Author Archives: Gemma Burgess

On… cover shoot

I have my first ever photoshoot on Tuesday.

What the sweet hell am I going to wear?

It’s for the cover of North East magazine, a deliciously glossy London magazine for all the delightful people who live in Primrose Hill (where my soon-to-launch novel, A GIRL LIKE YOU, is set), Hampstead, Belsize Park, and so on.

Like most people, I’m pretty uncomfortable in front of the camera – unless, of course, I am three wheets to the shind, in which case I will either offer a Cheshire cat smile or break out my Paris Hilton pose (the perfect combination of flattering and ridiculous). My Twitter pic is from a wedding in the States last year, it was a Paris pose gone slightly wrong, so I just look tipsy and conniving. Anyway. I can’t do much about my face. The delightful ladies at Lost In Beauty have earmarked two hours to improve it (I’m rather excited to see what they might do to my eyebrows, but that’s a different post altogether) so that should get things in good shape.

The point is I don’t know what to wear.

And you know how I feel about clothes (hint: I like them). I emailed the lovely editor, Tash, and she said ‘not black’ which wipes out half my wardrobe. Apart from black, I only have a lot of grey, white, a tiny bit of navy and red, and one neon yellow skinny belt that, surprisingly, gets a lot of play. In other words, I have nothing to wear. And three days to find something.

Any ideas?


Holly asked if I would do a book signing for A GIRL LIKE YOU. I haven’t planned one yet, as one time I saw an author sitting at a desk in a bookshop, with a stack of books ready to be signed, and no one was talking to him and he looked like he wanted to cry. (I bought one and it was about sport, of all things.) The idea of being that author makes me shudder internally. Maybe I’m wrong, what do you think?

I don’t know about a launch party, either – I had one for THE DATING DETOX but it was really just a party for my friends where there happened to be a stack of books in the corner. Hmm.

On…. my fauxmance

I just found something that I wrote years ago. It was crumpled in the bottom of a box of keepsakes, old tickets, cards, letters and things.

It’s a pretend page from a fauxmance – that’s a parody of a Mills & Boon-style romance novel, of course – called Hot Nights And Cold Shoulders.

I thought I was so damn funny when I wrote it. You may not agree. Sometimes I do things that I think are hilarious and everyone else thinks are silly/pointless/unfunny. I am at peace with this. Anyway, this is the copy.


Hearing the noise, Chenille turned around.

It was him. Entering her chambers without so much as a by-your-leave.

She stood up angrily to go, but at once he was upon her, begging her with his deep brown eyes to listen, to let go of the past, to love.

‘Please -’ there was an urgency in his molten-honey voice. God, he was impenetrable.

‘What do you want from me now, Boulder Bulwark?’ she cried, throwing her lovely head back in passion. ‘You’ve taken my plantation, my hopes for the future, even my house slaves! Enough is enough!’

Beads of sweat were beading on his brow. He grabbed her passionately, his manly arms encircling her girlish waist.

‘There’s one more thing I want to take.’

Before she knew it, his firm lips pressed down on her furiously clamped mouth. He was kissing her! Her small hands pummelled against his manly chest in protest. But to no avail.

She could feel the warmth of his boy pressed against hers and smell his tanned, work-roughened skin, that curious mix of cotton-rich earth, horse sweat and home-cooked grits that only true Southern gentlemen have. Quite a change from the Yankee-educated dandy who’d darkened her doorstep just three weeks ago.

Suddenly Chenille felt something she’d never felt before. Desire. And nature took over.

Without thinking she arched her back and began to kiss him back. She could feel his throbbing manhood pressed against her thigh as his tongue probed her mouth, his hands grazing he rosebud nipples of her firm but pendulous baps through the sheer muslin gown. An urgent ache started deep inside her virgin loins, and she remembered Momma’s warnings.

But she didnt want to stop. Not now, not ever.

Chenille ran her hands through Boulder’s thick chestnut hair. His turgid member thrust against her ever-questioningly. Her response needed no words as she undulated gently in that ancient rhythm. Her body was responding to his manliness in a way she couldn’t deny.

‘Oh, Boulder,’ she sighed, as he began kissing her neck.

‘Chenille, my darling Chenille,’ he moaned. The sound of his voice brought her to her senses.

With all her strength she slapped him hard across the face.

‘How dare you insult me like this?’ she exclaimed, ‘I may not be one of your sophisticated Yankee girls but that’s just the way the Lord, my Momma and the Confederate Union made me. You take your filthy hands off me and leave my chambers this instant.’

‘I will not,’ Boulder replied, ‘I’ve loved you since the moment you threw that damned jug of mint julep over me. You crazy, tempestuous, gorgeous Southern woman.’

He picked her up and carried her over to the bed. Like a branded filly, she was scared yet excited, and knew there was no use struggling. In the very depths of her soul she yearned for him to possess her. He placed her head tenderly on the pillow.

‘Chenille Clemency Depoise, I want you to become my wife,’ he murmured, his hands roaming and finding home in a place they’d never been before.

He caught his breath, watching, waiting for her response.

‘Yes… yes my darling, yes!’

Yep. That’s a fauxmance. I tried to twist all the classic Mills & Boon cliches, with stilted dialogue, awkwards sexual descriptions and – but of course! – adverbs a-go-go.

I found it yesterday and thought ‘now, why the hell did I write that?’

I guess I liked (still like) writing things that made me laugh, even if there was no reason for doing it. I read a few very bad Mills & Boon-esque historical romances in my early teens and I thought it would be funny to take the piss. And more than anything I had oodles of creative energy that I wasn’t using at work – I was writing a lot of financial copy at the time, ahem – so I channelled it into tiny pointless projects like this, instead.

What else did I do during that period? Well, I played silly games with friends, like making up names and straplines for pretend perfumes (Patriarchy! Daddy knows best…), I organised a series of Notting Hill-to-Chelsea pub crawls called Staggers (with their own advertising campaigns and straplines) that ended up with over 100 attendees, I made compilation CDs for friends and designed unique CD covers, I started a Cocktail Club (with Mad Men-style copy-heavy posters that changed weekly) at work, I offered free copywriting and marketing strategy to a local start up hair salon (yuh I bet they were thrilled).

I never tried to write a book. I didn’t have the concentration. I was a scattergun of creative energy, unfocused and unsatisfied, gagging to just do something.

As it turned out my permanent niggling feeling of vague dissatisfaction was because I was – light bulb moment! – not satisfied with life. Once I sorted that out, everything got a lot easier.

On… overhighlighted hair

My hair was overhighlighted by an overzealous hairdresser about six months ago, and promptly started to break off. I’ve been trying to protect and nourish it ever since – singing to it in the morning, taking it out for quiet dinners and spoonfeeding it organic risotto at night, etc.

(That’s not what I mean, of course, I mean I’m not using hairdryers and tongs, but it seemed such an obvious thing to say that I thought I’d surprise you.)


I realised today that on a hangover, when my back hurts, I look exactly like this.

On… an ode to my glasses

I am reclaiming my glasses.

This isn’t the pair I’m talking about. Not exactly. Mine are more or less the same shape, but bigger and clunkier. I bought The Glasses about five years ago in a little old man’s glasses shop in Hong Kong. The man got so excited that I liked such out-of-date frames that he promptly ran to the basement and fetched an box of ancient specs bearing ‘Made in West Germany’ tags. But I didn’t want them, I wanted the big black clunky ones. I wanted The Glasses.

After he fitted the lenses, I went home and showed my parents. Their immediate reaction was “why do you want to look like a blonde, female Buddy Holly?” I don’t know. I just did.

For months I’d been thinking ‘I wish I could have glasses like Michael Caine in the Ipcress File, only bigger’. I searched and searched and searched, and then, like all truly blessed sartorial findings, they finally turned up. A gift from the gods. And I loved them.

They were comfortingly heavy and sat firmly on my face (lightweight ones fly off if you jerk your head around or guffaw with gusto, which I guess I do a lot). They didn’t lose their shape, leave a mark on my nose or tangle in my hair when I put them on my head, like wireframes always do. And most of all, they went with everything. They looked amazing with old holey jeans and new tiny dresses, with a (fake) tan or red lipstick, hair up or down. I thought – probably mistakenly but I’m okay with that – that they gave a polished sheen to everything I wore: they were a look.

And then The Glasses became fashionable.

Really fashionable. People around Shoreditch and Bethnal Green started wearing them. Chloe goddamn Sevigny got a pair. Tom Ford designed a pair. I saw a cafe in Notting Hill with no fewer than nine people in it all wearing The Glasses. They were featured in a magazine as ‘geek chic’. Demi Moore and Ashton Kutchter had matching pairs, for the love of betsy. The Glasses were absogoddamnlutely everywhere.

I was nonplussed, but tried to shrug it off. It wouldn’t affect me. I wear what I wear. Who cares, right? I didn’t buy them to be fashionable or unfashionable, I bought them because I loved them.

And then I met a girl wearing The Glasses, but without any prescription. Just plain plastic lenses. As an accessory, like earrings. To get the look. And I thought ‘I can’t handle this, I’m a clone’. So I put The Glasses away and switched to wearing contacts full time. (I’m shortsighted – not severely, just -2.00 in each eye.) No other glasses would ever take their place. I saw my sister mewing like a blind baby bunny after laser surgery and swore I’d never do it, so I decided that I’d just wear contacts forever.

I just found The Glasses in a drawer. It’s been about 18 months since I wore them. They slide so nicely onto my face. They haven’t changed a bit: they’re still perfect. So I’m going to start wearing The Glasses again. I can’t help it: I love them and I always will.

This is Buddy Holly wearing The Glasses. What a groovy hipster!

This is Michael Caine wearing The Glasses. Woofwoof.

On… Snow

There are a lot of pictures of the snow around: it’s -6 in London today. So I’m a-jumpin’ on the frosty bandwagon. This is the view from my place.

Notting Hill is quite the winter goddess, n’est-ce pas? I just saw a little girl rugged up like a teeny Arctic explorer, doing a joyful skippy-hoppy-jump into the square.

Now what the sweet hell am I going to get Fox for Christmas?

On… Judy Blume covers

I just remembered Judy Blume.

‘Good Lord!’ I thought (I often start thoughts with little exclamations like that), ‘How could I have not thought about her for so long? I was obsessed with her books…’ And then I thought: ‘why, I wonder how her covers have changed over the years?’

Man, did I find some doozies.

My two favourite Judy Blume books, by the way, were probably ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET and STARRING SALLY J FRIEDMAN AS HERSELF (yah I read FOREVER, but I couldn’t really relate to the losing-one’s-virginity thing on account of my being about nine at the time – I didn’t get TIGER EYES as it was about a popular girl who had to wear a back brace, I think, and I was a geek so didn’t really get it – and I hated BLUBBER as any stories about kids being mean made me feel sick, on a account of my also being a wimp). I think I read all the Judy Blume books aged between eight and ten, at the same time that I was deeply obsessed with Ramona Quimby, Little Women, Enid Blyton (Famous Five and Malory Towers particularly), LM Montgomery (I had all of her books, including the short story anthologies, and could quote chunks of my two favourites – Anne Of Avonlea and Emily of New Moon – off by heart – see? Told you I was a geek) and the What Katy Did books. Then I got into the Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High and Paula Danziger, and then one long, very hot summer in Hong Kong when I was 12, I was finally allowed access to my mother’s club’s no-kids-allowed library and got insanely into Mary Wesley, Georgette Heyer, Nancy Mitford, Jane Austen, the Brontes, etc, and grown-up life truly began.


I went back and read Little Women over the summer, and still loved it. What books did you love? I remember some other Alcott books, including one about a girl who obsessed about ‘ear-rings’ for chapter after chapter. I will Google the title later. Maybe it will come to me. (I’m scared Google is destroying my memory as I don’t have to remember things anymore. Another sign, by the way, that one is over 30, similar to an obsession with Farrow & Ball and two-day hangovers.)

Some of these covers are early experiments in clipart, others are just HIL – wait for it – ARIOUS. Book covers from the mid-to-late 80s are my favourites, I think. One day, I want my books to have a cover that is a full painting of a girl looking pensive, probably in a bedroom (flowery duvet cover!), maybe talking with her best friend (sleepover!) and perhaps with a phone on the bed (a phone in her bedroom? she’s obviously RAD).

Take a look. The French one is the coolest… Bien sur.