VICKY Zimmerman is not just Vicky Zimmerman... she is also Stella Newman.
Her alter-ego, Stella, is a successful author, who has written several books, all with a food-theme.
But Vicky has written a book in her own name — The Woman Who Wanted More (Zaffre, £7.99) — in the same vein.
Why has 44-year-old London-born Vicky decided to step out from behind the protection of Stella Newman to author a book under her real name?
The daughter of Jeremy and Valerie Zimmerman explained: “My first book was fiction about a real relationship I had with someone who I was slightly worried about suing me for writing about our relationship.
“But then I stopped caring what he thought and it became a best-seller — I suddenly wished I had written it using my real name.
“I wanted to write under a pseudonym to give myself a bit of distance from quite autobiographical material and because it allows you to be ruder, funnier and a different persona.”
But Vicky’s latest book has more of a personal meaning than ever before.
It is based on her grandmother Cecily Finn’s 1950s cookery book Thought for Food.
Certain extracts from Thought for Food appear in their original format, while others have been edited or made up entirely.
Vicky, who describes herself as “happily 44 and not married”, has a food background after working as a food taster for Marks and Spencer — which involved trips to Italy to eat pasta.
She explained: “Much like Cecily I have taken huge artistic license in the telling of my tale — freely mixing truth and fiction.”
What is true, however, is that the real Cecily Finn was born in 1904 in the East End of London to Joseph and Eva Finn, who ran an ice cream and sweet shop in Forest Gate.
The youngest of three, she was bright, and even won a scholarship to West Ham High School, then one to Saffron Walden teacher training college.
Cecily’s father, Vicky told me, gave her a hard time about being an “old maid” and not the best look, in her 20s, and it was Joseph who introduced her to a recently arrived young Polish émigré, Solomon, who became her husband.
Solomon, known to friends as Zimmy, was the seventh child of Leon and Shindel who were from Galicia, Poland.
After Cecily and Zimmy married, they spent most of the 1930s travelling around Europe.
They were parted during the Second World War for three years, during which time Cecily lived with her parents in Bournemouth, and Zimmy, based in Stockholm, worked for Allied Intelligence — mainly due to the fact he was multi-lingual.
She eventually joined him in Sweden, flying out on a bomber plane in order to do so.
But, the majority of Zimmy’s family refused to leave Poland in the late 1930s, despite his best attempts to convince them they weren’t safe.
During the war his parents, three of his siblings and all their children, were transported by the Nazis to Auschwitz, where they were killed.
With the rise in antisemitism across the UK, Vicky was quick to point out that her grandparents would have been “heartbroken” by what is currently happening.
She said: “They were both very liberal, caring and tolerant people who liked people.
“Cecily had a greater sense that history can repeat itself.
“She was much more mindful of human evil than my grandfather, who was slightly more of an optimist.”
In a strange twist, Sussex University English graduate Vicky switched the personality of Cecily to be the opposite of what she was really like.
“In real life Cecily was good natured,” she said, “though she did complain of boredom a lot.
“She adored art, food and books, and always encouraged me to write.
“Nice people, however, are not as interesting to write about.
“The book is about her relationship with a woman called Kate, who volunteers at an old folks home after her relationship broke down.”
Kate and her boyfriend Nick having taken a “break” for two months, during which time she moves back in with her (overbearing, self-help, book-obsessed) mother. At the same time her boss tells her he’ll have to make her or her colleague redundant.
“Cecily is depressed and p***** off and can’t be bothered to be alive,” she continued.
“Kate — who has elements of my personality — needs someone to give her some tough love, while Cecily just needs some love full stop.
“One of them had to be much spikier than the other.
“It’s quite a buddy movie, such as Disney’s Up.”
“I hope I have done right by the real Cecily — my dad, her son, cries when he reads it.
“I am really pleased that I’ve given her this new lease of life.”
Away from the writing desk, Vicky’s Jewish upbringing was Reform, and is now more of a cultural thing — although she did admit that she struggles with religion.
She mused: “I believe in some sort of something, but I couldn’t necessarily say that I believe in a Jewish religious God.
“I am a secular Jew who is proud of my heritage.
“I feel Jewish, but I also feel woefully ill-informed about politics.
“When people argue about Israel, while I feel very strongly that I am Jewish and I would defend my Judaism, I don’t know enough, I feel very out of my depth.
“But if anyone is antisemitic, I ferociously defend Jews.
“In terms of writers and comedians, I do gravitate towards a Jewish aesthetic.”
Vicky has also held roles in advertising and marketing.
Since becoming a full-time writer, around five years ago, she has also spent time “in and out of other day jobs” because, she added “writing is not always financially viable.”
The literary apple doesn't fall far from the tree, as her 81-year-old father Jeremy is also publishing a book. Reading Poetry to the Kids, which is out now. It is a collection of verse to read to children.
* She is also on Twitter in both her guises — @VickyZimmerman_ and @Stellanewman
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