Author Archives: Gemma Burgess

On… emailing

Sometimes I send out an email update. It is an extremely exclusive email list. If you’d like to receive it, just email me with ‘Email me!’ in the title. Yep, that’s the admissions process.
Warning: it is not, ever, as monthly as I say it will be, and it is usually a lot of drivel. But it’s charming drivel. Maybe. Or maybe it’s not. I don’t know. (Bites finger, looks confused.)

This was the email I sent out this week:

Bonjour, mes petites!

That’s totes French, ladykats. (I am dangerously close to saying ‘totes’ without irony. And how deeply typical of me to start an email to you all and have already segued into a totally pointless aside. Sometimes I don’t know how to end parentheses. I get all carried away with the talking-behind-my-hand mystery of it all. Okay. Enough already. Hanging up…. Now. No, I really am. Now.) (Psych! No, okay, I really am.)

This is just a quick note as I’m on the home stretch to finish the second book in my upcoming book series. The first two books in the series will be published by St Martins Press in 2013. You probably know it as Union Street, and you might know we’ve been thinking about alternative titles for a while. (God, I hate thinking of titles almost more than names. Rick in The Dating Detox was called JJ for a long time, then Leo, and then finally Rick. Dave was called Felix and then James and then finally Dave. Anyway, I digress. Again.)

BUT! I am 95% sure that we’ll call it The Best Of Anything. I LOVE that title. It’s a play on The Best Of Everything by Rona Jaffe, one of the books that inspired me to start the series (it’s about young women working in New York in the 50s – think Mad Men, but set in publishing, it’s wonderful). I’ll announce it formally on the ol’ blog when it’s certain, but that’s what we’re thinking. (Everyone else will now probably want to change to something like Sextards! And you’ll be like, goddamnit, Gemma is a liar.)

Apart from writing, I’ve been travelling, doing family stuff and, erm, writing more… books and screenplays and magazine articles, oh my. That’s seriously about it. So if you emailed me lately and I haven’t replied yet, I promise my reply is coming. I’ve just gotta bash out the last 15,000 words of the second book in the series, and do one more draft of this other thing and maybe tweak one other thing. And then it’s emailgasms all round, baby. (Ew.)

God, I’m boring. So let’s talk about something else. What TV are you watching lately? I wake at 4am or 5am to write (I know, but trust me, it actually works) so come 8pm I’m toast and can no longer type. At that point, even reading is too hard. But television is my beheffeff.
So Fox and I have just started watching Revenge, which is basically The Count Of Monte Cristo with a female protagonist and set in the Hamptons. And it is AWESOME. Fox keeps saying ‘this is NOT awesome’ and then I start watching the next episode without him and he gets all antsy. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Mad Men, True Blood, Community, Bored to Death, The Good Wife, New Girl (love love love this show the most, I want to marry it and have its Schmidtty little babies)… these are my usual suspects. I want to watch the new Mandy Kaling show. I like the cut of her jib. I want to watch Smash, too. I avoided it as it sounded too Glee-like, but everyone says it’s funny as hell. I watched Glee for one season, loved it, tuned back in for the first episode of the second season and said ‘was this show always so [DELETED] lame?’ (See what I did there? I censored my own swearword. Just in case it gets you into trouble if you gave me your work email. That’s just the kind of gal I am.)

So there we have it, folks. A long email, basically about television. 
Gem x

On… good dirty books

Everyone is talking about Fifty Shades of Fucking Grey (that was the original title, you know).
I only read the first chapter. I couldn’t bear to continue, it’s so poorly written and edited. The dialogue is pathetic.  The girl is such a loser. I’m not surprised that the dude wants to beat her senseless, after just a few pages I wanted to give her a good slap, too.
But like I said, everyone is talking about it. Everyone is reading it. So the reason must be that everyone is after a bit of woo-woo, and by ‘woo-woo’ I mean ‘banging’. Hey! No judgments here. We’ve all got fun bits, we may as well play with them.
After thinking about it, I decided that the people who are wriggling with delight at the descriptions of banging in FSOFG have never read any other dirty books. Ever. Because there’s a lot of them out there, dudes, and just about all of them are better than that. Even the shit is better than that.

Fanny Hill aka Memoirs Of A Woman Of Pleasure. Think Jane Austen meets Fifty Shades Of Grey. A story about a girl who accidentally becomes a prostitute and all the sexcapades she gets up to. 

Judith Krantz. I was reading Jude, as I call her, long before I even had my first kiss, which is kind of fucked up now that I think about it. But damn, she writes a good sex scene. Try Princess Daisy, or Scruples. You can get all of these in the US, but for some reason they’re out of print in the UK – probably because the UK publishing industry has, by all accounts, decided to stop actually publishing books apart from FSOFG – but the wondrous Book Depository has the US editions and will deliver worldwide for free.
Shirley Conran. Lace. I don’t remember much about this book, I have a feeling it’s terrible. But I remember some deeply unhygienic and kinky shit with a goldfish.

The StoryOf O. Very famous, very weird book. It all gets a bit intense and if someone ever tried those moves with me they’d get a swift kick to the nuts, but everyone else in the world is clearly gagging to get beaten senseless by a stalker billionaire. So what the fuck do I know.

Jilly Cooper writes very funny sex scenes. Lines like ‘he dived into her bush as joyfully as an otter into a garden stream’ come to mind. (Bush! Awesome word.) Funny as hell, but probably won’t juice your orange, if you know what I mean. You should read Riders if you feel like laughing out loud.
And no, I don’t write sex scenes. It’s just not my bag, baby. If I did, I’d probably write something like ‘his cock was so angry I felt like giving it a cuddle and a cup of tea before continuing’ or ‘I came like a train, annoyingly late and not without a fair amount of stop-and-starts along the way’ or something like that.  And that wouldn’t fry anyone’s burger, now, would it?
Anyone got any other recommendations?

EDIT: This is the funniest thing I have read in a long, long time. Thank you Lisa for sending it to me…


On… summer in France

So, at the end of June we spent a week in Barcelona for a family wedding. Wow.  I heart that city. Why the sweet hell didn’t I go there before I got hitched and knocked up and had a delicious-but-demanding baby in tow? I had a blast. That city was made to lose 48 hours in.
Then we drove to France, to Autignac, yes, village in A Girl Like You, and also, yes, the village my parents have a place in real life. (I used a fake village for the first few drafts, then I thought, fuck it, I’m thinking of Autignac, may as well be honest.)
So far, so classic family holiday…. the day starts with croissants and ends with rose, in between we take little trips to nearby towns and lovely lazy lunches. Well, I am not having that much rose, alas. I am drinking a lot of coffee and writing writing writing every moment the baby is sleeping. (No, writers don’t really get vacations. Someone once described it as constant homework, a nagging I-Should-Be-Writing feeling. One day I will take a month off. Maybe.)

My parents are besotted with Errol. First grandchild syndrome. They may try to get him bronzed. Errol ate anchovies for the first time and has never loved anything so much. Foxy was loudly horrified. (Foxy is generally loud, by the way. We have been asked to keep it down in restaurants all over the world. For a long time he convinced me that he was only loud because he was partially deaf in one ear, but he’s not. He’s just from a big family and knows how to get attention: be the loudest. I find a gentle ‘inside voices, darling’ helps. It’s so deliciously patronizing, too.)

What else have I done? I cried about Nora Ephron, then told myself I had no right to be so upset as I didn’t even know her, and then cried again anyway. I went through all my childhood books and picked out my favourites to keep forever. (Anne Of Green  Gables, comment je t’aime.) I contemplated cutting my hair, which is insanely stupidly long at the moment, but then I decided to just put it in braids after the shower and enjoy a sort of Splash-Daryl-Hannah thing the rest of the time. I cut the sleeves off all my tshirts and flannel shirts and am utterly delighted with the results. There’s a touch of The Outsiders about it, a touch of Rob Lowe in St Elmo’s Fire, and I get to show off my baby-honed guns. (You want guns, my friends, pick up and put down a 10-kg 10-month-old baby eighty times a day. Incidentally, why did I waste so much time at the gym in my 20s? I swear it actually made me fatter as I was just so damn hungry all the time.) 

Rob Lowe in St Elmo’s Fire. By the way I have watched this film about 80 times.

The Outsiders poster. Look at Tom Cruise trying to buff his guns. Hah. Dork.

Let’s see, what else… I just finished The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John LeCarre. I am totally digging the whole spy thang right now. I also just read Restless by WilliamBoyd and The Expats by Chris Pavone. I decided to go through a spy phase, as it’s so different to anything I would ever write and I thought it might teach me a bit about plotting, but I think I might be already over it. They were great books, particularly the LeCarre, they just lacked a certain something that I like in my novels… (If you have a favourite spy novel, by the way, please let me know. I’m still in the market for them.) Right now I’m reading The Star Machine by Jeanine Basinger, because I like me some Old Hollywood stories and I love her informal, witty tone of voice. And I’m about to start Paris In Love by Eloisa James which looks delicious. (All of those links take you to the Book Depository, by the way, a website that sends books anywhere in the world for free. It rocks. And no, I’m not being paid by them, I’m just tired of paying exorbitant delivery fees for things. Although, while we’re on the subject, if anyone wants to pay me to mention their brand in my books or blog, I’m down with that. Yes. I am a total whore.)

ANYWAY. I could blather on for hours like this, my friends, but I am sure you have better things to do. I know I should pick a topic and blog on it, you know, have opinions and shit, but honestly, sometimes I’d rather just have a chat.
Here are some photos of Autignac, taken this morning as we went to get bread, croissants and coffee. Just in case you’d like to see what it looks like. (I’m a terrible photographer. Good at spelling, though.)

(Do you like the totally arty croissant? Yeah. Thought you would.)
And in case you’d like to see us, here’s Errol and Fox and me in the pool. In black and white, because we thought it looked cool.
And Errol and me, alone. Sorry for the horrific hat. I bought it from some dude on the street in New York. It rolls up flat in a little cone. It’s my grandma hat.
Read more about French pharmacy stuff here. I am currently trialling a bunch of products so I will report back to you guys in a few days on more French Pharmacy Must Haves. God, I love me some French pharmacies.

PS: Edit. I read Paris In Love and my friends, I do not recommend it. The writing is fussy and self-indulgent. Every sentence is crafted to be as irritatingly long and flowery as possible. The tone of voice attempts arch and witty but is actually snide and superior. All in all, a cold book that is more in love with the idea of itself than Paris. I got to halfway through, the writer used the word ‘behoove’ and I thought ‘this is a joke’ and put it down. I don’t normally post negative reviews of books, as I know that it is so upsetting to the writer. But this book has had so many bizarre rave reviews, and this woman has such a high opinion of herself, that my little narky one won’t matter.

On… speeddatenighting

So, Fox and I stole Tuesday afternoon last week.
It was our last week in New York before a summer break in Europe. Fox had been travelling a lot, I’d been writing a lot, and between friends and work and Errol, we almost never got time alone that wasn’t about the baby, general life admin and planning, or sleep. We didn’t want a late night, or a big extravaganza, or a huge ‘date night’ dinner. We didn’t want to bother with booking a babysitter or reservations or tickets or any of that. We simply wanted a teeny weeny bit of alone time, out of the house, without the baby. Just the two of us.

So we asked our lovely nanny if she’d work a little late. It would be the first time that I’d miss doing the 5.30pm Hour Of Power (dinner, bath, bottle, story, bed) in the whole ten months since Errol was born, so I was extremely excited about seeing the world at that time. (And predictably worried Errol would implode without my calming, nurturing presence. Apparently he barely noticed.)

Anyway. It was raining in Manhattan, and we almost cancelled the night. Our original plan was to walk down to Nolita (sort of a Disney Does Manhattan type area), have a drink in the Spring Lounge or Fonda Nolita, grab a bite in Cafe Gitane or Cafe Habana, and generally meander and flaneur and window-shop and people-watch. But, given the rain, that was out.  

“What shall we do?” said Fox.

We stared at each other for a long moment.


At 5pm I closed my laptop. We didn’t bother to change or dress up. We kissed Errol goodbye, left probably over-specific Hour Of Power instructions, and got a taxi uptown.  

Looking out the window of the taxi at early-evening Manhattan, I got a delicious and unexpected tingle of excitement in my stomach. There’s an electricity in the air between 5pm and 8pm in any big city, and most of all New York. The night is very, very young. Everyone is finishing work and shaking off the day, everyone is planning dates or dinners or drinks or blissful nights at home alone with the box set of True Blood. In other words, everyone has something fun ahead of them, time that’s theirs and theirs alone.

And so did we.

PJ Clarke’sis the place we spent the day after our wedding two years ago. (Our friends and family took over the place from midday to midnight. It was raucous.) So, we took a seat at the bar and had a couple of beers and some sliders (tiny burgers that are, for some reason, way more fun to eat than normal burgers, and dudes, I like me a normal burger).

Then I had a martini, because I really like them, even though they are a starspangled rocketship of booze that my system is in no shape to process these days. Then we shared a Reuben sandwich. Because we like them, too. And talked and talked and talked.

Then we went to McSorleys, which is a famous old Irish bar in Manhattan.

McSorleys serves light beer and dark beer, and that’s it. It prides itself on being old school, and dude, it is. Sawdust on the floor, the whole bit. This is more of a Fox joint than a Gem joint, but I gamely soldiered on. (I know. I’m such a trooper.)

Then – it was just past 7pm by now – the rain was lessening, or maybe we were too tipsy to really notice is. So we skipped down to Whiskey Town.
Whiskey Town is just the kind of bar I’d like to lose an afternoon in, if I was still in the business of losing afternoons in bars. (Damn, that was a good business.) Gently dilapidated interior, cool but comfortable, chatty (but not overchatty) bartender, drinks that give you a gentle punch, and microwave popcorn. I was pretty goddamn tipsy by now so apparently I was slapping the bar in delight at my own wit a lot. (One of my more charming traits.) Just a really goddamn nice bar.

We rolled home at 8pm, relieved our lovely nanny so she could go home, checked on the sleeping baby and agreed we were extremely clever and talented for making such a perfect child, watched some Family Guy, collapsed asleep by 10pm and woke without a hangover. It was like speeddating, but in a slightly more boring married way. Speeddatenighting.

I highly recommend it.

On… Tatler and summer

Pick up Tatler this month to read an article by moi about the joys of stealing from your baby!

This is what the cover looks like. Run, run, run and get it, my lovelies. The perfect summer magazine.  For realsies.

In other news, I’m about to go en vacances. High fives all round. Heading to a wedding in Barcelona later this week, then to France with my folks and Fox and Errol. I will still be working because, hey, that’s just how I roll. Also because I have deadlines. And actually, I’m not afraid to admit it: I love writing, dudes. It’s one of the best things in my life. Taking a break from it makes me sad. So I never do. And I’ve nearly finished the second book in the series… (I know it’s a long time coming – but we are lauching them both close together so you don’t have to wait! Thank you for your patience, dudes. Really, really, thank you.)

Anyway, I need your help… what are the top three things I should do in Barcelona?  

I have never been, and know almost nothing about it apart from the whole Gaudi thing, La Rambla, the fact that everyone sleeps in the afternoon and parties all night. Oh, and I think there’s a beach, but I could be wrong about that.
Bear in mind that I am quite a lazy tourist and need a lot of pitstops and coffee breaks, and am only really interested in eating, drinking, and a sprinkle – just a sprinkle – of art and history. Oh, and I am almost never in the mood to walk too far. Or up more than ten steps at a time. No, really, I’m totally serious. That whole Montmartre thing in Paris? Could be a myth for all I know. I will never find out because of the whole endless stairway situation.

Below: the mythical Montmartre in Paris. God, I get tired just looking at that photo. Let’s sit down and have a drink.


On… Things I Like Right Now

Sea Salt Soap – the divine Lydia sent me a great stack of these as an early birthday present and I ADORE them. Anything with sea salt is pretty much guaranteed to be on my ‘fuck, yeah’ list.

(Image via @thesocialvixen)

Salty Caramel icecream from Steve’s Ice Cream. See above re: sea salt.

Per-Fekt Skin Perfection Gel in Luminous.
Let’s ignore the ridiculous brand name, shall we? This is like being airbrushed. By God.
In the UK you can buy it here.

Barleans Greens. If you drink this once a day you never have to eat a fruit or a vegetable again.

(Okay, that is a lie.)

These old man pyjamas. Fox, if you are reading this, I would like these for my birthday.

(Actually, can someone please forward this to him? Thank you.)

The Darlings by Cristina Alger. A Madoff-inspired tale with brains, wit and compassion. This book continually surprised and charmed me. Loved it. Just a damn good book.

This bikini
. Almost everything that Nasty Gal makes is too slutty-hipster for me, but I adore it anyway. Actually, Fox, can I have this bikini for my birthday too, please?

Le Fashion blog. I would wear anything this chick told me to wear.

Superbus. My band du jour.

You know what I don’t like? The new Blogger interface. It just took me half an hour to make the images and text line up for this not-awfully-impressive-anyway post. Ricockulous. Am I doing something wrong? Or does anyone know if I can do back to the old way? And how are you guys, anyway?

Edit: It turns out I was using the Blogger thingummy in HTML rather than straightforward Compose. I’m just gonna bite my finger and stare into space bashfully for a while, okay?


Okay, ladykats (and gentlemankats). I need your help.
We’re trying to name my new book series. And it’s HARD.

Naming a book is like coming up with a new name for your best friend. You know your friend so well – how can you possibly pick a name that sums up everything they mean to you, so new people meeting them will think ‘ooo, great name, I bet she’s cool/funny/nice/interesting’, too?

So naming a book SERIES is twice as hard. Make that twenty. Because you can’t just describe one character, or one plot, or one theme. You need to come up with a sort of umbrella title. Like Sweet Valley High, or The Babysitter’s Club, or The Famous Five, or whatever. It has to be big, it has to encompass everything, it has to be memorable and have a little bit of magic.

Then, after you’ve named the series, you need to name the individual book titles. Which is, of course, easier – as you can use that particular book’s plot as a jumping off point. So I’m not too worried about them.

Okay, shall I tell you a little about it?

The basics: It’s a series about five best friends sharing a house as they navigate their early 20s. They’re starting adult life, figuring out what they want to do and how they’re going to do it, having relationship meltdowns, throwing parties, getting drunk, making mistakes, you know. All the good stuff. (And yah, I know about the damn HBO series GIRLS. I first pitched this series idea two years ago*, goddamnit, way before that idea was a twinkle in Lena Dunham’s eye. And mine is way funnier. Way. Funnier.)

The personality: It’s an action-packed wild ride of new adulthood, starring girls you’d want to have a drink with, dudes you want to slap or salivate over, and the kind of storylines that make you gasp and weep and bark with laughter and above all, turn the page. (Is that overselling it? Screw it, let’s run with it.)

Each book in the series is narrated by a different character. So she’ll have her own exciting story to tell.

We’ve been calling it UNION STREET up till now because, well, we just did. But it’s not very exciting. And then for a while I wanted to call it ROOKIES, but I am the only person who is dancing to that particular tune, which is never a good sign. I’m also toying with my original title for it, which was TWENTYSOMETHINGS, what do you think of that? And THE BEST OF ANYTHING, which is a play on THE BEST OF EVERYTHING, which I have loved forever. I fear none of them have that zingthwack! that happens when you hear the right title. Like A GIRL LIKE YOU. That title had an immediate zingthwack! (THE DATING DETOX, not so much. But that’s another story.)

Any ideas, dearest readers?

*It takes a long time to launch a book series. A VERY LONG TIME. Planning and writing it is just the half of it. So, thank you for your patience, my loves, I have been working my ass off, and soon I will have SO MANY books for you to read that you’ll be sick to death of me. In a good way.