When you're a Heat editor, your novel is bound to be hot stuff
Amanda Blinkhorn finds the heroically named author Paige Toon frankly delirious about her Highgate life and her new book Paige Toon leads a double life – both of them ones other girls would kill for. By day she is Paige Toon, 32, reviews editor of Heat
Amanda Blinkhorn finds the heroically named author Paige Toon frankly delirious about her Highgate life and her new book
Paige Toon leads a double life - both of them ones other girls would kill for. By day she is Paige Toon, 32, reviews editor of Heat magazine, schmoozing her way through London's latest films, books and music in the weird superheated world of celebrity land where the state of TomKat's marriage becomes as real and as important as that of your best friend.
By night she is Paige Toon, chick lit novelist, tapping out her second page turner with just five months to go before the biggest deadline of her life -the birth of her first baby.
When we meet she has just come back from her first book festival in Dublin to publicise Lucy In The Sky, which is being sold from Germany to Australia and she is still reeling from seeing the book cover she helped design being plastered all over the tube.
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Staring out over the roottops towards Ally Pally from her penthouse flat off Shepherd's Hill in Highgate, she curls her unfairly long, pink high-heeled legs up onto the sofa, shakes her long shaggy surfer, streaked blonde hair and all but pinches herself at the fabulousness of it all.
Yes, she's the girl we'd all love to hate all right.
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Except - she is so frank about having landed, wham, right in a pot of jam, and is having such fun with it, that her joy is infectious.
The story of how the book came to be written is almost as good as the book itself - it certainly equals as an aspirational feelgood tale of how a hard-working, kooky girl can, through talent, luck and good old fashioned nous, make her dreams come true.
Once upon a time, Paige Toon, (and, yes, it is her real name - no-one said she didn't have a head start) had an idea for a book. She had written about a page of it when she went to meet her friend Nigel Stoneman, who works in publicity for Simon and Schuster, for a working lunch at Soho House. He reminded her of his belief that one day, she really should write a book.
"So, I told him that actually I had started to and I told him it was about a girl who is in love with her boyfriend in London and flies off to Sydney to attend her friends' wedding. Just as the plane is about to take off she checks her phone to turn it off and notices she has a text, apparently from her boyfriend - so she opens it. It reads "Hi Lucy! Just shagged James in ur bed. Thought u should know. 4 times this month. Nice sheets! Xxx"
Dun dun dun....what happens next?
Nigel was hooked, so was his colleague, the commissioning editor. "I got an email from her that afternoon saying how much she loved the idea and asking to meet."
It was time, she decided, to write the synopsis and the first three chapters.
By the time they met, she had a title (thanks to her brother) and three chapters, and left the meeting with a two-book deal and enough money (just) to quit the day job should she choose to - which she hasn't.
"I wrote the first book in three and a half months with a full-time job so I'm sure I can finish the second one by September," she said.
She finds the writing easy, but still can't quite believe how lucky she was to get a deal so quickly. "I have wanted to write a book since I was about five years old," she says.
"It was just one of those things that I felt of course was going to happen.
"Then when I was in my twenties I began to worry that I might never get to do it."
Had it not happened, she says, it would have been the greatest regret of her life.
Writing was such a joy, she says, "that I felt if just one person who reads it gets the kind of excitement and buzz that I got from writing it then it will have worked."
And that is exactly what happened. She didn't so much tap a nerve as strike gold. And not surprisingly she has no time for those who disown chick lit or disparage it. She's a chick lit chick and proud of it. "I love chick lit - that's what I read, that's Heat's market. We all love more literary books as well, but if we're going on holiday or just want to lose ourselves in a book - that's what we read."
The day she learned that her heroine Marian Keyes, the undisputed queen of chick lit, chose to give her a cover quote ("I loved it. I couldn't put it down") was one of the proudest of her life, she says. Knowing that Keyes was actually reading it was enough to turn her to jelly until she heard the good news.
Now firmly ensconced in north London married to Greg Toon (hence the great byline - and to think, she admis, that during their dating days one of her friends said "You cannot marry a man called Toon"), an architect she met as a student, she can't wait to join the band of yummy mummies parading around the Heath. "I'm looking forward to sitting outside the café at Kenwood with my Bugaboo buggy," she says, laughing.
But she hasn't always been so settled. She was born in Guildford but grew up in Australia, where her father, Vern Shuppan was a racing driver and her childhood was spent travelling the world tracking the racing circuit around Europe, the UK, America and Australia. "I didn't know a winter until I was about 13," she says.
That was when her life changed again and her father retired from the racing to manage his own teams and the family base moved from Australia to Britain.
It was a tough wrench for a 13-year-old girl and the pangs are still there.
It was that experience which provided the tension in Lucy In The Sky. "She is torn between two countries and two men. Torn between two men is complete fiction, but torn between two countries - that's me"
Lucy In The Sky by Paige Toon is published by Pocket Books priced £6.99.