Friday, 11 March 2011

a flavour of my novel

I started writing what was then called Hollyworld when I was 12. The original idea sprang from a small section from 'The Silk Sisters' series by Fiona Dunbar in which the girls end up in some kind of fashion world. It is currently untitled and I am in the process of rewriting it, as the first draft was finished when I was 14. I never imagined that I would continue with it to novel length because I had the habit of abandoning ideas, but the original draft was nearly 100,000. Here is an extract from the first chapter: 

A pair of heart-shaped sunglasses pressed against the head of Kate Goddard. The sun was beating down onto the High Street, hot and heavy, greasing the pavement with its sheen. Her painted lips curled down slightly at the corners in despondency as she stepped into the revolving doors. She weaved her way through the luxury clothes, brushing the back of her hand against the cashmere and silk adorning the hangers. Kate liked to take the time to dream in places like this. The smell of perfume wafting from the beauty department brought all sorts of fantasies to her mind.
Paris was waiting for Kate outside the café. Her arms were folded as her sharp brown eyes surveyed passersby, scrutinising their outfits disdainfully. As she raised a neat eyebrow, her conclusion was that money could not buy taste. It was hard for her to ignore the bitter resentment with which she assessed this. Young mothers in £200 t-shirts and wealthy tourists draped in logomania, swept passed Paris thoughtlessly. She was caught up in these thoughts when she saw Kate approaching.
“Hi” Kate smiled, hugging her flatmate warmly. “How are you?”
“Alright thanks” Paris said, before diving straight in and asking, “So how was the interview?”
“Not good” Kate sighed.
The pair ordered their coffees then found a table in the corner where they could talk. Kate put her sunglasses down in front of her. Their coffees were brought to them and, staring into her skinny latte, Kate was saying, “I was too nervous again. I messed it up. I can just tell. I don’t have that natural confidence that everyone looks for.”
Paris shrugged. “It’s not like you wanted the job that much anyway.”
Kate picked up her sunglasses and rested them lackadaisically on her head. “Yeah, but it was a job. I can’t go on like this. I need to be earning proper money now.”
“Wait another two months at least. Then it’ll be a year, and after a year you can compromise, but we promised not to give up until we had been trying for a year,” Paris said. She was recalling the pact they had made under the clear Camden starry skies last June. They had sat cross-legged on the floor outside, sharing a cigarette and talking about their future. With the clichéd optimism of recent graduates Kate and Paris had vowed to live for their dreams, at least for a year. If that didn’t work out, they would go for the boring office job with its steady income, but until then they were trying to break into the world of glossy fashion magazines.
“Time’s running out” said Kate, taking a sip of her coffee and bringing the conversation to an end on that negative note.
Paris left Kate at the table whilst she went to the toilet. She caught herself in the mirror and sucked in her stomach. She was trying to lose a few pounds. People told her that she didn’t need to, but she had to at least try. Paris thought that maybe if she lost weight she would look more high fashion. Perhaps that would help her get a job in the industry. She had been working hard for years. She considered that she was being naïve, but she had tried every other method.

Lucie was sitting at the kitchen table at their unpretentious flat in New Cross. She was scrolling through Instagram, waiting for Kate and Paris to get home. She was stalking her latest favourite influencer and taking screenshots of all the clothes she couldn’t afford. If only she could afford to dress like her, then maybe she could be more like her. Of course, she needed to lose a bit of weight as well, and go on some more holidays, and find a model to date. What a beautiful life that would be. She sighed.
When the Kate and Paris returned to the flat that evening, Lucie was beaming. Her laptop was out in front of her, but she had looked up from it as soon as she had heard the key in the door.
“I have amazing news. I wanted to wait until you got home to tell you.” Lucie’s grin spread from ear to ear as she stumbled over the words in excitement. Her eyes sparkled beneath the cheap kitchen light as she revealed, “I had a Skype interview today, and I got the job straight away. It’s for an online magazine and the best part is the editor really wants to interview you two as well.”
“Ah, that’s so good,” Kate said, putting her sunglasses down on the counter and walking over to fill up the kettle. As she turned away from Lucie, she rolled her eyes. Online magazine meant not getting paid.
“Yeah, well done Luce. What’s the magazine?” Paris enquired earnestly.
“It’s called THINK OF NAME. [SW1] I hadn’t heard of it, but it has like fifty thousand followers and it’s meant to be really up-and-coming. Plus, it’s paid, and the editor knows a lot of the right industry people,” Lucie expressed, with another wide smile.
“Really?” Kate raised her eyebrows, turning away from the kettle to face Lucie.
Lucie nodded. “I said you’d be in touch tomorrow to arrange an interview?”
The next morning, Kate rode the tube to Bethnal Green, where she worked part-time. She felt confident knowing that she had confirmed an interview with the magazine for her lunch break.
At work, she wearily greeted her colleagues before taking the first coffee orders of the day. Kate had always daydreamed about working in a café. She had imagined perfecting her knowledge of coffee, making friends with regular customers and reading in her breaks. It was a romantic notion and, like a lot of these notions of hers, it had disappointed. Every morning a string of commuters came through, wanting filter coffee as quickly as possible. They were tired and grumpy; no time to chat. She would get into trouble if she tried to read when it quietened down after the morning rush.
Today Kate did have time, however, to tell her colleague Matilda about the interview. Matilda’s half-hearted congratulations stung Kate momentarily, but she shrugged it off. Her and Matilda had never got on. Matilda had studied zoology, but she was working in the café until a position she wanted to take came up. She thought that Kate’s interests were shallow and frivolous.
Today Kate got to take her lunch break first. She set up her laptop in the corner of the café and started the Skype call.
The face of a glamorous woman with mid-length straight black hair showed up. After the initial technological difficulties of not being able to hear each other, the editor introduced herself.
“Hi, I’m Cecilia”, she said. “I’ve recently taken over as editor of XYZ[SW3]  magazine, so we’re looking for a new team. It’s an online magazine that lives and breathes fashion, but we’re hoping to go into print soon.”
“Sounds cool,” said Kate. She was smiling, but she was nervous. What if Lucie had got the job but she wasn’t good enough?
“Your friend told me a bit about you yesterday. I googled your name and found your blog. Some of the content just blew me away. You definitely know what your audience wants. It’s exactly what we’re looking for at XYZ. I looked through your posts and your writing style is perfect for us”, said Cecilia. “We can discuss the particulars later, but I’m willing to let you start a trial period straight away. If you want to, that is?”
Kate was speechless. She was used to interviewers tearing her down with impossible questions and endless hoop jumping. To hear that there was a paid job that she could fit into so easily felt like a dream.
She smiled and nodded enthusiastically. “Amazing. Thank you so much!”
“So, your main responsibilities will be editing, writing, scheduling and sending emails. Does that sound alright? Lucie said you have a lot of experience interning so it shouldn’t be a problem for you.”
“That sounds perfect” Kate said. “Um, Lucie said the position is paid?”
“Yes, yes. We’ll get to that. Let’s start you on your trial first. I have some exciting things planned,” Cecilia smiled. “Right, I’ve got to go now. Sorry that had to be so quick. Thanks for your time though. I’ll send over your login details for the website later.”
“Brilliant. Thank you,” Kate beamed.
She ended the call, closed her laptop and sat back in her chair, surveying the café.
She caught Matilda’s eye. “Went well then?”
Kate nodded. “Really well, yeah.”
Kate got home that evening to discover that Paris’ interview had been equally, if not more, successful. Cecilia was sending her to assist on a shoot tomorrow morning.
“I think it’s a test”, Paris said, “To see if I can work to tight deadlines under pressure. Cecilia said she’s seen my work and I’m a perfect fit for the magazine. She said my work blew her away and she thinks I’m very talented.”
“Yeah, she said something like that to me too,” said Kate.
“I’m actually so happy we all got this,” Lucie said, “I’ve always been a bit worried that one or two of us would get something good and someone would be left out.”
“Yeah, I hope it actually works out,” Kate said.
“I don’t know why, but I’ve got a good feeling about this,” said Lucie.
“I do too. I bought some prosecco earlier to celebrate,” Paris added.
She went to the fridge and opened the prosecco. They sat around drinking and talking. Once the bottle was finished, Paris went out to buy more wine and they stayed up until the small hours of the morning with their dreams, their wine and each other. It was one of those nights of strange magic that the three young women wished to hold onto forever.

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