Jilly Cooper loved Hay so much she wants to base her next novel in Wales

Jilly Cooper, the author of Rivals, Riders, Mount! and many other romantic novels full of larger than life characters, spoke to Stephanie Merritt and a tent full of fans. “I remember Barbara Cartland saying you can write a whole novel about someone retaining their virginity, providing it’s in costume,” she said. Not many of her novels feature people in costume.

In their questions, several of her readers thanked her for writing about sex in a way that helped them as girls understand how the world really works, although there was one school that tried to keep its pupils from reading her books. “My daughter said: ‘Mum, Mum, your books are banned’. So I rang up, she was at a boarding school Down House, and I said ‘Miss Farr, I gather my books are banned’, and she said ‘oh, I don’t think they are’. And I said: ‘how do you honestly think I’m going to pay the school fees if my books are banned?’. They were re-instated immediately.”

In a wide-ranging chat with novelist Stephanie Merritt, Cooper revealed that she writes 15 drafts before getting finished, is continuously inspired by animals, and really wants to add a bit of glamour to the English football team. Foreigners in English football were really out-shining their home-grown counterparts, she said, which is why she hopes to make her romantic hero Rupert Campbell-Black manager of the England football team.

And what about those off-colour stories? One involved a curate, his wife and a Tesco's freezer; and the other was so saucy it got Alex Ferguson to tell her all about being a football manager. The audience roared.

If you liked this, you might like to see Alexander McCall Smith talking on Friday, June 1