Keeping up with Judy
Could anxiety have caused the mental block? Few writers have been under the same pressure as Richard. For starters, he’s been critiquing other authors’ words via the Richard And Judy Book Club – a legacy from the TV show that they have kept running – 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’. To me that’s a flawed book.”
There was also the little matter of keeping up with the missus.
“Judy’s success last year [her novel became a Sunday Times best-seller] gave me a slightly schizophrenic reaction,” he admits. “A large part of me is so proud of her. But of course it set the bar for me. I wasn’t aiming to overtake Judy though, that would be silly.”
But he did ask Judy 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 was 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 – she was lovely and nice about it. I knew she was telling the truth and she genuinely really liked it.”
Richard and Judy, now 65, met while working as local news reporters. After much deliberation – Judy had two sons from a previous marriage and wanted to be sure that Richard, 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 ThisMorning.
“They wanted someone with serious muscle to present it, but they picked us because we were cheap,” Richard explains.
The British public instantly took to the couple. “I felt closer to the audience of ThisMorning than I did on any other programme. We opened up a lot and trusted them, and in return they trusted us,” says Richard on reflection.
“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.”
But he’s adamant he doesn’t miss TV presenting. “I’m proud of what Judy and I did. We became part of UK television culture, but I don’t yearn for it any more.”
As well as the novel, Richard writes a column with Judy in the Daily Express and does radio work. He harbours no plans for retirement.
“Maybe when I’m 70, but right now I feel like my third career is only just starting.”
Richard Madeley’s debut novel is an absorbing wartime melodrama