July 2008


Kathleen Baird-Murray is a former model and magazine beauty editor who wrote How To Be Beautiful: The Thinking Woman's Guide. Her first novel Face Value is now. She once lived in Australia while working for Marie Claire magazine but now lives in London with her husband and two children.

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  1. Tell us about your debut novel, Face Value.

    I'm really excited about it as it's just out in the US, doing well and attracting some serious movie interest! It's about a young woman, Kate Miller, who works in a small suburban town on a dead-end newspaper. She's very ethical, and really wants to be doing something a bit more worthwhile like being environmental editor at the Guardian (if they have one, not sure!). But out of the blue one day, she gets a job as beauty director on a glossy New York magazine. She convinces herself she can do the job and survives through sheer hard work and determination until they ask her to edit a plastic surgery supplement. She's always hated cosmetic surgery but figures that if she can only write it in such a way as to not compromise her beliefs, she'll be able to keep her job and her sense of self. She meets a gorgeous plastic surgeon in Los Angeles who decides she is his perfect muse - just as she unravels a secret that will ruin his career if she decides to expose him. I can't tell you any more, besides the fact that it's pacy, funny in parts, and very loosely based on some of my own experiences from when I was beauty director at Tatler magazine.

  2. What inspired you to write this story?

    Originally I wanted to write a fairly serious non-fiction book, about the history of plastic surgery. Like Kate, I was a beauty editor with ambiguous feelings towards her subject matter, and downright hostility to plastic surgery. But I was intrigued, nonetheless, by the world of surgery, the characters I met, the patients, and some amazing little adventures that happened along the way, and the more I investigated, the more I realised that the history story was a separate story to the journey I was on myself. I also went through a series of life-changing events that made me realise I couldn't have such hard and fast 'rules' about surgery. Life isn't black and white and surgery isn't about right and wrong. (Although - all bad surgery is wrong!) It's about what's right for one person over another. I needed to recognise that. At the same time, a friend of mine said, 'Why are you doing this history book? No one's going to buy it! Why don't you write a story based on your experiences travelling round the world interviewing plastic surgeons? ' I finally had the courage to embark on fiction as opposed to non-fiction, or journalism. And so it started . . .

  3. What is it about Kate that will appeal to readers?

    She's down to earth, hard working, funny, and very real. She makes mistakes, falls in love inappropriately, and gets drunk when she really shouldn't.

  4. Is there anything of you in Kate?

    All of the above! (Except possibly the 'love' bit, as I've been married for 10 years, which would suggest it's pretty appropriate!)

  5. How important is humour to your writing?

    Very. But it's not a joke a minute as I find that makes for a tiring read.

  6. What was the best and worst things about being a magazine beauty editor?

    The Christmas presents! If you work on a glossy you get the most amazing stash of handbags from all the designers, and numerous other luxury items. The worst thing? The salary isn't as great as people imagine, especially if you have to pay for childcare in order to do your job. And after a few years, I'd definitely rather stick pins in my eyes than go to another perfume or skincare launch.

  7. What's your best beauty secret?

    Smile. People will think you're beautiful and nice.

  8. Which celebrity would you most like to make over?

    Joan Collins. But then she's someone who is personified by her hair and make-up - if you took that away, who would you have left? It might not be very attractive.

  9. So you're against cosmetic surgery?

    I'm against wind tunnel facelifts, watermelon bosoms, and too much Botox. I haven't had anything yet myself and I'm 40 so I feel lucky to have avoided it so far. But I guess it's like childbirth - you hope for a natural delivery but if you have to have an epidural or a C-section it really doesn't matter, the main thing is to get through it.

  10. What did living at Bondi (Australian beach) teach you?

    That I cannot surf.

  11. Tell us about your TV pilot, 55 Acres.

    I have a great girlfriend, Jennifer Hochman Hamm, and together we wrote 55 Acres, which was based on an idea of hers, about four siblings who are forced to live in the same house for one year in order to inherit their estate after their mother dies. It was great fun to write. Especially as Jen would cook me lunch.

  12. Do you have any more books in the pipeline?

    I'm working on my second novel which I'm really enjoying. It's about a young woman and her husband who exist in a very social, affluent world they can't really afford to inhabit. It explores the themes of identity theft, financial burnout and even infidelity and is set in London and Los Angeles.

  13. What are your favourite chick lit books?

    Marian Keyes' Anybody Out There. I read it while she was reading Face Value, and found it very moving on the subject of bereavement, and very funny everywhere else. She very kindly gave me a brilliant review when she really didn't need to, as we're not friends or colleagues and have never met before. Very few people would find the time to read an unknown author's work, so I was very grateful.

  14. Kate is able to quickly name any music track. What's your quirky special talent?

    I'm pretty good at naming music tracks too! I love music, and it was important to me to work in a few song references. I've even made a special spot for them on my website:

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