Cover story

About a year ago, I got an email from a girl called Elizabeth, asking if I thought she should try and be an English teacher or a model. My first reaction, of course, was that she should be an English teacher. I’d estimate that 98% of writers have been in love with their English teachers at some stage in their lives. When I was 7, I idolised Miss Grace, with her tumbling auburn curls and sweet, young smile …

But this didn’t seem a proper answer, and I didn’t know a better one. Why did I have such an instinctive reaction against modelling, when the only actual ex-model I knew was one of my kindest, most interesting, charming friends? So I did some research and thought about it a lot. A year later, I’ve just finished The Look.

From very early on I had an idea of what the cover should be. Pointless, I know, because new and new-ish writers aren’t generally consulted unless they have a background in graphics or illustration. Covers do such a complex, visual job and we’re wordsmiths – what do we know?

However, I might as well tell you what I imagined. It was a close-up of the face of a teenage girl with very short hair, staring boldly into the camera. The title would be big and bold too, like a magazine cover. Mostly, the image would about the girl’s eyes, and her arresting gaze.

Yeah, whatever.

Rachel, my publisher at Chicken House, was kind enough to ask me about my ideas when we met up to discuss the first draft in February. She fed them back to Steve, the illustrator, and to my surprise he must have agreed, more or less. His first mock-up of what the cover could look like was this:

Yes – closeup! Yes – bold title! Yay – pink round the edges (Rachel’s idea). Liking that. Liking the fact that Steve and I were talking the same visual language. But …

… the grey tones and creepy eye makeup made it look like a paranormal romance to me. And it’s so not. It’s actually supposed to be quite funny. And the pink of the title was … too pink.

So I very quietly asked if it could be a bit more colourful and less creepy. And I sent along some Vogue covers I liked, to give a general idea. One of them was of Aggy Deyn. Looking at it closely, I loved the way they’d brought out her eyes and matched the pink of her lipstick to the magazine title.

I felt a bit guilty sending it. I mean, Steve knows what he’s doing. But I love the whole ideas-sharing thing, and I thought it was worth a try. After a bit of fiddling about, Steve came back with this:



This is the cover we’re going with.

I can’t begin to say how happy I am with it. It’s got the colour. It’s got the gaze. I wasn’t completely sure about the font, which is a bit like the Louis Vuitton graffiti fonts you see on bags sometimes, but I love it now. I can’t wait to see it in bookshops. If I was a fifteen year-old girl, I would so buy it, and so far the girls I’ve asked agree. I just hope the text lives up to the promise of this fab design.

*happy author face*

And that’s my cover story.

Steve, thank you. You are the Man.


Hat number 3

I can’t begin to tell you how lovely the bride looked on Saturday. Tall and very beautiful, in a simple bias-cut satin dress and lace shrug with elbow-length sleeves, and natural hair. As radiant as one would hope. She really did leave Pippa Middleton standing. My brother, the groom, wasn’t bad either. But this isn’t a blog about them and they’re on honeymoon so even they haven’t seen the photos yet, and therefore I really don’t feel I can share them. (Even though I took some seriously good ones. Very good. You have no idea what you’re missing. Quite amazing.)

But anyway … here instead, is a picture of Hat Number Three (from M&S, should you need to rush out and buy it), with matching and rather dashing husband. It was a perfect June day, with warm sun blazing down on London all afternoon, so actually the hat was very practical, and meant I didn’t wilt with heat exhaustion. It made kissing relatives slightly tricky, but they were all very noble and ducked.

I like to think Audrey Hepburn might have worn it to do a spot of prison visiting in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, had she found it. Not sure she shopped in M&S, though. A nice American lady who saw me prancing about in it told me to get and, nice American lady, you were right.