I wanted to be a magazine writer. I discovered magazines when I was seven. My mother bought me a copy of Girl, a 1980s-era pre-tween UK periodical, as a treat for being good at the dentist. I devoured its pages and hustled my dad into getting a yearly subscription to it. I was loyal to Girl over a solid four-year period and then moved onto Just Seventeen and Mizz. Both were perfect for detailing beauty routines and make up talk, as well as teen style and love advice in equal measure. And then came the big guns: Elle and Vogue. This is where the real love began.
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The fashion and beauty wordplay in these glossy tomes was to me as exquisite as the editorial photos of otherworldly dresses, footwear and bags. Diaphanous, georgette and sequinned were so much more wondrous than the olde worlde lexicon of the literary classics I had to read in English class. Crepe de chine, boucle and cloche were the French words I could define easily. Coco Chanel’s birthday and when Vivienne Westwood opened her first shop were important historic dates I could remember. As a Connoisseur of the Slippery Pages, I dabbled in the US magazines too: Seventeen, YM, Mademoiselle and Glamour, all available at small newsagent’s in London’s Covent Garden for the hefty price of about twenty quid every month. I never had a major friend circle, so magazines formed a good chunk of my social life well into my twenties.
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I wrote during this time. Short stories, poems and then after I got married and moved to Japan, a somewhat regular gig writing health and beauty articles for a city magazine for expats. I was an English teacher during the day, researching and writing my pieces on the train travelling between classes. I loved it—the day job paid the rent; the writing job fed my soul. And I was still addicted to all the fashion, beauty and relationship advice from my monthly Glossy Paper Squad.
Then I had a baby. She took up all the time I would normally spend reading magazines. And one day, she was a couple of years old and standing in front of a mirror at home, grasping for my lipstick and in a snap, I saw her as a teenager with her friends, reaching for their own makeup, and thought, “Young fairies in love with clothes and makeup.”
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The Stolen Wings evolved from there. I knew the land the fairies came from would be a fashion and beauty paradise, all silk, jewels and amazing colours, like magenta and teal instead of pink and green. After I read an article in a magazine (where else?) about black market beauty and how far women would go to procure unregulated beauty products to make them look good even if the merchandise killed them, I had a plotline. And a fictional enemy—Glint Gunmetal Aureus—who owned a beauty salon in London and had a hell of a product to sell you—Atonement, an unguent that would instantly make you look like you did twenty years ago. Who would try and stop him, and why? The young fairies at an enchanted spa in Regent’s Park because the wings of their peers were in those jars of Atonement, making skin youthful.
It was a LONG time (thirteen years or thereabouts) before I published The Stolen Wings. The worldbuilding was an intense process but also invigorating. The sparkling, glittering realm that is Lustrelucida is a reflection of all the fashion and beauty language and ideas I absorbed as a young adult. The relationship advice informs the conversations and emotions between the main character Trula and her love interest, Dune. The hopes and dreams I had for my two year-old daughter and her friends inspire the interaction between Trula and her adolescent fairy pals.
My child is now a teenager. She sits in front of her vanity and reaches for her lipstick each day. And I still reach for my magazines.