Interview: Zoe Foster, Textbook Romance

| 17 December , 2009 | 2 Replies

Amanda Cole

Zoe Foster and Hamish Blake’s handbook Textbook Romance is something that all my girl friends and guy friends should read at least once, if not permanently tuck it away under their arms as they battle the minefield of dating and relationships. It is practical, real and gives solid advice if at times proving it has very Aussie roots.  Hamish’s comments are “Harsh but Fair” and he calls a spade a spade and offers advice to when you should do the same.

Zoe\’s easy to ready style flows generously over the pages as we progress through courting, dating, relationships and the options we can face along the way.

Textbook Romance

Q&A with Zoe:

So where did the idea come from to write this book?

I found myself constantly (happily) scripting emails and texts for friends to their love interest, and wondered if maybe there was a book in it, a kind of guide for women on how to conduct themselves when communicating to men. But there was a WHOLE lot else I wanted to write about relationships, and it morphed into something much bigger. Also, at this time Hame and I were both writing for Cosmo (and we still are now), and whenever we did a feature on dating together, the response was always awesome. Which got me thinking…

You are a writer and very dedicated to both your work and to educating women in beauty and life, in what way did your experience in the Magazine world help you with writing this book?

I think being around women, being a woman and writing for women over the years gave me a wonderfully solid foundation for being able to really hone in on my passion(s), and effectively (hopefully) articulate it in book form. You learn over the years what women respond to, what interests them, and what bores the shit out of them. I try to avoid the latter.

As the book’s purpose is to steer women through the tricky course of meeting, dating, relationships and into marriage did you see lots of familiar patterns we all fall into?

So many. And of course, to be able to write this stuff, you have to had, uh, some experience of it yourself. Ahem.

What helped to keep you motivated whilst you wrote your book?

I am extremely passionate (evangelical?) about this stuff, which helps when you have to write 80,000 words on it. I would start a chapter, and have to actively stop myself before I went on too long and forced the reader into a coma of bookish boredom. Also a very dramatic deadline and the fact that we authors are paid in advance might have had something to do with it. (Can’t help thinking if this system was implemented in schools and universities a lot more essays would be turned in on time.)

You have been working in magazine for many years, when did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I’d been working at Cosmo for a couple of years when I realised that while I loved my job, I wasn’t entirely creatively satisfied. Always need to be doing 752 things at once, you see. So I created my (now dormant) beauty blog, fruitybeauty, and started writing Air Kisses, which didn’t even really feel like I as writing a book, because I was just jotting down my experiences and anecdotes from being a beauty editor. When it morphed into a proper novel, (a fiction one, it should be noted) then I realised that I had, without entirely meaning to, become an author.

How long did it take from conception to book shelves?

Several millennia, which for an impatient little rat like me is a terribly long time. Actually to be fair, Textbook Romance was the fastest of the three (my third book comes out in February), and only took a year from start to being on shelf. Air Kisses took… Two and a half and the second novel just shy of the same.

What music did you listen to while writing your book?

Sufjan Stevens, Sia, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Ray LaMontagne, Zero 7, Feist, Kings of Convenience…

How did you juggle full time work, writing and your full on life?

Discipline. I set aside a very specific time for book writing – Saturday mornings at 6am for at least 3-4 hours – and stick to it. I know what I’m like, if I make an excuse, or even grant myself a sleep-in til 8am, the work won’t get done, or will be more crabstick than lobster, quality wise.

When is you favourite time to write? Are you a night owl?

I am most lucid and probably at my strongest creatively (also, I am my most highly caffeinated) in the very early morning. I’m rubbish from about 2pm but gather my wily writey skillz again at about 10pm.

Which piece of advice do you think works best for your friends?

It takes 23 seconds to send a text message. (Read the book for the full explanation.) (Go on. Do it.)

How did you come up with engaging the apricot?

Over the last 50 years or so, women have been taught (particularly in the work environment) that the most advantageous way to conduct yourself is by maintaining a hard exterior, and keep all the feminine softness within. (The “Oyster”) This works fine in the office, but when it comes to dating, I believe it to be far more useful to do the reverse: be sweet and soft on the exterior (“Oooh, I’d love to see you tonight…”) but keep a core of strength and self-respect, and stick to your guns on the inside (“… but I’m afraid I already have plans.”) When dealing with men who are Not Trying Very Hard, the apricot is marvelous, because you’re gently indicating what you will and won’t settle for, and there’s no theatrics or wasteful energy expenditure. This forces him to wonder if maybe his behaviour is the reason you keep shutting him down, rather than you telling him it is. (Most people respond far better to no contact, over being told what to do.)

Any extra tips for staying out of Boyfriend cave?

Keep an eye on how active you are compared to your pre-boyfriend life is, and if your non-boyfriend life  has started to gently fade away, re-instate that run with your girlfriend every Monday night, or that Sunday night movie with your sister. Contrary to what a lot of women think, being busy and active and having a full life doesn’t turn men away, it draws them in further.

What was your favourite comment from Hamish (I personally loved the line that men are basically floating around like Jellyfish with jeans on!)

Oh, so many… The one on page 54 about David Simmons always makes me laugh.

How often did you both work on the book or was Hamish involved with his tips at the end, once your structure was in place?

I would write a complete module, then send the manuscript down to Hame for him to scribble over (literally). He’d then send it back and I’d type out his comments and finalise each module as we went.

Are there any plans for your next book

My second novel is out in February, Playing The Field, which I am awfully excited about. After that I’m taking a few months sabbatical, but I am already itching with ideas for the next book. Every day I see, hear or think of something that inspires me. I really am rubbish at being idle. If there was an Australian Idle competition, I would definitely lose.

Whats your favourite book/author?

I really enjoy David Sedaris, Douglas Adams and the witty ramblings of Dave Barry. In terms of women’s fiction I think Marisha Pessl and Kate Atkinson are both exceptionally clever writers.

What kinds of books do you line your bookshelves with?

It’s a 50/50 split of self-help and clever fiction. Also, I love children’s books, and even though I don’t have any children, I buy beautiful or funny children’s books anyway. I hope to write some myself one day.

What are your top three beauty secrets?

  1. Use a cleansing oil before your cleanser for a REALLY thorough cleanse.
  2. Place your mascara wand gently on your bottom lashes and blink for crazy-perfect lower lash coverage.
  3. Apply cream shadow then powder for exceptional staying powder. (Eye shadows, blush, bronzer….)

What is/are your favourite beauty product that you just can\’t get enough of?

Gradual tanner. I use this stuff year round because in our job, you never know when you need to flip out a cocktail dress and be flesh ready. Also, if I am honest, I have a bit of a fixation with  having slightly tanned skin. And by ‘a bit\’ I mean ‘enormous\’.

What\’s your biggest beauty splurge and beauty bargain?

I splurge on treatments, facials, massages, pedicures. Beauty bargain? Lip gloss and nail polish. How can one possibly resist the allure of all those colours and textures? (Hint: One can\’t.)

Zoe and Hamish

Some fun & girlie questions:

Who is your celebrity crush? Don Draper. Not Jon Hamm, Don Draper. Just as he is. Dreamy.

Which is your favourite place in the world and why? The Greek islands. I love everything about them, the people, their way of life. They know how to LIVE, yknow? It\’s about friends and family and 16 frappes a day and a snooze in the afternoon, late, delicious dinners, music, wine and dancing, so much dancing… I come alive over there. It\’s magic.

Describe yourself in 5 words&

  • Excitable
  • Driven
  • Positive
  • Bossy
  • Hungry

What\’s your life\’s motto? What you think about, you bring about.

What five favourite things can\’t you live without?

  • Family and friends
  • Blackberry
  • Laptop
  • Delicious food
  • My brain

Which Sassi Moment best describes you and why? Just in Case … I am a chronic over packer. On my last trip, I had THREE cosmetic bags full of stuff I absolutely could not possibly live without. In my defense I love to provide for all the girls, so, you know, they\’re full-size products, not travel minis. And I give most of it away at the end of the trip. Does that lessen what a rubbish packer I am? You\’re right. Probably not.

Your favourite fun and girlie thing you like to do? A long lunch with my most funnest friends on a gloriously sunny day, with no time limit or plans afterwards.

Who would you like to have at a girl\’s night in and why? (can be anyone around the globe living or passed) Julia Childs (who would cook and be marvelously entertaining), Beyonce Knowles (to sing and teach us all a little dance routine after a few wines) Eva Mendes because she seems like great fun, Tina Fey to make us laugh,  Audrey Hepburn because she struck me as utterly adorable and was so spectacularly elegant, Doreen Hay for some supermystical aura/future/past readings and then my granny, my mum, my sister and all my best friends, because what good would all of those famous people be (and I mean, some of them are dead, so that\’s quite a big deal) unless your friends are there to see it and believe that it really happened and put photos up on Facebook.

So there you have it, a thoroughly enjoyable read, with some helpful tips and fun ways to help yourself along the way. Put your helmets on kids and get out there!!

Available now: Penguin RRP$24.95


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