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336 pages


Joanna Nadin
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Oxford University Press

Publication date

6th March 2008



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The Life of Riley by Joanna Nadin

The Life of Riley

Joanna Nadin

Primary Category - 13+ readers   Category - eBooks   

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The Lovereading4kids comment:

The deepest desires and greatest fantasies of a teenager are hilariously recorded in this no-holds-barred diary. Can Rachel, the author of the diary, find the boy of her dreams? Her search will make parents and teenagers laugh out loud. This book is the sequel to My So-Called Life.


Click here to find out more about Rachel Riley herself in her very own website!



The Life of Riley by Joanna Nadin

My quest to find THE ONE starts right now! This year I will utterly not snog random posh boys with congenital acne but will save myself for long-haired creative type with interest in tragicness and with musical potential i.e. Justin Statham. Though am not sure Justin has realized yet that I am THE ONE for him. Maybe he has heard I am rubbish at snogging. I need to learn to snog properly - and fast. Though perhaps I am just generally unlovable. As well as tongue technique issues I have hopelessly untragic relatives and a dog who eats furniture. Plus I am practically a medical midget and my hair is mental. Maybe I should just give up on boys altogether.


[Praise for the first book about Rachel Riley, My So-Called Life]: 'Every fictional diary published since the Eighties has invoked Adrian Mole, but not until My So-Called Life have I read anything that so closely captures the spirit of the original ... Nadin achieves the rare trick of producing a book that will make both adults and teenagers laugh aloud. The Observer takes talent to turn a dull, uneventful childhood into comic material and Nadin has pulled it off - My So-Called Life is very Adrian Mole for 2005. The Bookseller Her keen eyed but naive observations on family relationships and life in a small town are as perceptive as they are hilarious and Rachel Riley proves to be the sharpest, funniest diarist since Adrian Mole. Slightly saucy in parts, this is definitely one for older readers (and a guilty pleasure for grown ups) Becky Stradwick, Publishing News

About The Author

Joanna Nadin

Joanna Nadin was born in Northampton in 1970. She is a former broadcast journalist, government speechwriter and Special Adviser to the Prime Minister. She has written several award-winning books including the bestselling Rachel Riley diaries and the young adult novel Wonderland for teen readers. She was voted one of the UK’s top ten ‘Queens of Teen’ in 2008 and in 2010. She grew up in Saffron Walden, Essex, home to her alter ego Rachel, and now lives in Bath with her daughter. She also writes for younger readers and one such title is Spies, Dad, Big Lauren and me which is perfect for 10+ year olds.


How did you start writing?
I started writing books because I had ridiculously long summer holidays (several months it seemed) and I’m not really a sunbathing/beach kind of person so I stayed indoors and wrote stuff instead.

Why do you write?

Because I love it. Because I have to. It’s like asking Wayne Rooney why he plays football. Not that I’m Wayne. I hope not, anyway.

When and where do you write?
I write most days, from nine in the morning, until about three, in my office, which looks out over the roofs of Bath and the hills behind. So actually I so spend too much time staring at the view. 

What do you do when you’re stuck for an idea?
I look at the view, and if that doesn’t work, I watch old films, and TV box sets, and read other books. Or sometimes I just eat cake.

What are your top writing tips?
Keep a diary, because it helps you to get into the habit of writing every day.

And finally, tell us something we didn’t know about you:
I can sing the books of the Bible off by heart.

What words do you live by?
Never underestimate the comedy value of a monkey.

Joanna Nadin talks about her new series for younger readers.  The series begins with Spies, Dad, Big Lauren and me.

What made you want to write the book?
It started with the name. I heard the name Billy Grimshaw on Coronation Street – he was a baby that sadly died. But I wanted to write a book about what he’d have been like if he’d have grown up.

Is it based on your own experience?
In a small sense, as I have gone through a marriage break-up, as Billy’s mum does. And Billy’s little brother does bear a striking resemblance to my own irritating one.

Tell us about the main character(s). Are they like you?
Billy is a boy who has always known he was different. His best friend is a girl, and he has some problems dealing with anxiety too, which show up in the way he has to count his glow stars, and do exercise to get rid of all the adrenalin. He’s also a boy with a vivid imagination, who confuses fiction and real life. And, without revealing too much, I’d say, yes, Billy is very much like me.

Who is your favourite character in the book?
Billy, of course. Though I do have a soft spot for Nan and Dolly the cat.

What is your favourite moment in the book? (Don’t give too much away!)
When Big Lauren gives Billy’s mum a makeover. That’s all I’m saying.

Joanna Nadin also writes for teen readers.  Here she talks about her series featuring Rachel Riley

1.    What inspired you to write the series?
I started out trying to write a deep and meaningful book about bullying and how torturous it is being a teenager, especially one who is forced to wear M&S clothes to discos. But every time I started to type, I kept hearing the voice of Adrian Mole in my head, and remembered that what I thought was torturous at the time is actually quite funny. Also, it is quite hard to write about Jacqueline Wilsonesque things when you have been brought up in a nice middle-class 1970s estate in a non-broken home and your parents are not drug addicts or transvestites.

So I shamelessly wrote about my own childhood, friends and enemies, and about how tragically dull it is growing up in a market town in Essex when all we wanted to do was live in London and wear black and snog Sting and George Michael (oh how innocent we were in the 80s).

The family is loosely based on my own. Though I stress the word loosely. My mother is not that manic (quite) although my brother is that pedantic. Also my Cornish relatives do not live on Fray Bentos (though my Grandma Nadin, rest her soul, did, along with Viennetta, out-of-date twiglets and Supermousse). The Kylies are entirely fictional, though certain “hard” girls may recognise aspects of themselves, notably the badges for sexual favours. The dog is also fictional, as my mother would not let us have one on grounds of poo and moulting.

2.    Describe it in two lines?

Tragically normal teenager tries to make life less Enid Blyton and more Julie Burchill and in process gets vomiting dog, loses best friend and has uncle called Jesus.

3.    How long did it take you to write?
About three years of pondering then five months of actual writing, whenever I could squeeze a few hours when I wasn’t playing with lego or writing speeches on the shipping industry.

4.    What do you think people will say about this book?
I hope they will say – I know just how she feels! I suspect they will say – thank God I am not that utterly dull and do not have a friend called Thin Kylie.

5.    Did you have an exciting childhood or did you, like Rachel, find yourself bored with normality?
At the time I think I thought it was exciting. Until the age of about 14 or 15 when I discovered John Peel on Radio 1 and realised there was life beyond riding ponies and playing ‘kick can’ and non-stop cricket on our street. That’s when I started wearing black and pretending to be tragic and depressed. I wasn’t but it was compulsory to look very annoyed with life if you wanted to be different in Saffron Walden.

6.    Did you keep a diary? Do you still?
I did. It makes for excruciating reading. And, weirdly, not dissimilar to Rachel’s diary. Here is an extract:

26 October 1985
Have got off with Guy.

7 November 1985
I really like Guy.

8 November 1985
Have decided to chuck Guy. Karen is going to tell him for me at work tomorrow.

9 November 1985
Guy came into Woolworth’s. I told him he had to go and see Karen but Karen and Little Nich chickened out so I had to ask Big Nic who had to ask Alice. She phoned him up when I was babysitting. I totally would have done it myself but the Deans had moved their portable phone.

I don’t keep a diary anymore. Writing Rachel’s is therapy enough!

7.    If you could sneak a peek at anyone’s diary, whose would it be?
Anyone’s as long as I didn’t know them. Sneaking a peek at diaries of friends or boyfriends is always a huge mistake. You will only find out things you don’t want to.

8.    Rachel can be quite naïve. Can you remember any instances of embarrassing naiveté from your own teenage years?
I think my teenage years were an endless succession of embarrassingly naïve incidents. The Karl Marx / Marx Brothers mix-up actually happened. But not until I was 16. Which is utterly shameful.
9.    Did you always dream of being a writer or did it happen by accident?
Accident really. What I dreamt of was winning the Grand National or being Babe in Dirty Dancing. But what I was better at (not owning a pony or having any dancing skills) was writing. I have written everything from radio news bulletins to TV scripts for puppet worms to John Prescott’s agony column, and I still write speeches for Ministers. It is much easier than writing for teenagers.

10.    What kind of books were you reading at Rachel’s age?
Judy Blume. We used to read them out loud on the school field together and they provided essential snogging advice. But that was about the limit to teen fiction then so we quickly progressed to Jackie Collins and Danielle Steele.
11.    You’ve worked with the prime minister. Was it very exciting?

Absolutely. While typing scripts all day in a sort of cellar underneath Alastair’s office was not entirely glamorous, it is always exciting working to deadlines, as part of the news cycle, whether as a journalist or for the people who are making the news. And walking up to the front door of No 10 every day never lost its appeal. It was a huge privilege to work in such an amazing building and to meet some of the people I did.

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