All posts in Literary

My top 10 books about love.

Here’s a piece I wrote for The Express. It’s my top 10 books about love (not necessarily romantic)

Q & A for Female First

Here’s an interview I did for Female First about why I wanted to work for Cosmopolitan, my time as a Disney presenter and the ironing pile –

The launch of When I Met You

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put into words how grateful I am to every single person who ventured out on Thursday night to Waterstones in Richmond to help me celebrate the launch of my fourth book ‘When I Met You.’


But given that I’m a writer, perhaps I should at least have a try? Words being what I do an’ all innit bruv.

Firstly, there are the obvious reasons. Wine had been bought, books had been ordered in, I’d been to the hairdressers for a hair ‘do’ (which I’d had a crisis of confidence about because I kept thinking I looked like Roy Orbison).

It would have been more than a tad awkward to be standing on my own in front of a mountain of books, making small talk with my agent and publisher while trying desperately to pretend the shop wasn’t empty. When the photo below was taken this was essentially the situation. Notice not only how ‘Roy’ the hair is but also how gritted the teeth are. I had arrived early at the book shop with my boyfriend, Ross, and my children and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t occur to me to send them out into the cold to drag total strangers in off the street. At this point the three of them made themselves scarce, browsing books, arranging glasses, basically anything to avoid the nervous maniac in the red dress.


But, fear of social embarrassment aside, the more poignant reason I am so grateful to people for coming, or for just posting links to Amazon, on Facebook, or twitter, or for buying/reading the book or just generally being supportive, is this. Writing a book is a wonderful thing. Like anything creative, the whole process is enormously satisfying. I love writing stories, and seeing them appear as actual physical books which people can pick up and read is incredibly rewarding and feels like an achievement. But, let’s face it, it’s a slightly weird thing to do too. Unlike other jobs, there’s no office to go to and no commute (this is actually great, as is the fact you can work in your pants should you feel like it. Often I do.)

Writing a book is a totally solitary activity and for a year or so you spend hours and hours creating en entire world and people who aren’t real but who seem completely real to you. If you hit a problem, or aren’t in the mood, there’s no one to have a natter with over a cuppa in the staff kitchen, no one who can help you solve plot problems as you go along, no one you can gossip about your characters with, who truly understands the contents of your by now distracted mind. In fact, until you have a finished draft of some sort that people can read it’s all just in your head. I think this is why so many writers love twitter. It’s the equivalent of a bit of office goss and a way to meet kindred, book obsessed spirits.

And then, one day, suddenly you do have a finished draft which you duly send to your agent and publisher and this stage is just terrifying really. What if they don’t like it?? Worse still, what if they hate it and all this time you’ve been thinking you’re on to something but you haven’t been at all? You get the gist. In a nutshell you become an annoying insecure wreck.

But, with a bit of luck they do like it and some months later, after the inevitable edits, you have an actual book and a date on which said book is going to make it’s debut into society. And because you are the book’s mother you are desperate for it to be liked and for it to be popular so that with a bit of luck you can go through the whole bizarre process again. So then you need to tell people about it because these days the shelves are very over crowded and it is increasingly difficult for your publisher to get it into any shops. My last book sold so many more copies as downloads than it did paperbacks and so word of mouth isn’t just important it’s vital.

So what then? Well, it’s down to you to spread the word and so a book launch is arranged and people are duly invited. But of course it’s January, no one’s drinking, the weather is more conducive to huddling under a duvet in a coat than going out. Can you imagine my angst?

And yet, I needn’t have worried because on Thursday there was the most amazing turn out and THAT is why I am so unbelievably grateful and touched and why your support means the world. It was great. People arrived, my heart rate returned to normal and it was a lovely, buzzy, fun night. Sadly I don’t have loads of photos as I was too busy slugging back the wine, chatting to people and ruining perfectly good books by scribbling my awful looking signature in them.

image (16)

But here are the few I do have on my phone. This is one of my amazing agent, Madeleine Milburn, who said a few words and is such a joy to work with. I love her to bits. She be the best.

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This is my brilliant editor, Sally Williamson, who also said some lovely things and who was there along with the rest of the Mira team. Thanks to Alison in particular for all her hard work and efforts in making the launch such a success. image (5)

Then this is the moment when I was given some beautiful flowers and when, just for a second, I felt, in a brilliant way, like I had just won a medal for ice skating.

image (7)And then it was my turn to speak and I think the following snap truly shows what a shy, retiring wall flower I am ?!

image (3)Then, this is my Dad, Michael, who us Forte’s like to refer to as ‘Mickey F’ and who got a special thanks because he was instrumental in helping me come up with the idea for this book. He’s an all round legend.

image (9)Sadly I don’t have one of my wonderful Mum who was there with a whole gang of her pals. Neither do I have one of my step-mum, lovely Sally, but they were both there in full wonderful force as were my army of siblings.

And as were loads of you, but like I say I only have a small selection of photos. But here are the ones I do have – here’s the beautiful Charlotte Woodward.

image (10)This is the moment my kids, Lily and Freddie, met Dick and Dom and forgave their mum for being a general stress head –

image (14)And these are my friends Flash and Matt. Flash is a rock star and lead singer in the band King Lizard. Because of him I have been to my first heavy metal gig and because of me he has been to his first women’s fiction book launch. This pleases me.

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And lastly, here is me and Alessia Small, one of my oldest friends who was on top form and who looks bloody brilliant in her hat.

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So that is a taste of what was a great night and now my book is out there, vying for attention, trying to make it’s merry way in this big, wide, book filled world. So huge thank you’s to the fab team at Cherish PR, to Sophie at Waterstones, to the amazing bloggers who have read and reviewed the book,to  authors such as Fionnula Kearney who support each other, Clic Sargent for the wonderful work they do, and to all the people who couldn’t make the launch due to life/work/ childcare/illness etc but who have said they will read it and spread the word. You’re all the best.

And here’s the link to When I Met You – a story I am immensely proud of and which I hope you enjoy with all my heart

Peace out. I’m off to start work on the next one….. Chaaaaaaaapter One

Jemma xxx

American cover for If You’re Not the One

090914[2](1)If You’re Not the One is coming out Stateside in  June 2015 and they have just sent me the cover design. I wanted to share because I love it. I think it’s fresh, contemporary and mature. Gawd bless America! x

What happens the week before Publication!

And so, here it is…..PUBLICATION DAY!! The day when If You’re Not the One is officially out and can be found in shops and therefore can be read. By actual people. Eeek.


And I am so excited and proud because I love this one with all my heart. I love Jennifer, I love her story, I love the cover and I am finally ready to see whether other people do too.

pic I want



Now, I’m not having a launch party for this one. Not because I care about it less than my previous two books (quite the opposite) but because I would have had to have organised it prior to Christmas and I was too busy.

Also…… nope, actually there really isn’t another reason I can think of. It just sort of boils down to a lack of effort on my part really. I imagine it’s a bit like if you have multiple children. You have huge birthday parties for your first child, then with number two slightly run out of steam and by three just can’t be arsed. So the first gets a bouncy castle, tea for thirty and elaborate party bags, the second gets lunch at Pizza Express and the third gets a comparatively Mormon existence for the first six years of their life. Have a twiglet. Yes, I know it’s not fair but life’s not fair. Ha.

Anyway, just because I haven’t had an enormous blow-dry and we’re not gathered in a book shop drinking warm white wine doesn’t mean I’m not beyond excited or that I don’t want to thank loads of people. It also doesn’t mean that I’m not unbelievably grateful to all my lovely friends and family who support me by buying my books and being so incredible spreading the word on Facebook and twitter etc. It all helps enormously. Thank you!

There are more thank yous to come but before that I thought I’d try and give you a little insight into a writer’s life the week before publication. Here goes….

For any writer, ‘pub date’ as they call it in the book world (and no, it doesn’t mean a day set aside for being in the pub, though perhaps it should) is a special day. Pub – lication date is the day when you get to celebrate your hard work and to metaphorically wave your book off into the wide world, like a child you’ve reared and are now finally packing off to university. Or… something like that……And not just for me, but for all the people working away on my behalf. Again, more on them later……

The lead up is exciting, nerve wracking and fairly busy as you do your best to promote the book. Although I say that. It’s not that busy really, it’s just until it’s out I feel too distracted to do anything sensible, like work, so allow the book’s release to dominate everything. In all honesty I probably pretend it’s busier than it really is. Partly because people do ask what you’re up to and it doesn’t sound very exciting if you say ‘ Well, there have been bouts of activity but also a lot of just…..waiting really….. with a healthy side portion of intense fretting and googling Amazon to see if anyone’s written anything.’

Fellow writers who may be reading this, don’t pretend you don’t!

Anyway, reviews start to come in which are a great time waster. When they’re good they’re terribly important and make all the difference. The person writing them is a genius who should be revered. When they’re not so good, they mean nothing and the person writing them is obviously a complete idiot who should be sent into exile for having such STUPID opinions.
Anyway, joking aside (we all know I wasn’t joking) it’s exciting to see the first reactions and thankfully they’ve largely been really positive. *Friends and family breathe collective sigh of relief*

And now, here comes a potted version of what’s really been going on this week. With pictures.

Last weekend I was terribly over excited about impending publication so went out and drank oversize unnecessary cocktails to celebrate the boyf’s birthday. (Not on my own I hasten to add….that would be more a cause for concern than celebration.)Bunga cocktailThe next day I felt like this….hungover dogMonday came. Hooray, not long to go now. Things started to ‘hot up.’ (Partridge)

First came a lovely piece in Hello. This bodes well. I am ‘well’ pleased.

Hello smaller versionThen it was in Now –

Now smaller version

Then Heat, with a pleasingly ginormous picture to accompany the review. Wahoo.

Heat smaller versionAnd OK!

smaller OK

By the middle of the week I’d spent a lot of money on magazines and was thoroughly well versed on what Kate Middleton and Lee from Blue had been up to. They’ve had fairly different weeks it has to be said.

On Wednesday, myself and the lovely Sam from Cherish PR had a trip to Magic FM. This was a lot of fun, but I left (as I always do with these things) worrying that I’d talked SO MUCH. Still, I suppose that’s sort of what I was there for?!

Anyhooooo, it was great and there were no worries about dead air or anything. Man alive I can talk.smaller magic

What else? Well, as any fellow Londoners know, it rained A LOT and there were no tubes. I, like everyone else had some trying, rainy journeys, but you’ve gotta laugh – That’s me and my sister putting a brave face on things.

rain with sisAnd I managed to only have one night where I was an insomniac freak and felt like this the next day…….

No I have not slept well

Though I did LOOK like that. This rain is no good for anyone’s barnet.

On Thursday I wished it was Friday and actually did a bit of work. I write a blog for Tate so that kept me busy. Then I heard a rumour from my agent, the one and only Madeleine Milburn, lit agent extraordinaire and all round lovely being, that there may be a book deal in the offing from……..wait for it……..AMERICA.

god bless america

This is very exciting. I have always wanted to be published in the US. For some reason, and I mean NO OFFENCE to Lithuania, Poland, Italy or any of the other wonderful countries I’ve been published in, but America feels like a really big deal. They’re a tough market to crack so if this happens I’ll be one happy girl.Yeeehaaaa. Etc. To celebrate I try and fail to perform the opening sequence to Flashdance in my living room.

And now, it’s today, Friday 7th Feb and my book, which I am so passionate about, is like Tom Daley. Out and proud!

Today I am heading into Mira, my publishers, to make a nuisance of myself and to film a little interview with Lucy Campbell who is an amazing blogger. her blog is Family Affairs (and other matters). She was kind enough to say she’d like to post it on her site and I leaped at the chance as now it’s all about spreading the word as much as possible. Read it you mothers……for the love of god please READ IT.



And tonight? What am I up to? A posh dinner? A party? Standing outside book shops with a scary expression on my face, nose pressed against the glass (actually that’s tomorrow.) No, better than that. Tonight, me and my Lily and Freddie are having a celebratory takeaway. Probably Thai. Requests have been taken for Orange Fanta (come on it’s a special occasion let’s go crazy) and Mummy will be on the Prosecco. I can’t think of a nicer way to celebrate.

And now for the thank you’s. There are a lot of personal ones at the back of the book in the acknowledgements so ditto those again. But the following need another mention because it takes a team to get a book out there. Maddy Milburn, Sally Williamson, Cara Lee Simpson, Deborah Hooper, Nick Bates, Alison Lindsay, Elise Windmill, Shane Herrington, Samantha Allen and all the other wonderful people at Mira and Cherish and the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency who have been marketing, designing, selling and who have made so much effort with this book. THANK YOU xxxx




An interview for chicklitclub

An interview I did for chicklitclub about If You’re Not the One, what ifs, and the need for fresh ideas

Enjoy! x

What’s the big idea?

People often ask me what the hardest part of writing a book is. My answer is always the same. The writing part is relatively easy, it’s coming up with what you want to write about that can prove tricky. That bit can be as drawn out and protracted (though thankfully not as painful) as giving birth. Only with no free drugs on the NHS to help you through it.

So far I’ve written three novels. The first was inspired by personal experience and had a very long labour (first ones often do). It started as diary entries, developed into short stories and only became a fully- fledged novel after a lot of self- doubt, false starts and rewrites.

Continuing the ‘birth’ analogy, the idea for my second book required a fair bit of intervention in order to arrive. My publisher wanted to know what I was going to write next. I didn’t know. For a while I got away with smiling enigmatically whilst raising one eyebrow whenever the subject of book two was raised. But I suspected there was only so long I could get away with this before they’d start thinking I had a facial tic as opposed to an intriguing idea brewing. It was a worry because, in truth, despite trying really hard, I couldn’t get it out (Is this analogy actually helpful or just plain weird?)

It was terrifying. My creative mind had gone blank. It got to the point where the more I strained to think of something, the more I was coming up with ideas that were the literary equivalent of Alan Partridge shouting ‘Monkey Tennis?’ Eventually however, after many long walks, many sessions of lying down on the bed hoping music would inspire me, a few casual panic attacks and some gin, the idea arrived. Safe and sound. And suddenly it was all worth it.

With my next book If You’re Not the One I got lucky. The idea to write about a woman who finds out what life would be like had she stayed with three different men from her past, seemed to arrive fully formed and gift wrapped with a beautiful shiny bow on it. The equivalent, if you like, of a natural, smooth delivery. Like one in a film, where it only takes about five minutes, you haven’t aggressively sworn at anyone even once, and there’s nothing to show for your exertions other than an attractive sheen of perspiration on your forehead.

I couldn’t wait to start writing. Apart from anything else, I felt it was a concept most people would be able to relate to. We all have to make decisions sometimes that impact on our lives in a number of ways, sometimes entirely unwittingly. Accepting or turning down a job for instance, saying yes to a date you’re not sure about, or simply not going to a party could all mean not meeting, or meeting different people.  And who you choose to share your life with is surely the biggest decision of all? Your partner affects, not just how your relationship is, but where you live, your extended family, finances, social circle… the list is endless. And so there it was, my idea, and the result is If You’re not the One. A book I’ve thoroughly enjoyed rearing (OK, enough now) and is finally making it’s debut into society on 7th February. When it does I hope it makes me proud. I want it to make people laugh, hope it might make people cry, but most of all, really hope it makes the reader think. And yes, I know I’m horribly bias and that you’re not supposed to have favourites, but secretly I think this one might be mine.


Why a deal with Working Title Films was a destiny day for me.

Francesca, the protagonist in my first book, Me and Miss M, believed and spoke often of ‘destiny days.’ She said, and I quote…

In life there are a handful of days when we experience key moments that either determine or fulfil our destiny, depending on what you believe in. These days have two things in common. One is that at the time they seem utterly ordinary and it’s only ever with the luxury of hindsight that you realise you’ve had one. The other is that you never, ever forget them.’

Looking back at 2013 I realise Francesca may have been onto something, for I believe I had two destiny days last year and I certainly won’t ever forget either of them.

The first took place on a colder than it should have been, slightly drab, English Summer’s Friday.  My boyfriend and I both had a day off. Actually stop. That is a bare faced LIE. He had a day off. I was out of work. Every day was a day off. Prior to this period of nothingness I had been working at a shopping channel selling items ranging from window vacs to blenders. Not exactly the dream for someone who had many moons ago presented on proper telly, but it had been a job nonetheless and one that had become all the more precious when I’d split up with my husband and become to all intents and purposes a single mum.

Sadly for everyone who worked there, the channel had gone down the spout a couple of months before and to make matters worse/ more stressful, to date I had received nothing but rejections for my latest novel, which I strongly believed to be my best yet. Not that my opinion would equate to anything financially unless someone in publishing agreed.

Basically things weren’t looking all that fantastic (huuuuuuge understatement, things were SHIT) but I was determined to remain positive in a Butlin’s redcoat kind of way. The other option was giving into the terror which was creeping up on me which in turn might lead to me doing something drastic I’d regret forever, such as marching into various publishing houses and refusing to let go of editor’s ankles until they gave me a deal.

So for now I was being fake cheery and had decreed to my boyfriend that we should go swimming. To the public baths. It would be cheap, fun, healthy and according to the forecast hot, so we could chill out in the sun. If we shut our eyes we might even feel like we were on holiday. I met him at the station. He didn’t look convinced. Probably because it was actually raining.

‘It’s nothing,’ I said manically. ‘It’s going to clear up any second.’

He sighed and by way of reply gazed up at the ominous, thick blanket of grey cloud cover.

I was having none of it though. ‘Come on,’ I said ‘Only I just need to pop in here first to get some suntan lotion.’

‘Why? Can you get burnt by rain?’

I ignored him. Things had been so rubbish lately. I had been so worried about everything that frankly I was at a stage where I thought that if I just willed it to, the sun would come out, bathing everything in its optimistic light and warming my tense bones with its rays which in turn would put everything in perspective.

With hindsight there’s a definite possibility I’d gone a bit mad.

One hour later and my boyfriend and I were sat sheltered under a tree with our jackets on over our swimming costumes. We were the only two human beings at the vast outdoor pool apart from one lifeguard who was wearing a coat. He was sat glowering at us from the other side of the pool probably because we were the only two things standing between him and a hot shower and a nice cup of tea.


‘This is shit isn’t it?’ I finally admitted.

‘Yes,’ said my boyfriend ‘can we go to the pub please?’

‘Yes,’ I shivered, getting up to wring out my towel. For a fleeting moment I thought I might cry and then my phone rang.

It was my book agent. Ringing to tell me that Mira books at Harlequin wanted to offer me a two book deal.


There might as well have been fireworks. As I said goodbye to my agent, having thanked her a million times, I realised my heart was pounding and that my whole body was shaking with adrenaline, with relief and with happiness.

That phone call changed everything.

Suddenly the rain was romantic. Suddenly, my boyfriend who had managed to glean what was happening, picked me up and swung me about, feeling far far less inclined to kill me.

‘Pub?’ I squealed.

‘Yeah, let’s get out of here now,’ he agreed, giving the life guard an apologetic thumbs up, and off we went, only not to drown our sorrows but to celebrate.

And that was my first destiny day of 2013. The second was to arrive just before Christmas.

By now, my agent had been to the Frankfurt Book Fair with my book, If You’re Not the One, and there was a bit of interest from various film scouts. Previous experience told me that in reality, although this was encouraging, it didn’t really mean much, as getting past the ‘ooh there’s a good idea in here’ stage is nigh on impossible unless you’re a huge name writer.


However,  a while later I found myself visiting the offices of Working Title Films for a meeting with a development producer who I hit it off with instantly. She was dynamic, bright, nice, and best of all loved my book. Hooray. This was all lovely and flattering but I knew there were many more hurdles to get over before anything would actually happen. And so the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months and all the while we were getting closer.

I started to feel a bit mad again because  I could feel the hint of a possibility turning into genuine interest. Then interest was coupled with some action at which point I began to realise it could actually happen and how absolutely brilliant that would be. And yet nothing could be said or celebrated until that offer came in in writing.

And then, one day (December 12th at 19.37, ha, told you you never forget) it did.


It was finally real and I am so happy and proud and excited that Working Title Films have liked my book enough to option the film rights. That in itself feels like a huge accomplishment especially given that I am such a massive fan of so many of the downright brilliant films they’ve made.  Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral,  Bridget Jones and Elizabeth are all firm favourites and that’s just the tip of their production iceberg.

And now I wait. But in a happy, non- tense way, content to let things take their natural course. I know only too well that these things can take years and the most important/ exciting thing now will be to see what people make of the book come 7th February, when it’s out.

But whatever happens, what 2013 taught me is that if you stick at things long enough, keep the faith and don’t give up, things can change in a heartbeat and so undoubtedly there will be a few more destiny days in store. For us all.

Oh…. it taught me something else as well. Don’t go swimming in the rain in England. Because it’s cold and shit and your boyfriend (and the lifeguards) won’t thank you for it.



Pippa Blog

Sometimes in life a job can come along that turns out to be such a pleasure. A while back I was approached to write a blog for a huge, fairly heavyweight recruitment agency called Tate. They wanted a blog to feature on their website which might increase traffic and ultimately help them to recruit more great PA’s for the company. And so it was that Pippa Allbright was born! |See what I’ve done there? Pippa Allbright…..Aaanyway, Pippa has moved down to London from the North and is working as a PA thanks to Tate. Fortunately I’ve been given free rein with regard to what I can write so, as a result, she’s totally normal in as much as her love life is a mess, she suffers sporadically from terrible hangovers and lives with a flatmate from hell.

I’d love you to have  a read so here’s a link to it

Enjoy!  Oh…….and book news coming soon!! xx

The launch of From London with Love

This Wednesday my friends and family joined me in celebrating the launch of my second book, From London with Love, at the King’s Road branch of Waterstone’s.

Here are a few photos from the event which was BRILLIANT. A real celebration and a reminder that I am blessed with incredible friends and family who are not only supportive and generous but also very good at drinking white wine.

Below, on the left, me trying to work out how to hold a pen after years of using a PC. Then, me standing in front of a huge pile of books, praying it’ll be smaller at the end of the evening….

Below, on the left, Cherie, a good, good friend and an amazingly bendy yoga teacher.  In the middle, Charlotte, Aleeeeeeeesha Beyonce (Alessia) and Juliette. Bloody love them. Then, on the right, me with my lovely mum who came all the way from Italy especially for it (sort of thing you usually only hear at weddings). Then, on the right, my long suffering, deeply wonderful husband, Charlie.


Below the fabulous Lucy and Jo. Not the best picture ever taken but hey, see earlier wine reference…

Above, Jessica, one of my beautiful sisters. I have three of them. Seriously, we’re like the Brontes minus the bonnets. N.B The heroine in From London with Love is called Jessica.

On the left, my amazing friend Carmel (quite a gal), with Alessia, Charlotte and Juju. In the middle Stroma with the freaks, otherwise known as the Forte family. That’ll be another of my sisters, Imogen, Harry, my bro, my second mum Sal and my legendary father (mickey F). On the right my little girl Lily with Mister Maker (Phil).                                                                                                                                                              

Thank you to everyone who came, bought, then drunk the bar dry next door. It was a happy, happy occasion and also gave me an excuse to buy a new frock and have massive hair. So all good. 

P.S I’m glad there weren’t any photos of the very end of the night when half of East Sheen were standing on the pavement hammered, barely able to even summon a cab. Or am I? Maybe they’d be quite funny. To all the people who aren’t featured, I’m sorry, I didn’t take any photos myself as I was too busy having FUN and revelling in it all. xxx