Monthly Archives: September 2012

On… naming

I HATE naming. Those of you who have known me a while already know this.

I’m not very good at it, and I tend to change my characters’ names constantly throughout the writing process till I land on one that works.

Recently I realised that I’d called a dude in one of my manuscripts Ali, without even thinking for a second about the fact that one of my best friends from college, a girl, is called Ali, and I had to go back and change it.

So I thought perhaps we could go through the process of who I named and how I named them, if you’re interested in this sort of thing.
Let’s start with The Dating Detox.

SASS. This is another of my college friends. I only gave the character in The Dating Detox a name at the eleventh hour and it’s just a fucking cool name, non? I asked permission, and she didn’t mind, lucky for me.

JAKE. After Jake Ryan. In Sixteen Candles. Obviouslah.

RICK. Originally he was called JJ, a similar name to a particular idiot I dated in my mid-twenties. Then Leo, for a while (though thank God I didn’t stick with that as my friend Sarah’s baby boy is called Leo and it’s a gorgeous name). Then Rick, as that was the bastard ex of a friend.

BLOOMIE. I wanted a name that was an abbreviation of a surname, as my girlfriends and I call each other by our surnames a lot. I think it makes us feel like marines or something, I don’t know.

KATE. This is my middle name. I really love the names Kate and Katie. I have three girlfriends called Kate too, and I just think it’s one of the prettiest names in the history of names. It’s kind of my go-to name whenever I’m writing about a girl I like, and I have to go back afterwards and think about it properly and change it.

MITCH. Actually, he was called John for a long long time. Then someone said it was too similar to Jake and I realised, ah yes, a variety of names – the sound of them, the length of them, the number of syllables, the hardness of the consonants and the softness of the vowels – makes them easy to remember when you have a lot of characters. Boom.

Some names just plain work with whatever character you’re creating. Harriet is a good name for a really sporty, competitive girl. I watched a bit of the London Marathon once and they all have little labels on their vests, and I swear to God, all the girls were called Harriet and Rachel and all the guys were called Tim and Richard. I don’t understand the draw of doing shit like marathons at ALL by the way. They should time people to read War And Peace instead, it’d be far better for their brains and lives then running stupidly till their nipples bleed and they spontaneously poo and they nearly die. But I digress.

And now, A Girl Like You.

ABIGAIL. Again, just one of my favourite girls names. No particular reason.

PLUM. This was a name suggested by the gorgeous @larawilliamson when I was asking Twitter for help one night. Plum had previously been two characters that I’d decided to amalgamate into one, and when you do something like that I find it helps to get an entirely new name so you can give them a new personality in your head. This also helps when you’re bored with where you’re taking a character, or not sure what you’re doing with them. New name = new lease on life.

ROBERT. I don’t know where this came from. It was just always his name. When I first met Fox I thought his name was Bob, maybe it’s that. His name is actually Paul, but it was a very loud bar, and when he said ‘Paul’ in an Irish accent I thought he said Bob. I called him that for a quite a long time, and he’s still in my phone as Bob. (Gosh! I am interesting, aren’t I?)

SOPHIE Another ridiculously pretty name that I basically chose because started with a letter at the other end of the alphabet to Abigail and had a nice softness that the name ‘Plum’ doesn’t. I’ve worked with some lovely girls called Sophie. My cousin is called Sophie. It’s just sort of a win name for me.

LUKE. A nice solid name, with a sort of spikiness to the consonants.

DAVE. This was the winner of the ‘name that bastard’ online campaign thingy I did. You wouldn’t think it, but there are a LOT of bastards called Dave out there. Before this, his name was Felix, which I was aware was kind of a cheat as it’s just the sort of name that bastards in chicklit are always called. I quite like the innocuous innocence of Dave. (By the way I have several friends called Dave, I don’t think they read this blog anyway but just in case: dudes, you are not bastards.) (Or ARE you?)

VIX. I have two friends called Victoria, and they are both very cool and funny. Neither of them abbreviate their names to Vix, but I needed a really short spiky name.

And for the other characters… I just really like the names Charlotte, Bella and Henry, I don’t think there was any reason why. Particularly Henry, actually. I was gunning to call my baby Henry for a long time – Hank for short – but Fox refused. And so we chose Errol. Every now and again I think to myself ‘Fuck me, I called my kid Errol.’

My current characters in BEGINNER’S LUCK and the subsequent novels in the UNION STREET series are called:

PIA. I went to school with a girl called Pia in Hong Kong, though she spelled it Piya, and it’s just a lovely name. Nice and short, too. I think it means ‘darling’.

MADELEINE. I needed a really long name that wasn’t flowery the way so many long names are.

JULIA. A sort of bossy, solid name. Another marathon runner’s name.

ANGIE. Whenever I hear the name Angie I think of angels.

COCO. I love this name, so cute and eclectic. It’s not after Coco Chanel, who everyone should just stop fucking obsessing about, because she was a horrible old Nazi peasant with an eating disorder.

But for more on those characters, you’ll have to wait just a leeeeetle while longer…

PS Love love loved this from Rinniez – and hell to the yes, I’m going to put her in a book. Sounds like just my kind of girl. x

On… a wish list

My friend Caroline is scared of velvet. No, really, I’m serious, she has a phobia. Even saying the word ‘velvet’ makes her start hyperventilating and clutching at her neck. It’s hilarious, obviously, but it honestly upsets her, so I’ve never even entertained the idea of wearing the velvet shorts and blazers that have been around the last year or two.

However, since we live in different countries now, I think I could get away with these Klaude Stud slippers from Topshop. (Caroline is going to FREAK OUT if she reads this. Very Scottish accent: “I’m not going to come and see you in New York if you get them Gemma!” Yes you are Caroline. Come for New Year’s Eve. Screw Hogmanay.)

I am dying to get this eyeshadow palette from NARS. No, I don’t need it. That is not the point. (That is NEVER the point.)

I love COS. It’s H&M;’s big sister, but where H&M; is increasingly hookertastic, COS is increasingly awesome, and everything that it stocks is just my style. Lovelovelove. Anyway, they are not in NYC. I do not know why the hell they are not in NYC, it’s goddamn ridiculous, but they are not. They are, however, all over Europe and even in Hong Kong. So if I REALLY love something I get it delivered to my mother in HK or girlfriends in London and Dublin. (Clothes addiction combined with a touch of OCD makes you ingenious at this sort of thing. I could source anything from anywhere. If this was 1942 I would be the goddamn black market queen.) And this is the perfect example of Cos perfection.

I’ve never worn Uggs-style boots. I think they’re, hmm, how can I put this… fucking revolting. (And this made me laugh so much, in case you missed it.) But I can’t decide if it would be acceptable to wear these boots from Mou, JUST INSIDE, I promise, because I get really cold feet in winter, and it would be easier than keeping track of dozens of thermal socks. Thermal socks are also the size of soccer balls when they’re folded, which takes up too much room in the drawer, which really gets on my tits. They’re wayyy more than I’d usually spend on, essentially, slippers, but when you consider that I’m a writer and at home 23hrs a day, they make more sense, right? And these are a teeny bit more chic than Uggs, aren’t they?

Confession: I already bought this lipstick.

It’s Chanel Culte, and it’s like no lipstick shade I’ve ever seen – sort of super-sophisticated purply/browny/rose, ultra-moisturising but matte. It makes your skin glowy and your eyes clear and boosts your brain power by 12.5 per cent. It reminds me of Linda Evangelista in the 90s, and early Bobbi Brown and Kevyn Aucoin features in Allure magazine, and everything that made me love make-up. Oh, and it’s just the perfect shade for the autumn / fall / whatever you want to call it. I’m wearing it to a wedding in Ireland in a couple of weeks. Will report back on how it performs. (Oh, of course I won’t, who am I kidding, that is a big fat lie. This isn’t a beauty blog and you don’t care that much, do you? But I will be wearing it. That much is true.)

NARS Exhibit A blush. BEAR WITH ME. I know. I know. It looks like a Kabuki drag queen’s idea of Sunday best. And it is the most pigmented blush in the history of blushes. But this is what you must do: take a big blush brush, a teeeeeeny tiny swish (one, no more than one) of it, then swirl the brush on the back of your hand (to get rid of excess) and then splodge it – GENTLY! – on your cheek. Once. Only once. Voila: Snow White cheeks. I have (dramatic and incredibly superficial statement incoming) never seen anything like it. Best blush ever.

And lastly. After decades of Converse dedication, I growned-up myself to Superga this summer. I was pronouncing it SOOO-per-gah. Then yesterday my super-stylish friend Amy, who works in fashion, told me that her young, cool colleagues told her it’s pronounced ‘Sah-pur-GAAH’. I laughed my ass off. Can anyone confirm if this is true?

On… James Day

About three months ago I was walking on E1st and saw a baby boy of about two years old sitting on a stoop with his grandfather.
He reminded me of my baby Errol, but he was tiny and frail, and had tubes coming out of his nose attached to a pack a dolls pram that he was practising pushing around. I started talking to them (I’m that kind of person) and found out that they were locked out of their house and waiting for the keys, that the baby’s name is James and that he has cancer. James was incredibly sweet, with these huge, calm eyes, and soft wispy hair. I asked if he’d like to do a playdate with Errol at Washington Square Park one day, but his grandfather said he couldn’t do playdates with other babies because chemo gives him such a compromised immune system.

Naturally I cried for about three hours afterwards. And have thought of him so often since then. (Again, I’m that kind of person.)

I recently found out more about James. Shortly before he turned two this spring, he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma. He’s undergoing intense chemo and radiation therapy. His treatments are going well, but even with health insurance, the cost of saving James life could put his parents into serious debt for many years. The unfairness of this, on top of everything else they are going through right now, blows me away.

The point of this whole blog isn’t just to make you cry, my lovely friends, the point is: we can help.

James’ friends and neighbours are holding a fundraising day to help pay for his medical treatments.

It’s called JAMES DAY and it’s being held concurrently with the Annual 1st Street Block Fair this Saturday September 22nd.It’s a family fun day, so there will be games and prizes for kids, Hula Hoop and dance performances, t-shirt decorating, face-painting, live music and a Silent Auction, and the Brooklyn-based artist, Bishop203, has designed a special t-shirt.

So if you’re in NYC, please come down. If you know anyone in NY media, anyone who can help publicise this day, please tweet and blog about it, and go to this and If you have anything you’d like to offer for Silent Auction, please email (I’ve spent the past few weeks getting things together, and asking my friends and agents and editors for help, and I can tell you that the Auction is going to ROCK.) Thank you all so much…