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The magic of the makeover – Guest post from author of ‘Becoming Betty’ Eleanor Wood

From Andie in Pretty in Pink to Tai in Clueless, the makeover trope has long been one of my favourites. It’s that wish fulfilment fantasy of being able to make ourselves into someone completely different – an escape from our own boring identity. We like to believe it’s possible.

When I was in sixth form, I used to dye my hair a different colour every week – bleached blonde, jet black, purple, pink, pillar-box red and (just the once) a terrible sludge green. Every time, I hoped it might change my life. Every time…it didn’t.


My best friend and I would walk around Camden Market, watching the cool people go by and trying to decide who we wanted to be like the most. We were indie kids who wanted to try out being goths, punks, 60s beatniks, 70s hippies… Anything that would give us the identity we craved.


We ignored Actual Fashion and trawled charity shops, made our own clothes and got new piercings whenever we were bored on a Saturday afternoon. There was a flirtation with stick-on Bindis. The phase of blue lipstick, which prompted my stepdad to say ‘you look nice, have you recently drowned?’.


I had a total style crush on the girl who worked in Rockit on Camden High Street. I had my hair cut just like hers (short bob with unfortunate tufty fringe that didn’t suit me), had a lip piercing just like hers (I took it out after a month because it went gross). I imagined her life was so cool and glamorous; as I got the train home to my own suburban small-town home, I dreamed that a little bit of it would rub off on me. It wasn’t just a haircut, it was a magic spell. It never, ever worked.

Eleanor with a cute hair makeover

In Becoming Betty, Lizzie is so uncomfortable in her own skin, she will do anything to change it. Whether that’s with a new name, a new look, new friends. Like all of us, it takes her a while to realise that’s not how it works…


Top five movie makeovers


1. Andie in Pretty in Pink: when she cuts up that pink prom dress, it’s the coolest thing ever. I mean, it still looks like a hideous 80s nightmare by the time she’s finished with it, but that’s not the point.

2. Tai in Clueless, courtesy of Cher: OK, Tai looked better before as a skater grrl, rather than a generic California babe, but Cher means well and they are both the cutest.

3. Sandy in Grease: It’s really not cool to change your look for a guy, but you have to admit she looks super-fierce.

4. Mrs Doubtfire: Yeah OK, it may not be capital-F ‘Fashion’… but you’ve got to admit it’s impressive.

5. Gracie Hart AKA Gracie Lou Freebush in Miss Congeniality: because I will never not love Sandra Bullock.

Thanks Eleanor. Gracie Hart is my fave of those five. I adore that film. I’d also add in She’s All That and The Princess Diaries for fun makeovers too. I also coincidentally watched the documentary Embrace by Taryn Brymfitt on Monday and I highly recommend seeing it if you can. Will make you think twice about transformations, which I’m guessing this book will do too. 

Becoming Betty is out on 20th April. 


Lizzie Brown’s life is one big to-do list: 

1. Start college

2. Become cool

3. Decide wtf to do with her life

So when she meets Viv, the crazy, beautiful lead singer in a band, she thinks she’s on her way to achieving number two on her list. And when Viv asks her to be the bass player in the band, there’s only one problem – Lizzie can’t play a single note. And that she’s nowhere near cool enough (ok, two problems). And that she has a huge crush on the guitarist (ok, three), who happens to be Viv’s boyfriend (ok, this is a terrible idea). 

But Viv won’t take no for an answer, and decides that a makeover is the answer to everything. Boring Lizzie Brown is going to become Betty Brown the Bass Player and there’s nothing Lizzie can do about it…

I also spoke to Eleanor about her previous novel Gemini Rising a couple of years back and am look forward to catching up with her new release. 



Author/Character Interview – Eleanor Wood/Sorana Salem

Yesterday I reviewed Gemini Rising by Eleanor Wood – today I get to interview both Eleanor and her main character from Gemini Rising – Sorana Salem



Thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions and to bring your main character from Gemini Rising, Sorana Salem along for the ride. 

Gemini Rising has been published as an eBook by Carina UK, a new digital imprint of Harlequin UK. What made you go for digital and how did the process of submission to publication work for you?

It was more of a natural process than a conscious decision – my agent sent the manuscript out to a few editors, and the one who was most enthusiastic about it in the end was Anna at Harlequin.  We went to their offices to meet her and found that we had very similar ideas about the book.  It seemed like a good fit and I’ve been delighted with the process so far (I especially love my cover!); it’ll be interesting to see what happens with the digital side of things.


Which character in your book do you want to know more about?

I love that question!  I’ve tried really hard to make every single supporting character a ‘proper’ person, and I have lots of backstories and information on them that I haven’t used in the book.  I love Sorana’s mum, Lucy, and I’m interested in her wild-child past!  I also have a lot of time for Nathalie and think she has hidden depths that nobody bothers to investigate.  And of course Mel is so mysterious and still fascinating to me.


Did you have to fight to keep the pop culture references (e.g. to the Craft, Heathers) in the book? How important was it to acknowledge your inspiration in this way?

Luckily I didn’t have to fight for them – but I would have if necessary, because they are all really important to me.  Throughout the story, music, books and films have a big effect on Sorana, and I think that was really crucial to her character.  I loved writing the scene with the little nod to The Craft and Heathers – obviously they were a massive influence and it just felt like a sneaky little wink.


Why do you write?

I don’t know; I just always have!  I am constantly writing, all sorts of things.  I’m not being flippant when I say I think I have some sort of hypergraphia.  I think I would genuinely find it impossible not to do it.  Because it’s such a natural thing for me, I actually can’t really understand people who don’t write!  I’m really evangelical about it – I am constantly trying to get all my friends to write books.  You know, just because why wouldn’t they?


What are you working on now? (I read over here that you have considered writing more about Gemini Rising – I’d love to see what happened at the twins old school – from Melanie’s perspective – and maybe something after the events of the current story too). 

I really like those ideas!  I am working on another Gemini Rising story, told from the point of view of other characters.  I’ve also got some ideas for new novels brewing, some more similar to this one than others.  Also, I would love to write a memoir and have been working on some ideas for that.


What advice would you give regarding editing? I found the first draft process quite comfortable but I’m stuck on how to take my story forward into completion.

I’m so sorry I can’t be more help – but I am exactly the same!  I love letting it all out and getting everything down, but then editing is my least favourite part of the process.  Gemini Rising had to go through a lot of editing and it was pretty painful!  I try to cheer myself up with that old saying ‘you can’t edit a blank page’ – at least you’ve got something.  If I have any advice, it’s to know that sometimes you’ve got to rip it up and start again – it’s easy to get too attached to things that you don’t actually need.  I’ve had to learn to be less sentimental.


Earth, Air, Fire or Water?

I’m a real-life Gemini, so I have to say air!





Sorana, I love your name, can you tell me more about its origins?

Thanks!  Well, officially it’s of Romanian origin and means ‘beautiful aurora’…  In reality, back in her wild days, my mum met a shaman called Sorana at Glastonbury festival in the 90s and always liked the name after that!


What name, given to you by bullies, hurts you most and why?

Amie Bellairs and her friends used to call me ‘Skeletor’ – it might not sound like that big a deal, but something like that wears you down.  It makes you so paranoid, but there’s nothing you can do to change yourself.


I have to admit to being more like Nathalie, and refusing to take part when my friends wanted to try a Ouija board at school. What did you expect to happen?

It’s such a weird combination – I didn’t really think anything would happen, but I was still scared.  To be honest, I was not scared so much of spirits and the supernatural – but I was scared of that energy in the room and what kind of stuff might come out from my friends themselves.


How do you think the experiences with the twins have affected you – positively and negatively?

It sounds bad to say it, because the after-effects have been so serious and I wish that so much of it had never happened – but I feel like some of the changes for me personally have been positive in the end.  I feel much more confident and like I can just be myself – I don’t care what anybody things of me anymore.  However, having said that, if I could go back and change it all, of course I would.


You were shocked by what you read in Melanie’s diary – what part of your diary would you not want someone to read?

All of it – it’s so embarrassing!  Especially the bits about boys – pages and pages of bad poetry about Jago and Vincent August.  Actually, I’d be most embarrassed if anyone read some of the stuff from ages ago when I still had a crush on Josh – it’s such an embarrassment that I ever felt that way about him!


What advice would you give your sister Daisy about friendships?

I would tell her: never try to be something you’re not.  Not that she would listen to me!


Jago or Vincent August?

Oh my god, that’s such a hard question!  Obviously I love Vincent August and I always will, but I’m going to say Jago because at least he’s actually a real person.  You know what I mean!


Earth, Air, Fire or Water?

These days, water – I’d rather put fires out than start them!


Great answers from both of you there, now I want to know more about Sorana’s mum Lucy too and I don’t get why people wouldn’t want to write either. Eleanor if you ever want a beta reader for your other Gemini Rising stories let me know ;o)

Gemini Rising – Book Review

Gemini RisingGemini Rising by Eleanor Wood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In ‘Gemini Rising’ Sorana Salem’s life is changed forever when two twins, Elyse and Melanie, join her all girls school. Sorana’s existing friends Shimmi and Nathalie have different reactions to the twins and Sorana is surprised and delighted when the twins choose to spend time with her over the popular crowd, whose leader Amie’s reaction to this is rather unusual.

This book is very much influenced by the film The Craft (one of my all time favourites – see a Pinterest board of Eleanor’s other inspirations here) but with the action taking place in the UK. There is also less focus on actual magic and more on the intensity of female relationships at that age. This is a contemporary story not a supernatural one.

It reminded me very much of my school experience where friends wanted to try a Ouija board in a mobile classroom – I didn’t take part – they freak me out. There are a number of spooky scenes in the book which raise the heartbeat, many taking place in the dark by a river.

Sorana, the author admits, is a little whiney but she’s still likeable. I wasn’t always sure why she didn’t back away after some of Elyse’s behaviour but that’s peer pressure for you. Sorana’s mum recognises and is exasperated by the fact her eldest daughter is putting friends before herself and her family. Familiar arguments in houses of teens everywhere.

Boys do exist in ‘Gemini Rising’, but they aren’t the main focus, instead highlighting the different personalities of the main group of girls. There is some bad behaviour from all concerned and a scene with Shimmi highlights the vulnerability girls can experience when they don’t look out for each other (Americans’ idea of a sober sister is a sound one).

The prologue does hint at what is to come but the ending might not quite be the one you are expecting.

What stopped me giving it 5 stars – I simply wanted to know more, I think reading series has spoilt me in terms of detail. I’m very happy to hear the author may be considering writing more set in this world. If I’m honest the fact that there wasn’t the supernatural element went against my expectations but I’m looking forward to a future re-read now I know fully what to expect.

Thanks to Carina and NetGalley for the eCopy – review is my own honest opinion.
I hope to interview Eleanor Wood and Sorana Salem soon.

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