Author Archives: Gemma Burgess

On… 25,000 trailer hits

As you might know, last year I made a trailer for my first book, THE DATING DETOX, with a cast of friends and a budget of pretty close to nil.

It’s had almost 25,000 hits. Not bad, considering I employed the old ‘If you build it, they will come’ approach to marketing it. (Did I mentioned the budget was nil?)

Got a moment? Check it out. It’s a tiny scene from the film, dramatised within an inch of its sassy little life. I’m in it. I’m the chick on the phone crying. I know, I know, it’s a breathtaking performance. Why write when you can act like that, huh?

On… a new book series

Well, I have some news. (Clears throat.) I’m writing a new book series for St Martins Press in NYC.

I’ve been dying to tell you guys about it for the longest time – since May, when I first began working on it with them – but then I didn’t want to jinx myself. (A watched proposal never sells.) But now I finally can.

It’s called UNION STREET. The official line is ‘the first in a series of novels about a group of young women living together in a brownstone in hip, downtown Brooklyn, and trying to figure out love, life, and adulthood.’

The longer story is that back in May, when my (amazing and awesome) US agent Jill Grinberg said St Martins Press wants to know what you want to do next, I said, I want to write a book or a series about that incredibly difficult and exhilarating period between graduating university and one’s late 20s. Because it is so fun, but so hard, and no one ever remembers that. It’s hard to get a place to live, and to survive on peanuts, and get the bus home in the rain when you can’t afford a cab. It’s hard to get a job when you have no experience, and it’s impossible to get experience without a job. It’s hard to figure out men, particularly when they’re seriously immature at 22, and to reacclimatize to the post-college dating rules.

In a nutshell: it’s hard to figure out, not just what you want to do with your life, but how you’re going to get there.

I said that I thought of it as a cross between The Babysitters Club, The Group and The Best Of Everything. But, you know, seriously darn funny. It wouldn’t be chicklit, and it wouldn’t be YA – it’d be something different.

Little did I know that they are interested in exactly this new genre. They’ve even coined a term for it: New Adult.

So we started talking. I wrote a proposal. Then I wrote characters. And settings. And themes. We talked some more. I wrote plot outlines. We talked again. I wrote more plot outlines. I wrote three chapters. We talked again. Then I rewrote those three chapters. Then I updated the plot outlines.

And then it all came together in a lovely shiny new book series deal.

So now I’m writing my socks off. I’ve stopped freelance copywriting for the moment (that was my day job that kept me in lipstick and cigarettes – coming up with straplines and slogans, aka, fun with words, for ad agencies in London). Instead, I am spending a bit of time in distraction-free Zurich, where my husband Fox’s job is based right now, and of course I’ll be London and in Brooklyn a lot over the coming months too. All I do is write. And think. And write some more. And maybe go for a walk. And then write some more.

It’s wonderful.

Working on a great project like this is like being in love: it consumes your every waking thought and most of your sleeping ones.

I’ve alluded in the past to various other ‘projects’ but I’m tired of being all mysterious ‘n’ shit, so, they’re just TV pilots and screenplays. And maybe nothing will happen with any of them, or maybe something will. Either way, I’m really enjoying myself. And that’s the whole point or everything, isn’t it?

I don’t know what happened when I turned 30, by the way. I was just enjoying myself, working in advertising and going out and being silly for years, and then suddenly I thought ‘I can do more than this’. So I am.

I’ve gotta write now, dudes. More later. x

On… a new newsletter

I send out a newsletter every now and again, just to say hi to people who’ve emailed me in the past year. And this is the one I sent out today. Want to get the next one? Just email with ‘Email Me’ in the subject line.

Why, happy new year, you funky funsters.

Hope you had a delightful Christmas.

The Fox and I went to Ireland to see his family, and then to Hong Kong to stay with my parents. I regressed into my usual Christmas childishness. I lay in bed and yelled for mum to come and talk to me. I ate chocolate before I cleaned my teeth. I refused to share the contents of my Christmas stocking. I forced Fox to watch Annie, Calamity Jane, and Grease 1 and 2. It was damn good fun. He is so glad he married me, I can’t tell you.

I used to wonder if I’d ever stop acting like a nine-year-old at Christmas, and I have now decided that the answer is no. No I will not. And no one can make me. So there.

Anyway. So here’s the big news of the week: A Girl Like You is finally out. Yippee! They tell me it’s available in every Waterstones, WH Smith and Tesco and of course from lovely old Amazon. If you buy it, I’ll be your BFF. Seriously. We will get one of those necklaces with the hearts, you know, and you’ll keep one side and I’ll keep the other, seriously, for realsies.

Wow I am really being immature. Sorry, ignore me. Oh, by the way. In case we’re not blog fwiends ( or Facebook fwiends, by the way, come and find me. Please.

Word to your mother.

Gem x

PS I’m not having a launch party, by the way. I had one for The Dating Detox, but since it was my first book it was really just my usual friends, and instead of getting drunk in a bar, we got drunk in a bookshop. I don’t really like being the centre of attention – yep, even though I am a show-off, it’s one of the marvellous dichotomies of moi – so I decided not to have one for A Girl Like You. I always think having a party in January is a big ask, anyway: all anyone really wants to do is go home and curl oneself around a hot chocoalte / duvet / man. But I will be opening a bottle of champagne tomorrow and raising a toast to everyone who liked The Dating Detox enough to tell me, and hoping that they enjoy A Girl Like You just as much, too. And that’s you.

PPS By the way, if you don’t live in the UK, The Book Depository delivers free, worldwide. Pretty cool, huh? Even if you don’t order A Girl Like You, please order something, if only to encourage the whole concept of free delivery. By the same token, I always order pork belly when it’s on the menu, and I buy almost any underwired bras that aren’t padded and pushed to the bewoopsit. Why do they think I want to rest my chin on my tits? Seriously.

On… John Hughes music

I watched Easy A last night. Apart from being hilarious and smart, it had a kicking soundtrack of 80s songs, and footage from my favourite EVER film, Sixteen Candles.

Dang, I love that movie.

I love all John Hughes films, but Sixteen Candles is perfection. I mean, duh: I named the hero of The Dating Detox after Jake Ryan.

Jake Ryan!

I own Sixteen Candles in both DVD and VHS, even though I haven’t owned a VHS machine since 2002. I also have the CD soundtrack, though – and this is a key anorak moment – I couldn’t actually track it down so I put it together myself, in 2004, and made a proper cover to go with it. I use lines from the film in everyday life, as though everyone would know them. Like ‘no, he’s not retarded’ and ‘I loathe the bus’. Sure, most people probably think I am un peu strange, but just saying whatever you think is funny is like throwing an in-joke at the universe and waiting to see what it throws back. Once I was in a work meeting, and someone said ‘I’ve got déjà vu’ and I said ‘Have we not met before, monsieur?’ under my breath, and the guy across from me shouted ‘TOP SECRET! ARHHHH! BEST FILM EVER!’ He was so excited, I thought he might cry. Anyway. I digress.

I wonder if perhaps my books have an eerie amount in common with Sixteen Candles. There’s no real bad guy and the plot relies on a lot of silly dialogue and coincidence. There tends to be a crazy party or two and there’s some lying-in-bed-pining scenes. Hmm.

I even edited – probably about edit six, aka the ‘sprinkles on the icing’ edit – both the last scenes to my books listening to the last scene song from Sixteen Candles, which is the best last-scene song, ever, ever ever. I figure if that song works when the hero and heroine are finally getting their shit together, I’m hitting the right tone.

Let’s do a test: read the last few pages of either book while listening to this, and see if you think it works.


Hmm. Now I’m really in a John Hughes mood. So here, in no particular order, are some of my favourite songs from the John Hughes milieu.

Some Kind Of Wonderful. Eric Stoltz, you delicious man. Contains the immortal line ‘you mess with the bull, you get the horns’, which is appropriate in just about any situation where you don’t know what else to say. And has the sexiest kiss in any John Hughes film, between Mary Stuart Masterson and Eric. When he kneads her denim bermuda shorts with his grease-stained fingers! Argh! I knew what moment to forward the video to in order to watch that scene. I was that kind of 13-year-old. (Okay 23-year-old, whatever.) Anyway, it’s She Loves Me by Stephen Duffy.


I don’t know why that clip has subtitles. Sorry. I can’t find another decent one.

Pretty In Pink. If You Leave by OMD. Again, a last scene song. Again, perfection.


How adorable is Duckie?! And now he’s in the worst TV show ever. With Charlie Sheen. Ew. I hope he uses a lot of hand sanitizer after a day on set.

Sixteen Candles, again. The Divynyls. Ring Me Up. When she ALMOST speaks to him in the gym locker room after the dance! And he opens his mouth to speak to her, but she turns away! The horror! The pining! Argh. Great for when you’re marching to the tube (bus/tram/subway/MTR/metro/free bike/public transport of choice) and in a ballsy mood. One of my all-time favourite songs.


Uncle Buck: the unappreciated fat kid in the John Hughes family. “Is it the hat? This hat angers a lot of people.” Tweedle Dee by LaVern Baker. It also, by the way, has Young MC’s Bust A Move during a teen party (which is a strange, dark, late-80s teen party, rather than one of the crazy pastel mid-80s teen parties of Sixteen Candles, Pretty In Pink, etc). Bust A Move is one of those songs that I learned every word to by pausing the tape and writing them down in about 1990. (Geek alert.)

I can’t find a decent clip of either of those songs in Uncle Buck, so instead I give you the song Wild Thing by Tone Loc (which is an AWESOME song that I play at every party I go to, sometimes even if they ask me not to) and the scene where he goes bananas at the principal. It’s so awesome, I dare you to watch it without grinning…


Ferris Buellers Day Off. Danke Shoen by Wayne Newton. Now, another anecdote about me, because – hey! that’s the beauty of a blog, sugarnuts – I wanted to find this song so much in 1997, when I was at university, that I wrote down the name of the song and entertainer from the credits at the end of the video, then went to several music shops till I found one that would order a Wayne Newton Best Of CD for me. God, life was harder before the internet.


I won’t go through all the John Hughes movies: these are just a few highlights. And I’d like to widen the post to include the best songs from other great 80s favourites, including St Elmo’s Fire, which I watched aboout a 150 times one university holidays, and Mannequin and Overboard, but we’d be here all day.

This is off-topic, but this John Hughes mashup goes so perfectly with Phoenix’s song that it has to be shared. Enjoy.


PS: Happy New Year.

On… my favourite books of 2010

I love reading.

What a painfully obvious thing to say. Never mind, let us continue.

I average two or three books a week, and I’ll read just about anything. I’m anti-book snobbery. (Incidentally, I’m also anti-carb snobbery: I’ll happily eat Doritos or thrice-baked truffle-infused organic baby potatoes. It comes down to the same thing: a pleasure is a pleasure.)

Reading so much is an expensive habit, as I always buy them (I figure it’s author karma). I don’t have a favourite genre: classics, modern literary fiction, magical realism, chicklit (if it is funny; romance/issues alone do not float my boat), sagas, popular fiction (including my secret vice, young adult paranormal romance gothlit, but more about that in a moment)… I am quite the little book slut.

Actually, I don’t read scary books – not because I don’t like them, but because I am a chicken. During The Historian (Elizabeth Kostova) I slept with the light on. This is not a lie. Actually, come to think of it, I don’t read misery lit or those crime books that are full of misogynistic sexual violence either, but that’s because they make me feel sick. You know the kind I mean. Oh, and I read things like Dan Brown if I find myself in someone’s house for the weekend and wake up early (I am forever waking up early, it’s so damn tedious) and I’ve forgotten or finished my book. Dan Browny-type books are interesting to read because you can sort of analyze why they’re sucking you in; I read 137 pages of one of his books one Sunday morning at a friend’s house in Dublin, and realized the plot was structured like this: mysterious event – travel – hint – travel – small reveal– travel – hint – travel – small reveal – travel. (I got bored the sixth time the main character travelled on a super-magic-fighter-jet across the world to get told something exciting but baffling by someone important. I skipped to the last page and thought ‘oh well big fucking deal, it’s alien ice’ and went downstairs and made pancakes.)

The only book I really didn’t like – and note, quite a few made me think ‘this isn’t very well-written/good’; I mean book I actively disliked – in the past year was Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Nevwhatevergefeffer. I LOVED The Time Traveller’s Wife, but HFS was just… cold. In every possible way. It made me want to slash my wrists; its view on humanity and its characters were all so lacking in empathy or love or warmth. Now, perhaps that was just my take on it. But there you have it.

Anyway, without further yapping, here are my favourite reads from 2010:

The Observations

This is a photo of me reading The Observations on a train from Dublin to Cork on the weekend. (We were in Ireland for pre-Christmas parties and – frozen airports permitting, oh please please – heading to Hong Kong on Thursday for Christmas with my parents. YAY.) It. Is. Divine. Here’s the cover again.

I bought this book on the recommendation of Anna, Daisy and Violet at Lutyens & Rubinstein (Best Bookshop Evah, TM). Those girls have impeccable taste. I fell in love with Bessy, the narrator. I find myself, even now that I’ve finished it, wanting to look after her and talk to her… She’s brilliant: funny, feisty, warm, caring, vulnerable, smart, strong… it’s perfect in so many ways: story, voice, characters… just great.

By the way, what is with all these books with ribbons around the cover at the moment? And have you counted how many chicklit book covers feature whimsical girls in red coats? It’s laughable. And I say that as someone whose first book cover has a whimsical girl with a red coat (and a spotted blue neckerchief, indeed). Before I start saying anything I shouldn’t, back to the point: The Observations is wonderful.

Torment by Lauren Kate

Young Adult paranormal romance gothlit sometimes really hits the spot. Yes, I read the Twilight series last year, starting with the thought ‘what the hell is everyone on about?’ and then because I couldn’t put the fuckers down, even when I worried that the ‘imprinting’ thing was perhaps a strange Mormon childbride excuse, and when I cringed slightly at the endless love talk (as I said, romance doesn’t really do it for me… in fact, I cringe writing any romancey bits in my own books and always try to make them a bit sharp or surprising, I probably fail but I try). Something about that teenage alienation feeling is addictive, it was compelling and entertaining…. Anyway, back to Torment. It’s about eternal love and damnation, fallen angels and – but of course – a sulky teenage girl. You should probably start with Fallen, but I enjoyed the sequal, Torment, far more.

The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay by Michael Chabon

I wrote about this earlier in the year, and said it was the reason I learnt to read. It’s still true. If you’ve read it, by the way, and loved it, try The Wonder Boys. It, too, is wonderful.

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

Prep is a sort of coming-of-age story – dreadfully overused term, sorry – about a girl at a New England boarding school. Parts reminded me so much of my boarding school – the strangeness and loneliness of it – that I cried real tears, people. Real tears. American Wife, by the same author, is brilliant too, but Prep is just… phenomenal. I loved it so much that I wrote Curtis Sittenfeld an email saying so. (She didn’t reply.) (Hurrumph.) That is the UK cover, by the way, and I have to say, what the fuck? It looks like a photo you’d get free with a cheap photoframe. And what’s with the quote? “The OC?” “Clueless?” Are they seriously comparing a brilliant novel to a terrible TV show and a movie released in 1995 (yes Clueless was fab and the clothes were awesome, but apart from a teenage protagonist, Clueless has NOTHING in common with Prep, though it’s got a lot in common with Emma by Jane Austen, of course). And why “The Secret History?” Because it’s also set in New England? The Secret History is by Donna Tartt, and it’s wonderful, but it’s about a group of college classics students who become obsessed with Baccanalian revelry and go on a excess-fuelled rampage, kill a farmer and then one of their friends, and then are destroyed by guilt. For Pete’s sake.

The Best Of Everything by Rona Jaffe

Yes! God this is a fabulous book. Five young women working in Manhattan in the 50s: their careers, families, love lives and friendships… I loved it so much. If you enjoy this, try The Group by Mary McCarthy, which charts the lives of a group of Vassar graduates in New York in the 30s. It’s fantastic.

The Rich Are Different by Susan Howatch

I love a saga. I always forget I love a saga, as I look at them and think ‘man, that looks like such a commitment’. But then I start reading and think ‘amazing, amazing, amazing’. This book, and its sequel, Sins Of The Fathers, is about American and English families entwined by love and hate and money over a 50-year period. The books are narrated in chunks by different characters, and it’s an incredibly compelling storytelling technique – it’s seamless and each character is so damn believable. I’ve never read anything like it. By the way, if you like a good saga, try Elizabeth Jane Howard’s wartime saga (The Light Years, Marking Time, Confusion, and Casting Off). After that you’ll probably be in the mood for Mary Wesley’s Chamomile Lawn, which is delicious. Then you might go through a Persephone-ish betwixt-the-wars phase, so start with Mariana by Monica Dickens, read all the Nancy Mitfords if you haven’t already, and dive into Dorothy Whipple. Mmm. Yummy books.

The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell

Yep, it’s YA, yep, it’s the same character that made me want to throw knives at the screen during Sex And The City 2, yep, it’s awesome. Candace Bushnell is a fantastic writer: One Fifth Avenue and Lipstick Jungle are also excellent. Four Blondes I didn’t get along quite so well with and I can’t remember what I thought of Trading Up. Weirdly, I haven’t read the Sex And The City book. I should probably do that.

I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson

I don’t know how the hell I missed reading this book for so long: it’s great. You already know that, I expect. Everyone else seems to have read it. Perfect chicklit: smart, funny, fast, surprising and empathetic.

I’ve probably forgotten some other favourites, but shall come back to add them. A Girl Like You is coming out in 15 days, by the way, and my recent blog and Twitter silence is mostly a result of fretting about it. Thinking about other books simultaneously calms me down and makes me more nervous. Isn’t that weird? Hmm. Fret fret fret.

On… Mannerfrei

The German cover for The Dating Detox just landed! I adore it. I am clapping my hands with glee.

It’s called Mannerfrei: Roman in German (Man Free: A Novel) Which I kind of love. Claudia Geng translated it. I hope she enjoyed it… I wonder what ‘cockmonkey’ is in German?

By the way, this is how Google translates the German back blurb. It works for me:

Problems with men? The solution is men free!

Men are dangerous and have various side effects. After the sixth failed relationship Sass decides to start a romantic Lent: no men, no divisions, no disappointments. And what happened? Their lives – usually filled with joy-traumatic with dates, clothes, and the relationship of vodka after that – is suddenly released! Abstinence is cool, and suddenly you’re flying to all, especially men, especially Jake: witty, intelligent and ever … If Sass break the rules? Or is the carefree life too good to turn it to gamble?

About the Author
Gemma Burgess moved to London at age 22. She worked at an advertising agency and was looking for happiness. Eight years later she decided to process the most important findings of this beautiful and turbulent period in a novel. Men free is for all self-conscious, intelligent, witty women of style who have difficulties to recognize the love, even when it is standing before them.

On… what I wore

Yesterday was the photoshoot and interview for North East magazine.

Absolutely delightful fun and in the most incredible venue: Lost In Beauty, a shrine to all that is girlie and great, in Primrose Hill. They sell handpicked hair and makeup brands (Chantecaille, Becca, RMK, etc) and have a boudoir downstairs dedicated to makeovers.

I just decided to try to make you one of those lookbook style compilations, you know, the kind that fashion bloggers make? Dudes! It took forever. Newfound respect. Anyway. Here it is:

I chose this outfit because:
1. The jeans make me feel very tall and thin. Which is the only job any pair of jeans ever has to do, really. They are from J Brand via TheOutnet. (They’re on there right now! Run!)
2. The cardigan is cosy-snuggly, but looks kind of put together (unusual for a cardigan), and it’s a nice pinky shade of nude. I look like vom in those camel-nudes. I like grey and nude together: those colours are friends, like grey and white. Actually grey is friends with every other colour, really.
3. The top is pretty and white, and any pretty, white top does it for me. Have you ever noticed that you buy multiple versions of your favourite things, even though you don’t really need them? I have a friend who owns nine pairs of black trousers. Me, it’s white tops. It’s like I’m preparing for some kind of fashion war, where there might be a white top rationing law. I also have a thing for Victorian-governess-style lace tops, you know the kind? I once found a beyewtiful one at H&M; that had about 50 tiny buttons on the back. Then I broke up with the guy I was living with and was like ‘shit, I am never going to be able to do this up by myself’. Yah. Total nightmare guys.
4. The shoes are – okay, I didn’t put much thought into the shoes, I just grabbed them on the way out the door in case I needed them. Good thing, too, as they ended up taking photos of me walking/strutting around Primrose Hill, laptop in hand. Because I totally walk around with my laptop in case inspiration strikes.
5. The earrings are little sparkly skulls. I am a bit jewelry-tarded, and rarely wear anything except the wedding/engagement rings. I bought those at Topshop years ago.

I’ve been a bit meh about posting about fashion up till now. I write about clothes a lot in THE DATING DETOX and A GIRL LIKE YOU, but I definitely don’t want to pretend I’m a style maven. I’m just a fashion enthusiast, like most women I know… I sometimes look at photos and think ‘Sheesh, I should really have put the crack pipe down that day.’ Particular mistakes include the outfits titled Crushed Grape, 70s Babysitter and Drunk Headmistress. Not good. I hope this outfit stands the test of time. It’s pretty innocuous – I can’t even think of a name for it, in fact.

On… publication nerves

So my second book, A GIRL LIKE YOU, is coming out in a few weeks.

Naturally I feel sick about it.

This time last year I was in exactly the same state with THE DATING DETOX, which came out exactly the same week.

My brain goes something like this: oo, book coming out soon. Goodygumdro…. Wait. (Brain-gasp.) What if everyone hates it? What if my friends hate it? What would they say? (Here I try to plan exactly what nice-but-untrue things my friends might say if they hate it.) What if everyone thinks it’s stupid? (Here I list all the things in the book that might be stupid.) What if they don’t think it’s funny? (Here I list all the things I think are funny that might not be.) What if it fails diabolically, and no-one buys it, and everyone laughs at me, and it ends up being pulped and never printed again? Then it would be like (brain-whisper) it never even existed.

It’s recockulous. I spiral myself into a negative, teary frenzy. Eventually, I put on my strictest Brown Owl voice and tell myself to Stop Being So Bloody Silly. Then I go and think about something else for as long as I can.

I wonder if the nerves go away with time. I’ve read that other authors feel proud or excited about publication. I wish I was like that. Instead, I want to press control-alt-delete on the whole thing and shout “Sorry! Sorry everyone. Dreadful mistake. Please put the pastel-coloured book DOWN and step away from the bookshelf.”

But I can’t. All I can do is sit here and think, fuck. I hope they like it.