FAMOUS AUTHOR IMOGEN EDWARDS-JONES
This month our Ask the Expert is with the brilliantly talented, Imogen Edwards-Jones. Imogen is an award winning journalist and broadcaster. Having won The Independent Journalism scholarship on leaving Bristol University with a degree in Russian, she went on to be a columnist on The Independent, The Mail on Sunday, Arena Magazine and The Times.
To add to her list of accolades she was a fashion correspondent for This Morning with Richard and Judy, a presenter on the Channel 4 arts show, Big Mouth, and a newscaster at L!ve TV.
She is author of some 20 books including her hugely successful Babylon series, which has sold over one million copies in the UK alone, and been sold to over 25 counties worldwide. Hotel Babylon went on to become a primetime hit on BBC 1, playing over four series in the UK as well as in the USA on BBC America.
What was it that first drew you to writing an expose about various industries, notably the Hotel industry?
When I first met ‘Anonymous,’ who was the manager of one of the top hotels in London and had been in the business for over 15 years, I fell in love with his stories. They were so funny and excessive that I realised very early on that they would make a great book. There is something about learning the fine detail of an industry that is particularly satisfying. It is like going to the ballet knowing all about choreography. Once you have got your eye in and you understand how things truly work it makes staying in a hotel, flying on a plane, or the world of fashion and pop music all the more fascinating. Secrets are always exciting.
Which was the most revealing industry you wrote about?
It is difficult to have a favourite. But I can’t help but think Beach Babylon was one of the most interesting. I find it hard now to stay in one of those all-inclusive resorts without wanting to have a good poke around.
What was it like having a TV series based on your book, Hotel Babylon?
I loved it! I was very involved in the series, right from the very beginning and I ended writing a few episodes. But it was a fabulous privilege. I used to love going on set, talking to the actors who had brought all these characters to life. And, of course, what I really wanted to do was to pinch the dressing gowns with the ‘Hotel Babylon’ logo on them! I think in the end I only managed to pilfer some matches. The series lasted for four years which is quite something and is still on somewhere in the world.
You must have travelled quite a bit whilst researching these various different businesses, which place has been your favourite?
I went to Mozambique recently, which has always been on my list mainly due to the Bob Dylan song and the fact that I have spent quite a bit of time in Africa (I went to University in the Ivory Coast.) And it did not disappoint. It was beautiful, unspoilt with icing sugar beaches that squeaked when you walked on them and pristine seas. Quite something else.
As a hotel expert what would you say makes a hotel stand out?
Service. Always service. Oh, and a great location.
Do you like finding books in your hotels?
Yes! I love it. I went to the Four Seasons in Malaysia and spent a blissful week reading the Somerset Maugham collection of Borneo stories that was in my room. I ended up ordering Gin Pahits at the bar, which were constantly being referred to in the book so I could see what they tasted like. Verdict? Delicious.. if a little bitter.
What can we expect next from you?
I have a novel coming out in September, published by Head of Zeus, which I have been writing off and on for eight years. It is historical fiction about black magic in the Russian Court at the turn of the last century. It is a true story of two princesses who were sisters and who married in to the court at the same time and who were obsessed with the occult. They ended up isolating the Tsarina, regularly holding séances and calling up the dead and then, in the last throw of the dice, they introduced Rasputin. It is a gripping story that I have been mulling over ever since I heard the story when I was studying Russian at University. I have spent years researching the novel in St Petersburg and as well as joining the London College of Psychic Studies. I am really looking forward to it coming out.
Lastly please could you give us your 5 favourite books?
The Thorn Birds
By Colleen McCullough
This epic tale spans between the years 1915 to 1969. This is so much more than just a tragic romance novel.
The Diamond As Big As The Ritz
By F. Scott Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald’s novel is an ominous fable about the pursuit of great wealth. Prepare to be transported into an era full of glitz and glamour.
The Master and Margarita
By Mikhail Bulgakov
The Master and Margarita is a fiercely satirical fantasy set in Russia. This luminous translation is so dark and comic that it will have you gripped from start to finish.
Laughter in the Dark
By Vladimir Nabokov
Nabokov’s novel is deadpan and deliciously cruel. It’s a story of revenge and a must read for any book lover.
Crime and Punishment
By Fyodor Dostoyevsky
This critically acclaimed novel follows the life of a former student turned criminal as he goes on a journey in search of redemption in the most unlikely of places. A tense and suspenseful read!