Holly Smale chats Geek Girl: Picture Perfect

Holly Smale, author of the adorkable Geek Girl series is just as loveable as her heroine Harriet Manners. We talk the big issues here.


Where do you get all of Harriet’s facts from? Do you collect them in a notebook?

I find them and keep them everywhere: on the internet, in dictionaries, in guidebooks, in reference books, in textbooks. They then get scribbled in notepads, on the back of receipts, menus, excel documents, my phone… Sadly, most of it goes to waste. I end up researching most of the facts as and when I need them, because I know exactly what I’m looking for and what I need to express. If Harriet’s heart is racing, I’ll Google “heartbeat rates of animals”; if she feels tiny, I’ll research “smallest thing in the universe”. It’s a total pain, because I’ll become fascinated by a website or book and next thing I know it’s an hour later and I’ve done no writing. I’m far less organised than Harriet.

What was the best and worst thing about being a model?

Bearing in mind that I was a sheltered fifteen year old who had only ever communicated (barely) with the other students in my class and members of my own family, it was fascinating meeting so many different types of people. There are a lot of eccentric men and women in fashion – that’s not a stereotype – and being thrown into that kind of creative environment was really good for me: it opened my eyes to different characters at a young age. The clothes were absolutely beautiful, and while I knew nothing about fashion (still don’t) it’s impossible to be immune to a cashmere Prada coat, or a pair of velvet Gucci shoes. The worst thing? I was a terrible model, far worse than Harriet. I look terrified in every photo, and I couldn’t move properly: I was stiff as a board. It looked “avant-garde” and “fresh” for a bit, and then people started realising I just couldn’t do anything else. Awkward.

Geek Girl: Picture Perfect is set in New York! Did you get to visit as part of your research?

Ha! I think a lot of people are under the impression that my publishers say “where would you like to go now?” and then hand me a plane ticket. I really wish that were true! I DID go to New York to research for Picture Perfect, but it was instead of a holiday: I chose to spend my vacation running around with a notebook. Travelling is where all of my money goes, but it’s always worth it: New York is absolutely amazing. It’s one of my very favourite cities, and it really is one of the most awake places I’ve ever been. That and Tokyo, tied.

If you were having a dinner party and got to invite five fictional characters as guests, who would you choose?

Anne Shirley (of Green Gables fame): she was my fictional best friend as a child, and I still adore her. Atticus Finch, from To Kill a Mockingbird, because he’s so calm and smart, and Samuel Hamilton from East of Eden, because I’ve never cried so hard in a book as when… well, I won’t spoil it. Then, just to shake things up, I’d invite Satan from Paradise Lost and Algernon from The Importance of Being Earnest. I’d like to think Anne would hold her own amongst all these whip-smart men.

If Geek Girl was made into a movie or TV show, who would you cast as Harriet, Nick, Nat and Toby?

This is always the hardest question, because my characters are so young – fifteen/sixteen – that there aren’t that many established actors who could be considered, and those that would be great would be too old by the time filming started. All I can do is offer older suggestions, and then “that, but younger”. A young Emma Stone would have made a brilliant Harriet: she’s got the innocence, sass and humour, and is gorgeous in a non-traditional way. A young Ezra Miller would have been perfect as Nick – that is one handsome boy – and a young Michael Cera would have made an amazing Toby. Nat could be a young Natalie Dormer, or possibly Anna Kendrick.