Saturday, May 12, 2007

Welcome to the Rockalypse...

Happy Eurovision Day readers

Tonight I will be going to a Eurovision Song Contest Party, as is my wont to do. There's going to be a Sweepstake though I will pick the country that only get a measly un point from the Slovakian jury. But I think you can either turn up your nose and be too cool for skool about Eurovision or you can embrace the cheese. I embrace it with both arms!

I also just want to remind you that I do have a MySpace and that also I've just bought a 50's clock from a charity shop, which ticks so loudly I can barely hear the TV. I just felt the need to share that.

But for now, I thought I'd post an author's questionnaire I just complete for my publishers in the run-up to the release of the first Fashionista's Book, Laura on July 17th. Be warned! I ramble on and on and on and on and on...

1. Do you consider yourself a Fashionista?

I consider myself a Fashionista of epic proportions. I love clothes and accessories. In fact, two hours before I wrote this questionnaire, I was racing round the new Primark in London's swinging Oxford Street on a seek and destroy mission for a black, broderie anglaise summer frock.

I love how clothes can transform you, how you can be whoever you want to be depending on your outfit. I'm not a diehard fashion victim, I have my own look (which I call The Lipstick Librarian) but I like adding new pieces (a lot of new pieces!) each season to bring my style up to date. And I have little truck with fashion rules, like curvy girls shouldn't wear horizontal stripes. Fashion to me is just another way of expressing myself creatively and my fashion rules are that there are no rules!

My most beloved items in my closet are a vintage fitted dress with lurex stripes and a skirt that foofs out in a delightful manner and my limited edition Marc Jacobs multi-pocket bag in peacock blue with red top-stitching. It was so expensive that I had a panic attack five seconds after I signed the credit card slip!

2. Which character in your books do you identify with the most?

I identify the most with whichever character I happen to be writing at the time. I think that there is a common thread running through all my girls of people trying to figure out who the hell they want to be and how they're going to achieve that without losing part of themselves in the process. That's how I felt when I was a teenager. I knew I wanted to be a writer and I knew that I wasn't like a lot of other girls my age because of the way I looked and the music I listened to, the books I read and the things I liked to do. When I stopped kicking against that and realised that it was OK to be different, I became a lot happier in myself. So I guess I could really identify with Isabel from Let's Get Lost – not just because my mother passed away just before I started the book, but because I was so prickly and defensive when adolescence began to kick in.

3. How did you become a "Teen Queen Extraordinaire"? Was it always your dream to be a writer?

I have no idea how I became a Teen Queen Extraordinaire! Just luck, I guess! Certainly when I was a teenager, apart from loving Just Seventeen magazine (which I went on to write for), I shunned teen culture. But as I got older, I found myself obsessed and excited with things like old skool Sassy magazine and the TV show, My So-Called Life. My theory is that I made such a hash of being a teenager first time around, that I'm trying over and over again to get it right. I still feel the same away as I did when I was 17 – still trying to figure out all the big, heavy stuff and maybe that's why it feels very natural to write from the point of view of a teenage girl.

And I've always wanted to be a writer. Ever since I learnt the alphabet and suddenly realised that you could make words out of the letters. Certainly there are people who knew me when I was eight who can remember me announcing that I was going to be a writer – though I had a brief flirtation with wanting to be in a band but as I have no musical talent whatsoever, it was a very brief flirtation!

4. What is your favourite book?

I refuse to pick just one! The books that I re-read over and over again are Girl by Blake Nelson, Fabulous Nobodies by Lee Tulloch, The Pursuit Of Love and Love In A Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford, all of the Jane Austens (apart from Mansfield Park because I think Fanny Price is a stuck-up little prig) and Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. Though I do read other stuff – anything and everything from Edith Wharton to Mills & Boon to biographies on Madame de Pompadour!

5. Who are your heroes?

Diana Vreeland who was a marvellous, idiosyncratic, eccentric woman who was editor in chief of US Vogue. I love the way she wrote about fashion and the wilful way she lived her life.
Coco Chanel because she liberated women by raising hem lengths so they no longer needed help crossing the road.
Courtney Love because she inspired me so much when I was younger. No matter what crazy stuff she pulls, there's something about Courtney and what she used to be that means I'll always be a little bit in love with her.
And Joss Whedon because he gave me Buffy and I'm probably more inspired by good TV writing than books.
I wish I had a few people in here who'd helped find a cure for cancer or campaigned for world peace, but I'm a very shallow person.

6. Are your characters ever based on people you know?

Not really. Usually it's people that I don't really know but there's something intriguing about them or what they're doing and I file them in my head and drag them out at a later date for a vignette or an incidental character. It sounds vague but for instance, I was in New York last November at a really cool restaurant called Bette's waiting for the loo next to this louche girl with the most sooty eyelashes I've ever seen and she was so full of ennui because she was beautiful that I thought, "Oh, you are so going into a book of mine!"

7. How do you get your ideas? Are they ever based on real life experiences?

They just happen. Diary Of A Crush was inspired by the two years that I spent at college after my school asked me not to go back to do A-levels. It was a time when I was changing and blossoming and that was what Edie was going through too – though I never had a Dylan. Let's Get Lost was directly inspired by losing my mother and thinking to myself how much worse it would be to lose a parent when you were a teenager and in the middle of that process of pushing your parents away so you can learn to be your own person. But Fashionistas, my new series, is inspired by everything that's going on around me in the world; from America's Next Top Model to car-crash celebrities to New York to the size zero debate to reality TV stars to Project Runway to walking past shops selling Saris to internet It girls to Agyness Deyn to post-Communist Russia! Everything inspires me and causes my imagination to almost implode and I wouldn't have it any other way.

8. What is your favourite band? Does music ever inspire your writing?

The bands I never, ever get bored of are Belle And Sebastian, Saint Etienne, Velvet Underground, Hello Saferide (a new addition but she's a keeper) and my Growin' Up Too Fast 60's girl group collection. At the moment I'm listening to a lot of Swedish bands and old French pop – I'm very Continental!

Music is a huge part of my writing process. Sometimes one song becomes a theme for a book (like Broken Social Scene's Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl was for Let's Get Lost) but I always make a playlist for my main character and listen to it while I'm writing. It's hard at the moment as I'm writing Irina, the third book in the Fashionistas, and she's a Russian girl who listens to rap music, which I don't know much about.

9. Do you have any regrets?

Yes, but it's for the things I didn't do, not the things I did. Which is just how it should be!

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