Monthly Archives: January 2011

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” and gave me her card.

True story.

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 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

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?

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

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 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 ( 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.

On… John Hughes music

I watched Easy A last night. Apart from being hilarious and smart, it had a kicking soundtrack of 80s songs, and footage from my favourite EVER film, Sixteen Candles.

Dang, I love that movie.

I love all John Hughes films, but Sixteen Candles is perfection. I mean, duh: I named the hero of The Dating Detox after Jake Ryan.

Jake Ryan!

I own Sixteen Candles in both DVD and VHS, even though I haven’t owned a VHS machine since 2002. I also have the CD soundtrack, though – and this is a key anorak moment – I couldn’t actually track it down so I put it together myself, in 2004, and made a proper cover to go with it. I use lines from the film in everyday life, as though everyone would know them. Like ‘no, he’s not retarded’ and ‘I loathe the bus’. Sure, most people probably think I am un peu strange, but just saying whatever you think is funny is like throwing an in-joke at the universe and waiting to see what it throws back. Once I was in a work meeting, and someone said ‘I’ve got déjà vu’ and I said ‘Have we not met before, monsieur?’ under my breath, and the guy across from me shouted ‘TOP SECRET! ARHHHH! BEST FILM EVER!’ He was so excited, I thought he might cry. Anyway. I digress.

I wonder if perhaps my books have an eerie amount in common with Sixteen Candles. There’s no real bad guy and the plot relies on a lot of silly dialogue and coincidence. There tends to be a crazy party or two and there’s some lying-in-bed-pining scenes. Hmm.

I even edited – probably about edit six, aka the ‘sprinkles on the icing’ edit – both the last scenes to my books listening to the last scene song from Sixteen Candles, which is the best last-scene song, ever, ever ever. I figure if that song works when the hero and heroine are finally getting their shit together, I’m hitting the right tone.

Let’s do a test: read the last few pages of either book while listening to this, and see if you think it works.


Hmm. Now I’m really in a John Hughes mood. So here, in no particular order, are some of my favourite songs from the John Hughes milieu.

Some Kind Of Wonderful. Eric Stoltz, you delicious man. Contains the immortal line ‘you mess with the bull, you get the horns’, which is appropriate in just about any situation where you don’t know what else to say. And has the sexiest kiss in any John Hughes film, between Mary Stuart Masterson and Eric. When he kneads her denim bermuda shorts with his grease-stained fingers! Argh! I knew what moment to forward the video to in order to watch that scene. I was that kind of 13-year-old. (Okay 23-year-old, whatever.) Anyway, it’s She Loves Me by Stephen Duffy.


I don’t know why that clip has subtitles. Sorry. I can’t find another decent one.

Pretty In Pink. If You Leave by OMD. Again, a last scene song. Again, perfection.


How adorable is Duckie?! And now he’s in the worst TV show ever. With Charlie Sheen. Ew. I hope he uses a lot of hand sanitizer after a day on set.

Sixteen Candles, again. The Divynyls. Ring Me Up. When she ALMOST speaks to him in the gym locker room after the dance! And he opens his mouth to speak to her, but she turns away! The horror! The pining! Argh. Great for when you’re marching to the tube (bus/tram/subway/MTR/metro/free bike/public transport of choice) and in a ballsy mood. One of my all-time favourite songs.


Uncle Buck: the unappreciated fat kid in the John Hughes family. “Is it the hat? This hat angers a lot of people.” Tweedle Dee by LaVern Baker. It also, by the way, has Young MC’s Bust A Move during a teen party (which is a strange, dark, late-80s teen party, rather than one of the crazy pastel mid-80s teen parties of Sixteen Candles, Pretty In Pink, etc). Bust A Move is one of those songs that I learned every word to by pausing the tape and writing them down in about 1990. (Geek alert.)

I can’t find a decent clip of either of those songs in Uncle Buck, so instead I give you the song Wild Thing by Tone Loc (which is an AWESOME song that I play at every party I go to, sometimes even if they ask me not to) and the scene where he goes bananas at the principal. It’s so awesome, I dare you to watch it without grinning…


Ferris Buellers Day Off. Danke Shoen by Wayne Newton. Now, another anecdote about me, because – hey! that’s the beauty of a blog, sugarnuts – I wanted to find this song so much in 1997, when I was at university, that I wrote down the name of the song and entertainer from the credits at the end of the video, then went to several music shops till I found one that would order a Wayne Newton Best Of CD for me. God, life was harder before the internet.


I won’t go through all the John Hughes movies: these are just a few highlights. And I’d like to widen the post to include the best songs from other great 80s favourites, including St Elmo’s Fire, which I watched aboout a 150 times one university holidays, and Mannequin and Overboard, but we’d be here all day.

This is off-topic, but this John Hughes mashup goes so perfectly with Phoenix’s song that it has to be shared. Enjoy.


PS: Happy New Year.