The Duchess of York has revealed how she believes the heroine of her first romance novel is helping her to find her “own voice”.
Sarah Ferguson’s Her Heart For A Compass, based loosely on the life of her ancestor Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott, was published by Mills & Boon this week.
Talking on Radio 4’s Front Row, the Duke of York’s ex-wife said the Covid-19 pandemic had given her the opportunity to write the book, which she claims to have been thinking about for more than 15 years.
And said: “The pandemic also tapped me on the shoulder and said are you going to waste your life and never do what you want to do?
“Are you going to be in the front line helping people, nurses, NHS workers?
“I believe Lady Margaret would have done that, she would have risen to the challenge.”
Adding: “I wondered whether at the age of 61 whether it’s time to give me my own voice, and I wonder if Lady Margaret is helping me do that? I think she is.”
Addressing the negative reviews the book has received since hitting the shelves on Tuesday, she told host Nick Ahad that she and co-author Margarete Kaye, who has written more than 60 books, remain “unified” behind the work.
“People try to put Fergie into a box, or Sarah or the Duchess into a box, saying ‘look at her, why is she doing this, why is she doing that?’” She said.
“We all have self-doubt. But it was really exciting to grow together in friendship and collaboration and we’re both very unified together in this book Her Heart For A Compass. So much so, we’ve signed our next book deal.”
The duchess spoke again about the parallels between her red-headed lead character and her own life, including how they both find freedom in America.
“I believe that any good storyteller includes journeys that parallel their own life,” she said. “It’s really a total work of fiction. On the other hand, it’s rather like Who Do You Think You Are?, the TV show. Telling my ancestry of my grandmothers, my maternal and paternal grandparents.”
The 500-page tome also draws on the duchess’s own relationship with the press, as Lady Margaret, who is banished from polite society after fleeing an arranged marriage, first becomes the darling and then the target of the Victorian-era press.
Opening up about the impact British newspaper headlines had on her mental health, she said: “When you have had lines that say ‘82% would rather sleep with a goat than Fergie’ it’s very demoralising.
“Also, what about the Duchess of Pork? That was a good one. It took me 10 years of real mental problems to get over the fact he thought I was fat.”
Sarah said she finally met the man who had come up with the derisive moniker at a newspaper event. Describing the experience, she said: “He was the cause of my demise into a big problem with food. And yet, he didn’t mean it, it was all just to sell papers.”
She added: “When I was lucky enough to get a job in America, I got off the airplane and it was really fascinating. The scrutiny wasn’t there really. They really accepted me as me.
“I think that’s why I’m so excited about Lady Margaret going to America, because she certainly felt the same thing.”
The duchess has been vocal about her desire for the book to be adapted for the screen, although did not say whether there are any plans to do so.
Instead, she spoke about her project with Manchester-born director Mark Gill to create a screenplay based on the life of Princess Louise, the mother of Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria.
Asked what she thought of The Crown and if she had spoken with anyone from the royal family about the Netflix TV series, she said she enjoyed the “cinematography”, but added: “I’d love to remind you that I am divorced from the royal family, and I’m a happily divorced woman.
“I’d never presume to discuss anything like that with them all.
“I know that Diana would be so proud of her sons and their wives and what they have achieved.”