INTERVIEW

January 2010

GEMMA BURGESS

Gemma Burgess was born in Australia, then moved to Hong Kong and spent her 20s working as a copywriter in London. Her first novel The Dating Detox was released last month.

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  1. 1. What inspired you to write The Dating Detox?

    I wanted to write a fast, warm book about women that my friends and I could relate to - women who were confident, funny, strong and silly, and still trying to figure things out and making mistakes all the time.

  2. 2. Have you ever felt the need for a dating sabbatical yourself?

    Yes. I went on a Dating Sabbatical once, after a series of seriously bad dates, and stayed on it mostly because I thought it was a cute thing to say and I didn’t meet anyone particularly tempting. It only lasted about six weeks ... but it did improve life immeasurably.

  3. 3. Why did the book title change from Sabbatical to Detox?

    HarperCollins suggested it: it's snappier and alliterative, and makes a better cover.

  4. 4. Did any of your friends help you devise the dating sabbatical rules and which one would you have found the hardest to follow?

    Nope, I devised them alone. The one I would have found hardest, as Sass does, is no flirting. And I don't mean batting your eyelashes and biting your finger type flirting ... Real flirting is just laughing and being interested in people. She's not allowed to do that, and it's hard.

  5. 5. How similar is Sass to you?

    Sass is a concentrated version of quite a few girls I know, including a bit of me. The way she perceives people and her intolerance for bullshit is pretty similar to mine ... and of course, I'm a copywriter. I also had a lucky yellow clutch for years (it was £6.99 from H&M, and I stockpiled about 12 of the little tykes, I still have two left).

  6. 6. The dangers of binge drinking, especially for young women, have been in the headlines lately. Were you worried about your characters’ drinking habits?

    There's a huge difference between binge-drinking and drinking, ie, socialising with the specific aim of getting as helplessly hammered as possible, rather than socialising to have fun. No one in the book binge-drinks like that, because no one I know does, either. But alcohol plays a part in socialising when you're in your 20s - that's just realistic.

  7. 7. I was expecting a ditzy heroine who experienced a lot of work-related mishaps. Why did you make Sass so competent at her job?

    I think we root for her more knowing that she has the potential to be fantastic, and that life shouldn't be as hard as she's making it for herself. She's not incompetent, just unfocused. And I tend to find ditzy heroines kind of irritating, so I didn't want to write about one.

  8. 8. What would you wear to a Come as Your Childhood Ambition costume party?

    I did go to one, and I went as a librarian! I looked like a total dork when everyone else was all slutty and cool. Hey ho.

  9. 9. How did you go from advertising copywriter to published author?

    I wrote a few chapters and thought, to hell with it, I may as well try. And I sent them off to 10 agents. Then the woman who is now my agent got in touch and asked for the rest - except at this point there was no 'rest'. So I finished it, then HarperCollins offered a book deal. It took longer than that, of course ... lots of periods of writing and waiting. If any of your readers want to know the full story, I give a month-by-month synopsis of how I did it on my blog at www.gemmaburgess.com.

  10. 10. What can we expect in the sequel?

    Right now I'm planning my wedding and finding it fun-slash-tedious. So I'd like to write The Wedding Detox. I don't think Sass would care that much about a wedding - but Kate and Bloomie would become obsessed.

  11. 11. Tell us about your next novel.

    My next novel is about a girl who leaves her boyfriend of seven years, and needs to learn to navigate the bastard-infested waters of her 20s without any singledom survival skills to speak of. Her flatmate teaches her how to date like a man, or more specifically, like a bastard...

  12. 12. Will you still be writing about single ladies when you’re married?

    I don't think so. I like writing about women more than I like writing about singledom, per se. I think girls can be really, really funny and don't get enough credit for it.

  13. 13. What’s the best story you’ve found through your Name That Bastard blog?

    Hmm. I got one email that said 'Two words. Pubic. Lice'. Which made me laugh for ages.

  14. 14. What does chick lit mean to you?

    I think that good chick lit is funny, fast and real.

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