Celebrity interview: Novel idea for TV host-turned-writer Madeley

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Best known for sharing a sofa with wife Judy Finnigan, Richard Madeley has turned his hand to novel writing. sophie herdman found out more.

Richard Madeley is sitting in the garden of his Hampstead home on a warm summer’s evening, glass of wine in hand.

This is his family home, the one he shares with his wife and, until a few years ago, co-presenter Judy Finnigan.

It’s not the only house they own. The couple have a second home in Cornwall and a third in France. “It sounds awful when you put it like that,” says Madeley.

But is it really that terrible? As the presenter explains, the couple worked hard when they presented This Morning and later Richard And Judy, and made a decent amount of money.

“We had a wonderful time, it was like always being at a party, but it sucks everything out of your life,” he says.

As it turns out, their second homes have proved more useful than they’d imagined, acting as inspiration for the couple’s novels.

Finnigan’s bestselling book, Eloise, was set in Cornwall, and Madeley’s first foray into fiction, Some Day I’ll Find You, is set in France.

He wrote most of it there, outside with a parasol shading his laptop.

“It was hard to see the screen, but I was determined not to come home white as a sheet,” says the ever-tanned Madeley, laughing.

The book tells the tale of the Arnolds, a middle-class family living through the Second World War. It focuses on daughter Diana and her ex-husband. With many a twist and turn, it’s more thriller than romantic fiction.

Madeley, 57, had written non-fiction books before, but when he was tasked with producing fiction he spent two years struggling to conjure up a plot.

“Eventually I decided I wasn’t a novelist, so I emailed my publicist saying I was going to come up with some synopses for factual books and went to bed,” he explains.

The next morning he went downstairs to cook Sunday lunch - Madeley does all the cooking - and was suddenly conscious, he says, that a family had moved into his head overnight.

“I drove my family mad during lunch because I kept having these eureka moments, clapping my hands to my head and running into the other room to write notes down.”

Could anxiety have caused the mental block? Few writers have been under the same pressure as Madeley.

For starters, he’s been critiquing other authors’ words via the Richard And Judy Book Club for years.

It must have made him a better writer, though? “I suppose it must have done,” he says, resisting the chance to blow his own trumpet.

One thing he did learn was that a good novel has to be a page-turner. “I don’t believe when people say, ‘It’s really good but it’s a bit slow at first, you have to get to page 130’. Screw that - to me that’s a flawed book.”

There was also the little matter of keeping up with the missus.

“Judy’s success gave me a slightly schizophrenic reaction,” Madeley admits. “A large part of me is so proud of her. But of course it’s set the bar for me. I’m not aiming to take over Judy though, that would be silly.”

But he did ask Finnigan to read his first draft. “Of all the terrifying moments when I submitted the book, I was the most nervous when I gave it to Judy because I knew she would tell the truth,” he confesses.

“She’s ruthless, she can’t help it. It’s not cruel, she just cannot dissemble. If I make dinner and she doesn’t like it she wouldn’t be able to say it’s delicious, and even if she did I’d see it all over her face.”

So what did she think of his novel? “I went out for the day and hid and when I came back it was great and she was lovely and nice about it. I knew she was telling the truth and she genuinely really liked it.”

Madeley and Finnigan met while working as local news reporters. Both were in failing marriages.

After much deliberation - Finnigan had two sons and wanted to be sure that Madeley, still in his mid-twenties, was ready to be a stepfather - they started a relationship.

In 1988 the pair landed their big career break, presenting This Morning. “They wanted someone with serious muscle to present it, but they picked us because we were cheap,” says Madeley.

The public instantly took to the couple, whose frequent bickering only added to the attraction.

“I felt closer to the audience of This Morning than I did on any other programme. We opened up a lot and trusted them, and in return they trusted us,” says Madeley reflectively.

“I think that’s why the book club has worked so well. If Judy and I say honestly, this is a good read, people know we’re not saying it for money.”

On top of that, Madeley points out that they’ve lived a fairly unstarry existence. “I don’t think we let it get to our heads. We never went off to nightclubs taking silly things, we went home to the kids.”

But he’s adamant he doesn’t miss TV presenting. “I’m proud of what Judy and I did. We weren’t just a flash in the pan, we became part of television culture, but I don’t yearn for it any more.

“I was in my old dressing room when I was being interviewed on This Morning the other day. You’d think there might be some nostalgia or longing, but there was none at all. It was nice to be there but frankly I was glad I didn’t do it any more.”

Some Day I’ll Find You by Richard Madeley is published by Simon & Schuster Ltd, priced £7.99, available now

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