Queenie Author Candice Carty-Williams: ‘I Loved Bridget Jones, But I Wanted To See Myself In A Book’

Carty-Williams debut novel Queenie has stormed the book charts

Candice Carty Williams

by Radhika Sanghani |
Updated on

It’s the book everyone’s talking about. Last week, debut novel Queenie stormed the best-seller lists – game- changing for an industry that told its previously unknown author they didn’t know who her audience would be.

‘When my editor called to say I was number two on the best-seller charts, I said, no I’m not,’ writer Candice Carty-Williams tells Grazia. ‘I couldn’t believe it. That, plus me being a black working-class woman, I was like, wait, what? Is this really happening?’

Queenie tells the story of a 25-year-old woman battling a break-up, racism on dating apps, and a boss who doesn’t understand #BlackLivesMatter – and many of her experiences are inspired by her creator’s own life. ‘There is the fact that I’m Caribbean, I’ve had panic attacks and depression, a lot of bad dates, some bad sex and amazing friends who’d do things for me,’ says Candice. ‘But am I exactly Queenie? No. I do have an imagination.’

In a way, Queenie is the book that the 29-year-old writer wished she’d read as a black British teenager in South London. ‘I grew up loving Bridget Jones’s Diary, and I have the most special place in my heart for the Louise Rennison books (about teenager Georgia Nicolson), and I love Adrian Mole. But they’re three different white characters, and I wanted to see myself. Plus, I couldn’t relate to amazing men turning up at Bridget’s door saying they love her.’

When Candice first came up with the idea for her book – something she developed after being selected out of hundreds of applicants to write at author Jojo Moyes’ cottage for a week – she billed it to publishers as ‘a black Bridget Jones’. ‘It helped publishers feel safe, but also me to feel safe,’ she admits. ‘A lot of editors told me they didn’t know how to place it and who the audience would be. I wanted to prove them wrong – but didn’t know if I’d be able to.’

But with her book debuting high in the charts – over the weekend, it kept a top 10 spot – she has officially proved those doubters wrong. She is keen that its success brings change to an industry that is ‘100% too slow’ in embracing it, and forces people to recognise the importance of representation in books.

‘There’s a feeling among publishers that if there’s a person of colour as the protagonist, a white person won’t be able to relate,’ she says. ‘But while race plays a part, it’s not the whole part. is book is about the trials and tribulations of a woman just living her life, and a woman of any colour can relate to that.’

Queenie is now set to have a second life on the small screen, with Candice – who’s still working in her day job as a publisher – writing the script. She’s also working on a second book, but what she really hopes now is that Queenie will inspire more writers of colour to come forward.

‘For a long time, I didn’t think my voice was valid, and I had impostor syndrome, but now I believe everyone has a story, and we should hear what people have to say. It’s about empowering other writers, and now I’m in the door and I’ve opened it, I’m going to keep it open.

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