Countdown to 7 May

Joe All Alone coverIn less than two weeks, on the 7th May, the most important day for the last and next five years will be on us. Yes, it’s the release of a whole host of YA and MG novels, including my very own Joe All Alone. Left home alone when his mum and her skeezy boyfriend fly off to Spain, Joe is at first delighted with his freedom, and makes friends with Asha across the hall in his block, who’s hiding out at her Grandfather’s flat. Together they explore Peckham and their own relationship. But then the money runs out and the net closes in – thrown by school bullies, and Dean’s dodgy mates – and Joe has to make the biggest decision of his life.

It’s not an easy read – it’s bleak and brutal in parts. But, as the writer Rhian Ivory points out in her review, it does offer some big, fat HOPE, which we can all use some of. Also biscuits, parakeets and a kiss. And, frankly, I am a huge fan of all of those.

If you want to know more about me, and the story behind Joe, the lovely Sophie Waters has blogged over at So Little Time For Books.

And then I urge you to vote – with your book-buying or -borrowing power. You know it’s the right thing to do…

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Reading is where the wild things are

me readingI’ve been asked to say something inspirational to children at a friend’s primary school who may be aspiring writers. And so I thought about all the tips I would have given myself at that age. Only at that age I didn’t want to write. I didn’t want to work at all. I was too busy reading. I wanted to be IN a book, not make one. I wasn’t lazy, I was just otherwise occupied.

Only the thing is, it paid off. I’m not a writer because I had a burning ambition aged 6 to be Joan Aiken. I wanted to be Arabel, or, better, Mortimer the raven. Or Heidi. Or George in the Famous Five. And so I managed to come up with some words that said this. And more. These are the words:

“I never tried hard to be a writer when I was young. I was too busy being a reader. And that’s my advice: eat, breathe and sleep books. Drink those stories in until you are full, and then the next day, start again. That way, you will know how a good story works, and that is what makes a writer. Not spelling, not punctuation, not knowing when to use a CAPITAL letter. Stories are where the world starts and ends. Stories are life. Stories are where the WILD things are. So go hunt some down.”

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Undertow

The forerunner to Eden, previously published as Paradise, this is being rereleased today in paperback and ebook.

Joanna Nadin

Screen shot 2014-01-29 at 13.18.06Undertow began on a blistering August day on the cliffs above Loe Bar in Cornwall, notorious for its riptides and dangerous currents. But as summer turned to bleak midwinter, and I watched a friend dragged down by the weight of depression, the book took a darker turn too. It was published a few years ago as Paradise, but it’s being rereleased today with its original title, and a new cover.

“We all have secrets… Monstrous things: skeletons locked in cupboards… Waiting to be found. Or to find us.”

Billie is desperate to find the father she’s never met. But moving back to her mother’s childhood home after Billie’s grandfather dies dredges up secrets – and Billie soon discovers that people may die, but the past lives forever. And some secrets are best left alone.

Extract:

We all have secrets.

Like not liking your best friend that much. But you…

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Blowing my own trumpet

Screen shot 2014-01-29 at 13.12.37No one likes to blow their own trumpet. Bar Katie Hopkins and Ornette Coleman maybe. But sometimes, a whole raft of people say a whole raft of nice things and you want to shout out to the world “See, I’m not the weird maths geek in the jumbo cord dungarees corner. I do words!” Okay so “not just the weird maths geek…” would be more accurate. But that aside, here are all the lovely things people have said about Eden. Because, well, now it’s not just me telling you to read it, is it…

 

‘It’s the combination of skilful writing, acute intelligence and empathy for the agonies and issues of being an adolescent that makes Nadin’s books so popular with teenage girls.’
(Daily Mail)

The emotional intensity of teenage love, desire and insecurity is brilliantly portrayed and Nadin’s control of the unfolding, tense mystery is flawless.’
(Daily Mail)

‘Eden has undertones of Rebecca… grief, guilt and gorgeous narrative voice make this a memorable psychological suspense novel’
(New Statesman)

‘Breathtaking – one of the finest pieces of young adult writing I’ve ever come across.’
(Anthony McGowan)

‘Lyrical, evocative, tense and utterly un-putdownable, Eden is a modern day Rebecca. One of the best books I have read in years.’
(Catherine Bruton)

‘I devoured Eden in hungry gulps, unable to put it down, just the way I read as a teenager. It’s thrilling, compulsive, beautifully written and powerful in its evocation of a person, and a place… A gripping story that will haunt the reader for a long time after the last page is turned.’
(Julia Green)

‘Heart-stopping, unsettling and utterly beautiful.’
(Liz Bankes)

“Amazing. Unexpected, powerful… just wow.”
(Cathy Cassidy)

Which, like, I KNOW!

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Eden

Joanna Nadin

Screen shot 2014-01-29 at 13.12.37Mostly I write funny. It comes easy to me – making people laugh has always seemed to make up for any lack of appropriate clothing, political knowledge, or ability on the hockey field. But I don’t always read funny or think funny. And every so often the darker, stranger, and more dangerous thoughts push up like butterflies from inside, and take the form of a book. This time it’s in the shape of Eden, which is a love letter to Cornwall, to 1988, to the Smiths, to New Cross and Manchester back streets, to Daphne du Maurier, and to turning 18 that long, hot summer. It’s published in July by Walker, but they’ve released the cover and an extract (and new covers for Wonderland and Paradise, which I’ll post over the next few days). So here they are. I hope you like them, as these, of all the things I’ve…

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Rachel says…

Screen shot 2014-03-05 at 10.41.22Today’s blog tour stop is with Amy Bookworm, who has carried out an insightful interview with Rachel herself. No, really… (plus the last pages of The Facts of Life, in case you need a little catch up).

Hello Rachel! You have a diary so… you’re probably not scared to share secrets. But one-on-one *to camera: obviously no eavesdroppers*, with me, why don’t you tell us something nobody knows about you (at least not without reading your 7th diary!)

Am only divulging as know for a fact that Mum is not on interwebnet due to protective helmet issues but the Mysterious Missing Digestive of 2011 (which ran for several days including full on-tape interviews) was NOT Dad it was me.

Off to a great start… Now, you can return to the familiar get-to-know-you, nickname, hobbies, where you live, BFFs… Come on! Give it to us! *getting psyched*

I still don’t have a nickname despite trying several times to instil Ray Riley into consciousness of friends, potential lovers, idiot brothers etc. I don’t have hobbies either. Hobbies are for furry-pant wearing, ghost-hustling children like James. I have only my pursuit of literature, poetry and art. Which is not a hobby, it is life itself. Only am thwarted in said pursuit by living in Saffron Walden where the most exciting thing to happen in last twelve months was when they temporarily installed a mini roundabout at the bottom of the High Street. Thank God for Jack, Scarlet and Sad Ed and their left-wing leanings, sex therapist parents, and general fascination with untimely death.

What star sign are you? Not that I know much about them but it’s something I like to ask… *mystical music*

I’m a Leo i.e. naturally creative and charismatic only with mental hair. Scarlet says star signs are a form of oppression to force you to conform to made-up character traits and also something to do with late capitalism and women’s magazines. But she would say that because she’s a Libra.

Do you know which Hogwarts house you’re in, if so…? *trails off expectantly*

James says I am only allowed in Hufflepuff because he and Mad Harry will commandeer the only remaining places in Gryffindor. Have told him repeatedly that Hogwarts is not real and he is not going to get transferred there for GCSEs no matter how many begging letters he sends to Michael Gove. Anyway, why would I want to go to a school for wizards when I have Goth Corner Mark II anyway which is full of bats, capes, thrones and delusional would-be witches.

So, off to University, which University do you hope to go to, for which studies? Plus, what’s the job you’ll be looking for after Uni, do you think?

It was supposed to be Goldsmiths so I could live in a squat in Peckham with a tortured poet but Scarlet has ruled that out on so many grounds I cannot begin to list them. So hopefully Hull. Which is at least Northern i.e. a) inherently interesting b) very far away from Saffron Walden and c) has lower entry requirements than Manchester. And obviously, once I have graduated, I will continue my studies in the university of life as I follow my calling as an actress, director and controversial playwright. And possible girlfriend of one of the Arctic Monkeys.

*narrows eyes* What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned in your life?

Never EVER agree to consume herbal remedy from a boy who thinks God is a laser-eyed dog or you will end up accidentally kissing Justin Small Nipples Statham and ruining entire relationship with The One.

Are you inspired by “teachers”? Which one has inspired you the most… *shrugs shoulders* Why?

Well, obviously, drama teachers Mr Vaughan (despite minor drug habit, oversized nipples, and ongoing relationship with Sophie Microwave Muffins Jacobs) and Mr Pringle (despite giving up guerrilla theatre (not gorilla, as previously thought) for bit part in Eastenders).

If teachers aren’t dreamy enough for you (or maybe it’s the location that’s lacking) *nods sympathetically* , describe your dream girl/boy. Have you caught them? If not, where would you expect to meet them?

Well, I thought The One was Justin Small Nipples Statham on account of his long hair and ability to play the solo out of Stairway to Heaven. Then I thought it might be Davey MacDonald (has a habit of getting thing out in class) in a love-across-the-divide way. But it always comes back to Jack i.e. Jack Clement Atlee Stone: brother of Scarlet, future first ever simultaneous anti-war Foreign Secretary and winner of the Mercury Music Prize, and general excellent kisser.

What inspired you to start writing a diary & how have you kept it up for 7 diaries worth- all through high school I believe… As a teen myself, I’m not sure I can imagine it! Or having a life interesting enough!

But that’s the point. Life in Saffron Walden is tragically normal. Nothing ever happens. But it’s important to record your angst and philosophical musings so one day someone can make a film of your life (preferably starring that one out of the Hunger Games NOT Emmerdale).

If you had to be room with another 3 people: 1 person like you (hint: teen who writes a diary or is written about XD)- cannot be a friend of yours currently; 1 author and another famous person who would they be? Why?

Sylvia Plath. Who was totally like me. And an author and famous. Because only she understood the torment of being a poetic women trapped in patriarchal society. With a mother who has a J-cloth permanently welded to her right hand. OK maybe not that bit, but I bet she’d sympathise.

Are you at all like Joanna Nadin (you may have heard of her)…? In which ways are you most similar?

We have the same mental hair and mental little brother. But unlike me she totally failed to become a controversial anything or live in a squat or snog an Arctic Monkey so I don’t think we’re that alike after all.

Last but not least, a girl gotta ask, cats or dogs?

Cats. They are clever, aloof, and don’t tend to eat two bath bombs and then foam pink musk all over my carpet.

So, where did we leave you in the last book, incase anybody has forgotten? Has life taken a turn, now, for better or worse?

 

Wednesday 31st December

New Year’s Eve

Thank God it is New Year’s Eve. The sooner this year is over the better. It has been utterly the worst year ever. Both the world and my life have been racked by ill-fortune and economic mismanagement. Plus am still one centimetre down on last year (millimetre gain was blip caused by rogue hair matting). The only consolation is that next year cannot possibly get any worse.

Am utterly resolute in decision not to partake in Scarlet’s hero-themed welcome home Jack and Obama New Year’s Eve party. Sad Ed has already been round to reveal his outfit of choice. It is Batman. Pointed out that this is mistake on several grounds, i.e. a) is utter lie as his heroes are all miserable/dead musicians, e.g. Jim Morrison/Morrissey etc. and b) tight and shiny bat suit is very revealing of bulges, including non-worldly penis and bingo wings. Sad Ed said am right on both counts but is all ploy to win over Scarlet as Batman is ultimate goth superhero, plus he knows for fact she is going as Catwoman, who everyone knows was doing Batman on the side. Plus on positive side, lycra is girdle-like and he has lost several inches off waist. He is mistaken if he thinks that outfit will win Scarlet over. He does not look at all batly. He looks like a crap transvestite. Sad Ed has begged me to go with him, preferably dressed as Robin, but said it would compromise all my anti-hero ideals. Plus am needed at home to babysit Jesus and Uncle Jim. Grandpa and Treena are getting drunk in Queen Lizzie, Mum and Dad are going to play Jenga at Clive and Marjory’s and James is at a Warhammer mathletes ner­dathon with Mad Harry and Wendy. They are mental with potential debauchery. Apparently Damon Parker is bringing a can of shandy and Ali Hassan has a Kanye West CD. They are morons. Sad Ed says I will regret it later when he is doing utterly grown-up things like put­ting his penis to good use and I am watching Lark Rise to Candleford. Said a) ick and b) it is Road Runner actually. Jesus does not like Julia Sawalha. Nor does the dog. It is static hair issues again. Yet it is not afraid of meep-meep­ing emu creature. Anyway, he is wrong, I will not regret my decision.

10 p.m.

Oh God. If have to watch idiot Wile E. Coyote blow him­self up again am going to potentially steal Sad Ed’s thun­der and engage in untimely death. Why does he not learn? Even Jesus has fallen asleep. May just go upstairs and text Sad Ed to check on progress. Is just being caring. Am not actually interested in gossip.

10.05 p.m.

Have got reply. He is all minty as there are three Batmen, and both of them have proper suits as opposed to leotards borrowed off their mums and cardboard masks. Plus they do not have tails. Have pointed out that did think tail was mistake as do not recall bats actually having them.

10.10 p.m.

He says he has removed tail but it has left gaping hole on buttock, revealing birthmark shaped like Gary Lineker’s head. Have told him to get felt tip and colour buttock black and no one will be any the wiser.

10.15 p.m.

Sad Ed says cannot find felt tip but has stolen goth eye­liner from Scarlet’s bedroom. Said that is good.

10.20 p.m.

Sad Ed says he is now in trouble for leaving black bottom prints all over off-white sofa. Have texted back to say am losing interest in his buttocks and what else is happening please.

10.30 p.m.

Oooh text beep. Will be gossip from Sad Ed. Not that need gossip. Is purely philanthropical, i.e. making sure all friends have not drowned in eggnog punch.

10.31 p.m.

Was not Sad Ed. Unbelievably was Justin Statham asking if had changed mind about his grown-up pants area. Said NO. AM ANTI-PANTS. KEEP CONTENTS TO SELF. ICK.

10.32 p.m.

Ugh. Text beep. Is probably Justin again. When will he get message that am utterly not interested in content of his pants.

10.35 p.m.

Was not Justin. Apparently he got pants message after all. Was Sad Ed. Whose pants content I have seen and rejected outright. Anyway, he says no one drowned in punch, but that is not eggnog, is new experimental gin, pineapple juice, and chocolate sauce variety. Which is all very interesting. But notice that Jack is not mentioned. Not that care about him. Or contents of his pants. Am just concerned that he has made it home safely and is not caught up in actual Al Qaeda bomb plot at airport (as opposed to drunk beardy uncle plot).

10.40 p.m.

Although would be good if he was caught up. I could steal the Fiesta, drive to airport and infiltrate aircraft and talk terrorists down with my negotiating skills, and utterly rescue Jack. Hurrah. Will text Sad Ed to check if Jack in peril.

10.45 p.m.

Sad Ed says he not at party but not in peril. He stuck in traffic on A11 in Nelson Mandela’s sick-smelling Volvo. Never mind. Is probably good thing. Do not want to rescue ungrateful Jack, who has not even told me he is coming home yet. Plus rescuing only works in fiction. In real fact-based life I would crash Fiesta on mini round­about and end up in hospital with gear stick where gear-stick should not be. Will check on Uncle Jim and moronic coyote (dog, not Wile E) instead.

11 p.m.

Oh God. Uncle Jim is having sobbing breakdown due to turning off of Road Runner and reading of Tintin in Tibet, which just reminds him of Marigold. Is all my fault. I should have followed Mum’s instructions (A4, magneted to fridge) and monitored him at all times. Will check list to see what have to do in this situation.

11.15 p.m.

List has no instructions for weeping uncles. Although it does tell me how to relight the boiler pilot, make an emergency escape rope from bedsheets, and perform Heimlich manoeuvre on dog. Will use initiative and tell him some simple facts of life, i.e. there are no happy end­ings, love does not exist, and the sooner he grows up the better.

11.20 p.m.

Uncle Jim is not at all in agreement with fact-based stance. Said he of all people should understand, given utterly non-happy ending of love life halfway up a Himalaya. He said au contraire, it has only fuelled his con­viction that love is everything, and that if you don’t believe in happy endings then there is no point to uni­verse. Told him if he had any Riley sense, he would grow up, and read some Stephen Hawking instead of the Asterix and Tintin. He said where’s the fun in that? Said life isn’t meant to be fun and stormed out before he could baffle me with any more yoghurt-knitting alternative nonsense.

11.25 p.m.

Oh. Have got text. Is probably Sad Ed with more buttock-related hoo-ha.

11.26 p.m.

Was not Sad Ed. Was Jack. It said, ‘Just got email. Must have got clogged in Christmas ether. Where are you, Riley? Want to see the new you!’ Have not texted back. Cannot even be bothered to reply. Especially as the new me is wearing no make-up, is all red-faced from getting minty, and is in perpetually vile mood.

11.27 p.m.

Actually, is true. Am always in vile mood these days. Why is that?

11.30 p.m.

Oh God. Have had revelation. Is thanks to yoghurt-knit­ting Uncle Jim. He sat outside bedroom door (refused to let him in as was all red-faced from mintyness) and said ‘Do you know who you sound like, Rach?’ Said ‘Sensible grown-up.’ He said, ‘Yeah. Like your mum.’ And then stomach did hideous enormous heave thing. And realized do sound exactly like Mum. Although with slightly less use of phrase ‘I told you so’. But none the less, have utterly morphed into low-fun, permanently minty Janet Riley. Was about to utter strangulated cry but Uncle Jim clearly on one of his confessional rants and got in first with ‘Don’t grow up yet, Rach. In fact don’t grow up ever. Happy endings aren’t just in books. You just need to believe in yourself. And in love.’ And then he started going on about believing in rainbows and pots of gold so switched off at that bit because James spent a year trying to deduce the possibility of pot of gold and has established beyond reasonable doubt that it does not exist. But he is right about happy endings. That they’re worth aiming for. Because even if you fall down, half the fun is in trying.

I want my happy ending. I want to be a princess. I want my knight in shining whatever.

And I don’t need rescuing. But maybe I can rescue him instead. And tell him that I might not be grown-up. And I might make mistakes. Colossal ones involving magic mushrooms and naked ex-boyfriends. But that it doesn’t mean I don’t love him.

11.35 p.m.
Because I do. I love him.

11.45 p.m.

Oh. I really love him. I have to go and tell him. I have to rescue him right now. Jesus will be fine. He is asleep on dog and dog is asleep on washing machine. What can pos­sibly go wrong there? And anyway, Uncle Jim is here. And he might not be grown-up in Mum’s eyes. But he’s clever. And sober, for once (Belgian lager out of bounds now floodgates opened). And he knows more about life than anyone else I know. Oh God, have only got quarter of an hour of year left. Why, oh why did I wish it away. I have to get there before midnight. I have to tell him before he snogs Hillary Clinton or the Invisible Woman.

11.46 p.m.

OK. This is it. I’m going to get my happy ending. Not as a heroine. Mostly because I don’t have the time to make authentic Sylvia Plath costume. Instead am going as me. Because Jack was right about one thing. Being me is enough. In fact, it’s utterly brilliant.

 

Or at least it will be. In about fourteen minutes . . .

 

 

 

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The End of an Era

Screen shot 2014-03-05 at 10.41.22And so, the end is near, and then they raise the final curtain *cue sobbing*. For, lo, it was that even My So-Called Life had to come to an end. (Though at least we got seven runs, unlike our namesake which was cancelled after a season which I am STILL not over).

So, happy book birthday to me. And bye-bye Sad Ed, Scarlet, the Jack Stone Five, Grandpa Clegg and his Hammerited racist head, the all-consuming Dog, James and Mad Harry and the Ghost Hustlers and Beastly Boys, Mumtaz, Mrs Riley and her proscribed list and anti-wifi helmet, Justin Small Nipples Statham, Mr Big Nipples Vaughan, Fat Kylie and the Mr Whippy sex tape, Donkey Dawson and his saveloy penis, the saggy sofa of Palestine, Goth Corner Mark II, Uncle Jesus, Grandpa Riley and the child bride from Bolton, and Rachel. Who has been my alter ego for nine years now. But she’s all grown-up (ish) and it’s time to let her go. And get the hell out of Dodge. Or Saffron Walden. Which is so not like Dodge, but one can dream. And she sure as hell does that.

So here’s to The Time of My Life. It’s been very.

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