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Mary Hoffman

Mary Hoffman: 1


I remember when I was quite young thinking that I didn’t have any opinions, and wondering where people got them from. I could see both sides of every case, and I wondered how people acquired convictions. Now I’m a hotbed of convictions. Injustice gets me fired up, whether it’s at a tiny level, like a parking ticket for an offence not committed, or a global scale. It makes me a good children’s writer, because children always say, ‘it’s not fair’; it really gets their goat if they’re accused of something they didn’t do. I like right to triumph. I like there to be a definite ending, not necessarily happy, but satisfying.

It’s been an important part of my life that I have changed social class. At first it hindered me; but I’ve been able to turn it to my advantage. Life must be a lot smoother if you remain in the social class in which you were born. I was brought up in the lower middle class; my father was a white-collar worker on the railways, in telecommunications, and we lived in a rather humble rented railwayman’s flat in Clapham Junction. I was the youngest of three girls, but in effect I was an only child. I was born at the end of the war, and my sisters were born before it. My middle sister chose to go to boarding school when I was four; my older sister died aged 19, of an epileptic fit, when I was eight.

I didn’t want to go to boarding school. I went to the local primary school where I was one of the two cleverest children. I did well in my 11+ and got an LCC scholarship to James Allen’s Girls’ School in Dulwich; I didn’t realise it was a fee-paying school for years, but I did suffer tremendous culture shock: all the girls there were as clever as I was and some were a lot cleverer. They seemed to do effortlessly well in a whole range of subjects, whereas I didn’t make any headway with maths or science, apart from biology. And they had nice houses in Dulwich and other places, and their fathers were doctors and lawyers. It was a long time before I established a niche in that school – as a rebel, one of the bad girls, never a prefect.

My parents were incredibly supportive of education, really thrilled when I got into university - no one in my family had been to university before me. They believed in education and wanted us to have opportunities that they hadn’t had, and that was brilliant. I had a maintenance grant, but they had to contribute a bit as well, and they religiously gave it to me. When I went to Cambridge, which was culturally and socially quite complicated, the culture shock happened all over again. Everyone else had done exciting things in their gap year, but I had worked in Kensington library; I thought, ‘These people are all so grand and mysterious, I shall never be like them’.

What was sad about it was that, though my parents were thrilled about my going to Cambridge, they didn’t understand how it would change me, that the things I wanted to do wouldn’t be the things they wanted to do. I joined CND, and I became involved in student politics – not in Cambridge but later, in London. When I was doing a post graduate qualification in Linguistics, someone on the course who was a vegetarian invited us back to his house for a meal; it was delicious, and for the first time I realised that you could have nice food without eating meat. That evening was a real turning point; I decided that I would become a vegetarian too, which was quite hard in 1969, but I’ve stayed a vegetarian ever since. I was probably quite cruel at times because part of changing was wanting to let the rest of the world, including my family, see that I was becoming different. So we did grow apart. It was still a loving relationship but we had far less in common – they wouldn’t have understood the books I wanted to read, or wanted to go to concerts or anything like that. Sadly they died in 1974, within four months of each other. It was just before my first book was published, though they had read the manuscript and knew it had been accepted. I was 29; they were 68.

I had lots of boyfriends at Cambridge, but was single after I came down. If you’d asked me what I wanted then, it would have involved a husband and children, but I thought I’d missed out on it. I had this vision of myself leading a rather rackety life, having affairs with married men. Then, when I was 24, I met Stevie. The idea of him was introduced to me before I met him, he was said to be a ‘myth man’. I already loved mythology, and I thought, ‘That sounds good’. I met him at a party, but he was going to India for five months; his mother was from Bangalore. When he came back, we met again and knowing he was a great Wagnerian, I asked him about the plot of The Ring, and that was a clincher.

In the 1970s I became a feminist and joined a women’s group. My basic stance hasn’t changed since then, and I’m lucky to have married a man who is completely unself-conscious in such matters; I didn’t want to change my name when we got married and he didn’t want me to; he does all the washing, doesn’t mind wearing an apron, likes shopping, and doesn’t feel that it compromises his masculinity at all.

Though the world is unfair, individuals can do their best to change it. The world hasn’t changed as much as I would have liked it to, but if you don’t try, it certainly won’t change. I campaigned against the Iraq War, and I voted against Blair in the last election – LibDem - though I’ve been a Labour voter all my life. It won’t make any difference locally next time, since my MP is David Cameron. You have to do what you can, sometimes it’s campaigning, sometimes it’s writing about it. It’s very important to me to write picture books that present political issues. But I only do it if I’ve got a good enough story; I’m not interested in writing propaganda. And it’s important to me that they are published as trade picture books rather than issues books; that they look like real books.

Before we left London I wrote a picture book about asylum-seekers. To find out about them, I started going to an action-for-the-homeless venture in Barnet Stevie was involved with called HAB. I made and served lunch to the women and their children once a week. During a year working with them and listening to their experiences, I felt deeply ashamed about what was going on in our government at the time. I wanted to write a book that would not just be read by asylum-seekers but by people in schools who were not asylum-seekers, to help them to understand what compels somebody to make this huge move, and to do it by small details, like leaving behind the cat, which to a cat-lover like me would obviously be a major tragedy! I’m still in contact with a Somalian woman I befriended who had actually left her eldest child behind; he was with her parents, safe, but they couldn’t afford to bring them all over until they had got enough money together.

I can feel sorry for anything or anybody. But I find it difficult to be compassionate towards people who make the same mistakes over and over again. If you can’t learn from your experiences, it’s impossible to help. But I can understand compassion fatigue at the endless disasters. It’s odd that some catch the public imagination like the tsunami, and others go almost unnoticed.

I don’t work for a charity; I’m not out there making things happen, I just send money. But I think people who know me know me as a compassionate friend. I’ll always be a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen when people are in trouble. And I always write to people if I’ve heard of something that’s gone wrong in their lives.

What have I learnt about love? I’ve learnt that romantic love can survive and endure if you’re married to a romantic. Love doesn’t have to be glamorous all the time. I like the idea of ‘maintenance love’ too – the kind that changes the light bulbs and makes sure the forms are filled in, that U. A. Fanthorpe describes in one of her poems:


There is a kind of love called maintenance,
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;

Which checks the insurance, and doesn't forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

Which answers letters; which knows the way
The money goes; which deals with dentists

And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds

The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living; which is Atlas.

And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing
To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;

Laughs at my dry rotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in air,
As Atlas did the sky.

That may not make your heart race, but Stevie is good at both kinds of love – the reliable Atlas kind and the romantic too.

I think there are deep differences between men and women when it comes to love – I found a lot of truth in that Asian comedy by Meera Syal Life isn’t all ha-ha-hee-hee; what mattered about unfaithfulness for the women was the talking to someone else; what mattered to the men was the having sex. I went to a single sex school and a single sex college, so the only men I met were boyfriends. Now my friendships with men tend to be through professional contacts, or Stevie’s friends, or the husbands or partners of women friends.

The immediacy and the force of the love for the child you have given birth to is the most visceral love of all, a completely animal thing. My mother was a good model; she had been unloved by her own mother, she felt, so it was important to her to be loving to her children. But there is also an element of panic to it; the feeling that it isn’t safe to love somebody or something that much.

Having a good relationship with our children is very important to me. They always say we’re good value parents. That’s come from our philosophy of telling them everything we knew was going to happen in their lives, so they were always prepared. We’ve always talked to them, even before they could talk; we told each one that another baby was coming so they could understand it as best they could. We’ve always had meals together and everything has been discussed. So we still see a lot of all of them and that’s very good.

Home and family is definitely a priority, though I do like to travel. Since the children got older, I’ve been able to do that, to accept invitations to festivals, and so on. I strive so hard not to be a tourist; I prefer to keep going back to the same country and getting to know it better and deeper, rather than thinking I’ve got to go to lots of different places to get experience.

The most long-lasting love of my life, pre-dating meeting Stevie, has been my love for Italy, its art, its climate and its language. It is a great source of inspiration. It’s gone through many phases, including disillusion. I still feel I have a long way to go. I’d love to have a house or flat there, but I don’t think I could live there all the time because of the politics. It started with a holiday with my parents on the beach at Alassio when I was 14; a Greek god of a man turned up and took fancy to me; he was about 19, from Turin, tall and blond like so many north Italians, and he looked like Michaelangelo’s David. He couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak Italian, so we spoke in a mixture of French and Latin. He quite frightened me by being so passionately in love with me; I was only 14 and not ready for that kind of relationship. It wasn’t just a holiday romance, he wrote to me for ages afterwards - very untypical of the Turinese, I realised later; they are famous for being buttoned up. For some reason he saw something in me that spoke to him; I often wonder what would have happened if I’d married him and become a Turinese housewife. It was an amazing experience: the whole business of being by the sea in that wonderful climate and having an Italian in love with me. That didn’t even involve any art; my love for that began during the month I spent in Florence in my first long vacation from Newnham.

I’ve no regrets about time wasted. I’ve had some boring jobs and been out with people I shouldn’t have and done things I shouldn’t have. But it all comes in handy later for copy. Writers have a ruthless streak; they plunder their lives and other people’s for material. My first book came out in 1975. I had chosen to write a children’s book because I thought it would be easier; I now know that was totally wrong! White Magic was a full-length novel and I wrote it when I didn’t have any children. Once I began to bring up three children, I just didn’t have the attention span you need to write full-length fiction so I wrote lots of picture books and retellings and non-fiction titles. I had a big portfolio of other commitments: domestic, social and political. In Haringey the libraries were appalling, and we had to campaign every 18 months to stop them being closed. And I was aware that I was getting the balance rather wrong; there wasn’t enough time for writing, which was what I really wanted to do.

In 2000, Stevie was offered early retirement. I’d always known that I could work wherever we went, so we decided to move from Crouch End to West Oxfordshire, not least because the property price differential meant we could afford the girls’ university fees even if Stevie retired. It was a wonderful opportunity to leave things behind. Some I felt sad about, like singing in a choir, which I’ve not done since we left, but which I’d done for 16 years in London, but others, like the library campaign, I was glad to let others take over. I told Stevie I intended to become a recluse and he said ‘Ah, I don’t think that’s going to work’. It hasn’t, and the commitments are building up again, largely related to London, in fact, committee work and so on. But that is easing again in 2006.

Moving was an important emotional change. We moved into our house in north London when our oldest daughter was seven months old, Stevie exchanging contracts in the week I was in hospital with a newborn. When we left the youngest had just turned 18. Our 23 years in that house bracketed their entire childhood, a very stable one, in the same place. But if we’d stayed on there on our own, it would have been rather sad, fewer happy memories, more absences. Going through all the memorabilia, pictures of past holidays with the children and so on, I remember feeling bereft, that I had lost those children. I felt glad we were leaving, because the new house would have no ghosts of that kind. In fact two of the girls came back to live with us for three years each. We’ve got a big house here, and there’s room for them. We wouldn’t have chosen to live in this town, but we saw it advertised and it was the first house we saw, and we walked into it and felt straight away that it could be our home.

Mary Hoffman: 2

In moving, I haven’t left friends and work connections behind. I still think of my social life as coming from London or from Oxford; I didn’t expect to make friends here. Of course, we’re friendly, we have conversations with the neighbours. But I didn’t come to the country to make friends; I have enough. That sounds rather closed, but actually I’m very open and friendly, and if I meet a like-minded soul, I make friends with them. I did feel a bit guilty recently when I was trying to restore some lost bantam hens to their owner. In half an hour I had more social contact with the people in my street than I had over the last four years, and I felt bad about it; it made me feel that I need to reassess how I related to where I live. But I’m too busy to do much about it at the moment. I go up to London quite often and into Oxford at least once a week for my Italian Literature class. I also met people through Writers in Oxford and ‘the other SAS’, the Scattered Authors Society, which has an annual retreat in Charney Manor, an Elizabethan house nearby. They are all children’s writers, and some have become close friends.

I would hate to live on my own, though my sister does, very happily. She’s a wonderful person, very different from me but we are very fond of each other, and get on very well. I’m fortunate in having so much social contact with my family and friends that I never feel isolated intellectually or socially. I’m good at making friends. I have a lot I see very infrequently but I still count them friends. I find a friendship continues in my head even if I don’t see somebody. I don’t have a best friend, ever since I got paired off completely synthetically with one at school.

One of the priorities in choosing a house was to have one with a ground-floor study for me, because for the previous seven years, I hadn’t had a dedicated study. The one I’d had in London was in the cellar, and the tanking failed, and my books and papers started getting damaged. So I wrote in a corner of the downstairs living room, an unsatisfactory arrangement. Here I could customize a room of my own, on the ground floor; it’s been brilliant. As the children were older, I planned to write longer fiction, teenage novels. I did three sample chapters for what became the Stravaganza trilogy before we left London, so virtually all of it has been written here, though in 2003 I spent a wonderful month in Florence, in a studio flat in Via Cavour. Living alone was an interesting experience, but I had plenty to fill my time: I was at an Italian language class every morning and at an art history one most afternoons. In the flat I was doing homework or starting to write the last book in the trilogy, City of Flowers. Those books have been so popular that I think I should get a rake-off from Italian tourist board for all the teenagers begging their parents to let them go to Venice. I want to write more; one for each of the 12 city states. And I’ve written another long teenage novel, The Falconer’s Knot, set in the real Italy this time, in 1316.

The society we live in is obsessed by the exterior of things. I am quite quick to judge other people by externals myself. I see them with an all-seeing eye; I think I know how they tick. But if I turn that eye on myself, I realise that when people see the externals of me, they don’t have a clue about who I am, and I hope they would go what can be seen. So I have to check myself from thinking that. Recently I went to a school reunion; it was like the last volume of Proust, as if everybody was in fancy dress: white hair, excess weight, yet I could just glimpse the people that I knew 42 years ago. And I was thinking, ‘What are they thinking about me? "Isn’t it amazing, she’s written eighty books", or ‘Oh, what a lot of weight she’s put on’?’. Yet how people are on the exterior is the least interesting thing about them. If you meet them mind to mind, they are so much more interesting than if you just look at them and think, oh, bad hairstyle, really shouldn’t wear that colour. We are too reliant on the information given to us by our senses when we first meet somebody.

I like young people and I like old people; what I can’t abide are people who don’t read, or have any kind of aesthetic life, secular people, with no kind of spiritual life (it doesn’t have to be through religion). A merely earthly life seems to me the least interesting thing. There’s a dryness, a lack of juice, a spiritual aridity that doesn’t see beyond the day to day. And I hate people who think it is funny, or a sport, to be cruel to animals. Or making jokes about cats getting squashed - a basic of British humour.

The conversations I enjoy most are with my friend Jules Cashford. She was co-author of The Myth of the Goddess. She wrote a wonderful book about the moon which I had to read in tiny doses at night because I got over-stimulated by it and couldn’t sleep. Jules lives in Somerset so we don’t see each other often, but whenever we do we start straight in on the subject that interests us most: mythology. It is one of the best things in the world and what could be more interesting than spending an afternoon talking about it? And I talk about it with my husband. Thirty-six years on, here we are, still having conversations in which myth features strongly.

The most awkward conversation I have ever had was with George Bush at Number 10, which I did in 2003, having been invited there by Laura Bush for the lunch Cherie Blair was giving for her; there was a Cherie lunch and a Tony lunch in two separate dining rooms. I did my best to keep out of the way of Prime Minister and President, but was in a group that George Bush decided to grace with his presence. I’d been through agonies about accepting this invitation in the first place; my family were sure that I would end up in gaol or on the news, having no faith in my ability to restrain myself. And my original plan had been to go on the protest March with my daughter. But I’d been invited because Laura Bush was very keen on my book Amazing Grace, and I wanted to use the opportunity to give her and Cherie each a box of books with Grace on the top, and then, underneath some harmless books of bible stories and myths, my anti-war anthology, Lines in the Sand. Bush was very affable and sociable and funny and friendly, but I found it very difficult to have my hand shaken twice by him. (I also went because it was my chance to get into No 10 - only four writers asked to the lunch).

I never feel psychologically alone. I feel part of a wider network of like-minded people, through writing and local politics and also across the years. It’s very different from the way my parents lived; they only had a few friends, and in their world people just didn’t ask one other to their houses; I think that’s still true: I remember when my daughter started at a state comprehensive; she asked a friend back to tea and it was regarded as extraordinary. She wasn’t happy there, and we had to move her.

But I don’t like being alone at night in the house; if that happens, I get night terrors, so I try to avoid it. I get spooked by noises and atmospheres; there are some nights where you can feel that there is evil on the air, and that is terrifying. My rather feeble solution is putting on the radio; not a great defensive strategy if there really was an intruder and no use at all against ghosts. My sister died in her sleep from an epileptic fit. We shared a room, and years later I realised that I must have been in the room when she died. I remember vividly an incident when she was provoking me (she was a terrible tease and eleven years older than me) and she tried to pull something away from me and eventually I threw it at her. It had a sharp edge and it knocked her unconscious and she was on the floor with blood on her eyebrow. I don’t know when that happened, but I know that unconsciously I associated her death and that quarrel. Afterwards, I had terrible nightmares in which I screamed out, and I still have them, for quite absurd reasons – like being menaced by an apron, or a hedge. Another kind is about bodies buried in the cellar, and I’m responsible. It may be something to do with having a violent temper; it’s a family temper, which my father had, my oldest sister had, I have and my oldest daughter has.

Mary Hoffman: 3

I’ve written about half my first adult novel, which I’ve been wanting to do for years but have been scared of doing. It’s like starting all over again – you don’t have a reputation in that field, so you’ve got to put yourself on the line all over again. But I think it’s important for me to write it. It’s set in 1980 and it’s about a young woman in her 30s who believes that she was responsible for her sister’s death in 1950, and it’s writing out a lot of the demons. I know rationally that I didn’t kill my sister but one’s reason and one’s unconscious are two very different things. I identify strongly with Dickens who has a violent death or murder in every single one of his novels, and I think he had the same problem as I do. He also had a temper, and he writes very graphically about the being found out – that part’s the nightmare, the retribution, not the doing of the deed, that’s always in the past.

I also have an irrational phobia about dolls. I’ve discovered it’s extremely common. There’s a word for it, pediophobia; it means fear of anything with a painted face – dolls, puppets, ventriloquist’s dummies, clowns and masks. It’s extraordinary that I should have written a book called City of Masks because I’m terrified of masks. Anyway that feeds into the adult novel too.
I’m also terrified of dying; one of the reasons I don’t like being alone at night is because I think about it. I’m terrified of what awaits. It would be much easier if I

thought there was no after life, but I don’t believe that, and I fear that it won’t be pleasant for me; that’s tied up with regarding myself as a crypto-murderer. Stevie says I’d go straight to heaven, no problem, but I’m not so sure. We shall see. No, we shan’t. That’s the whole problem. We just don’t know.

My parents died very close together. I was 29: my father died in August, my mother at the end of December, having just had Christmas with us. He was in hospital; he had a minor heart attack before he retired, and he had multiple health problems. Then he had a fall in the hospital and he died shortly afterwards. He wanted to die, he turned his face to the wall. My mother was completely different; she wasn’t ill, she just passed out with a heart attack and went within half an hour. And I remember feeling tremendously strongly that she couldn’t be nowhere. I already believed that life continues after death, as I believe in reincarnation; I’m a Christian, but a terribly unorthodox one. I think it’s a good mythology, though I think God got a few things wrong. I’d have preferred not to have had the virgin birth; because then we wouldn’t all be so screwed up about sex. I’m a very lukewarm, non-church-going Christian, but I’d always believed in some sort of afterlife. I had mystical visions after Rhiannon was born, probably the result of disruption of hormones. I didn’t have post-natal depression, I had post-natal mania. I was given tranquilisers and I’m sure they were hallucinogenic. But the visions were like those of the mystics. So I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the Christian mystics were right. And I definitely don’t believe in oblivion at death. I don’t think I’d be so frightened of it if I did.

I’m very impatient, but I’ve found that you can find patience if its needed – when I was helping refugee children to write stories when they had very few words of English, I discovered that my patience was infinite, as far as they were concerned. And though at first I didn’t get on all that well with Stevie’s mother, who lived with us for 16 years, in her old age, when she needed me and I had to get her out of her bath and give her meals, I developed a great fondness for her. She became very reliant on me, and preferred me to go with her to the doctor because she knew that I would remember the important things. But if you’re a bureaucrat messing me about, my patience is zero.

I’m an impulse buyer; when I have money it burns a hole in my pocket. I’m not a natural saver. I love the fact that I am making more money now, so that I can buy the family holidays and pay for things. I would like to be rich – not very rich, rich enough to buy a house in Italy. And famous, though that might be hard. My fan mail already takes four hours a week. I know that Jacqueline Wilson has had to give up; she gets far more than I do, and used to answer every letter by hand. To be as famous as J. K. Rowling, or Philip Pullman must be quite uncomfortable. And I’d hate to be so famous that people recognised me in the street. But I care about recognition in the wider sense. I want due acknowledgement for what I do. I want people to read my books. I’m very ambitious. I get very fed up if I see other people’s books doing better than mine, and I know they aren’t as good; I get very annoyed by hype affecting sales. But I’m perfectly happy if I know that they are good.

I’m a strange mixture of confidence and lack of confidence, but I think that’s probably common to most writers; when you’re writing you’ve got to think, ‘this is the best thing ever written’, then you read a book by someone and you think, ‘I could never have written that; that’s fantastic’. But I’m learning all the time and getting better all the time. I’m passionate about language; it appals me how badly some things are written. I hope that by writing as well as I can, choosing words as precisely as I can, avoiding cliché and writing well, I will influence young people’s writing style.

I find smell the most evocative of the senses. My favourite smell is coffee; it was once French cigarettes, but I gave up smoking for Stevie. And there’s the smell of the Santa Maria Novella farmacia in Florence. Stroking a cat is the tactile sensation I love most; as to sight, it’s the Tuscan countryside. I love listening to birdsong. I loathe feeling sticky and I hate ugly buildings and Musak. Most of all I hate the smell of those tiny bright yellow double narcissi. We had just bought some when, as a child, I saw boy run over by a bus. My sister, who was a Red Cross nurse, went to help and I was sent to call an ambulance. He survived but his leg was horribly mangled. If people give those flowers to me now, I have to give them away.

What I’d love most is better eye-sight. I worry about losing my sight. But my sister-in-law is partially sighted, and she manages brilliantly, so I don’t think I should indulge that fear.

Age is a real issue. I’ve never been so aware of that as last year, when I turned 60. That seems such a huge age; the other big birthdays didn’t seem anything like as bad. And when you think about how many years you have left . . . I try not to think about it, as I’ve always thought it’s ridiculous to suppose there’s any merit in being any age at all. Unless they’re cut off far too young, everyone is going to live to 75 or so, then there’s no especial merit in being 16 or 20 or 45. Everybody is going to pass through those ages. So to rate somebody as beautiful just for being young or to undervalue them for being a particular age seems to me to be quite insane, and yet it happens all the time. I lived with an 80 year-old-woman when I was 25, who had a great influence on my life; she was single and she had friends of all ages, including ourselves, so she wasn’t left on her own. I’ve always sought out ‘grandparents’ as I didn’t have any of my own, and now I hope I shall eventually be adopted as a grandparent by others. I’m a long way off being a real one as my girls, all in their 20s, want to do a lot else before babies.

I believe passionately that in order to make the most of what you get in your earthly bodily capsule - male or female, born in a free country or not, black or white - you need to keep your imagination alive, to imagine all the other possibilities had you been born differently. Imagination is the thing that could change the world most, and I try to stimulate it in my work. People could not do the things they do to others, or to animals, if they could empathise, see themselves on the receiving end. The only way the SS guards could bundle people into the gas chambers was because they were taught to believe that they were not the same as them, they were subhuman. That was done in a systematic way: stripping to nakedness, shaving heads, tattooing numbers on, all ways of dehumanising the Other, so that you think that what you are doing is not the same as if it was done to you. We see it happening again in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

Children have very good imaginations; most adults do not. But if you write children’s books your imagination continues; it doesn’t wither as most adults’ imaginations do. Because in order to create character, you have to see yourself as someone else, put yourself into his or her shoes. Reading imaginative literature teaches the reader to do the same. Was it Freud who said every character in a dream is you yourself? I think there’s a little bit of me in every character I invent. The Duchessa in Stravaganza is certainly the grand and mysterious me I would like to be: tall and beautiful and ruthless and rich. Rodolfo, the mage, is of course an idealised picture of Stevie. Or maybe not so idealised. They have a lot in common; they both put up with a pretty impossible woman.