Today it is my pleasure to welcome author and screenwriter Gemma Burgess to HJ!
Hi Emma, Welcome to HJ!
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title of the book should be? Why?
Which of your prior characters would you most/least likely invite to dinner and why?
I would ask Angie, the protagonist of LOVE AND CHAOS, because she is damn good fun. And I probably wouldn’t ask Madeleine, as she’s kind of a drag. (Though she’ll blossom in future BROOKLYN GIRLS books… oh, yes…)
Let’s talk about your newest release: LOVE AND CHAOS
If you had to summarize the book for the readers here…
LOVE AND CHAOS is the fast and furious story of Angie, a wild child who wants to do the right thing but somehow never does. It’s the second book in the BROOKLYN GIRLS series about five college grads trying to make it in New York City.
Please tell us about the characters in your book
Angie is the troublemaker. Pia is the queen of bad decisions. Julia is the self-appointed leader. Coco is the baby. Madeleine is the bitch. And they’re all funny and awesome and silly in different ways…
As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
Hmm… I’ve been working on this series for four years, so at this point I know these girls better than I know myself. Seriously. For serious. They never surprise me – what I really hope is that they surprise you…
Which scene was hardest / easiest to write?
All scenes are hardest and easiest, depending on which phase of the writing process I’m in! I tend to plan each book out in detail, then write, edit, write, edit (at this point I love it more than life itself and think it’s the easiest thing I’ve ever written) go away for a long time, come back, reread (at this point I hate it with a passion and think it’s going to be impossible, impossible to fix), change it, then edit it one last time, then go over it again with my editor’s comments and then the copyeditor’s comments and then the proofreader’s comments.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2014?
I’m working on the third book in the BROOKLYN GIRLS series, Coco’s book, which is called THE WILD ONE. And I’m working on some screenwriting stuff. Watch this space…
Where can readers get in touch with you?
Email me at Gemma@gemmaburgess.com! Or Tweet @gkateb, or find me on Pinterest as gemmakburgess, Instagram as gemmakburgess. Generally, if you want to get in touch, I’m around.
GIVEAWAY: 2 print copies of LOVE AND CHAOS
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LOVE AND CHAOS by Gemma Burgess
I was really going to be somebody by the time I was twenty-three.
Have a career. Be good at something. Be happy.
But here I am, less than two months before my twenty-third birthday, “catching up” with my mother Annabel over waffles and fruit juice in a tiny café, because I am unemployed and have nothing better to do on a random Tuesday morning.
The waffles are organic, by the way, and the juice is organic lingonberry, a ridiculous Scandinavian fruit famed for its antioxidants. This is Brooklyn, where the higher the obscurity, the higher the cred. Personally, I haven’t got a problem with SunnyD or good old full-fat Coca-Cola, but whatever fries your burger, right?
And of course the waiter—whom Annabel has already quasi-yelled at twice—rushes up with the jug for a refill, trips, and boom. Lingonberry juice all over me. So now I’m soaked. The punch line to an already (not so) delightful morning.
He’s mortified. “Oh my! I am so sorry, let me clean that up—”
“You can forget about the tip!” My mother is furious.
“Don’t overreact,” I interrupt her. “It was an accident.”
“But your top is ruined!”
“I was sick of it anyway.”
“I don’t know why you insist on coming to these ridiculous places.” God, she’s in a bad mood. Her phone rings. “Bethany! . . . No, darling, I’m still with Angelique. Somewhere in Brooklyn. I know, I know—”
The waiter has tears in his eyes, blotting frantically and whispering, “I’m so sorry. I keep spilling things because I’m so nervous. This is my first job waiting tables.”
“Dude, it’s not a problem,” I whisper back. “Never cry over anything that won’t cry over you.”
He brightens. “That is such a good life philosophy! Can I take that?”
“It’s yours. Get some T-shirts printed. Or a bumper sticker. Knock yourself out.”
He starts giggling. “You are hilarious, girl! I’m Adrian.”
Annabel hangs up and blinks at me till Adrian leaves. She blinks when she’s annoyed. Making friends with the waiter is just the kind of thing that would irritate her. “Well. I have some news. Your father and I are divorcing.”
That’s why she came all the way from Boston to see me? I’m so shocked that I can’t actually say anything. I just stare at her, a half-chewed bite of waffle in my mouth.
“It’s been arranged.” She examines her wineglass for kiss marks. “The papers are signed, everything is done.”
I finally swallow. “You’re . . . divorcing?”
“It’s not a huge surprise, is it? Given what he’s been up to over the years? And you’re too old to be Daddy’s little girl anymore, so I don’t see why you’d be upset.”
“Right on.” I take out a cigarette and place it, unlit, in the corner of my mouth. I find cigarettes comforting. (Yes, I know, they’re bad for you.) “You’re divorcing. Gnarly.”
My mother blinks at me again. Princess Diana had a formative influence on her maquillage philosophy: heavy on the navy eyeliner. They’re divorcing is playing on a loop in my head. Why didn’t my father tell me?
Annabel clears her throat. “You broke up with Mani, I take it? Single again?”
I don’t answer. Last year I told her about the guy I thought I was in love with in an unguarded moment of total fucking stupidity. Just before he dumped me.
“Unlucky in love, that’s you and me,” she continues blithely. “Perhaps we can go on the prowl, hmm? How’s darling Pia? Why don’t we all get together and have a girls’ night out?”
I stare at her for several long seconds. She’s out of her fucking mind.
The minute she goes to the bathroom I make eye contact with Adrian and mime the international pen-scribble sign for “Check, please.”
He hurries over. “I am so sorry again! It’s on me, I really—”
“Don’t be crazy,” I say, handing over a fifty-dollar bill as I stand up and put my coat on. “No change. The tip is all for you.”
“Oh, Angie, thank you!” Adrian looks like he’s about to cry again, but then stares at me in concern. “Wait, are you okay?”
I nod, but I can’t even look at him, or I swear to God I’ll lose it. I need to be alone.
While my mother is still in the bathroom, I leave. She’ll find her way back to her hotel in Manhattan, somehow. My mother is British, she lives in Boston most of the time, and her only experience of New York was the year they lived here, on the Upper East Side, when she gave birth to me. She got so fat during pregnancy that she wouldn’t leave the apartment after I was born in case she saw someone she knew. So apparently I didn’t see the sun till I was five months old and she’d lost the weight. And that, my friends, sums up Annabel’s whole approach to motherhood.
The moment I get outside, I light my cigarette. That’s better. It’s late February, and goddamn cold outside, but I’m toasty. I’m wearing my dead grandmother’s fur coat that I turned inside out and hand-sewed into an old army surplus jacket when I was sixteen.
Well, finally, I guess, right? Dad hasn’t exactly been the best husband. Not that she knows about any of that stuff. I wonder if he’ll tell her now. Probably not. Why rock a boat that’s already sinking, or whatever that saying is. For a second, I consider calling him. But what will I say—congratulations? Commiserations? Better to wait for him to call me.
But how does this work? Like, where will we spend Christmas next year? How does divorce work when your kid is an adult? It’s not like they can have visitation rights or custody battles or whatever, right? Will we simply cease to exist as a family?
When I was little, we spent every Christmas at my grandmother’s house in Boston. I always emptied my Christmas stocking on my parents’ bed. I sat in between them while they had coffee and I had hot chocolate and we shared bites of buttery raisin toast. I’d take each present out of my stocking, one by one. They’d get all excited with me and we’d wonder how Santa knew exactly what I wanted and how he got to every house in the world in just one night. Pretty standard stuff, I bet, but a happy warmth washes over me thinking about it. It just felt. . . good. I can still remember that sense of security and togetherness.
I just can’t imagine ever having it again. There’s a hollowness in my stomach where that feeling to belong.
Maybe I should grow the hell up. Our family hasn’t felt good for a long time. Plus, I’m nearly twenty-three, the age that, to me at least, has always been the marker of true adulthood. It’s the end of the carefree-unbrushed-hair-forgot-my-bra-I’m-a-grad-winging-it early twenties, and the start of the matching-lingerie-health-insurance-real-career-serious-boyfriend midtwenties. And I’m nowhere near any of those things.
I take out my phone and call Stef. He’s this guy I know, a trust-fund baby with a lot of bad friends and nice drugs. He’s always doing something fun. But today he’s not answering.
I live with four other girls in an old brownstone called Rookhaven, in Carroll Gardens, an area of Brooklyn in New York City. I’d love to live in Manhattan, but I can’t afford it, and my best friend Pia hooked me up with a cheap room here after graduation.
I didn’t think I’d stick around long, but it’s the sort of place where you get cozy, fast. Décor-wise, it’s a cheesy time capsule, but I’ve been living here since last August, and now I even like that about it. What bad things can possibly happen in a kitchen that has smelled like vanilla and cinnamon forever?
I let myself in and up the stairs to my room. “Is anyone home?”
No answer. No surprise. Everyone’s at work. Until a few weeks ago I was working as a sort of freelance PA to Cornelia Pace, the spoiled daughter of some socialite my mother knows. Basically, I ran errands (dry-cleaning, tailoring, Xanax prescriptions) for her and she handed me cash when she remembered. Cornelia’s in Europe skiing for the next, like, month. She said she’d call me when she gets back. I’ve got enough cash to survive until then. I hope.
And no, I don’t take handouts. My folks paid my rent when I first moved in last year, and always gave me a generous allowance, but between you and me, they don’t have the money anymore. A few investments went sour over the past few years, and my dad told me at Christmas that they were basically broke, which totally freaked me out. I’d never seen him look that defeated, and I can’t be a financial burden on him anymore. Especially with the bombshell my mother just dropped. They’re divorcing. . . .
Do you think that an empty, cold, gray house at 2:00 P.M. in February, with nothing to do and no dude to text, might be one of the most depressing things in the history of the fucking universe? Because I do. I feel like my toes have been cold forever.
Oh God, I need a vacation. I want sandy feet and clear blue skies and hot sun on my skin and that blissed-out exalted tingly-scalp feeling you get when you dive into the ocean and the cool seawater hits the top of your head. I crave it. We had the best vacations when I was little. My dad taught me how to sail and fish, and Annabel would stop wearing makeup and not worry about her hair for a few weeks. It was the closest to perfect we came as a family.
I flop down on my bed and look around my bedroom. Closet, drawers, bookshelf with back issues of Women’s Wear Daily and Italian Vogue, an old wooden desk with my sewing machine and drawings and photos that I never get around to organizing, and clothes on every surface. Particularly the floor.
Clothes are my life, but not in a pretentious-label-whore kind of way. I honestly love H&M as much as Hermès (and my only Hermès was a present from an ex, anyway). Making clothes—or styling clothes or thinking about clothes or mentally planning how I could pick-apart-and-resew my existing clothes, my future clothes, my friends’ clothes, and sometimes, to be honest, total strangers’ clothes—is my favorite pastime. I can lose hours just staring into space, thinking about it.
Apparently, this sartorial daydreaming gives my face a sort of detached “fuck-off” expression.
I wonder how many of my problems have been created by the fact that I look like an über-bitch when I’m really just thinking about something else?
Sighing, I reach into my nightstand where there’s always my latest Harlequin, M&M’s, cigarettes, and Belvedere vodka. I read a lot of romance novels; they’re my secret vice. But they’re not going to be enough today. All I want—no, all I need—is to forget about everything that’s wrong with my life. I need to escape.
And I know exactly how to do it.
Cheers to me.
Wild child and secret romantic Angie wakes up in a hotel room with $3,000 and no memories of the night before. Her best friends aren’t talking to her, she can’t get a job in fashion, her parents are divorcing, and she’s about to turn twenty-three. And life is about to get much worse.
Brooklyn Girls: Love and Chaos continues the story of our five favorite grads sharing a brownstone and starting out in New York City through Angie’s eyes. On a journey from private jets and yacht parties to dirty subways and hipster bars via crazy storms, flash floods, and retail jobs from hell, Angie discovers who she is, what she wants, how she’s going to get it —and a crazy little thing called true love.
Meanwhile, her roommates lives are imploding, too. Coco’s self-medicating and self-loathing, Pia’s breaking up and cracking up, Madeleine’s finding her voice and Julia might—just might—have met someone she can actually date.
Brooklyn Girls is the hilarious, inspiring Gemma Burgess series every twenty-something has been waiting for that tells you that whatever you do, whatever mistakes you make, everything is going to be okay. All you need is a little luck, a little work, and your best friends.