Read more about the Author Joanna Nadin.
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.