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Success of `Shopaholic' series took Kinsella by surprise

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If Sophie Kinsella was a character in one of her books, she might be called the Girl with the Yellow Prada Shoes.

The British author is on the phone, itemizing her outfit the way Becky Bloomwood - the irresistible heroine of her "Shopaholic" series - might. You know, just in case someone stops her on the street and wants to take her picture for a fashion page. (White pants: Top Shop. Yellow wedges: Prada. Pink top: Pea in the Pod.)

Kinsella, who lives in London, is eight months pregnant. After chronicling Bloomwood's misadventures in career, love, travel and family in the "Shopaholic" books, could "Shopaholic and Baby" be next? "I'm kind of doing the research," Kinsella jokes. "I'm certainly planning at least one more Shopaholic book, but I'm having a bit of a break now."

Her latest novel, "The Undomestic Goddess" (The Dial Press, $23) has a likable protagonist in Samantha Sweeting, a city lawyer who runs off to the country after making a career-ending mistake and somehow winds up as a housekeeper. She can't cook or clean, but she can ... curtsy.

We made sure to mind our p's and q's during a recent Q&A with the best-selling author.

Q: Where do you do your writing?

A: I have a room at the top of my house. It's in the roof, so it's got slanted ceilings and skylights. It's all painted yellow, and it has a lot of white bookshelves filled with pink books. And I have a very cool desk. It was half-price, so it was a bargain.

Q: Spoken like a true shopaholic. Are you the inspiration for Becky Bloomwood?

A: There's certainly bits of me in Becky. There are bits of my sister and friends and people I've come across. I definitely have my "Becky moments," when I think with Becky logic. ... My husband knows exactly which bits are me and which are not.

Q: Is there part of you in the domestically challenged Samantha Sweeting as well?

A: There's definitely a bit of an autobiographical element there. I'm quite crap, actually, at all things domestic. If I sum up all of my energies, I can probably follow an easy recipe. My husband, bless him, has learned that he better know how to cook.

Q: You were a financial journalist before you started writing novels. Were you surprised at the "Shopaholic" series' success?

A: I was amazed. Somehow it resonates with people all over the world. I find that bewildering, I really do. I get so many people telling me they are Becky Bloomwood, including men - often in pairs, it has to be said - well-dressed men in Italy or Paris. There was one girl who said to me, "I know I won't enjoy your book; I'm not into fashion." And then she (read it and) said, "Oh my God, I'm just like that with craft materials!" Everyone has their own soft spots.

Q: What is your soft spot when it comes to shopping?

A: Shoes, always shoes. I have a whole cupboard that was custom-built for them. Somehow I feel, with shoes, oh, I'll be able to wear them for 10 years, so they're an investment. They're so easy, you just pop them on your feet and there they are. You don't even have to go in a dressing room.

Q: Where are your favorite places to shop?

A: In America, I love Anthropologie. What I love about that store is, you don't even need to know what you're looking for. You just go in and you see something. I saw some vintage-y baby blocks and I thought, "I have to have these! You read my mind, this is what I need!" It really is a shop for things you had no idea you needed.


(c) 2005, The Seattle Times. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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