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AUTHOR: Dream come true; Penny Thomas spoke to Hearts of Gold author Catrin Collier as she nervously waits for her book to hit our TV screens tonight.

Byline: Penny Thomas

HAVING your book turned into a major BBC drama may sound like a dream come true.

But for Pontypriddborn author Catrin Collier, it's rather nervewracking too.

Her hugely popular novel Hearts of Gold, written in 1992, will hit our screens this weekend as a twopart drama starring Welsh actress Kate Jarman and Jeremy Sheffield of Holby City Fame.

``This is the first of my books to be televised and I'm not sure whether I want to see it or not,'' she said.

``I have not been involved in the production, they just took it.

``I have spoken to friends whose work has been televised and I'm told there are two ways of doing it.

You either get completely immersed in it and worry yourself silly, or you leave it to the professionals. ``I have been very, very busy while Hearts of Gold was being filmed, which probably worked well.

``I have seen some stills, to choose the book cover for the TV tiein, and they look absolutely beautiful.'' Hearts of Gold was the first of a series of eight bestselling novels set in and around 1930s Pontypridd. It was not an era that was Catrin's first choice.

``I had actually spent 10 years researching and writing a book set in Iraq in the first world war,'' she laughed. ``But this very clever editor sent it back sayingshe loved the story and the characters, but not the setting. Try it in Wales in the 1930s.'' A huge amount of research in Ponty library followed. And Catrin also learnt a lot from her own family, starting with her dad, who had deep memories of the Thirties depression.

``I was amazed by the stories that I discovered,'' she said. ``For instance I had no idea that the workhouses in Thirties Wales were run on Dickensian lines and if the bailiffs moved in, the whole family was split up and sent to the workhouse.''

Despite the grimness of the time, Catrin hopes that the TV production will leave viewers feeling good.

``I've had enough of seeing the seamier side of Welsh life on telly,'' she said. ``When people sit down after a hard day they want a bit of escapism.

``I hope Hearts of Gold will capture the sense of history, be very upbeat and very, very beautiful to look at, like BBC period dramas can be.

``Also it is about time Wales had a higher profile in the arts generally, like Scotland and Ireland.''

Catrin has a meeting with the BBC on Monday about a possible sequel, so viewing figures are going to be critical this weekend.

. Hearts of Gold has been reprinted to tie in with this weekend's showing. It is published by Random House, pounds 5.99. Hearts of Gold 8.15 pm tonight and 8pm tomorrow on BBC1 Wa es .

Hearts of GoldHearts of Gold is the story of trainee midwife Bethan Powell (Kate Jarman) whose family lived in the shadow of the Thirties depression and fear of the workhouse.

It centres on Bethan's romance with Andrew John, a young doctor raised in London ways with a flat and a car, a world away from Bethan's life of grinding poverty. Naturally the course of true love does not run smooth!

``I loved the character of Bethan,'' said actress Kate, 23. ``She is very feisty, but because of the conditions in which she lives her true personality isn't really allowed to escape.

``My aunt and cousin love these novels and they were so excited when I told them I was going to be Bethan.''

CAPTION(S):

HEART OF GOLD Kate Jarman, right, stars in the TV series. PICTURE: Malcolm Morgan
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 5, 2003
Words:612
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