Category Archives: Gemma Burgess

On…. Mannerfrei

I have a copy of MANNERFREI, the German translation of The Dating Detox, in my hot little hands! (Actually, they’re not hot, and they’re manicured rather nicely with OPI Pinking Of You, but that’s not the point right now.)

I thought I’d take a photo to share it with you. Cool, huh?

It’s incredibly surreal seeing it in another language. Brilliant, I mean. But surreal.

And here’s a photo of the book open to The Botanist chapter, with – just for the hell of it – a packet of matches from The Botanist, indeed. I was there on Sunday. The burger was absolutely exceptional and may have eclipsed Bar Boulud and Bumpkin in my Best Burger In London list. In case you were wondering.

If you have any German friends who are simply crying out for a bit of Die Dating Detox joy, you can order it here.

On… my next book

10 things I can tell you now about my next book.

1. It’s the first in a series of books called Union Street, about five twenty- something girls sharing a house in Brooklyn, that I’m writing for St Martins Press.

2. The protagonist is stylish, spoilt, sharp – and kind of awesome. I adore her. But I always adore the protagonist till I finish writing about her. Weird, huh?

3. I had the idea for the series as was ruminating on the fact that 21 to 30 is an extraordinarily tough, eventful and hilarious time for women, but I couldn’t think of any modern fiction that dealt with the entire period honestly and – most importantly – with humour.

4. The series was also inspired by The Group by Mary McCarthy, The Best Of Everything by Rona Jaffe and The Babysitters Club by Ann M Martin. (Trust me, it works.)

5. There will be more sex in it than there was my first two books. (Mother, don’t look at me like that.)

6. And wild partying and bad choices and drugs and drama and all kinds of good stuff. (Mutti. Seriously. You are really putting me off.)

7. I’ve just about finished writing it. Just icing the cake now.

8. Oh, the narrator of the first book is called Pia.

9. It’s about 120,000 words, which seems to be my magic number for some reason. (This is irrelevant but I needed it to get 10 facts.)

10.I really, really hope you like it.

PS Alas, I cannot tell you when it’s out just yet… but the moment I find out, you’ll be the first to know, kittenpants.

On… chicklit and humour

I’m trying to write a feature for Novelicious for International Chicklit Month. And I’m having trouble getting started.

Why?

Because the topic is Humour And Chicklit.

What right do I have to write about humour and chicklit? Fuck all, honeynuts. I mean, I try to write humorous books, but everyone thinks they have a sense of humour, just like everyone thinks they have good dress sense. So the little voice in my head reminding me that everyone’s idea of humour is different and asking who the sweet hell I think I am to write about this subject is stymieing me, for a start.

Hmm.

For me, for any book – fiction or not – to be humorous, it has to be surprising. And original, smart, irreverent, sharp, confident, quick, honest, compelling, emotionally real, well-written and tightly edited, with characters that I care about and a storyline that has realistic-yet-unexpected twists… it all goes hand-in-hand, because humour needs structure and structure needs a point and that point needs to be emotionally resonant for me to care enough to keep reading. David Sedaris is deeply funny: I laughed so hard reading Me Talk Pretty One Day that I started hitting the seat next to me, and I was on the tube (underground, subway, metro, MTR) at the time. Kingsley Amis is also hilarious: Lucky Jim is one of my favourite books ever (Fox wooed me with a first edition, the smooth bastard). Wodehouse, Stella Gibbons, Nancy Mitford, Nora Ephron… all brilliant and funny. But they’re not modern chicklit.

So what makes a book in the chicklit genre particularly funny? That’s what I’m asking myself. And I don’t know what the answer is. Not all my favourite chicklit books are particularly funny. Or they might make me smile but not chortle, grin but not guffaw. Doesn’t mean I don’t like them. Just means they’re not that funny. I also love Thomas Hardy, Ernest Hemingway, Julian Barnes, Mary McCarthy, Bret Easton Ellis, Stephanie Meyer, yes I said Stephanie Meyer, and they don’t make me laugh out loud either.

Double hmmm.

Recently I read I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crossley, and The Heart Says Whatever by Emily Gould. Both are very well-written and very, very funny memoirs from quick, smart, perceptive twentysomething women, and I laughed out loud several times. When I finished, I wondered: why the hell didn’t they turn their razor-sharp gaze away from the mirror and write fiction? There’s something un peu self-absorbed about writing about yourself all the time, isn’t there? (I can’t even bear to write about myself on this terribly neglected blog, and shit, that’s the whole point of a blog, right?) Then I wondered if the reason they wrote memoirs was because any novel about being a female career-and-love-focused twentysomething, with bits about fashion and family and friends and flatmates, would be labelled chicklit and given a cover that looked like a Disney animator had thrown up on it. And Emily and Sloane are both, quite frankly, too cool to fall for that.

Hmm.

You can see how my brain is having trouble processing what should be a very enjoyable feature to write.

Twenty minutes ago I decided, fuck it, write about what makes the funniest chicklit books funny, and choose a book everyone will agree on. The answer is, of course, Bridget Jones’ Diary.

But I can’t just write that, can I? “Read Bridget Jones’ Diary. It is perfect.”

Bugger.

On… things that I find surprisingly difficult

Writing addresses on envelopes. (It’s just so boring.)

Remembering numbers of more than one digit. (Ask me to remember anything over nine and I stare into space like an inbred lapdog, drooling and panting.)

Answering simple questions when I’m writing. (“What? I don’t… In the drawer. I mean… oh. The bus.”)

Choosing anything but pork belly when it is on the menu. (It’s just so good. So good.)

Selecting a cocktail that isn’t vodka-based. (Look, it gets the job done.)

Sleeping in past 6.30am. (I have the bodyclock of a baker.)

Understanding the charms of nature in any meaningful way. (“Oh, it’s leafy. Awesome.”)

Understanding the charms of organised sport in any meaningful way. (“Oh, it’s a ball. Awesome.”)

Wearing a colour that isn’t white, black, grey, navy or red. (Seriously, I’m like a small French child in a storybook.)

Letting go of my lucky yellow clutch*, both emotionally and sartorially. (Readers of The Dating Detox will understand.)

Knowing where my phone is at any given time. (Really. That thing is like Ferris Bueller. It just takes off whenever it feels like it. It is probably driving around Chicago right now in a red convertible with a hypochondriac and a chick called Sloane.)

* I will happily wear a hint of yellow. Ditto hot pink or electric blue. But only a hint.

On… Heartbreaker

You know when you’re in the mood for a romantic comedy but you’ve seen all the good ones and you’d stab yourself in the throat with your eyelash curler before wasting any time on a Katherine Heigl movie again?

Yeah. You know what I’m talking about.

You want to be entertained (but not patronised with something predictable). You want attractive actors (particularly the dude), and characters that seem fresh and real (not annoying). You want romance (but not schmaltz). You want humour (but nothing predictable). And you want something clever (because sweet mother of fuckmonkeys, romance doesn’t have to be stupid).

My friends, I have the answer.

HEARTBREAKER.

Skip to your laptop and download it from iTunes or Netflix right this second.(Or rent the DVD if you’re feeling retro.) It is so brilliant and clever I kept punching the sofa with joy, thinking ‘I have GOT to tell EVERYONE I know about this’. It’s about a guy who is a professional heartbreaker, ie, breaks up relationships for a living. And it’s awesome.

It’s French, by the way. The French are so damn good at romantic comedies. One of the only other really excellent romantic comedies I’ve seen in the last year or so was PRICELESS, another nice little French number. It’s deeply funny. GOING THE DISTANCE was hilarious too, by the way. Since we’re on the subject of good romantic comedies. But it wasn’t French. Okay I’ll shut up now. Oh wait, I just found a photo of the dude from HEARTBREAKER without his shirt on. In case you’re interested.

Okay I really will go now.

On… Sweet Valley Confidential

Are you an Elizabeth or a Jessica?

I know a cultural phenomenon when I see one, particularly one that has lay dormant for a decade or two then come back, bigger and brighter than ever. And that phenomenon, my friends, is SWEET VALLEY HIGH.

Personally, I’m an Elizabeth, most of the time. I always wanted to be a Jessica, but I’m not, at least not until I’ve had a couple of martinis. My friend Amy and I once reminisced about Sweet Valley High over dinner and nearly got told off for shouting at each other and banging the table so excitedly. We tried to remember Bruce Patman’s Porsche’s numberplate (1BRUCE1), the name of the band (The Droids!), argued over which of Elizabeth’s boyfriends was the more bland (Todd, Todd, Todd) and reminisced about poor deaf Regina, who did DRUGS and nearly DIED. The characters were recognisable, the books were compellingly readable, and all in all, they were good clean fun. (I am sure I am not alone in wishing there was more sex in SVH – but then again, the continued undercurrent of unfulfilled sexual desire was pretty adroit for the average SVH reader. If I wanted to read about sex at that age, I’d read Forever by Judy Blume, and then would completely freak out and run back to SVH and – oh how I loved this series – The Babysitters Club, stat.)

EDIT: Apparently, according to the lovely PollyPopTart, Regina really did die. This is no longer funny. Sorry Regina. Drugs suck, kids.

Sweet Valley High was like a John Hughes movie, but even better, because it had a million plotlines and it never, ever ended. I missed it in its heyday, the 80s, but read it a lot from about 89 to about 93, I guess. The series petered out sometime in the 90s, I think. (I don’t know about you, but I blame Nirvana. Those grunge people. Sheesh. Talk about spoilsports.)

I just looked up SWEET VALLEY HIGH on Wikipedia, and saw a bunch of later titles that I never read. I need to fix this, immediatement. I particularly like the last one: #143 Party Weekend – Elizabeth and Jessica learn what it’s like to be drunk. (I can answer this for them: it is awesome.)

ANYWAY. The reason for this long, characteristically pointless blog from lil’ Gemgem is that all your favourite characters from Sweet Valley High are back.

With SWEET VALLEY CONFIDENTIAL.

Here’s a good synopsis of SWEET VALLEY CONFIDENTIAL from chicklitclub.com: Sweet Valley High twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield are back after a 10-year hiatus and suddenly the girls, who were always inseparable, are living on different coasts and not speaking to each other. Things are not so idyllic for the Wakefield twins and their friends from Sweet Valley High. Jessica committed the ultimate betrayal, which led Elizabeth to dash off to New York and cut off all communications with her sister. The once sweet and caring twin, Elizabeth now wants nothing more than to get revenge on Jessica, but what is the best way to go about punishing someone who ruined her life? On the other coast, Jessica is the talk of the town for what she did to her sister and she’s not happy about it. Though she is doing well at work, she can’t shake the need to be near her sister. However, that doesn’t seem possible as Elizabeth is not even answering her phone. Will these two finally put their differences behind them and get on with life or is the rift between them too big to ever mend?

How awesome does that sound?

No fewer than seven girlfriends emailed me links to the news about SWEET VALLEY CONFIDENTIAL. And these girls don’t all know each other, and there’s no particular reason they were telling me – I was a fan, but no more than the average girl, I think. It’s just that everyone – everyone - is frothing at the mouth about it. I have never personally witnessed book buzz before (I worked as a copywriter in advertising before I was an author; people in advertising tend to think books are ‘a fantastic concept’) but man, this has got to be it. I mean, I’ve pre-ordered my copy already. Have you?

Now, a blatant boast, but please let me get away with it… The editor of my next book, the first of my brand-spanking-new UNION STREET series (currently doing the final polish on the last few chapters, by the way) is Dan Weiss. He’s Publisher At Large at St Martins Press. He’s also the man who started the Sweet Valley High series AND the man in charge of bringing it back. I figure this makes me practically a Wakefield. And if you tell me I’m an Enid I will not talk to you again.

On… Denim And Lace

There are a lot of bad songs out there.

And this is one of my favourites. As a bonus, the dude in this video is one of the worst lipsyncs I’ve ever seen, and I saw Paula Abdul in concert in Hong Kong in 1992. (She danced on stage! With a TIGER!)(A pretend tiger. But, you know, still.)

Anyway. Denim and Lace. I like to sing it to myself when I’m getting ready to go out.