I send out a newsletter now and again about what I've been up to. Sorry, 'newsletter' sounds ridiculous; it's more like a long, chatty, mildly pointless email. But, you know, it's fun. And fun goes a long way.
If you'd like to get it direct to your inbox, just email me firstname.lastname@example.org and put 'Email me!' in the subject line. Or click below and read it. Totally up to you, sugarnuts.
Well, pass me a cigarette and pour me a martini, I’ve just finished the first draft of my next book.
It’s the first of the Union Street series. Each book in the series will be from the point of view of a different girl in a group of friends living together in their early 20s, trying to figure everything out.
I had the idea for it last May, when the illustrious people at St Martins Press asked what I wanted to write next. I wanted to do something more than a standalone chicklit book. I loved writing The Dating Detox and A Girl Like You, but I wanted to write about, not just one girl, but a group of them (I always wished I’d had more space for the friends’ stories in TDD and AGLY). I wanted to do something funny and fast that was about friendship and ambition and finding your way in the world – and of course, love and sex and dating, and all that good chicklit stuff. And I’d been thinking about how no one writes funny books about that exhilarating, difficult period right after university or college, when you’re trying to figure out a) what you want to do with your life and b) how the sweet hell you’re going to do it. And then, lastly, I’d been reading The Best Of Everything, by Rona Jaffe, and The Group, by Mary McCarthy (which are awesome, by the way, and about girls discovering life in the 50s and the 30s, respectively; if you’re into Mad Men and that sort of thing you’ll love them) and found them seriously inspiring. And anyway, all these thoughts came together, and I thought, hell yes. That is what I want to write.
Because being in your very early 20s is brilliant, but so hard and everyone always forgets that. It’s hard to get a job, to find a place to live, to meet nice guys, to survive on no money, to figure out how to make your life work for you and above all, to keep the faith (in a George Michael way, not a Jesus way).
Here’s my early 20s story (hah... now, I wasn’t sure whether to include this, it’s a boring life anecdote, so please feel free to skip to the end): I’d just finished a useless and difficult triple major Bachelor of Arts and a post-grad degree in journalism. As I’d decided I hated journalism, I was pretty much unemployable. I applied for every entry-level job with the title ‘marketing’ or ‘editorial’ that I could find, as I vaguely knew I wanted something word-related. Naturally no one would give me a job, because I had no experience, but I couldn’t get experience without a job. Eventually I got a miserable six-month contract job writing market research reports. Then I worked at a second-rate marketing agency for two long years, writing very dry technology copy. Man, that job sucked ass. I locked myself in the disabled toilet every day at 11am to cry (which, I admit, even then I found hilarious), partly because I didn’t understand most of what I was writing about (what the fk is a robust back end server?) and partly because I had realised that the agency was run by utter fools.* The pay was, obviously, appalling, so I was constantly worried – with that sour-stomach worried feeling, you know the one? – about money. And I lived in filthy little shareflats, except for an ill-judged couple of years living with a boyfriend (looking back, I wonder if I moved in with him because I was so tired of said filthy little shareflats). Eventually I got a proper advertising copywriting job in a sharp London agency. And life slowly improved. I started writing The Dating Detox while I was freelancing at an ad agency and living in a shareflat in Pimlico. I was dating Fox, the guy I’m now married to, by then, but we weren’t living together yet. Anyway. I digress. Again.
The point is that looking back over my early 20s, I realised that, difficult and disaster-filled as it truly was, and despite my regular angst-filled crying jags, I was a happy little bunny. Life was kind of awesome. I went out a lot, drank and smoked far too much, dated a lot of total schmucks, threw shapes in every embarrassingly bad club in London, made predictable wine-fuelled mistakes with my male best friends, spent my lunch hours shopping in Zara or reading in the sunshine in Golden Square, killed four to six hours every Saturday in coffee shops on the Kings Road in Chelsea gossiping with my girlfriends and, you know, had a seriously good time. It was tough, but exhilarating and hilarious and fun.
So that’s what I wanted to write about. And I just finished the first draft.
I hope it’s good.
I’ve been quizzing every woman I know about her early 20s, by the way, so if you’re feeling talkative, let me know how you survived (or, if you’re there now, how you’re surviving). And by the way, what the sweet hell else should I write about in this email I send to you, oh favourite lovely reading people? I never know, so I just end up having a chat.
Happy Friday. Go have a drink this weekend and enjoy yourself. You deserve it.
* I should add that my direct boss in that job was lovely. He was patient when I’d come in crying about boys (which I often did... come to think of it, I cried a lot in that job) and more importantly he was an amazing mentor who truly taught me how to write. I was mentor-obsessed in my 20s. If I saw someone who looked like they had a clue about anything, I basically clung to their ankles till they gave me advice. And I had thought I knew how to write, after years of essays and letters and reading reading reading and all that damn education, but I didn’t. Once I learned, I could suddenly express myself far more clearly and succinctly in writing than speech. Which is lucky, since at some point in my late 20s, I decided I’d try being a real writer. So the next challenge (in fact the continuing challenge) is not the style, but content, ie, writing something that you guys think is worth reading. And here we are.