On… Junk Kouture

On the weekend I caught up with my niece, Lisa, who is 15 and lives in Dublin. She showed me some photos of an awesome outfit she and a friend designed and made themselves. They came runner-ups in a design competition called ‘Junk Kouture’.

The outfit is titled ‘Party in the USA’.

How cool is it?! I would totally wear the shoes. The dress is made from woven, rolled and taped magazine pages. It’s dramatic but totally intricate. The shoes have hundreds of thumb-tacks in them and those huge pompoms are rolled up rubber bands.

If I was the kind of smart person who analyzed art, I’d say this was a bold, witty statement about the impact of celebrity magazines on fashion and pop culture, and the disposable nature of tabloid journalism. Only I’d probably say it better than that. Because I’d be smart.

What do you think?

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On… copywriting tips

Let’s face it, most of my blog posts are the dillydallying type. I ponder, and
chat, and wander off point, and put in little asides. Then I have to use a lot of ‘So,’ or ‘Anyway,’ type words, to get back to the point. And then the point itself tends to drag on.

But that’s okay: it’s a blog. It’s not ad copy. Blogs are all about the dillydally.

Anyway (see?), I got an email from a would-be copywriter today, asking for copywriting tips. And so I thought perhaps I’d post them here. I wrote them like ad copy, so they’re nice and short. Enjoy.


1. Get to the point. I probably won’t read more than the first line.

2. Use the shortest possible words and sentences. So I can skim it and still understand.

3. Don’t bore or confuse me. Use active words and straightforward syntax.

4. Tell me why I should care. How will it make a difference to my life?

5. Don’t overdo it. No exclamation marks, no hyperbole, no grand promises. Smart copy tells, not sells.

And yes, you can do all this and still keep within the brand guidelines and tone of voice. Whether you’re being formal or friendly, medical or mummyish, selling BMW or Bovril, good copy is good copy.

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On… NorthWest Magazine

Pretty cringe-making – I am NOT the world’s most natural poser, despite being a total poseur in so many other ways – but check out who is ‘the thinking girl’s chick-lit author’.

Here are a few more photos from the shoot courtesy of Archant and photographer Kristian Hana. Memo to self to not give up the day job till learn to smile without looking like I am also in pain. Also, that cardigan wrap thing that I thought was so cosy-chic is in fact all cosy, no chic. But the jeans are good. They may remain.

I’ll scan the whole feature, written by the lovely Tash Paulini, in as soon as I can.

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On… true stories

I keep being asked about this, and yes. Almost every single thing in my books is made up. The characters, the storylines, the events. The emotions and reactions are based on things I’ve felt, obviously – I’ve been cheated on, and fought with people, and worked with cockmonkeys, and fallen in love, and broken up with people, and had shit dates, and all the rest of it. But the events are made up.

Well, except one or two.

And I just remembered about a real event that ended up in The Dating Detox. I’d sort of forgotten it as I never reread The Dating Detox, obviouslah (I can’t think of a worse way to pass the time than to read my own work when I can’t edit the meh bits), and it was a late addition to the book, as it only happened in March and I was handing in the final ms in like, May. But it was too funny and strange not to put in. I just got an email from a reader about it and thought I’d tell the real story, just for the record.

So Fox and I were in New York.

It was his birthday and well, we just like New York, we go there a lot. We got married there last year, in Tribeca. My next book series is set there. We have a lot of friends there. And we’re currently waiting for the visa situation to work out so we can move there.


On our last night we went to go and see OK Go at The Bell House in Brooklyn, and then we went back to the hotel in the Meatpacking District. The Standard had just opened – in fact the Standard Grill wasn’t even open yet – and it’s right across the road from a little bar called Hogs & Heifers.

We had a beery gig buzz, decided we felt like one last drink, and walked in. Hogs & Heifers really is the Disneyland of dive bars. It’s dark, dirty, with a thousand revolting bras grotesquely strung up in a big bunch on the wall, it’s covered in graffiti and the clientele is mostly losers and tourists. It was only about a third full, being Sunday night.

“HEY SWEET VALLEY HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGH!” screamed a voice from a megaphone.

Everyone in the bar looked around at me and then back to the girl standing on the bar wearing jeans, a hot pink bra and hair extensions.


I was wearing a trenchcoat. She was talking to me.

I realized instantly that I could either turn around and walk out and never come back, or walk up to the bar and look her straight in the eye and order a goddamn drink. It wouldn’t matter if I did walk out – I’d never be back there again, and losing face to a skanky little bar-ho isn’t exactly top of my Oh-No list – but I really felt like a goddamn drink and her arrogance was annoying me. So Fox and I just kept walking and sat down at the side of the bar. (Fox was still laughing at the Sweet Valley High line.)

“WHAT DO YOU WANT!?” she screamed at us, hopping down.

I considered saying I’d like the time machine in which she went back to 1999 to get the whiskered bootcut jeans she was wearing, but instead I read the name of the first bottle I could see on the bar.

“Two shots of Makers Mark.”


Anyway. So we had a shot, and we started talking about the bar and the hotel, and I don’t know, just the usual chitchat I like to make with new people. Fox was bemused, as he usually is when I decide to befriend someone strange. (Another night out I started chatting to a very large, well-spoken, gentle man who gave me a light when I was having a cigarette outside some bar in the Village, and we talked about his journey in from Jersey, and his girlfriend and baby and his last holiday to Nantucket, and then when I said ‘so what brings you to the city tonight, John?’ he said ‘well Gemma, I deal MDMA.’ All I could think to say was ‘and how’s business going for you?’ as coolly as I could.) After another bourbon, the skanktender bored of us and started dancing on the bar and abusing some new guys. Fox and I decided to head back to the hotel, our appetite for a few drinks rather diminished by the weird faux-tough atmosphere.

Then, as I was leaving, she jumped down and said “Let’s go shopping next time you’re in town! My email is luckybra777@aol.com” and gave me her card.

True story.

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On… interviews, reviews and thank yous

Dearest everyone. Thank you so much for your support since dear ol’ AGLY came out two weeks ago.

In case you missed it, A GIRL LIKE YOU was featured in The Sun newspaper and Heat and Closer magazines last week. (Everyone please throw a mental high five to the uhmazing Charlotte Allen at HarperCollins, that is all thanks to her.) I tried to post a link to the reviews, but I’ve only got the PDF and, um, I can’t figure out how to do it.

I also did an interview with Lindsey Canant at luxury magazine Pink Memo, another one with my friend, the star author and blogstar Talli Roland and one with lovely Melissa at Chicklit Central.

Thank you also to all the wonderful sites and friends who have written reviews of A GIRL LIKE YOU – Chloe and Leah at Chicklit Reviews, One More Page, Dot Scribbles, High Heels and Book Deals and Ruth at Between The Pages.

New addition! Exceptionally lovely review from Judging Covers.

(If you wrote a review and I misesed you out, I’m sorry! I had them all saved and pfft they disappeared. Like magic. Please email me gemma@gemmaburgess.com and I’ll amend that, stat – and by the way, Novelious and Chicklit Central reviews are, I think, coming soon, so check back for the links…)

And lastly, thank you so much to everyone who has posted a review on Amazon. I dont know about you, but I always read the reviews before buying the book, and sometimes buy a book I’ve never heard of on the reviews alone – so I think it really makes a difference, and I truly appreciate it.

Everytime someone says they loved A GIRL LIKE YOU, I glow and twinkle inside. It’s the nicest feeling ever. x

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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?

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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

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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 gemma@gemmaburgess.com 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 (www.gemmaburgess.blogspot.com) 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.

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