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Book Minx

Books and the City

Editor of Books & The City, Book Minx is a fantastic blog reviewing the latest hot reads on the chic-lit shelf. Check out hew witty reviews of the latest must reads and hear secrets from behind the scenes in the world of publishing. Books & The City will also be at Clothes Show Live 2012 retailing the latest books by top authors as well as offering you the chance to meet the team and pick up signed copies.

Sam Faiers - Living Life The Essex Way: TOWIE And Me
30 Oct 2012

Welcome to the glam and fab world of Sam Faiers - star of the hit TV programme The Only Way is Essex. Read on to find out what it takes to be a REAL Essex Girl. The Sam Faiers definition of an 'Essex Girl': A stylish, hard-working, big-hearted and family-minded young woman found in Brentwood or nearby areas (and Marbs). At the start of 2010 Sam Faiers was a normal 19-year-old girl from Brentwood: she was working in a local bank, plotting a glamour modelling career and planning what outfit to wear to Sugar Hut. Then the first episode of TOWIE aired, and suddenly Sam was catapulted into a world of champagne cocktails, TV studios, nightclubs and paparazzi. In Living Life the Essex Way, Sam lifts the lid on her childhood, her rise to fame and her beauty regime, as well as her dating rules, dealing with instant fame, the men in her life and what really goes on behind the scenes on the hit ITV2 show.  

Sam Faiers is the star of the ITV2 reality show The Only Way is Essex. She owns and runs Minnies Boutique along with her mum and sister, Billie. Living Life the Essex Way is her first book.

Sam Fairs at Clothes Show Live

Read, Pray... Job! By the editorial assistant Georgina Bouzova
26 Oct 2012

Last January I was watching Julia Roberts take off her wedding ring in the film Eat Pray Love, about to embark on a journey to “Find Herself”, when it suddenly dawned on me that I too had come to the end of a relationship. Except mine was with my ten-year-long acting career. So I made the biggest New Year’s Resolution of my life and decided to change professions.

A lawyer friend said I could intern for her and told me that the best interns did everything they were asked with good grace, and this became my mantra as I stood by the photocopier waiting with the other interns, all three of whom, even when I added their ages together, were younger than me. However it wasn't long before I realised that you can dress Law up in all the glamour in the world, but it is a dry, dry subject and after ten hours of researching superinjunctions I learnt that sometimes interning is useful just to know which job you DON’T want to do.
Next I interned on a fashion magazine, but after a few days of writing about nail varnish shades I told my friend who was the beauty editor that it wasn’t for me. “You have to keep trying different things,” she said. “It’s like finding The One. You’ll just know,” and promptly gave me a huge bag of beauty goodies to cheer me up.
She was right. Two weeks later when I walked into the offices of an international publishing company, being surrounded by all those books, I just knew. On my first day when in a meeting for Books and the City, I saw the room was laden with baked goods and fresh coffee.
“Is this normal?” I asked one of the girls.
”Oh yes,” she said and promptly forced a Red Velvet Cupcake into my eager palms, "Welcome to publishing!"
My boss was quick to notice my enthusiasm and was soon giving me responsibilities and feedback which really allowed me to learn about the business. I watched her every move and tried to make myself indispensable, making copious amounts of tea (although I once forgot to boil the kettle which was a bit embarrassing). Often the girls would say “You really don’t need to make us tea and coffee all the time, it’s not what you're here for,” but I was just so grateful to have found my “One” I was prepared to do anything to get a job there (and besides I felt that it was karma for all the tea various runners had brought to my dressing rooms in my time as an actress).
Then a few weeks in, my boss led me into her office. ‘We’d like to offer you a job,’ she said. 
And to my absolute rapture I was signed up as Editorial Assistant for the fiction department, the beginning of my new career in publishing.
Those months of interning weren’t the easiest. Just like Julia Roberts’ character there was insecurity about the future plus, in my case at least, a lot of Heinz tinned soup for dinner due to lack of income, but throwing myself into the unknown, just like Julia’s character, paid off in the end. I have at last found the career for me, and making that New Year’s Resolution is the best thing I ever did.

Always expect the unexpected…
11 Oct 2012

But sometimes it is just too unexpected to be believed. I have certainly be taken by surprise by all the extraordinary events that have unfolded since I first set out to write my novel about The Spenders - Britain’s most famous family. Dead Rich. It has proved to be one of the most enjoyable and surprising experiences of my life – totally unexpected!

The twists and turns that have led from its first inception to publication, seem like an endless succession of happy accidents, and to some extent they are. But thinking about what informed the novel and the question that lies at it’s heart – ‘Is a life of fabulous wealth and fame really everything it’s cracked up to be?’ I realise that all the strands of my life and experience are woven together and I have drawn upon them to make up this novel – it is a work of imagination which demonstrates what I believe to be true and that is - to quote Brad Pitt – Fame is a bitch, man.
I was born as far away from the life depicted in Dead Rich as it is possible to be…my father was a sheep farmer in South Wales and I grew up on a beautiful welsh mountain. I ran wild, raised pet lambs and hardly ever went to school – it was idyllic. Both my parents were very hard working and sociable – our house was always full of people - farmhands, friends and fun. Unfortunately, when I was about eight, the bailiffs turned up and that was the end of our life on the farm – nobody expected that!
My parents dealt with such a bitter blow with extraordinary pluck, humour and resourcefulness.  We moved around for a while, dependant on the kindness of friends, until my father became journalist on Farmer’s Weekly and Le Figaro. My sister and I trained wild ponies - which Mum sold on as riding ponies.  We learnt useful lessons early on – you can always work your way back from financial disaster and that family and friends are what matter most.
After a few happy years at the local Grammar School I decided, aged 16 that I needed to move to London. Tired of mud - I wanted pavements – and the pavements of 1970’s London seemed like the most exciting place to be. A brief secretarial course was undertaken (remember those?!)  and I was out into the working world.
Unfortunately, I was the worst secretary on earth. Having been sacked from a job at the Economist – there followed brief and unsatisfactory spells in a couple of advertising agencies - more Sad Men than Mad Men - I began to think I might be unemployable.
I had a wonderful Uncle, who used to hang out in a very disreputable afternoon drinking club, The Colony Room in Soho – famously the haunt of Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud and, less famously, Brian the Burglar.
One drunken afternoon my Uncle met a brilliant designer called Thea Porter at the club. He mentioned his niece ‘was interested in clothes’ To be honest, the only evidence of this, was that I had exhausted my mother’s supply of old table cloths and curtains by making them into very ‘interesting’ dresses. As I say, he mentioned me and I suddenly found myself with the job of my dreams.  I was 17 - Thea Porter was at the height of her fame – making exquisitely glamorous, boho clothes for the most famous actresses, pop stars, directors, writers and artists of the 1970’s. Her exotic, souk/bazaar/shop in Greek Street, Soho was visited by an endless succession of stars; Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Ross, Barbara Streisand, The Stones, Rod Stewart and even Dame Edna…trying on clothes, hanging out, drinking and smoking – telling the stories of their lives – so it was there that I first got a glimpse of what lay beneath the façade of fame. Fascinating, fabulous people – but I couldn’t help noticing that some of them were very fragile indeed…
In those years I often travelled to Paris and LA and visited the houses of many of the Hollywood stars, I hung out with their kids and got a glimpse of what life was like for the families of the famous too.
Then, aged 20, I met and married my husband Theo – this was also pretty unexpected, as we hardly knew each other – but he was very handsome and funny and he asked me… what more can I say! We set up home in a damp little flat, which never had the phone or heating on at the same time – this meant we had to go out – a lot. We met a huge amount of people in those party years and many of the friends we made then remain so today.
Theo was working very hard, beginning to build a career as a jewellery designer and I went on from Thea Porter to become a photographer’s agent – which, not unsurprisingly, took me into the world of photographers, models and advertising agencies. Managing the careers of creative’s was something I enjoyed enormously for a few years – but, after my daughters were born, I found working long hours away from them too difficult – the dilemma of every working mother – I missed them too much.
So I returned to my roots in the rag trade and set up a business that I could run from home, selling Designer samples and excess stock to a list of private clients. I have been doing this happily for the past 20 years. Many of my clients have become great friends. Dressing women is a very intimate experience – the vulnerabilities and insecurities, which so many of us share, make my job very revealing - in every sense. Some of the things I have been told by people have very surprising indeed and I am often reminded that life really is stranger than fiction. 
Then along came this novel – quite unexpectedly – although I have been writing for years. Book outlines, screenplays, a TV series or two. I never had the confidence to show them to anyone – until Dead Rich.  When I told a friend about The Spenders - three generations of a rich, famous family behaving very badly – she just said ‘write it’ and gave me a copy date. That was the spur – The Spenders had lived inside my head for a long time before I started to write about them…so when I finally let them out they were soon elbowing each other out of the way to get as much page space as possible. Lots of things they said and did shocked even me!  So, where did all this stuff come from…pouring out onto the page? Where indeed?
Then I look back at my life so far and I realise – ah – that’s where!

My Perfect Summer
07 Oct 2012
Summer in America or England for the racing season there, and then back home to Australia for yet another summer. I didn’t see a winter until I was thirteen, and it was a couple of years later before my brother and I witnessed snow for the first time – our excitement still feels tangible to me. By then, we had left Australia and moved to England permanently, where my dad had set up a racing team of his own. I was devastated to say goodbye to Australia and my friends, and eventually I would write about being torn between two countries in my debut novel, Lucy in the Sky.
Now, all these years later, I choose to live in England with a family of my own, even though I have an Australian passport and my parents and brother returned Down Under when I was in my early twenties. Many people have screamed ‘why?’ at me over the years. Yes, I miss my family and those same childhood friends terribly. Yes, you can feasibly go to the beach after work (unless you live inland, in which case seeing the ocean is as rare for some as seeing the snow was for me). And yes, yes, yes, the sun shines more in Australia. But much as I appreciated my upbringing, I don’t crave continuous summers. Living in the UK makes me value the seasons. They say the English always talk about the weather – of course we do, every sunny day feels like a celebration; we don’t take them for granted.
This summer, well, I’ll be mostly in beautiful Cambridge where we live. My parents and brother will be here from the other side of the pond, we have four weddings to go to (hopefully no funerals), and I might even attempt punting again on the River Cam (I tried it once and almost fell in – total respect for the people who do this as a job). Most of all, I hope to do no more than spend several sunny days in the garden with my two kids as they splash around in the paddling pool. (No hosepipe ban here, although I still solemnly swear to recycle the pool water for the veggie patch).
But as for the summer that most sticks in my memory, I have to go back to 2007. I was heavily pregnant with my first baby, we had just moved into a house, but had a stressful bridging loan because we hadn’t yet sold our apartment. I was trying to write my second book, Johnny Be Good, and just couldn’t get my head into it because I was so consumed with what impending parenthood would bring (I ended up writing most of it in the three months after my baby was born). That August was one of the worst in my memory, weather-wise. People kept assuming I’d be delighted to not be heavily pregnant andhot, but I felt as gutted as the rest of them that our days were perpetually overcast. I don’t know if mid September can still be classed as summer – probably not – but that’s when my son was born, and, challenging as the year had been up until that point, in that moment, I can honestly say that everything felt perfect.


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