When Nurse Betty star Ren&#233e Zellweger was cast as the beloved British heroine in the film version of Bridget Jones's Diary — which hits theaters April 13 — much grousing could be heard on the other side of the pond.

"There was a huge outcry," smiles BJD author Helen Fielding. "I actually found it quite touching that people felt so protective about Bridget." She also understood fans' apprehension about watching a sylphlike Texan beauty such as Zellweger play the novel's refreshingly imperfect working-girl Brit.

The story "has to do with the gap between how people feel they're expected to be and how they actually are," says the scribe. "The fact that Ren&#233e has put weight on to play the part, the fact that it's not done so that she always looks like a film star — she sometimes looks ordinary and she doesn't always get everything right — I think that's a really good thing.

"I think I would've been worried if the actress [playing Bridget] had been really thin," Fielding continues. "There are so many images of perfection chucked at us. Bridget... doesn't have thighs like a baby giraffe. She's a human being, she's warm, loyal, kind and funny. And she's plucky! Whatever goes wrong, she picks up, says, 'Never blurry mind, have some Chardonnay' and goes on again. Those are qualities you never see celebrated in a shampoo advert."

Fielding's ever-droll wit makes her sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, just as delicious as the first entry. But does the author worry about falling prey to the Misery phenom of being overly identified with writing for one character? "Sometimes people say Bridget's silly," she observes, "and I'm always inclined to say my first book, Cause Celeb, was about a woman running a refugee camp in Africa — but nobody bought that one."

Putting things in perspective, she chuckles: "When I started writing Bridget as a newspaper column, I was desperate for 350 quid a week. So when you find your book's sold six million copies, there is no double-edged sword."