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Novel idea with an Echo writer heroine

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Interviewing superstars such as Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas has become a way of life for former Exeter student Belinda Jones. She has turned her experiences in Hollywood into a novel and is in the middle of writing a film script. But when she left Exeter College at 18, she didn’t think she was good enough for local newspapers. Sancha Tetlow of the Express & Echo met her.

Name any celebrity and Belinda Jones will probably have met them. From heavyweights such Catherine Zeta-Jones and George Clooney to pop stars such as Peter Andre and Brian Harvey, Belinda has interviewed them all.

For the girl from Shaldon, whizzing around the world meeting the stars is a dream come true.

Belinda, 33, is now a leading celebrity journalist and has just written her first novel, Diva Las Vegas.

The novel is a sassy story of two friends, based loosely on Belinda and her friend Emily, who leave behind boring lives in Exeter to find millionaire husbands in Las Vegas.

The main character, Jamie, has been given an assignment to discover the real Las Vegas by the Express and Echo.

Yet when she was a teenager Belinda wouldn’t even apply to do work experience on the Express and Echo because she didn’t think she was good enough.

She said: “Growing up I was obsessed with pop stars and celebrities.

“I wrote to Blue Jeans and Just 17. I thought being a journalist would be a good way to meet celebrities.

“I did a bit of work experience on the Exmouth Journal when I was 15, but I never applied for the Echo because I thought serious newspapers like that were only for clever people. I thought that the people that worked for them had to be informed, political people. I aimed for magazines.

“But I have fond memories of the Echo, which is why I have included it in the novel. Without the Echo’s assignment my main character wouldn’t have a reason to go to Las Vegas.

“Although I grew up in Oxford, I moved to the Shaldon area at 14 and have considered Devon as my real home ever since.

“I have happy memories of spending hours in Tinleys tearooms, when it existed.”

After attending the Maynard School, Belinda went on to take three A Levels at Exeter College.

One was in Communication Studies and her final project for the subject was a radio programme giving career advice on how to become a pop star, a model and a journalist.

It was played on DevonAir and she was offered a showbiz gossip slot.

She said: “I got to interview the pop band King, which was a great experience, and that made up my mind.

“After I left college I thought there was no way I was going to go to university for three years. I wanted to be interviewing celebs as soon as possible.”

Instead of a degree Belinda took the one-year NCTJ magazine journalism course at the London College of Printing.

She said: “I was supposed to be concentrating on the course but instead I would wander around London spotting celebrities. I can still vividly remember the first time I saw Tony Hadley, from Spandau Ballet.”

Belinda managed to stick out the course and, when she left, hoped to walk straight into a youth magazine job.

She did, but not on the sort of teen magazine she’d been hoping.

“My first job was on the Postman Pat comic,” she said.

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