Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Fashioning February: Interview with Gisele Scanlon

Everyone I know simply adores The Goddess Guide be it bookies, fashionistas, beauty bloggers and home bodies. There is something about this lifestyle bible that makes people go weak at the knee; yes the writing is quirky and funny, the cover is beautifully put together and the imagery is stunning. However, it is the small intimate details of The Goddess Guide such as post it notes, the polaroid shots with scribbled handwriting and adorable scribbles that really set it apart from other style books. Reading it makes you feel that you have been let in on a little secret between yourself and Gisele Scanlon who is the author. The book was released in September 2006 to a lot of hype during London Fashion Week and quickly became a cult hit. The follow up, The Goddess Experience was released in October 2008 and was written for women who did not have much time on their hands but still wanted to feel glamorous and beautiful. Gisele, a Sex and the City fan, also has a successful career as a journalist writing for publications such as Irish Independent, Vogue, Conde Nast Traveller and Vanity Fair. The Goddess Experience is being released on paperback this Thursday and also contains new interviews as well as brand new tips on how to look and feel glorious. I caught up with Gisele to discuss life as a fabulous writer and journalist, her books which are now an eclectic brand and the cool places in Dublin. 

The Goddess Guide books have developed a huge following; how did you come up with the concept?
Um, I covered catwalk shows and did different interviews with designers and actors for years and I’d rush back home with notebooks full of stuff but there was never enough space for everything I’d collected. See, I’ve always told stories of my own, tried to make commentary on what was going on in the world and how it was shaping fashion, art, culture. I’d bring in all kinds of things into my interviews. I don’t like gossip and have no time for it so when fashion mags started demanding celebrity angles I walked away. I knew I was born to write and draw and had loads of words inside of me. So I decided to write The Goddess Guide and tell things my way.  

As well as the quirky and fantastic content, The Goddess books are renowned for their fabulous and luxurious covers. Who comes up with this?
When I was little, my family had all of our birthday parties and celebrations in the sitting room in my parent’s house. It was the room that we went into for family pictures because it had the poshest wallpaper (you can see how I ended up doing what I’m doing right?). The wallpaper had a green flock pattern, furry to the touch and I was a bit emotional a few years ago when my Mum decided to take it down and paint the walls instead. I took a piece back to my studio as a little momento and when it came to The Goddess Guide cover I thought it might be neat to wrap my experiences in a flock cover, just like that green wallpaper was the backdrop to all of my best experiences as a child. I took the piece of paper out of a little box I keep it in and showed it to my boyfriend, Peter. We put it in a tiny frame in the bedroom and we’d have little chats about my favourite things. He kept a notebook at his side of the bed and he’d scribble and sketch my favourite things into it as I came up with them. Eventually all the drawings and ideas were put together, scanned into our computer and designed up into the Goddess Guide pattern by Peter. I had a meeting with my publisher I asked them if it would be OK to have a black and white flock design that Peter created for me as the cover to the first Goddess Guide. The publishers were really lovely and said yes and that’s how our first flock cover came about.   

I love the video on your website, what was the idea behind this?
One of my best friends Charlie Inman is a TV director and he’s such fun to be around. I’d always be telling him over dinner the things I was up to and we decided that it’d be fun to film a little bit while I was meeting people for inclusion in The Goddess Experience. It kind of just happened casually. I think it was easy to do because I was just running about with Peter and Charlie. I like collaborating with friends, it makes projects more meaningful.     
What other plans do you have for the website?
Well, as you know more than anyone, websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and the whole digital thaaaang takes time. I’ve just finished a new version of The Goddess Experience and now I’m going to tackle a new hardback for next September release and the website at the same time. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to the books so I’d have to put the same amount of love into a blog. It’s all or nothing a chez moi. 

How did you get started as a journalist and what publications have you written for?
I’d written a few little things for the college newspaper at University College Dublin, Dara Ó Briain (the Irish comedian that hosts Mock the Week) was my editor at the time (he was even funny back then). After college I got a job as a secretary to an architect and it took me half the day alone to correct his letters (his writing was brutal). He’d shout a lot and I’d sit there eyes glazed over dreaming about becoming a fashion editor. One evening, I got the offer of complimentary tickets to see Eddie Izzard in Dublin and when I went to pick up the tickets, the envelope contained a backstage pass and a press pass so that I could interview Izzard after his show. Mint mistake, I know! I saw this as a kind of road sign that I should just go and do the interview, so I did. I wrote three thousand words and sent them into The Sunday Independent in Dublin. They printed two hundred and gave me a little by-line and I sort of found my way on from there. I have that little piece framed in my studio.  Since then I’ve written for loads of mags and newspapers; you don’t really want a list do you? (I was art editor at The Sunday Independent for a bit, I’ve written a few cover stories for the Irish Times, did catwalk reports for Irish Tatler for five years. Then I was a fashion and beauty editor at the Irish Independent. I did some words for Condé Nast this year (Vogue, Condé Nast Traveller, Vanity Fair).) 

Describe a day in the life of Gisele Scanlon.
It always starts the same, no matter where I am in the world. I get up, get ready and then have porridge. After that the day can bring anything. My life is split into three, there’s the bit of my life where I’m travelling and trying to find good little experiences for my books, the bit where I lock myself away in the studio to get the drawings and writing done and then there’s the bit that I use to try and balance the two other bits so that I have quality time with family and friends. Oh and I have to get my running in. I only got back into running in the past year and it has improved my life beyond recognition. It’s a little bit of me time and it’s free.   

Where do you do most of your writing, desk, garden, coffee shop?
Most of my writing is done in my studio. I have a desk and a couch there. I need to be alone and I write in complete silence. I surround myself with nice pens, a lovely notebook and handwrite everything first. Then I look through the notes I’ve collected and piece together each page. I write in little bits, each little experience is moulded into a page so it takes ages, each book is like a little jigsaw. I love it though.  

What advice would you give to a budding author?
I don’t know if I’m in a position to be giving anyone advice on being a good author, I only know that I admire authors who show originality and have a very distinct voice on paper (their own). I try to be as honest on paper as I can and I always try to be myself. I’ve learned as a writer and an illustrator that it’s important to practise so I write and draw everyday no matter where I am. I open my notebook and just do it. To get a book completed on time you have to turn up everyday at your notebook or computer and motivate yourself to get so much done. If it’s done in little tiny chunks (1000 words a day) it’s really enjoyable. After six months you’ll have a book if you bite off a little bit every day. Tiny little steps…. that’s how I achieve things. I run between 5 and 8K a day and my running has taught me to be more patient and kinder to myself. I give myself good nutrition (both mind and body) and get plenty of sleep, I need all of these things to be in balance to be able to write and draw.

What other authors do you admire and why?
George Orwell for writing Down and Out in Paris and London, published in 1933. It’s the opposite of luxury, but lets me filter experiences differently when I’m weighing something up for my Goddess Guides. Dickens for his use of language in A Tale of Two Cities and for leaving so many beautiful words to the world. F Scot Fitzgerald for writing The Great Gatsby. Michael Chabon for penning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Mark Haddon for the beautiful story that is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and David Sedaris for Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and everything that he has written to date. I love when I can disappear into someone else’s world for a while. Dunno what the Apple tablet is going to bring to my bedtime reading as I read to relax sleep. It’s gonna be like a big iPhone which is cool because I play a game (or two) of Where’s Wally? (an app) on my iPhone every night before settling down.

Name four cool places in Dublin where we should check out.
My beau is in Dublin and I’ve a studio there, so some weekends I spend with him. My favourite place for inspiration at the moment is the Hugh Lane Gallery, Parnell Square North, Dublin 1 www.hughlane.ie  Francis Bacon is my favourite artist of all times and his studio is here and was transported bit by bit in boxes from London when he gifted it to the Irish nation. It’s mesmerising! For Vintage… A store is Born, 34 Clarendon St, Dublin 2 (only open on Saturdays) is pretty good for vintage cashmere sweaters/coats. It can be pricey but they stock good reputable names and the cashmere lasts ages. The Winding Stair bookstore and restaurant, 40, Ormond Quay Dublin 1 (tel + 353 1 8727320, www.winding-stair.com) is pretty special. Bookstore downstairs selling new & second-hand books, as well a terrific range of children's books and a Michielin Guide Bib Gourmand award winning restaurant upstairs. And finally my fourth cool place would have to be Dolls, 32b Clarendon St, Dublin 2 (tel: + 353 1 6729004 ) a really great little boutique. 

What other projects do you have in the pipeline and can we expect a third installment of The Goddess Guide?
The Goddess Experience (The Goddess Guide II) is out this week with a new cover and loads of new interviews and tips. I start a new book or a rewrite of a book on my birthday (in November) every year. I’m currently writing my third Goddess Guide book and it has to be finished by the summer. I’m also working on my illustrations (takes ages to get really good) and I want to run a marathon this year. My concept for all is 80 percent there. Once I keep enough energy to finish everything. Aargh!   

You can buy The Goddess Experience on amazon here.

Check out Gisele's website here.

You can follow her on Twitter here.

6 cool comments:

Tiffany said...

I've heard of this book , great interview,I will pick it up.

Kwana said...

Thanks for this wonderful interview. I feel like a dud here in NY for not knowing about it. I'll be fixing that and following her on twitter.

Also Gisele thanks for the writer advise! Much appreciated.

rachael said...

lovely interview! i just love both of her books, they make me happy to flip through

Alison said...

I love Gisele's books - I just reviewed one on my blog too http://alisonthediaryofagirl.blogspot.com if you want to check it out.
Love your blog.

Jasmine Cookie said...

hey, I just found this blog, it's lovely :)

What a great interview with GS. I have both the books - once I saw the way she combined illustration, writing, phtos AND beauty tips, I had to have them, despite one or two elements I didn't like.
but overall, what a great collection of stuff.

I especially liked her description of various types of clothes, heels, undies etc and how to take car of them.

So much nice girly stuff with so many wonderful graphic elements and ideas. She is very lucky to have her photographer bf to help her with it too - it looked like a LOT of work, slight jigsaw puzzle flavour too.

Can you tell I enjoy the book? It's two years later and I still riffle through it and enjoy the illustrations and info. :)

Ondo Lady said...

Tiffany: Thanks it is a great book

Kwana: You can buy the book on amazon

Rachael: Aren't the books great?

Alison: I will check out your blog

Jasmine: You sound about as passionate about the books as I am.