would have called penny dreadfuls.
Madeleine Conway is a much nicer woman than I am. She doesn't get ratty or stressed, she is much thinner and massively more elegant (she might actually wear all the beautiful scarves my husband has given me for Christmas in the hope that I will suddenly transmogrify into Catherine Deneuve or Julie Delpy). She has a much less cynical, much more positive outlook on the world than I do - she skips and hops (gracefully of course), waving at the butterflies and flowers, like Fotherington-Thomas, but in a sophisticated female way:
And of course, most importantly, she believes in Leurve. Not to say that I don't, but my take on True Leurve and such is terribly pragmatic compared to Madeleine's rosy vistas. I am not particularly romantic, although I do enjoy (no, I'll come clean, love, adore and relish) a juicy romance. It is lovely to enter Madeleine's world where good triumphs and evil pays the price, where Love can conquer almost insuperable obstacles, where sweet girls meet men who will cherish them for all eternity and they all live happily ever after.
So that's why Madeleine Conway...