All about Emma

Emma in her mac

Emma in her mac

I may be alone here, but the whole Emma-Watson-as-a-fashion-icon thing is making me very upset.

Emma in the Burberry ads: older than her years, thinner than she has any right to be – it’s all about the raincoat and nothing about the girl.

Emma on the cover of Elle: more provocative than one ever wanted Hermione to be, not half as attractive as she is in any of the films or publicity shots, and dressed in an outfit that bears no resemblance to anything she wears on red carpets or in real life. And I know ‘that’s the whole point’. I can just hear the photographer and stylist saying they wanted to jazz things up a bit, play with the image, make it all sexy and dangerous, take the goody two shoes out of the girl and give it some edge, but the problem is, SHE WAS BETTER BEFORE.

Emma in the Half Blood Prince: stunning. In the greyest of cardigans, the baggiest of jeans, the hoodiest of hoodies, the brownest of backgrounds, that girl has finally morphed into an absolute screen goddess. It’s embarrassing how beautiful she is. Poor Daniel Radcliffe isn’t supposed to really notice or care, and nor’s Rupert Grint for most of it, but it’s painfully obvious. It’s screaming to be noticed. The screen just wraps itself around her fabulous face and hair whenever she’s on and goes ‘aah’. And she can act. I know she’s acting Hermione and any of us can do that. We’re all Hermione. It’s not acting, it’s just being our inner clever girl, but nevertheless she does it brilliantly, cardi and all.

The thing is, she does Hermione looking a bit Grace Kelly, a bit Kim Basinger, a tad Michell Pfeiffer, a smidgeon her own self in five years time, by which time we’ll all have acknowledged that Harry Potter was a great start in life, but basically, she was born to be the next Audrey Hepburn, but in a blonde, frizzy hair way, and Hogwarts was just marking time until her moment.

Emma in Ossie Clark

Emma in Ossie Clark and the rain

And THAT’s interesting. That girl, growing into that woman, wearing whatever it is she chooses to wear (e.g. vintage Ossie Clark – YES YES YES!), or Agnes B (as she says she does in Elle), is fascinating. But we don’t get to see that, except in photo galleries at premieres. Because the fashion pack have got their hands on her and they’re turning her into a product as fast as they can.

Which means not telling us about Emma Watson, but telling us about Chanel, or Burberry, or Elle’s stylist. It means airbrushing, ironing out the personality quirks, ageing her, and generally ignoring what’s unique about her. They’re bigging upย  general prettiness/coming of age/riches, which frankly are two-a-penny in London nowadays, and losing youth/down-to-earthness/experimentation, which is what I’d pay money to see and read about.

Maybe I’m the only one, but I actually like teenagers. They interest me. I have two in the family, and they’re fascinating, lovely creatures. I love what teenagers do, what they think, what they wear. I love their inherent anarchy and occasional waywardness. I don’t want them looking the way elderly Park Avenue matrons wished they still looked. I want to see them in their own clothes, making the occasional mistake, pushing the envelope in their own way.

Charlotte Casiraghi is another example (I read far too many celebrity magazines). Charlotte watching her boyfriend at some sporting match, or just generally hanging – fantastically beautiful. Charlotte in her best Chanel, looking about 45 – wasted. (I mean wasted opportunity, obviously, not wasted ‘wasted‘. I doubt la Casiraghi does binge drinking.)

Emma looked great soaking, in a torn vintage dress, on the worst summer day in London (and I should know – I was there, dodging the umbrellas). She looked rubbish in the Temperley dress she wore to the Baftas (was it?) and admits that the Harry Potter costume guru disapproved, but I love the fact that Emma doesn’t care: she was doing her thing and trying out a new look. I’d love to see what she’s like, makeup free, in a scrumbled up mixture of Topshop and Agnes B.

But she looked derivative in Elle. She looks miserable in Burberry, and in need of a decent meal. I have no interest in seeing her in Chanel – she’s got decades ahead of her to experiment with grown-up couture.

I pointed out the Burberry ad to a friend, gearing myself up for a good rant. The ad was on a billboard in Knighstbridge – huge and moody.

‘Doesn’t she look wonderful?’ my friend sighed. ‘I love those ads.’

‘Yes,’ I lied, defeated. And of course, she looks good. But I bet she looked better in whatever she showed up in for the shoot. She’s not going to be a teenager forever. I hope she gets to enjoy being one, sartorially, for a little longer, before the moment’s gone, and she’s just another movie star.

But maybe it’s only me. I bet Burberry have sold lots of lovely raincoats this season. I’d save up for one myself if Emma didn’t make me feel about seventy-three.

Not writing, but shopping

First, it wasn’t my credit card, it was my mother’s, so that’s OK (I think.)

Today was one of those few non-writing days that was nearly perfect despite the fact that my characters didn’t get to have any fun.

Before I describe it (actually, I’m not going to describe it, I’m merely going to give a synopsis but I’ll explain why later), I s’pose I should point out that if you’re looking for nearly perfect days, try Aprilynne Pike at the moment. THOSE are nearly perfect days. Like when DISNEY options your book as the next vehicle for MILEY CYRUS, who LOVES it, and you’re BACK on the NYT bestseller list (from which you briefly, but only briefly dropped). Aprilynne Pike is blogging – in exquisite detail, bless her – about every author’s dream and I suspect I’m not the only person lovin’ it.

However, for those of us whose books aren’t OUT yet, and who haven’t heard from Disney, and who strongly believe that Miley Cyrus doesn’t know us from a hole in the ground (and actually, I wouldn’t mind Selina Gomez, but that’s another story), today was a pretty damn good close second.

Got up early. Felt virtuous. Got hair cut by theonlywomaninLondonwhounderstandsmyhar. Met up with mother. I get on very well with my mother, who totally got me into reading and writing, among many other passions, so this is a Good Thing, not a Bad Thing. Went to designer shop. Bought suit (mother bought it as Incredible Birthday Present). Went to shoe shop. Bought shoes (mother bought them as Incredible Birthday Present). Had lunch. Did other shopping stuff. Came home. Got email from agent with TWO pieces of extremely good news. (No, not Disney optioning the film rights, but nevertheless good.) Ended up in giggle fight with sons on the bed, which involved them both lifting up the duvet and screaming in fake terror at each other and me. Had supper cooked for me by perfect husband. Da daaaaaah!

I could go into detail and mention which designer shop and which shoe shop and what news, exactly, but if I did, I’m afraid your head would explode with sheer amazement, and that would be irresponsible of me.

Just check out any photos of me in the autumn, and if I’m in a Suit, or Shoes, you’ll know they came from the almost perfect day.

And if Selina Gomez is interested, so am I.

…. and breathe

Editor called. (She swears it wasn’t as a result of the last blog. I hope not. This is a diary, not a hinting machine.) Book 2 OK. Various changes – all interesting challenges to do and none of which impugn my artistic integrity. Situation back to normal. Engine easing into second, third, fourth …

… and breathe.

Not writing, but drowning

LouboutinsI was working it out this morning. I may only have forty years left to write. Or, if I turn into a crabby old person with no ideas, maybe twenty. Or, if I get run over by a bus or something, maybe five, or one. Help! I have to spend every available second getting stuff down on paper (screen, actually), or I’ll only have one little book to show for my name and It’s Not Enough. It might be, if I was a Bronte or something, but I’m not a Bronte or something. Not even a Bronte with jokes. I need to go for quantity here if booksellers and librarians are going to have the faintest idea who I am. Or, more to the point, if children are going to read my pages and enter my world for a while.

So although everything is going pretty well at the moment, any lull in proceedings is a bad thing. I don’t mind lulls in the publishing process. I’m ready for those. Simply having a publishing process for there to be lulls in is fantastic enough. I mean lulls in the creative process. Which is what I’m suddenly in the middle of this week.

I was quite looking forward to it. Take time off from the books for a week or two, prepare material for the website (what I should be doing now, but I’m too disheartened right this second), spend more time with the kids in the holidays (what I will be doing in a couple of hours), choose wallpaper (done that, ordered it – everything to do with wallpaper is ticked and double ticked on my list, can’t think of any other wallpaper-related activities to create for myself). It sounded great. Book in the bag, second book largely up and running, third book quietly writing itself in my head, fourth book straining to get out and being kept back with difficulty, no immediate deadlines – quiet summer. Lovely.

Except it’s not lovely, it’s rubbish. The part of my brain that’s constantly checking off whether I’ve done a couple of good scenes recently, or developed a character, or entertained myself with some unexpected interactions, is stuck in neutral and the engine is complaining. (That’s a manual car reference for everyone in an automatic. I come from the olden days when we could choose our revs. Imagine you’re trying to get up a hill and you’ve still got the handbrake on. That’s how my brain feels right now.)

My poor editor has had one of those summer bugs (Get Well Soon, Imogen), and I can’t really touch book 2 again until I’ve got her advice. And I’d sort of told myself not to get going on book 3 until book 2 was more sorted, so my brain refuses to take a leap and go there anyway. And writing stuff for the website isย  wonderful, but it’s a bit like taking the car out for several trips to the end of the road, when you know it really wants to go touring Europe, or trying a couple of laps at Silverstone (olden days, romantic Silverstone, not current rubbish Silverstone). And I feel a bit guilty leaving my darling husband with the boys to spend time putting captions on photos, when I really should be Writing Children’s Fiction.

This isn’t exactly a new feeling. I’ve spent a large portion of the last twenty years feeling like this, one way or another. But for about nine of the last twelve months I’ve been revelling in that sense of satisfaction you get when a piece of work is growing, when you’re constantly facing obstacles to your plot or characters and gradually solving them. It’s addictive. I miss it.

And it gets worse. Only slightly worse, but exciting things may happen to book 1 if An Important Person gets involved, and we’re all waiting to see if the Important Person is interested or not, so that’s a nice new area of limbo to add to the situation.

I could be researching book 3. As it stands, the plot chronology is a logistical nightmare and there are various experts I need to talk to to find out how to make a two-year process last about six months, or my characters will all be middle-aged by the time the series is over. But I can’t really focus on it until I know what needs to be done to book 2 and that actually requires this period of limbo – it’s not just the editor’s bug – so I can get some distance and see where the fault lines are.

My brain’s response to all of this, apart from mild depression and frenetic wallpaper-choosing, is window shopping. I have window shopped for shoes, for party dresses, for antique furniture, books, cardigans, summery linen tops and skinny jeans. Local shopkeepers see me coming and run for the hills. They know their changing rooms will be awash with sale items that I love but can’t justify buying and their afternoons will be spent readjusting things I didn’t put back on their hangers quite right. So far, I’ve avoided getting my credit card out, but I fear it may only be a matter of time (and yes, the advance got spent a long, long time ago; we’re deep into savings territory here). However, I have got some nice photos out of it – for the website. Here, for your delectation and delight (and mine) are some Christian Louboutin platforms. Sigh sigh sigh.

A word of advice to anyone thinking about setting up their lot with a writer, aspiring or otherwise: don’t. They’re either mentally exhausted from doing what they love, or exhausted from not doing it. And if it they’re not doing it, hide their wallet: that creative spirit has to express itself somehow, and the little voice saying ‘Your life will be more complete if you accessorise your handbag with these fabulous patent wedges’ becomes harder to ignore as time goes by.

Is it still the most fabulous job in the world? Er, yes, I think so. Even more fabulous if you could ease the occasional pain with Louboutins, though.

Using it up

Don’t quote me on this, but … there is a fixed and finite amount of karma on this earth and I have recently been given more than my share of the good stuff.

I sort of knew this already. It’s one of those things you sense when events are going too well, when news – if there is any – is too consistently positive, when people start looking at you with expectant smiles on their faces, as if they’re sure you’re about to tell them something fun, and you can usually oblige.

I assumed, as you do, that I was using up my own karma. At some stage a Bad Thing will happen. Several, probably. Plagues, disease, lack of book-buying interest, roof falling in. Type of thing. But then I started to wonder (picture my Carrie voice here): am I using up other people’s karma too? I mean, I’ve definitely over-borrowed on my own. Has life started raiding other people’s accounts on my behalf?

And then I found out the answer. Went to one of those events where you can call yourself an author and people don’t fall about laughing or look at you as if you’re seriously unwell (in fact, they usually just offer you a Pimms refill) and discovered tale upon tale of woe. Or, if not woe, then confusion and uncertainty. Or, if not confusion, resigned patience. Came home and discovered more tales of woe.

So now it’s official. I am using up your karma, and I apologise. I’m sure it won’t last forever and no doubt normal service will be resumed at some stage shortly, probably when I’m least expecting it, and I’ll be ungrateful and annoyed. But meanwhile, if you’re wondering where it went, you need look no further.

Oh, and my son won the maths cup at school today. It’s on the mantelpiece now. It runneth over.

Model Pop Star

Blur

Blur

Saw Blur at Glastonbury on TV on Sunday. Made more poignant by the fact that my brother was there and my parents live down the road. I was there a couple of years ago and treasure those precious moments when the crowd catches light and many thousands of people are sharing a note, a shout, a refrain, a glimpse of sunset. Outdoor concerts are magic.

But none as magic as Blur on Sunday. Damon Albarn on blazing form, the songs as strong and wonderful as ever – Girls and Boys, Country House, Parklife, – and the crowd transported. At one point, Damon finished a song and the crowd just carried on with the refrain. Thousands of them, in a Somerset field at sunset, all singing their hearts out. It was tear-jerking. I so longed to be with them. Jo Whiley did a brilliant job of capturing the mood (before the BBC had to show a bunch of other bands for contractual reasons and the moment was lost).

Best of all, for me (and my husband got a teeny bit fed up about this, because I didn’t neglect to mention it a few times) was Alex James. Now, Alex James borders on sexy even when he’s a not-a-size-ten cheese farmer talking about Wensleydale. He gets even more sexy when you realise what a good writer he is. And he is TOTALLY, DROP-DEAD sexy when he’s in skin-tight trousers and a baggy tee-shirt (congrats on the fitness regime, Mr James), being The Coolest Bass Player In The World, in the coolest band in the world, just owning Glastonbury. And this was, I might add, mere minutes after Bruce Springsteen had been on. Bruce had very definitely borrowed Glastonbury for a while, but Blur gave him a masterclass in possessing it totally.

It’s not mainly that Alex James plays bass very well. Not for me, anyway. To be honest, I can’t really tell. It’s that he looks totally cool while he’s doing it, and the music the band is playing is FABULOUS, and I happen to know that when he’s not doing this he’s being a country gent, a father and a farmer, and a writer for the Spectator, among others, and that basically, if he couldn’t be bothered with the music any more he could just be Stephen Fry, if he felt like it. Except prettier and more heterosexual.

So I got home from my stint at the library on Monday (where I finished book 2 yay yay yay yay) and found the Spectator lying on the bed, and read it to see if by any chance Mr James might have mentioned his comeback. And he had. He talks about the danger of blowing his own trumpet, but I’m so glad he did, because if he hadn’t dared to I wouldn’t have had the intense, vicarious pleasure of picturing him in a photo-shoot, the day after Blur’s first triumphant comeback date at Goldsmiths, being treated like a dumb model and being asked if he ‘still does music at all’. Of him saying ‘Oh yes, sometimes’, and rather liking the ethereally beautiful stylist’s assistant (who helped him on and off with his trousers and asked quietly how the gig had gone), and then of the moment when the news came on the radio that Blur had done the gig and that it was stupendous. And of him grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Not many people get to live that moment. And how many of those have the wit and articulacy to describe it? And how many are simultaneously as sexy as Alex James? In the Spectator. Who’d have thought?

Update: 23 Nov 09

Just received my free copy of the Blur live 2009 CD from the Sunday Times. Listening to it, I realised that Tender was the song that provoked that incredible Glastonbury response. Some of which is on the CD. So I can reply that moment whenever I like. Though not quite with the same intensity of memory that Damon, Alex and the others can. I read their responses to that concert in the paper, and they thought it was pretty special too. The best live experience they’d ever had, in fact. So it wasn’t just me, then.