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Bridget Jones is back and funny as ever
(CNN) -- British author Helen Fielding is a very busy woman these days. Between promoting her new book "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason," which just released in the United States, and working on the movie of her previous work "Bridget Jones's Diary," she says she spends most of her free time fantasizing about mini-breaks and holidays, much like the character she created.
Fielding's second book, featuring the popular Bridget character, hit the shelves in Britain just four weeks after she finished it and shot to the top of the bestseller list, where it stayed for 10 weeks.
Those who laughed out loud at the first book will be pleased to know "The Edge of Reason" picks up where "Diary" left off. Bridget hasn't changed a bit. She is still recording her daily alcohol and cigarette consumption, as well as obsessing over her weight.
Though she has a relationship with the handsome and successful Mark Darcy, who won her over at the end of the last novel, it is of the up-and- down variety readers have come to expect from Bridget. Her close over-30 single friends, or "singletons," as she would call them, are still on hand giving her advice on love and career choices.
It took Fielding three years to pen "Edge of Reason," a delay she attributes in part to the huge success of "Diary," which sold more than 4 million copies in 33 countries.
"The first book was written completely unself-consciously. And if I had known so many people were going to read it, I would never have dared write it, or write what I wrote," Fielding says. "So I got really self-conscious this time, and I think that was partly why it took so long. Everything I wrote I thought, 'Oh, I can't put that. Oh, I can't put that.'"
The inspiration for the title, "The Edge of Reason," came from a trip she took to Italy to promote "Diary."
"I think something had gone a bit wrong with the translation, because one of the reviewers said to me 'Bridget Jones's Diary' was a 'transcendental study of existential despair.' So, naturally, I was delighted that someone had at last recognized how profound I was," Fielding says.
Sporing a confessional gender
Though she jokes about the depth of the books, Fielding says she thinks they have been successful because they reflect a very specific social trend among women. Or as Bridget would say, the books have "spored a confessional gender."
"I think it is a kind of subject matter that needed exploring ... the identity of the single woman had not caught up with what was happening. Which was that a lot of perfectly attractive, intelligent, nice, normal girls in their 30s had decided not to get married for very good reasons," Fielding says. "And they were paralyzed somewhere between the Cosmo girls, you know with the good life and their own flat and car and independence and lots of fun, and haunted by this horrible image of ... the tragic spinster who ends up dying alone and being found three weeks later half-eaten by a dog."
Long before "Diary" was published, Fielding was developing Bridget. She said the idea for the character really started when she attempted to write a sitcom about a single girl with big ideas and lots of optimism. Then in 1995 The Independent, a London daily, asked Fielding to write a column for the paper.
"I said 'no,' because I didn't want to expose myself in that way. But I said, 'But I will do this character if you want.' And they said 'Great!' And of course now everyone thinks it is me anyway," Fielding says.
Are you Bridget Jones?
She is mistaken for her character quite a lot, but takes the confusion in stride.
"You know, anyone who gets a surprise bestseller like this out of a little column can't really complain about a few people saying 'Are you Bridget Jones?'"
What is more surprising, Fielding says, is the number of people who apparently would like to be her famous character. Inebriated women approach her at parties saying, "I'm Bridget Jones, tell me I'm Bridget Jones." Fielding's usual response: "If you are not Bridget Jones, you are at the very least quite drunk."
Fielding is good-natured about the attention. She says the good thing about being a writer is that people don't usually recognize her. "It's not like being a TV presenter or a film star. They maybe know your work, and they know Bridget Jones, but nobody would come up to me in the street and know who I was," she says.
"So it is the perfect thing in a way, because you've got the success without the invasion. A friend of mine once said that being famous is like catching a disease -- once you've caught it you can't get rid of it and the whole world becomes a different place. So I think I'm in a very lucky position really."
Fielding freely admits that some of Bridget's characteristics are her own. In fact, she says she and Bridget share quite a few traits, especially optimism.
"I recently bought a house in L.A., and I was so pleased with myself. I thought I had arrived and I was going to be glamorous and live in Hollywood and it was going to be marvelous. Cut to six weeks later. The first time it rained the ceiling collapsed," Fielding laughs.
The glamorous Hollywood figure she imagined was reduced to a mop-wielding homeowner, with several repair workers perched on her roof.
An American Bridget?
But life does seemed to have changed a bit for Fielding. Though she still has her apartment in London, she spends quite a lot of time Stateside, promoting her books and working on the upcoming Bridget Jones movie.
"I've only done some work on (the screenplay), and I find it very difficult, actually. Because you can really get away with murder in a book. You write 'round so many things, you can describe people, you can explain things," Fielding says. "A screenplay is actually very short. It is only, like, 110 pages long and it's very spread out and every line has to do so many jobs, so I found it really hard."
Saying authors are "traditionally complete nightmares" when working on films of their books, Fielding decided a few months ago that the time had come for her to just let the project go. "There is a really good team doing it," she says.
Eric Fellner, who made "Notting Hill" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral," is producing the movie. Sharon Maguire is directing. Both are friends of Fielding.
It was recently announced that American actress Renee Zellweger, of "Jerry Maguire" fame, will play Bridget. The decision raised eyebrows, as critics wondered what made the Texan more qualified than a British actress.
"I wasn't involved in the casting at that state, but I think it was a good idea," Fielding says. "I think she's one of those actresses where you can dress her up or dress her down. She can be very beautiful or very ordinary- looking and I think that's really important with Bridget. And I've heard she's very funny, but I've never met her."
The film will be set in London. Zellweger will have to learn to speak with an English accent, which she is reported to be working on now. Fielding says the film follows the book very closely, though there are some new jokes.
Dodging the question of why an American was chosen over a Brit, Fielding says she is upset no one has complained that she wasn't cast in the title role.
"My acting career was completely ruined when I was at university and I had a part in the review. One by one all my parts were taken away from me 'til I was left with the role of Miss Dingway, the mute chambermaid, no lines at all. I've never really got over it," she jokes.
Fielding hasn't decided what's next on the horizon for Bridget, if anything. For now, she says she's too busy dreaming of those mini-breaks and holidays to come.
Zellweger to star in 'Bridget Jones' Diary'
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
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