Frangi Chats To…Gemma Crisp – Author of "Be Careful What You Wish For" (And All ‘Round Awesome Chick)

Former editor of Dolly and Cleo Magazines, Gemma Crisp, has always been lovely to me, and so when I heard she was releasing a novel, I was super excited. As I was in America when it was released in December, I only got my hands on a copy last week. I picked it up at Sydney Airport, and by the time my plane landed back home, I had devoured the novel and adored every second. 

“Be Careful What You Wish For” tells the story of mag-addict Nina who leaves her hospitality career to pursue her ultimate media dreams. While at first everything seems like a dream come true, she soon realises that not everything is as glossy as she first imagined. 
I sent Gemma some questions to her new home in London (what a lucky duck!), and here’s what she had to tell me about the novel. 

FP: How much of the novel was based on your own experiences in the magazine industry?
GC: While the novel is fiction, I have to admit I did take some inspiration from a few events that either happened to me or that I heard about during my 10+ years in the magazine industry. The start of the novel mirrors my experience quite closely but then as the story advances, it becomes pure fiction.
FP: Were characters based on real people, or were they entirely fictional?
GC: Some characters are purely fictional, while others were loosely based on people close to me. None of them are an exact replica though – it’s not an autobiography by any means!

FP: Did you have an aim in writing the novel, or was it purely for entertainment purposes?
GC: Given it’s a chick-lit novel, I wrote it purely for entertainment purposes. It’s the perfect plane read or lazing-on-the-beach book, but I hope it also helps anyone who is interested in magazines to get an understanding of what can go on behind those glossy pages.

FP: In the novel, Tess reveals she suffers from anxiety and depression. What made you decide to include this storyline?
GC: Quite a few of my friends, both male and female, have experienced these illnesses, both of which are still very misunderstood. I guess it was my way of shining a light on something that needs more awareness – even if it helps just one person recognise the signs in their friend or family member and prompts them to ask if they’re okay, that’s one less person who is suffering alone.

FP: Based on your experiences in the industry, how realistic are Nina’s experiences on the job?
GC: Nothing goes smoothly all the time, whether you’re a magazine journalist, an accountant or a rocket scientist. Being fiction, some of Nina’s experiences are exaggerated to make them more dramatic while others are true to life. Having said that, there is one particular story arc involving a certain celebrity and her publicist that did actually happen to me a few years ago, so I’ll leave you guys to try to guess who it is!

FP: Lizzie and Romy are very Devil Wears Prada when it comes to job envy, is this something you see a lot in the real magazine industry?
GC: I can’t speak for everyone in the magazine industry, but I think people would be surprised at how nice and normal 99.9 per cent of the women who work in the industry are. Of course there are times when not everyone gets along but you can say that for any office. I’ve developed amazing friendships with colleagues at every magazine I’ve worked for which have continued well after we’ve all moved on. And remember, every story needs a villain (or two), so I wouldn’t read too much into Lizzie and Romy’s antics!

FP: Was your start in the industry similar to Nina’s?
GC: Yes, to a certain extent. I was lucky enough to score a three-month unpaid internship at an internationally renowned magazine then moved into a paid editorial assistant role with the help of a contact I’d made during the internship – however, unlike Nina, I didn’t leave that role after just three weeks! I also didn’t climb the ladder quite so quickly as Nina, but that’s probably a good thing!

FP: What was your writing process like?
GC: As I was editing CLEO at the same time as writing the book, I had to be strict about setting aside time to write – that meant chaining myself to my laptop for one day every weekend. There were days when it was the last thing I felt like doing after having a stressful week, but a book doesn’t write itself! I started off writing it on the couch, then moved to the dining table, but found I was still getting too distracted (oh look, there’s some washing that needs to be taken off the clothes line…!) so I ended up sitting at a desk in the corner of my bedroom facing a wall! I would write anything from 1,000 to 3,000 words at a time – it just depended on where I was at in the storyline, how tired I was and how easily the words were flowing on that particular day.

FP: How did you come up with the title for the novel?
GC: I actually submitted the manuscript without a title because I couldn’t think of one I liked! Then my publisher and I threw around a couple of suggestions, but she wasn’t really happy with any of them. I’d jotted down Be Careful What You Wish For in the notes I kept while writing the novel but I wasn’t sold on it – ideally I wanted something clever like The Devil Wears Prada, but I couldn’t think of anything!  So eventually I bit the bullet and suggested Be Careful What You Wish For, thinking my publisher wouldn’t rate it but she immediately loved it – she said it felt intriguing, so that’s what we went for. Intriguing is good, right?!

FP: What has been the highlight of the whole process to date?
GC: There’s been so many – actually seeing the book on shelves was a big one, as it was originally due to be released in January after I’d moved to London so for a while there, I wasn’t going to see it on shelves at all! But then my publisher decided to bring the release date forward, so the first time I saw it was at the international terminal of Sydney airport while waiting for my flight. That was topped off an hour later by spotting someone buying it while I was sitting at the gate waiting to board! I’d convinced myself that only my friends and family would buy it, so I was pretty happy! Other than that, I’ve really appreciated the readers who have tweeted me saying how much they loved it. Oh, and getting great sales figures hasn’t been terrible either!

FP: Can we expect a sequel, or another novel that has nothing to do with Be Careful What You Wish For?
GC: Just between you and me (and Frangipani Princess readers!), I’m actually in talks with Allen & Unwin right now about a potential sequel, so watch this space!

FP: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers, both in the magazine and book industries?
GC: There are loads of wannabe writers out there – what will set you apart is developing your own tone. Think about the writers you like and why you like them – chances are, it’s because they have a distinct ‘voice’. That’s what keeps people coming back for more, so it’s an important character to work on.

FP: If you had to describe Be Careful What You Wish For in one word, what would it be? 
GC: Awesomesauce
Be Careful What You Wish For is available now through Allen&Unwin (at all good bookstores), and if you have an interest in the magazine industry, this is definitely a novel for you. 

frangipani princess xoxo

One thought on “Frangi Chats To…Gemma Crisp – Author of "Be Careful What You Wish For" (And All ‘Round Awesome Chick)

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone, Gemma Crisp | Frangipani Princess

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