Sunday, July 06, 2014

Joanna Nadin (Awesome Women)

Today I have the great pleasure of having Joanna Nadin, the author of the Rachel Riley series as well as the very recently published YA thriller, Eden, on the blog.  Eden sounds wonderful...

"I wait for my heart to slow and then I begin the game of 'what ifs' and 'if onlys'. What if I could turn back time? Would Eden still stand? Would Bea still be alive?" After her cousin Bea is killed in a house fire, Evie returns to her childhood home of Eden, full of guilt for what might have been. She is not the only one seeking redemption. Bea's boyfriend, Penn, arrives in Cornwall, desperate to atone for a terrible mistake. And as Penn and Evie's feelings for each other intensify, Evie slowly unravels the dark truth behind Bea's tragic death.

If you want to know more about Joanna Nadin or Eden, do visit the following websites:

Can you tell me a little something about yourself?

I've had a lot of previous lives and guises. I used to be a lifeguard, then a radio journalist, then an adviser to the Prime Minister. Now I mostly write for children and teenagers, with nearly forty books published in the last ten years. The Penny Dreadful series has been shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and the Booktrust Best Book Awards, and the Rachel Riley diaries have been shortlisted for Queen of Teen three times. My latest book is ‘Eden’, a YA thriller set in Cornwall and London in the summer of 1988.

Did you have a role model growing up?

I had many, though they were all fictional. I wanted to be Arabel in Joan Aiken’s series who had a pet raven called Mortimer who ate stairs and dug for diamonds. Or Heidi who slept in a hayloft. Or Velvet Brown who rode the Grand National disguised as boy. As I got older, so did my heroines: Ruth in KM Peyton’s Pennington books, then Dona and Mary in Daphne du Maurier’s ‘Frenchman’s Creek’ and ‘Jamaica Inn’.

Who do you look up to now?

Now I look up to the exceptional women who created these exceptional girls. Daphne du Maurier in particular, whose ‘Rebecca’ and ‘My Cousin Rachel’ have had a huge influence on the setting, characters and language of ‘Eden’.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I certainly didn't want to be the writer. I wanted to be in the book. I wanted a life so extraordinary that one day someone would write about it. It took me a while to work out that life didn't always work out like it does in stories, and that maybe the person doing the writing should be me.

Tell me something about the women in your life who have been an influence on you?

I've had the privilege to work with some incredibly brave and principled women in politics, who are working to change the world – and women’s lives in particular – for the better. But the ones who've had the biggest impact on my life are family and friends: my Cornish grandmothers who gave me a love of the landscape and encouraged me to expand my horizons through reading; my best friend from school Helen, who has always reassured me that it’s good to be different; and now my gaggle of writerly friends here in Bath – people like Karen Saunders, Cathy Hopkins, Catherine Bruton, Annabel Wynne and Wendy Meddour. All of whom are supportive, kickass, and an endless source of inspiration, tea and sympathy.

Who is your favourite fictional character? And why?

My current favourite character is Norah in David Levithan and Rachel Cohn’s ‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’, because I wish I’d talked that smart aged seventeen.

Is there a fictional character that reminds you of you?  And if you could choose to be best friends with a fictional character, who would it be? 

I wish I could say Norah but that would be a lie. Or Sally Jay Gorce in ‘The Dud Avocado’. Or anyone in an Evelyn Waugh novel. The closest – aside from Rachel Riley, who is actually me – would be Adrian Mole. But I’d like to be friends with any of the above, because that would mean I would live in New York or Paris or the 1930s, all of which are excellent wardrobe opportunities.

What were you like as a teenager and how did you cope with all the changes that occurred?

I was exactly like Rachel Riley – the same absurd hair, the same idiotic little brother, the same desperate wish for a life of tragedy, possibly including living in a squat in Camden with a tortured musician. I didn’t cope, really. I staggered through, making occasional pratfalls and endlessly in love with the wrong boys.

Which book would you say that every teenager should read and why? 

‘The Outsiders’ by SE Hinton. Devastating. And also so you will get the ‘Be cool, Sodapop’ reference in Veronica Mars.

If you had any advice for yourself as a teenager, what would you say?

a) They will invent better hair products in the 1990s, so hang in there.

b) Martini is NOT, repeat NOT, a soft drink.

c) Do not let the sixth form gatecrash your sixteenth birthday party. Or let anyone drink olive oil. Or wear stilettoes on the parquet floor. Because twenty-seven years later your mother will still not have forgiven you, and nor will your little brother who will have thenceforth been banned from having a party of his own.

If you could choose to have a girly sleepover with any fictional characters, who would you choose? 

Scarlet and Sad Ed from the Rachel books, who are not only two of my favourite fictional characters, but still two of my favourite people in real life too.

Of the issues and concerns that women are faced with today, what's the area you most like reading/writing about?

I know there are bigger political issues to grapple with, but mostly I think about and write about identity: the idea of self, of not liking who you are, of wanting to be someone else, or pretending to be. Rachel wanted a life less ordinary; Jude in ‘Wonderland’ wanted to shine bright like her friend Stella; Billie in ‘Undertow’ wanted to know who she was and where she came from; Evie in ‘Eden’ wants the boys her cousin Bea collects. Identity consumes us when we’re teenagers – the area of the brain that deals with self really does go into overdrive as we work out who we are and who we want to be. So it’s not a trivial thing; it’s everything.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I’d like to add that, despite me playing down the politics, it’s really important to vote. It does change things. And also wear a supportive bra. My mum was right about that one.

Thank you so much, Joanna! 

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