THE glamorous world of America’s luxury department stores is a place Michelle McDermott knows well.

For 10 years, while living in Florida and Arizona, she worked on the make-up counters of some of the world’s leading brands, from Dior to L’Occitaine.

“I used to get sent out on to the shop floor on a Saturday to charm would-be customers with my Scottish accent,” smiles the East Kilbride-based author, who writes as JJ Maya.

“The bosses loved it – I could bring in a thousand dollars of sales in an afternoon…”

The experience, along with some of the characters and situations she met along the way, have made it into Michelle’s self-published debut novel, Warpaint, which will be released on April 3.

It is the story of Willow, a Glasgow make-up artist who marries a dashing New Yorker after a whirlwind romance.

Life stateside is far from the American dream she imagined it would be, and she is forced to face up to some uncomfortable home truths in an emotional rollercoaster of a tale which Michelle hopes will appeal to readers of Bridget Jones’s Diary, Crazy Rich Asians and the like.

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Pre-publication sales are already strong, explains Michelle, but she admits it has not been the easiest of journeys to get to this point.

“It actually started life as a TV script,” she says.

“I did the Masters in Television Fiction Writing at Glasgow Caledonian University in 2010, and as part of that, I came up with a pilot based on all my experiences of moving to America from Glasgow, working as a make-up artist on the shop floor, and as an airline check-in attendant.

“The course was fantastic, we got to work with some really great mentors from the world of TV writing, and I remember one of them saying to me at the end – whatever you do, don’t stop working on this idea…”

She adds: “A leading film production company was interested in the story, but suggested I write it as a book first and then pitch as a complete story.

“In a sense, I did things the wrong way round – most people turn their books into films, but I was turning a film into a book.”

In 2018, Michelle was approached by former agent and editor Amy Tipton (who worked as a freelance editor for Lauren Weisberger, author of The Devil Wears Prada)

“Amy asked if she could be the developmental editor on the manuscript, and I was blown away by that,” smiles Michelle.

“This woman, who had worked on The Devil Wears Prada, wanted to work with me? It was amazing.

“She has been brilliant, and the story has now undergone two edits under Amy’s guidance.”

Just as things were looking up, a contract with a publisher who had agreed to publish Michelle’s book suddenly fell through.

“It was devastating – they just disappeared off the face of the earth,” she sighs. “Eight years of my life and now this…so I decided to publish it myself.”

Michelle’s East Kilbride roots have had an influence on the book too, she adds with a laugh.

“There is a lot of music in the book, including bands with EK links, like the Jesus and Mary Chain and Primal Scream, and 60s tunes, Sandie Shaw, for example,” she says.

“That’s my writing routine, you see - out on the bike at 2pm, coffee on at 3pm, sit and write for six or seven hours, with my music on in the background...”

Illustrations in Warpaint, including the striking front cover, have been done by Michelle’s husband Stevie, an animator who has worked on many feature films, including Tarzan, Mulan, Lilo and Stitch and The Emperor’s New Groove.

“We met in 1987, moved to the US because of Stevie’s work - both our children were born in Orlando,” says Michelle.

“I worked as a check-in agent, on the make-up counters, looked after the kids - I was always very happy to be in the background, so it feels very strange to be promoting something I have done.”

She adds: “But it’s really exciting....”