Category Archives: Gemma Burgess

On… my new cover

This is the cover for A GIRL LIKE YOU (coming out December 2010).

I am so happy with it, I want to clap my hands like the ex-Brownie geek I am.

The title really pops and the colours work, but above and beyond all that good stuff, the girl is clearly doing a walk of shame. She’s barefoot. She’s drinking champagne from a bottle. She has what appear to be knickers popping out of her 2.55.

Plus, I really like her jacket. Pale grey is awesome.

All in all, this is a girl I could hang out with.

What do you think?

On… failure

My friend Sarah is a psychologist and journalist. She’s also impossibly beautiful and hilarious. I am friends with her despite these massive flaws.

She emailed last week saying she’d been tasked with writing about ‘famous failures’. People who overcome huge life-changing fuck-ups and go on to become bigger and better, like Nicole Kidman post-divorce and Al Gore post-election.

My first reaction (after ‘Nicole Kidman is ‘bigger and better’? When was the last time anyone watched a movie she was in? And anyway, is it called ‘failure’ when the marriage contract simply expired?’) was that there are a lot of them. In fact it’s hard to think of anyone successful who hasn’t overcome fuck-ups.

For example – and this is just the ones I thought of in a few minutes, so I know you can probably think of loads more – Hugh Grant got a blowie from a pro but used the incident to make him look less foppishly fey. Victoria Beckham was a singalong robot till she discovered her love of design (and Roland Mouret’s dressmakers, ahem).

Judd Apatow’s Freaks and Geeks was cancelled and he went on to make Anchorman, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Superbad, etc. (Freaks and Geeks being cancelled while shit like Two And A Half Men is still slopped out on our televisual plates like week-old spagbog is a travesty, by the way, a fucking travesty, and don’t even get me started on the utterly needless cancellation of Firefly and just-finding-its-feet Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip and the best show of our time, Arrested Development. Amen. At least we have True Blood, MadMen and 30 Rock. And now we come to the end of my viewing favourites tour.)

Where was I? Yes. And then we have a long, long list of people who didn’t quite fail, but took a while to find their success boots, from Kevin Costner (cutting room floor of The Big Chill) to Dustin Hoffman (was a jobbing actor for as long as I’ve been wearing a bra). Or JK Rowling, whose Harry Potter manuscript was rejected, what, 22 thousand times? And so was John Grisham’s first manuscript. (I don’t read John Grisham either, darling, but he has done rather well.)

And Marc Jacobs designed the infamous grunge collection for Perry Ellis in 91 or 92, I think it was, then he was fired, but then it went on to be like the biggest influence in fashion evah and he became his current, utterly amazing, ridiculously awesome self.

And so on.

As I was wittering thusly in my email reply to Sarah I began to think that no one’s trajectory to success is seamless. Success takes a shitload of work and luck and the ability to bounce back and keep trying when you fuck up.

I think that’s why I hate the word ‘failure’. It’s deflated, bloodless little sigh of a word that implies ‘you may as well stop trying, there’s no point, you’ve hit rock-bottom and you’ll never succeed from here’. I would happily say I’ve fucked up in my life. Many, many times. But I’d never say I’d failed.

And sometimes, my fuck-ups result in a high-five.

I hope this doesn’t sound too Pollyannaish, but let’s take a look at a few examples of Gemma fuck-ups-turned-high-fives… (this is especially for you Andrea, who requested ‘more personal stuff in your blogs!’). I hated boarding school (and it hated me). But that made me more independent. I failed French at university. But I had to make up the extra points and graduated with a triple major in English, History and Theatre. I was cheated on by my first boyfriend and dumped by several shallow bastardos. But I can sniff out a cockmonkey at 20 yards and got a lot of good stories. In my first houseshare in London, my flatmates stole £600 from me and left the country. But I got wiser and tougher and lived in a series of far nicer places (with occasional nutjob flatmates who stressed me out but made for even better stories). I was made redundant. But my boss was a fuckwipe and I immediately found a far better job. I broke up with a guy I was living with after three years together, which was excruciatingly sad. But then I felt truly invincible, because I’d been (retch, apologies, cliché incoming) true to myself, and found someone who was (retch, again, apologies) really and truly perfect for me. I had a very painful back injury and was bedridden for a few weeks. But then I wrote the first few chapters of The Dating Detox and discovered the joy of Pilates. And so on.

As Mummy Burgess (yoga-teaching, cocktail-loving little hippie) always says: everything happens for a reason. No matter how unhappy or stressed I have felt in the past, everything has worked out fine… sometimes as a result of being unhappy and stressed.

I need to caveat here that I know my bad times really haven’t been that bad, and if I was talking about genuine tragedy or loss, I would never be so glib.

And – second caveat, as usual, I love a good caveat – not that I’m all happy-happy-joy-joy all the time these days either. I get insecure and weepy. I enjoy regular ‘I suck’ moments when I want to just lie down on the floor and wail, and/or burn everything I’ve ever written. I fight the eternal desperate need for reassurance that plagues every creative. I worry that everyone will hate A Girl Like You. I wonder if anyone will ever option The Dating Detox and think that dagnabbit, the script I wrote is really funny and it’s just sitting there, and then wonder if any of the other projects I’m working on will ever work out. It’s all pretty damn pathetic, I can tell you. But then I tell myself to shut up and stop whinging. Because life is good. And most of the time, as long as I keep trying, I feel like I’m doing okay.

I say we should embrace our fuck-ups. If nothing ever happened to us, we’d be so boring… and so bored.

On… cows

I love cows. Isn’t she beautiful?

I’ve been in love with her for months. She’s been hanging at the Whitewall Galleries on Westbourne Grove and I’ve been visiting her whenever I walk past. And now, she is mine.

It is perhaps odd that I love her so much, considering that I a) have zero affiliation with or affection for real cows, farms or the countryside b) grew up in Hong Kong and live in London and am avowedly the most city-loving person you could ever meet and c) get nervous in the country because of all the nature, which gives me asthma and makes my skin itch, and silence, which makes me feel alone. But I do.

I haven’t named her yet – maybe Bessie? (Too cliche?) What do you think? She’s definitely a girl; she has long eyelashes. Suggestions welcome…

On… Paris

It’s Sunday, and I’m in Paris. And almost everything is closed (bless you, European cities! Defying the modern-day 24-7 culture of ON!).

We could go to the Marais district, which is hopping on Sundays, but our hotel is in St Germain and we’re lazy. So after sleeping in, we went for a walk, had some coffee, I smashed my face into a nutella crepe from the crepe street in the Latin Quarter (why are there 45 crepe places in a one-block radius? Is it where crepes ran to escape persecution hundreds of years ago?) and then it started to rain. So we came back to the hotel and started a French moofie marathon. C’est fantastique.

Now, I’m not going to try and be cool and pretend I know places no one else does, because I don’t, and I won’t tell you things that any guidebook could, because that would be silly. But here are the things I love the most about Paris.
1. Contrex water, yes, seriously. I love it.
2. French fashion magazines. Especially ELLE and L’OFFICIEL. You can buy them in London but it is way more fun to read them in Paris.
3. Carambars. It is impossible to be in a bad mood and chew a Carambar.
4. The bridges – the best bridges, with the best views, in the world (sorry, Albert Bridge in London, you know I love you very much, but as a group, Parisian bridges are the best).
5. Harry’s Bar on Rue Daunou. I wish you could still smoke inside in Paris.
6. Pharmacies. I could, and do, spend hours in French pharmacies. (I always buy Crealine Bioderma Crealine, Embryolisse creme, Noxeme Alphacid lotion and Oscillococcinum homeopathic pills for colds and flu.)
7. Walking, walking, walking. All the best cities are made for walking and Paris is one of them.


Dudes, I just got the typeset proofs for A GIRL LIKE YOU. It’s nearly cooked!

Nope, I STILL don’t have a cover. I haven’t an inkling of what it’ll be like. As you know, I’m not a big fan of hearts-n-flowers-n-shoes-n-cartoons, but I don’t like ponchos either. That’s just my taste. In HarperCollins we trust. Anyway as soon as I see it, I’ll post it here.

Now, I need your help. I’m choosing an excerpt from THE DATING DETOX to include at the end of A GIRL LIKE YOU. The publisher always includes an extra ‘bit’, and I wrote that silly little guide to dating at the end of THE DATING DETOX and I’m not sure if I like it, it’s pretty much just me wittering on about things and I can’t even bear to reread it as I’m sure I’ll cringe, so I thought an excerpt might be better – anyway. So. Yeah. The excerpt. What do you think it should be? If you had to get a friend to read a bit of THE DATING DETOX that you thought would make her fall in love with it, which bit would it be?

I asked Twitter and the general consensus was Chapter 4 or 5. A lot of people liked the pantry scenes and the running in the rain scenes, too – I loved writing those bits, but they do give the game away un peu, non? What do you think? Let me know.

On… things I wish I’d known at 18.

1. Don’t dye your hair. Seriously, GemGem, trust me on this one.

2. White wine is not for drinking without food.

3. Hummus is not food.

4. Stop fighting your parents about university. They are right. You need a real degree. And you’ll learn the important art of bullshitting when you’re writing English and History essays. This will give you a huge advantage when you start working as a copywriter in advertising.

5. Read over everything you write four times, then read something else or sleep or walk to clear your mind. Then read it again.

6. Then read it again.

7. Sometimes formerly nice people become fuckwits. This isn’t your fault.

8. Every James that ever comes into your life will be a fuckwit from the start. This isn’t your fault either.

9. You are right: there is more to life than writing copy to sell people shit they don’t need. But it is fun. And fun goes a long way.

10. The answer to ‘how many sequins is too many?’ is ‘any’.

11. You will live with a succession of crazy people in various shareflats around South West London. This will be very stressful at the time but make for funny stories later on, so hang in there.

12. There is no such thing as witty jewellery.

13. Relax. Everything will turn out fine.

Any more to add, my people?

EDIT: By the way, this wasn’t meant to be a Back To The Future 2 Sports Almanac ‘Ooh La La!’ post (um, if you’ve seen BTTF2 you’ll know what I mean). I mean, that created Bad Biff. I wouldn’t want to create Bad Gem, even if I did end up with my very own self-themed casino. But I do wish I hadn’t fucked with my hair. It was a really nice dark honey blonde and I’ve spent the past decade trying to get it back. And I wish I hadn’t underestimated myself as much as I did, as I worried about so many things that weren’t worth worrying about… Though maybe I had to, in order to become moi. Gah! We could talk about this forever! You know, this is kind of a stupid post. Sorry.

On…. 13,000 trailer hits

The Dating Detox trailer – made by me and a cast of friends over the Easter weekend for a budget of pretty close to nil – has reached 13,000 hits.

I hate to keep blowing the same mucky old trumpet, but just in case you’re new here (sit down! can I get you a drink?), you might like to check it out.

It’s kind of like a (very, very, very) short film: a scene from the book that I hope is both amusing / compelling / a perfect sneak peek at a few of the characters. Let me know if you like it. (Not if you hate it. It’s too late for me to change it now.) I’m in it, by the way. I’m the crying girl. We had to stick about a pound of tear gas, or whatever it was, in my eyes, before I looked even mildly upset. Apparently my tearducts are tough as nails.

Read more about the making of the trailer, and the answers to FAQs.

In other news, I sent the final copyedited version of A GIRL LIKE YOU to Harper Collins this week. I promptly collapsed with relief. (I didnt really: I’ve got a little freelance job writing about angels for an ad agency in Marylebone, which is pretty time-consuming, but at least I am very near the world’s best Topshop. Angels are the new vampires by the way. Totally.)