Earlsfield editrix and author Rosie Nixon discusses her new novel, The Stylist, and lifts the lid on life at HELLO! magazine
Words: Madeleine Howell
On her return from maternity leave in August, former joint editor of HELLO! magazine Rosie Nixon was promoted to editor-in-chief across the iconic brand. But that’s not all: the south west Londoner has just published her first novel, The Stylist, with the sequel, The Stylist Takes Manhattan, already scheduled for release in June 2017.
Inspired to attempt her first book on a creative writing retreat with author Jill Dawson, Nixon snatched quiet moments early in the morning or late at night to write, making notes on her iPhone or typing away in the Belle Amie coffee shop on Garratt Lane. In between, she could be found strolling around ‘every inch’ of Clapham Common getting her babies off to sleep.
‘I seem to like being busy, to a ridiculous degree,’ she laughs. ‘The book was on my mind all the time and I just couldn’t wait sometimes to get home for an hour or so and write part of a chapter. Being in newborn babyland is quite a bubble, and so all encompassing, that it was great to have a creative outlet. My husband is slightly alarmed that I seem to need a baby to finish a novel!’
The book itself is loosely based on some of Nixon’s experiences over the years working for glossy magazines, and takes the reader behind the scenes with celebrities, stylists and designers on the high-octane awards season circuit across the pond in LA.
‘My agent (who happens to be my sister-in-law) encouraged me to write about a world I knew. I wasn’t keen to lift the lid on the magazine industry completely – I value my job – but this felt like a world linked to mine that wouldn’t get me in too much trouble.’
In the central character, Amber Green, Nixon recognises some similarities to herself. ‘She’s a very sensible, down-to-earth girl. I guess there are parts of me in her,’ Nixon admits. ‘She works in a boutique in London and accidentally gets a job assisting super stylist Mona Armstrong. She almost feels a bit of a fraud in such a glamorous world. She’s got a great sense of humour and she’s very reliable – she saves Mona in a lot of crazy situations.’
The book takes the reader behind the scenes with celebrities, stylists and designers on the high-octane awards season circuit
The sequel will see Amber’s story continue out in New York, getting herself into hot water with social media and embarking on yet more bizarre escapades on the fashion frontline. Now that Nixon is back working full-time, though, there’s less hours in the day for her to focus on her fiction. ‘We’re a big multi-platform business and time isn’t really there – but now that I’ve done it, it’s always going to be a part of my life.’
Nixon has worked in magazines for a long time, and credits one of her first jobs with fostering her love of creative writing. ‘I started off in children’s book publishing and my first job in magazines, hilariously, was editing Barbie magazine,’ she explains. ‘I used to have to write stories and make puzzles and word searches about Barbie and Ken that would all have to be approved by Mattel.’ From there, Nixon worked her way up the age brackets – moving on to teen magazines like Bliss, and then on to Glamour and Grazia, and finally to HELLO!, where she has found her calling for the past eight years.
So, what is it that makes it such a special place to work? ‘It’s been going since 1988, so for 28 years now, and its USP since it launched with Princess Anne at home on the cover has always stayed the same,’ she explains. ‘Where other magazines leave you on the doorstep of the rich and famous, we take you inside. We play a long game and cultivate very close relationships – which is why we’re trusted and invited to cover celebrity weddings, and to photograph their children and their homes.’
Nixon has spoken out in the past about the responsibility she feels to protect the privacy of the personalities featured, an approach that has garnered respect. ‘It’s a huge responsibility when a star invites you to cover their wedding day – it’s not a dress rehearsal or a photo shoot. It’s a personal day that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. I don’t take that lightly.’
The Cambridges are really fantastic news for us. Prince George and Princess Charlotte are our youngest, but most popular cover stars
As well as being invited to events as high profile as Sam Branson’s private game reserve wedding in South Africa, and Helen Glover and Steve Backshall’s Cornish clifftop wedding, the magazine maintains a special relationship with the royal family. ‘The Cambridges are really fantastic news for us,’ Nixon explains enthusiastically. ‘Prince George and Princess Charlotte are our youngest, but most popular cover stars.’
If you ever catch the Earlsfield train up to Waterloo early in the morning, you might just spot her with a coffee in tow off to work on the latest exclusive – but at Christmas, Nixon will be at home celebrating and enjoying quality time with her husband Callum, and her two boys, Heath and Rex. ‘We like to have a house full, but it’s all about the kids,’ she tells me. ‘I’ll have a child that’s nearly three, and one just over a year old, so it’s going to be pretty busy. The wrapping paper will probably go down better than the actual presents!’
The Stylist by Rosie Nixon, published by HQ, is out in paperback now for £7.99