Celebrity is the new religion. Today’s pop culture is fascinated by the rich and famous, the exclusive and the elite, and yes, while we might look to these exotic creatures for a glamour fix or a twist of scandal, for me their appeal centres around something more straightforward: a desire for escapism. To imagine a life different from our own is a basic human impulse. Celebrities epitomise this, marking as they do glittering gateways into new and exciting worlds that transport us miles from the cares and concerns of everyday life – in the same way, really, that books do.
When I’m writing, I try to create a universe that readers can step into: an alternative reality, lavish and decadent, peopled with larger-than-life characters and outrageous and ambitious storylines. I imagine that longed-for summer holiday, that saved-up-for two-week break, the deliberation over which book to take and how important that decision is (often I remember holidays just by the novel I had with me). I want to create a proper beach-read paradise: to make readers forget, just for a little while, that the rest of the world exists. Since I fell in love with books as a child, this has always been the test of a great adventure. Countless teenage summers were spent racing through the glitzy blockbusters of authors like Jackie Collins, Jilly Cooper and Shirley Conran. I was utterly spellbound. Reading on holiday is the closest we can get to this. At home we might snatch a page or two before bed, waiting for the bus or in between engagements, but there’s nothing quite like relaxing on a sun lounger, cocktail in one hand, sea-splashed book in the other, and surrendering to a good story.
This is why beach reads and celebrities marry so perfectly: they both give us that sense of stepping out of our own lives. Take the popularity of weekly celeb glossies. Before I began writing I remember going to the airport,
hunting for holiday reading material, and seeing all these magazines. I’d think: OK, a handful should keep me going for the flight, maybe repeat-flicking a day or two in the sun, but then it’ll be over. If only there was a book that could offer me all the same thrills, spills and gossip, only on a grander, extravagant scale, and with a kick-ass plotline to boot. Enter the twenty-first-century bonkbuster: a way to dive into untouchable realms, to brush shoulders with stars and to get happily lost in a journey.
In our hectic modern lives, the ability to escape is more significant now than ever. Books are daydreams written down, they’re fantasies shared and made real – and none, in my view, are more thrilling than the celebrity blockbuster. Fame might last for five minutes, but thanks to the power of escapism, fiction will always survive.
By day, Victoria Fox lives in London. By night she relaxes in her fantasy LA mansion, sipping Krug in a Jacuzzi and watching a bare-chested man clean out her pool. Victoria is the bestselling author of Beautiful People (AKA Hollywood Sinners), Temptation Island and Wicked Ambition.