mardi 31 décembre 2013


2013 has been the best and worst year of my life.  'Rollercoaster' is not only a dreadful cliche, but also doesn't even begin to cover it.

To the forefront has been some terrible family anguish that at times I honestly didn't think we would make it through.

But as well as that...  I bought my first house.  I published a novel and a novella.  I am ending the year feeling closer than ever to the friends and family I still have left.

I got a tattoo.  I went to Istanbul, my new favourite place in the world.

I went to see a shaman.

I went mental and came out the other side.

I went to Portugal and to Edinburgh and Lindisfarne.

Things are better now than they were in January.  Or February, or March.

I am looking forward to 2014.

(Not really a plug, but I would like to say that I also had the great privilege of writing a bit about all of this for my very favourite Elle magazine, in their January issue - a lovely start to 2014.)

mardi 24 décembre 2013


I am thinking in advance about New Year's Resolutions.

I am a fan of anything that lets you imagine that you can reinvent yourself.  I love being full of good intentions.  As ever, 'the triumph of hope over experience' is a great thing.

Here are mine:

  • See more of the faraway friends who I truly love.  This one is always top of the list, to be honest, but it can't hurt to keep trying.
  • Fitness drive in January that will hopefully last into the year - I've been feeling the need to step and/or shake things up.
  • Stop hate-looking at the internet.  This is a big one that has been playing on my mind.  I'm going to attempt to give up the Mail Online sidebar of shame.  I'm going to stop looking at oh-so-perfect blogs by slightly annoying girls who make me scowl.
  • This time next year, my house will be (if not completed) then at least getting there.  It will be a beautiful place to live.  We will thus have a 'proper' grown up Christmas, with decorations and cosy gatherings.  I will also hopefully have a cat.

lundi 16 décembre 2013


Hello, friends.  I have been pretty quiet on the social networkz etc of late.

I have been insanely busy with various things, mostly living in a building site and laid low with a particularly nasty cold (sounds feeble, I know, but it turns out a cold can be bad enough to knock you out for the best part of a week).

I am sort of looking forward to Christmas, in my usual (ambivalent, disorganised) way.  I am mostly looking forward to having a couple of solo days off between Christmas and new year, in which I intend to potter, strip some wallpaper, do some painting (walls, not, like, watercolours), to a soundtrack of Absolute 80s on my digital radio, and preferably with a glass of whisky and a Chocolate Orange to hand at all times.

It's not even that close to Christmas yet, and already there seem to be mince pies happening every day and booze every night.  Funny, I didn't like mince pies as a child but now I am rather partial to them.  Also, I have recently developed anew fondness for sherry (there was nothing else to drink in the house, and this turned out to be a happy accident).  Just the latest step along the path to Becoming My Grandmother.  No bad thing.

Hope you're all enjoying December and possibly a Christmas jumper.

jeudi 12 décembre 2013


This is such a weird thing for me to have become obsessed with lately.  Do you remember the TV programme 'Gladiators' from the early 90s?  When I was a child, I loved it; it was the cornerstone of my Saturday night viewing schedule.  My favourite gladiator was Jet, as she was so pretty and could do this cool thing where she pulled her leg all the way up to her face.  I imagine that she was many dads' favourite for not dissimilar reasons.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, my mum and I both had horrendous Sunday morning hangovers.  Lying in bed with cups of coffee and a small dog between us, we happened upon a 'Gladiators' rerun on some obscure cable channel.  And it was great!  It perked us right up.

My (very weird) love for the gladiators is renewed - I have been looking up classic episodes online and finding out obscure facts about my favourite.  Jet is now a psychologist, BTW.  These days my favourite is Saracen, as I think he has a kind face for such a mountain of testosterone; he is now a fireman, apparently.

Seriously, it's worth a watch or a re-watch.  Such fun!

lundi 9 décembre 2013

Barefoot in the Park

This was my grandpa's favourite film.  It is also one of my favourites.

I hadn't watched it in a while, but whilst writing and generally pottering about, I have watched it the last  two nights in a row.  That probably sounds weird, but I do this a lot.  I don't like to write in silence and it's comforting to have something I know on in the background - if something feels like the right rhythm, I sometimes watch it again and again.

I'm not always a big fan of Robert Redford, but he's perfect in this.  Not as perfect as Jane Fonda, who is a delight and I could watch her all day long.

I also wish I had a neighbour like Mr Velasquo - what fun that would be.  Oh, to go on the ferry to Staten Island to see a belly dancer and drink cocktails that will mean I can't make a fist for a week.

jeudi 5 décembre 2013


Yesterday was such a lovely day.

After a walk on the beach and an excellent breakfast, I headed (with a lovely gang in tow) to Brighton Flea Market - my current favourite junk shop, at the top of St James's Street; do check it out if you're ever in my neighbourhood.

Amid the taxidermy, church artefacts and an amazing plaster dog that Jack wanted to buy, we found the perfect mirror.  I've been looking for a mirror for my sitting room for ages, with quite specific requirements - art deco, the type with bevelled edges that hangs from a chain.  It's been a lengthy process, as they've all been either not quite right or wildly expensive.  Anyway, there it was - just what I've been looking for, hanging in a dusty corner behind a pillar and only £18.

For good measure, I also bought a little blue and white French 'a vendre' (for sale) sign, because I liked the look of it.  It is currently hanging on my bathroom door for no good reason.

We then hauled our spoils to Metrodeco, a tea house where I have been meaning to go for ages.  There were exciting teas (and tea cocktails, which I did not try but intend to) and really good cakes.  Plus, all the antiques in there are for sale.

We headed home for Sunday dinner and Poirot, and I had a glass of ale in the bath.  Whenever I look at my new mirror hanging over the mantelpiece I can remember a lovely winter seaside day.

lundi 2 décembre 2013

A Literal Eclipse of the Heart

Have you all seen this?  My friend Chad showed it to me and I laughed like a drain.

I love this song, and I don't think I ever even realised that the original video was so gloriously, bonkers-ly fucked up.

mercredi 27 novembre 2013

Eight years by the sea...

I am crap at remembering dates and anniversaries.  However, it is at this time of year when I usually remember that I moved to Brighton somewhere around the end of November.

Walking up St James's Street with my friend Jack last Sunday, we walked past the B&B where we stayed for two weeks when we first arrived here off the train from Victoria, before our flat was ready.  Those were good times - there was a telly in our tiny top-floor room; the place was run by the lovely Paul and Sean, who gave us extra breakfast and a motivational speech every morning.  I arrived - technically unemployed and homeless - on a Sunday night; by the Monday afternoon I had a job, which I am sure was due to this extra hash brown and enthusiasm.

That was eight years ago.  Since then, I have lived in three Brighton flats.

A crazy top-floor flat in a historic building in Market Street, the middle of the south Lanes: where a friend slept on the sofa for over a year; we had cheap pizzas from the restaurant over the road for dinner nearly every night and then had an impromptu street party after we all watched Italy win the World Cup together; the off-licence across the square did a special deal of two bottles of terrible red wine for £5...  I wrote my first full-length novel - the one that got me an agent - sitting at that kitchen table at night and smoking a zillion fags.

Then we moved ten minutes' walk up the steep hill to Albert Road in Seven Dials.  We rented a ground-floor Victorian flat with a tiny patio from a friend of mine, which was cosy and lovely.  I wrote like a maniac in that flat.  We became friends with people who lived in our road, and everyone in the amazing local shop.  I baked a lot of cakes in that tiny galley kitchen, feeling very grown-up.  I still also drank a lot of red wine and smoked a lot of fags on that back patio.

When it was time to move, we didn't want to go too far.  We were supposed to stay at Albert Road for a year, and ended up staying for four and a half.  So, we moved to Buckingham Road - a new address but technically about seven doors down the road.  We were now even closer to our favourite corner shop.  We could see the old flat from the new one.  This was helped by our vantage point from the high-up third floor; we called that place 'the garret'.  It was a lovely flat, with a weird layout and a tiny kitchen that reminded me of Paris.  It got really good light and it gave me my first-ever view of the sea, if you stuck your head out of the bedroom window/fire escape.  It was a great flat for writing in.  However, we heard our downstairs neighbour making weird sex noises pretty much every night just as we were sitting down to dinner.

So... nearly a year ago (in late January) we moved to a tiny little house on the other side of town.  The first time I've lived in a house (with stairs, and my own front door!) in over a decade and the first place I have ever 'owned'.  I have roots in Brighton now.  At the moment, at least, I feel like I hope they carry me out of my house in a box in approximately sixty or so years.  Incidentally, my next door neighbours have actually lived in their house for sixty years - isn't that cool?

vendredi 22 novembre 2013

Some Current Faves

  • My new Isabel Marant haul - white jeans, a vest and a sweatshirt.  Swag.
  • Elizabeth Taylor - I'm more obsessed than ever (I just read 'Furious Love', which is hyperbolic and silly but worth a fun read) and have ordered her hilarious diet book 'Elizabeth Takes Off' from the depths of out-of-print online booksellers.
  • Red wine, because it's winter.
  • Making kale chips and imagining I'm Gwyneth.  You may all know by now that, like so many of the proletariat, I love imagining I'm Gwyneth.
  • Writing, writing and more writing - I really do love it so!

mardi 19 novembre 2013

Candidly Nicole

I don't mind saying I'm slightly obsessed with her.  She is hilarious and I would quite like her to be my best friend.

Most importantly, should I copy her hair cut?

samedi 16 novembre 2013

Mind the Thigh Gap

I adore Hadley Freeman.  I think she is one of our cleverest, funniest and most sensible writers.

In a recent article she wrote about the much-discussed 'thigh gap', her closing paragraph read to me like the perfect call to arms.  It is what I want to remind myself of when the images and pressures occasionally feel too much.

This is what I will be doing.

But what we – the adults who don't obsess over thigh flesh – can do is to keep reinforcing the message to young people that to be strong and healthy is a good thing and to be frail and sickly is dangerous, and that anyone who feels differently is not to be hated but to be pitied. And, most of all, we need to live by our words and set the example accordingly. Because, ultimately, a life spent measuring your thighs is a life wasted.

The full article is worth a read and can be found here.

mercredi 13 novembre 2013

Smash Mode

This video of my brilliant and crazily talented friend Jack Lucan is so awesome, I want all the world to see it!

lundi 11 novembre 2013


I am in danger of slipping into grandma-esque ‘they don’t make them like they used to’ nostalgia here.  Not that my own grandmother has ever said anything like ‘they don’t make them like they used to’ in her life; she’s pretty modern, unlike her second-eldest grandchild.

Anyway, a little while ago – as I do – I was looking up The Hotel Chelsea on Youtube.  I came upon a 1981 BBC Arena documentary about my spiritual home.  It’s very BBC and early 80s – it doesn’t tally with my own memories of the Chelsea at all – but it’s fabulous.  To me, it seems kind of sanitised, but perhaps it just captures a bygone era that I missed.  It was, after all, made in the year that I was born.  It’s still utterly brilliant – featuring Quentin Crisp, and a hilarious lunch involving Andy Warhol and William Burroughs in the style of a nature documentary.

So, this made me notice that there were a lot of Arena documentaries on Youtube, and I started watching the lot.  They are, without exception, brilliant television.  I suggest you watch them all.  I’ve been watching episodes on such varied and interesting subjects as Joe Orton, Poly Styrene and Cindy Sherman.   I also accidentally watched one on Pete Doherty, and even that was good TV.  After all, Werner Herzog called the Arena series “the oasis in the sea of insanity that is television”.

(I should probably also mention that, in general, I don’t approve of people assuming they should have free access to content [watching whole programmes on Youtube, etc.].  But I pay my licence fee – now I actually have a television – and I don’t think there’s a way of being able to pay to watch these, so I don’t see that there’s a problem.)

On a less boring note, I shall leave you with my favourite moment from the Chelsea documentary, which occurs in the pyramid on the roof…

jeudi 7 novembre 2013


I don't want to make this a forum for rants.  Not all the time.  But so many petty things are driving me completely effing crazy right now!

A brief summary as follows:
  • People on trains: if you are reasonably young, able-bodied and perfectly capable of doing so, why do you behave as though it would actually kill you to stand up for a stop or two?  Is it really more important to you to have a seat than to be a decent human being?  This makes me want to cry.  Or maim.
  • Can we please never use the word 'hubs' (as in, short for husband) ever again?  'Hubby' is bad enough, but this even worse current trend for 'hubs' makes me so murderous I can hardly see.  This is probably also the time and place to note that 'other half', as a phrase in general, makes me vomit.
  • While we're at it, Twitter, can we lay off 'tweeps' as well, please?  It makes my teeth hurt.
  • If you are aged 20 or over (and I think I'm being pretty generous here), can you please not refer to yourself as a 'girl' or 'boy'?  You are an adult.  Please refer to yourself as such.  If you are calling yourself a 'girl' when you are over the age of 30, you probably need help.
Please do feel free to disagree with me vociferously.  It also (surprise, surprise) annoys me when people do blogs and then get all offended when people comment with anything other than 'OMG, you're so fricking great, I want to be just like you'.  Not that I have ever received a comment like that, but I spend quite enough of my life trawling pointless lifestyle blogs to know how it works.

To counteract all this negativity, um...  Snoopybabe?

You're welcome, internet.

dimanche 3 novembre 2013

The 'Other' EW

I recently received an email from Eleanor Wood.  For a minute I thought this literally meant that I had received an email from myself - maybe one of those online forms you fill in and it sends you an automatic email to show you it's sent properly.  That kind of admin thing.

It turned out not to be from me.  It was, however, from a lady called Eleanor Wood - who is a writer in her early 30s and lives on the South coast of England.  Pretty spooky stuff, right?

Fortunately, the 'other' Eleanor Wood is very cool and nice, and was also mildly spooked/intrigued by this coincidence.

She stumbled upon me whilst Googling herself.  She then wrote a really interesting blog post about it and, best of all, had the good manners to get in touch with me directly.

We agreed that it's lucky we don't share a middle name or initial - at the same time, it's kind of nice to feel that, if there's another 'you' out there somewhere, I'm pleased she's doing great stuff that's a bit different from mine.

We're all unique after all.  Aren't we?

mardi 29 octobre 2013

Gemini Falling Out

Gemini Falling is out today!

Here's what you might like to know:

  • It's a novella.  This means it's really short compared to a full-length book (although it's longer than a short story).  I think it came out at around 11,000 words.
  • I really enjoyed writing it.  Part of this was related to the point above - it felt quite liberating to be able to tell a story without worrying about filling a whole book.
  • It tells the story from the point of view of Amie and Lexy, characters from my original novel Gemini Rising.  It was great to look at events from a totally different perspective - if you have read the first book, you may remember that Amie and Lexy were the supposed 'mean girls'.  They were characters that intrigued me, but it's nice to get to show them in 3D.
  • The events of Gemini Falling run parallel to the first book (i.e. they take place in the same timeframe).  A few lingering mysteries are cleared up.
  • It's basically a stand-alone title.  You don't have to have read the first book to read this novella, but you might enjoy it more if you have.
  • Although this is a totally different set-up, I was really inspired by Lauren Oliver and the different short stories and perspectives she explored around her amazing Delirium saga.
  • You can find out more (or buy it) here.

vendredi 25 octobre 2013

Project UKYA

Project UKYA is a really cool new thing.  It's kind of self explanatory - a project and website founded by the really excellent Lucy, aiming to discuss and promote YA books by UK authors (or with a UK flavour).

You can read me here talking about what I think UKYA means.  Unsurprisingly, mine is the hippie-est answer of the bunch.

mardi 22 octobre 2013


This is something I find myself asking more and more.  Mostly at work.  Occasionally about fashion.  What to cook for dinner.

Yes, I am currently slightly obsessed with Janet Street Porter.  I think she is magnificent.  Her hair!  Her voice!  Most of all, her attitude.

I have recently read her two volumes of memoir and I am honestly inspired.

‘Baggage: My Childhood’ chronicles the life and family of a girl called Janet Bull, up until the time she (spoiler alert, kind of) told her mum to fuck off and ran off with a photographer/hipster called Tim Street Porter.

I found this particularly interesting because JSP (as I like to call her) went to the same school as my mother.  Although my mum was there some years later, Janet was still legendary among the girls of Lady Margaret’s in Parsons Green.  Of course she was!

Its follow-up ‘Fall Out’ has the very intriguing subtitle ‘a memoir of friends made and friends unmade’.  As she explains in the preface, she is in the habit of culling her friends and falling out with people.  I can relate.  However, I have improved on this in recent years – I don’t lose friends or feel the need to cut them off nearly as often as I used to.  Maybe it’s just because I’m pickier these days.

Anyway, this memoir only covers the period until the early 70s – JSP’s first marriage, the start of her career, John and Yoko turning up at her first wedding (really).  So, I hope she loses friends less often these days as well.  And that she writes another volume of memoir soon.

jeudi 17 octobre 2013

Black Velvet

Here I am on Brighton beach, drinking a Black Velvet with my oysters, on a lovely day out with my mum.

I like this photograph because it reminds me of being constantly mistaken for a Turk(ess?) whilst in Istanbul, which I very much enjoyed.

dimanche 13 octobre 2013

Gemini Falling

Some actual news from ECW HQ!

I have written a novella (i.e. it's quite short) called Gemini Falling and it is going to be published by Harlequin/Carina on 29th October.

As you may have gathered from the title, it's a companion piece to my original novel, Gemini Rising.  The action runs parallel to the first book, and this time is told from the point of view of Amie and Lexy - the supposed 'mean girls' of the first story, according to Sorana.

It clears up a few lingering mysteries and further explores the theme that you can never presume to know what another person might be going through behind closed doors.  In Gemini Rising, Sorana was convinced that 'The A-Team' had it easy compared to her - but we all know that perception (particularly in teenage years?) can be a very subjective thing.  I was left fascinated by Amie and Lexy, having seen them only through Sorana's eyes before, and I loved giving them voices of their own.

In fact, I adored pretty much everything about writing Gemini Falling - to be honest, it was kind of a treat (as well as, in some ways, a challenge) to write something with a shorter wordcount than usual.  The result is kind of a snapshot but - I like to think - an illuminating one.

For a proper synopsis and a look at the gorgeous cover, you can have a look here:

mercredi 9 octobre 2013

Reading, recently.

A couple of great YA books I've read recently...

My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary by Rae Earl
I loved this - Rae and her real-life (non)adventures kind of reminded me of Caitlin Moran at her best, with a bit of Morrissey and every teenager everywhere.  So funny and poignant without being overdone.

The New Girl by Paige Harbison
I am a big fan of both Daphne Du Maurier and teenage novels, so how could I resist this modern-day boarding school retelling of Rebecca?  (Answer: I couldn't.)  There is a tiny detail at the end (I won't ruin it for you by elaborating) that made the whole book for me, updating the original story and giving a modern nod to the second 'Mrs De Winter'.  Clever.

Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas
Another one based on something I was already interested in: I have to confess to being horribly intrigued by the Meredith Kercher murder case.  Mostly just because, from pictures of her, she looked like a lovely girl I would be friends with.  And I can't get over the fact that there are so many awful mysteries that will never be solved - I don't think we will ever know what really happened.  So, this book could have seemed nasty and exploitative, but it was fascinating.  It was not only based on the one real-life murder case, but it was definitely an amalgamation of a few true-story inspirations.  And it was very, very well done.  Gripping.

dimanche 6 octobre 2013

Something's Coming Over

Everyone thinks I'm bonkers but this is my favourite-ever Madonna song and I still want to look exactly like her in this video.

jeudi 3 octobre 2013

On Being Clever

It's better to say clever things than to tell people that you're clever.

These words came into my head a while ago and, ever since, I have been trying to live by them.  Hopefully I already was.  I think it's a good motto.  I love a motto, generally.

This one applies to most things, I think.  As a basic rule, it's better to do a thing than to talk about doing a thing.  I believe a lot of people could learn from this.

mardi 1 octobre 2013

Autumn Common

If, like me, you are looking for some comfort in the autumn days - I can't recommend anything more highly than 'The Common Years' by Jilly Cooper.

Yeah, yeah - we know all about me and my love for Jilly, which you may or may not share.

This, like many of her early non-fiction works, is cosy and domestic - basically a dog-walking diary of the years she lived around Putney Common, with gossip of neighbours and notes on nature.  Being Jilly, it's also very, very funny.

It's perfect for right now - even more perfect with a whisky and a hot bath, or maybe a comfy sofa and some manner of crumble.

vendredi 27 septembre 2013


I am currently pretty fixated on (still) doing up our ramshackle little house.  I have so many ideas, only hampered by time and money!

Anyway, I'm also - not unrelatedly - currently in love with this website, Junkaholique.  It's by a jewellery designer who is fabulously named Artemis Russell - her writing, pictures, ideas and ethos are wonderful.

lundi 23 septembre 2013

You've got to get up every morning with a smile on your face

A very good song to come on the iPod shuffle on a grey Monday morning, whilst walking to the station...

jeudi 19 septembre 2013

Some Pointless Facts

·      I love skiing and ice skating but am crap at all other sports.
·      But I go running every day because I find it’s good for my brain.
·      Swimming outside is my favourite thing in the world, but I am a really slow swimmer.
·      I read about three books a week.
·      I get very grumpy if I am not well fed.
·      I have to wear glasses for watching TV and driving.
·      I did not learn to drive until I was 28 years old, and even then only in an automatic.
·      I can fit my whole fist in my mouth.
·      I am quite short: 5’4”.  (Well, technically 5’4½” but I always think people who bang on about an extra half inch must be very insecure.)
·      Thus, my nickname among some friends is ‘Pony’, which is funny because my shaman tells me that my power animal is a grey horse.
·      I invariably cry with joy at a certain point in ‘The Frog Song’ by Paul McCartney.
·      I am a Gemini.
·      I like to sing while I am cooking even though I am a very bad singer.  (My mum gets cross with me because I literally cannot do a harmony.  Incidentally I also cannot do impersonations in any way whatsoever.)
·      I enjoy good grammar and have an excellent memory.
·      My current favourite place in the world is Istanbul; I would currently most like to go to Cadaques.
·      I am not a vegetarian, even though everyone seems to think I look like one.  I fear this may be an insult.
·      I really overthink things and write too many pointless lists.

lundi 16 septembre 2013

Lover, You Should've

I'd forgotten how much I loved this song.  Obviously, I have always admired Jeff Buckley's great and rare talent, but he was never one of those ones who spoke to me above all others.  He's not on my Big List.

However, this song is.  It was a case of the right song coming to me at the right time.  Years ago, in the midst of a break-up - actually, a fairly un-traumatic one in the scheme of things - I found myself listening to this one song on a loop.  The man in question had, fittingly, introduced me to Jeff Buckley and kind of reminded me of him.  On his recommendation, I bought Grace, having previously only heard the Hallelujah cover (because Leonard Cohen is, obviously, on the Big List).

Most of the album I could take or leave, to be honest, but this one song is right up there for me.  It came on my iPod shuffle this morning and I was instantly transported - not only to a very specific time and place, but also to the compulsion to listen to this gorgeous, confusing and complicated song again and again and again.

His singing on this one track just shatters my heart into tiny pieces, even more so now that I am older.  When he laments that he's "too young to hold on - but too old to just break free and run", he would only have been 26.

"It's never over, my kingdom for a kiss upon the shoulder.
 It's never over, all my riches for her smiles when I slept so soft against her.
 It's never over, all my blood for the sweetness of her laughter.
 It's never over, she's the tear that hangs inside my soul forever..."

Now, please excuse me while I go and die.

jeudi 12 septembre 2013

Pop is a subjective term.

Writing recently about how everyone seems to say that Gemini Rising is 'weird' or 'different', when I thought that I had written a pretty normal book, I was reminded of one of my all-time favourite albums.

Now, I wouldn't dare to compare myself to PJ Harvey - god, that woman is so incredible I'm not convinced she is even human - but I was reminded of something she once said (sadly, not in person on a rooftop in Brooklyn at one in the morning...).  When she made her album Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, she set out to make a 'shiny, shimmery, pretty' pop album.  She wanted to make it as pop, as un-difficult, as she possibly could.

The result was, in my opinion, one of the top-five most beautiful albums of all time.  It's debatably her 'easiest' album, but it's still hardly easy listening.  'Pop' is a subjective term - it's certainly not pop music as a lot of people know it.  But, to her, it's her pop album.  To me, by book is very, very normal.

lundi 9 septembre 2013


It’s funny.  I’m working on a new thing and something jumped out at me just now.  In every story I’ve ever written, the main character is based on (or at least comes from some element of) myself.  You know, it’s like psychoanalysis – everyone in the dream is you.

Here’s the funny bit: they are all really different.  They are all like me, but they are all different from each other.

Probably no coincidence that I wrote a book called Gemini Rising.

jeudi 5 septembre 2013


I would just like to say: I did not set out to write a weird book.  I hope nobody does.  It sounds contrived, like when I used to wear a bindi and silver lipstick when I was 15.  I had the excuse of being 15 then, at least.

Nearly everyone who has read my book (Gemini Rising, in case you missed it) has commented on the fact that it’s ‘weird’, ‘different’, ‘like nothing else I have ever read’.  Opinion has been split – some five-star reviews saying this is a great thing and it’s like I read their (weird?) mind; quite a few three-star reviews saying it’s ‘weird’/annoying/infuriating/too slow/they don’t get it.  Then there was that one who said it was ‘shocking’ and ‘a terrible influence on teenagers’.  Also, the critical ones tend to say that the main character is unlikeable – which kind of indicates that we don’t have a lot in common, since she is pretty much based on me (or elements of me).

I don’t expect everyone to like me or everything I write.  I’m not everyone’s cup of tea; a lot of people in real life don’t like me one bit.  I suppose, when it comes down to it, I’d rather inspire a strong reaction than everyone just saying it’s ‘OK’.

I’m getting used to my work being out in the world and not caring what people think.  I’m trying and, in many ways, I’m much more relaxed about it than I ever thought I’d be.  But I never expected to be ‘weird’ – that’s been a surprise.  I thought I’d written a pretty normal book.  I honestly did.

I’m working on a new one right now, and I’m trying not to let it influence me.  If anything, I’m just working on the assumption that I probably need to embrace the weirdness rather than try to be something I’m not.  I’ll never be like you, no matter how hard I try.

Anyway, it’s none of my business what anyone thinks of me.  I put the book out there; it’s yours to decide what to do with it.

lundi 2 septembre 2013

All The Great Women

I was just thinking - for no good reason but my own amusement, as I do - how I might sum up the most inspiring women in my life in one sentence or less, based upon their best quality.  It's fun; I recommend it.  I found it hard to do on myself - I hope that's due to perspective rather than just a general lack.

Here they are.  Maybe you'll recognise yourself or someone you know.

Stronger than she will ever know or even suspect.

Trojan horse.

The actual sweetest girl that ever lived.

Wise beyond her years, but childlike in the best ways.

She once said that she would sacrifice her own happiness for mine if she could, and I believe her.

She could, literally, talk to anyone.

Just thinking about her cheers me up.

You could bet the farm on her.

She has never pitied herself for even a second, even when she would have been entitled to do so.

samedi 31 août 2013

Memory Map: Istanbul

I have only been to Istanbul once (so far) and it was only a few months ago, so I am not remotely qualified to talk about it.  However, it left an indelible impression and I have seldom, if ever, loved a place more on first visit.

I went with my best friend and we were apprehensive – we got off the plane tired and wary, managed to screw up our visas at the airport.  We had come on a whim, inspired by things we wanted to leave behind.  We felt meek, worried…

Two hours later I was speaking Turkish and we both felt more at home than we have felt anywhere else.  Istanbul is a kind city, despite it all.

Snapshots: a secret sun-drenched courtyard off the Grand Bazaar; lying naked on a hot stone at night, staring up at the stars cut into the roof of the Cemberlitas hammam, bathing in hot water and the history of thousands of women; surrounded by cats in an alleyway; sitting on the hotel roof terrace as the city wakes up around me, call to prayer ringing in my ears…

I will write about Istanbul more and I will go there again.

jeudi 29 août 2013

Poo is a personal issue.

When I was 18, and very blasé about the ways of the world, my friends and I liked to say that willingness to talk about female masturbation was ‘what separated the women from the girls’.  This was in a world *just* before Sex and the City, when most girls we knew would actually claim not to.  One of my good friends even once said that she tried it but didn’t like it, so decided never to do it again.  (Also, I should probably mention that I went to an all-girls' Catholic school.)

Now I genuinely believe the same theory applies to pooing in a public toilet.  It’s (um, obviously) less sexy so way more telling.  Why should you be embarrassed about someone hearing or smelling what you are doing, in a room that has been designed for that very purpose?

That’s what I’m thinking today.  That is all.  I never claimed to be, like, a Nora Ephron-standard essayist.

lundi 26 août 2013

Abandoning hope can be a good thing.

So, for the last few months I’ve been working on (and off, mostly) a new manuscript.  I wrote most of it in one manic burst during a sleepless fortnight or so in February; since then I’ve been mucking about with it, tinkering, changing, adding little, debating the ending/the whole format, getting nowhere fast; a couple of weeks ago I went through it and changed the tense of the entire bloody thing.

I emailed my agent in the first wave of excitement saying that I’d send it over to her soon.  Then many emails followed saying ‘it’s not ready yet/I’m not actually sure about this/I think it might be the most boring book in the world’.  Reading them back now, they become progressively more disheartened every time.

Today I decided to stop working on it and do something else.  Maybe for good.  Maybe I’ll come back to it; I think probably not.  I’ve spent today working on a new project instead and made more progress than I have in the past three months.

I’m actually excited about this decision.  It’s like dumping a useless but really pretty boyfriend.  This manuscript had some personal stuff in and also a genius title, so I stuck with it for probably longer than I should have.  (I shan’t tell you the title because odds are good that I will shoehorn it into something else just so that I can use it at some point.)

I’ve abandoned ideas before.  Sometimes after months and years of working on them; sometimes when they haven’t really made it off the ground at all.  I generally feel good about this, rather than the opposite – that’s what having loads of ideas is all about, which is after all our job.  There was a whole historical novel that ended up being scrapped.  A convoluted thriller that would have barely filled a short story in the end.  One that made me sad because I loved it dearly but I just couldn’t make it work – but that was a few years ago now and I am thinking of rewriting it as a teen novel.

I have learned in the last few years that strong ideas are probably more important than atmosphere and pretty phrases – something that I have had to learn the hard way because this way of working does not come naturally to me.  I have honestly written entire full-length manuscripts inspired by the feeling a particular song gives me, the name of a perfume, or the peculiar melancholy of one foreign hotel room – and they haven’t contained much more meat than that in the end.

The best ideas are the ones that leap out and aren’t held back by their beautiful frailty, the ones that you just can’t get rid of – rather than the ones you desperately want to keep like water cupped in your hands.

This one may go to the graveyard with the others, while I try to figure out at least something I’ve learned from the whole thing.  And, most of all, start the next one.

jeudi 22 août 2013

Results Day

Oh, GCSE results day.  I remember it not like it was yesterday, but as if it were about two years ago rather than (eek) sixteen.

I had been on holiday with my dad and stepmum in the south of France – I flew back early, by myself, the first time I had ever flown alone.  My mum took a couple of hours off work and picked up me and my friend Rachael to take us to the school.  It was a sunny day, as they always were in teenage summers.  In those days, she had a bright red convertible; it was 1997 and we would listen to a lot of Lemonheads, Lush and Kenickie in the car.

This fateful Thursday came amid one of those rare golden summers.  I had highlights and a suntan; I dressed like an extra from the Smashing Pumpkins 1979 video.  The boy I had loved since I was 12 had finally, officially asked me to be his girlfriend.  I had spent the summer hanging around in the park with him, sitting in grotty band practice rooms, taking the train to spend days round at his house.

My mind had not been on GCSEs for a while now. Suddenly it hit me that maybe it should have been.  I had spent my ‘study leave’ days in the pub, having a boyfriend, feeling awesome for once.  I thought the exams went OK, but maybe I was deluding myself.  I had instead wasted all of my attention on a boy who was leaving to go to music college in a month’s time.  The fear hit, but I had to admit that if I could go back I probably wouldn’t change it – a catch-22 that rears its head throughout my life.

I felt sick all morning, and I don’t think I have ever been so relieved as when I opened the envelope and saw that it was… OK.  Not amazing, probably not as well as I could have done – but, all things considered, really OK.  (In case you were wondering, I got 6 As, 2 Bs and 2 Cs.)

Rachael was still too scared to open hers.  She got back in the car with her unopened envelope still clutched in her hand.  (When she finally summoned the nerve, days later, she did just fine as well.)

My mum went back to work; the boy walked round to my house, having collected his own results from the boys’ school.  He hadn’t done as OK as I had, but he had a plan and was just glad that school had finished – for him, forever.  I would be going back for sixth form in September.  I don’t think we ever discussed what would happen next – we stayed in touch, but it was never again as perfect as it had been that summer.  (In fact, I would spend the next five or six years, on and off, trying to recapture the summer of 1997, to varying but limited success.)

We lay around in the garden for the afternoon; he smoked cigarettes and I gazed at him adoringly.  We took an early prototype version of The Selfie to commemorate the occasion, on a disposable film camera from Boots.  I can picture it perfectly in my mind – I wish I still had it, but I don’t think I do.

Then he went home and I walked to my friend Nadia’s house, where I met up with all my girlfriends.  We went out for the night and we met a girl called Lou, who was starting sixth form at our school in September, and would become our best friend.  We all slept over at Emma’s, all of us on the floor in the dining room, and it ended up being a great, great day.

When I think about it now, it was so obvious that it was the end of something – but I didn’t realise it at the time.  I suppose you never do.

mercredi 21 août 2013

We Need To Talk About Jessa

OK, it’s been a while since Girls hit.  I’m not going to add to the looming Jenga-tower of words about Lena Dunham, much as I love her – and I do.  I really do.
No.  It’s been long enough now that I have been able to watch my Girls DVDs on a loop until my eyes bleed the tears of an over-privileged white girl who identifies far too much with these over-privileged white characters.
I now have but one thing to say.  We need to talk about Jessa.
My obsession with her has been building to epic proportions and it is not good for me or my life.
Jessa always looks amazing, when she is wearing a bathrobe in the street and red lipstick, or a multitude of feathers.  She comes out with catchphrases like ‘all adventurous women do!’.  She encourages her friends to do stupid things ‘for the story’.  She does stupid things all the time.  She gets married to dudes she neither knows nor likes!
It doesn’t matter that I have known girls like Jessa in real life and they are a bad influence on me – I never realised until it was too late that I was actually the only one who didn’t revise for my exams; everyone else just said they weren’t going to.  (There’s a metaphor for life in there, in case you missed it.)  Plus, those Jessa friends can get kind of annoying after a while.  It doesn’t matter that the actress who plays her, Jemima Kirke, is actually married with two children and a lovely house.
The more I watch, the more I start thinking it’s a good idea to do things ‘for the story’.  The more I start wearing my bathrobe outside the house.
‘What would Jessa do?’ I ask myself, whilst pondering hand tattoos.
It’s even more insidious than all those times I used to ask myself ‘what would Courtney Love do?’.  I don’t understand why I can’t be drawn to the good role models.  But then again: ‘what would Gwyneth Paltrow do?’.  Nothing fun.
I was disappointed in myself when I read Lena Dunham saying on Twitter that nobody’s really a Jessa.  According to her creator, we all like to think we are, but we’re not – ‘that is the sick power of the Jessa’.
It can’t be true.  I am totally a Jessa.*

* Aren’t I?  Is this like when suburban dullards all over the land started saying they were ‘a Carrie’?  No.  Please tell me it’s not.

dimanche 18 août 2013

C is for Happiness

I put lipstick on in the same way as one of my great-grandmothers.  I know this to be true because we wear lipsticks down in the same way – to a long, flat point with a groove on either side.  The first time my mum noticed this, she looked as though she’d seen a ghost.  I’ve never seen it anywhere else.

Sometimes beauty isn’t about looks.  My favourite everyday lipstick is a Chanel one called ‘Egerie’.  You can hardly even see it’s there, which is actually good because you can put it on in the back of a cab, or on a moving train, without making a mess.  It doesn’t matter what you can see, because the point is that it makes me feel really Chanel.

jeudi 15 août 2013


So, I recently found a spreadsheet that I made earlier in the year.  It was called ‘Cats’ and I have no recollection whatsoever of creating it.  But I did.

It detailed, only for about a month around February/March, every cat I saw, at what time and what I thought they were trying to tell me.  It also described some cats I had not seen (‘I thought I saw a cat under my seat on the train – there was no cat’ or ‘X mentioned a cat on Twitter’).

I was under A LOT of stress at the time.  (If you haven’t quite gathered – yes, I thought cats were giving me messages.)  Still, it was pretty shocking to see how irrational I actually was – not to mention, how relatively recently

I think I managed to do a pretty good impersonation of a sane person during this time – I managed to go to work, there was no big intervention, etcetera – but, looking at this now, how I ever managed to do so is beyond me.  Scared and grateful in equal measure probably sums it up.

Perhaps it would be best forgotten, but I think this is a good reminder.  There aren’t many – I’ve put back on all the weight I lost, scars are healing for all of us, luckily I managed to stop myself before I cut all my hair off.  I thought about it for a while, then I did not delete the spreadsheet.  I still don’t have a cat; I still want one.

lundi 12 août 2013


So, after putting it off for an unfathomably long time, I finally watched Django Unchained.  I loved it so much I can barely put it into words.  I now can't believe I waited so long due to slightly dodgy-sounding premise combined with the fact that I didn't really love Inglorious Basterds (although now I think maybe I should give it another go; I am terrible for moods affecting my perception/enjoyment of things, which means I often change my mind entirely second time around).

Anyway, I love QT.  I should never have doubted him.  I even love (the, in my opinion, unfairly maligned) Death Proof so much that I rewatch it all the time.

I became obsessed with him long before I was able to watch any of his films - I was a weird kid and for some reason just thought he seemed really cool.  (I was 11 when Reservoir Dogs was released.)  In a total coup, when I was not allowed to go and see True Romance at the cinema a couple of years later, I instead bought a copy of Empire magazine that gave away a copy of the script in book format, so I recited the whole thing into a tape recorder, closed my eyes and just imagined.  I still have that book.  Not the cassette tape, sadly.

Anyway, I loved Django and I guess this is a small lesson in trusting in your heroes, however flawed they may be.  Or something.

jeudi 8 août 2013

Lessons in Liz

Over the past week, I have watched the BBC4 drama 'Burton and Taylor' twice so far.  I have cried uncontrollably at the final scene on both occasions.  I plan to watch it again, maybe tonight.

I adore Helena Bonham-Carter and was intrigued to see her glammed up and admitting her classic beauty for once.  Dominic West is properly good in everything, obviously.  However, I was not an expert on Liz and Dick.  I'm still not, but now I'm learning.

In my cyclical obsessions with film stars and retro glamour pusses, Liz never really featured - through my own ignorance rather than preference.  I had my Bettie Page phase, and my Louise Brooks phase; I tried and failed to channel Audrey and Marilyn; I could cry over a photograph of Natalie Wood all day long.  Weirdly, I had never really explored the treasures of Taylor.  I read up on her a little after she died, and my interest was, naturally, caught.

Now, late in the day, I am mildly obsessed.  Since watching this dramatisation, I have been hungry for the real thing.  I have been reading everything I can get my hands on, and Google-imaging for hours on end.

After I switched off the BBC I-player, I went out that night in a low-cut halterneck dress I hadn't worn for years, black and splashed with giant dark pink roses, lipstick to match, hair up.

As always, my favourite writer Emma Forrest is ten steps ahead of me and puts it better than I can.  Here:

lundi 5 août 2013

We Think Alone

I love Miranda July and I am currently obsessed with this email project – it’s so cool to feel involved with something like this, even if it’s just a flash of excitement when it arrives in your inbox.

This one comes every Monday, which is a particular treat.  If you haven’t done so already, you’ve missed the first ones, but you can still sign up.  Every week, you will receive a selection of old sent emails from interesting people on a particular theme (so far we have had themes such as ‘money’, ‘business’ and ‘Barack Obama’).

To learn more, check out the website:

Also, Alice Vincent wrote a nice article about this in the Telegraph; I was one of the subscribers she spoke to – we had a really interesting email exchange about Miranda July, digital technology, voyeurism and the changing nature of privacy.