Today’s the day! Chelsea High, my first young adult title, hits the shelves.
Described as Gilmore Girls meets Gossip Girl, it follows the life of Norah Whittaker who has lived an idyllic childhood, growing up on Mulberry Island, working on her mum’s Portobello market stall, laughing, joking, swimming in the river with her friends. But then her lovely dad is suddenly arrested for fraud and all their friends turn against them having lost their life-savings in his get-rich-quick schemes. Grandparents Norah knew nothing about swoop in to pay his legal fees as long as Norah is enrolled – like the generations before her – in Chelsea High, an exclusive school in the heart of London. When she turns up on her bike on the first day of term and is confronted by chauffeur driven Bentleys, students tanned from summers in St Barts, and an immediate backlash against her, Norah knows her life has changed forever. Her only hope is the school play and the gorgeous, illusive leading actor, Ezra Montgomery.
What inspired Chelsea High?
As a writer, you take things that have happened to you or situations you are familiar with and ramp them up to their highest level of conflict and excitement. I went to a school not dissimilar to Chelsea High – but without the added layer of gloss. It was cliquey and loud, bitchy and fun. You were friends one minute and arch enemies the next. To survive you had to know yourself and find where you belonged, and that isn’t easy as a teenager.
I wanted to take someone who thought they understood themselves and their life and throw it into chaos. In Chelsea High, that happens to Norah. When everything she relies on is stripped away, will she sink or swim?
Where is Mulberry Island?
I wanted Norah’s life prior to starting at Chelsea High to be a complete contrast to this glossy elite.
One day, I took a trip to Eel Pie Island which is just round the corner from where I live in South West London. Most famous for its hotel where bands like The Who, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones used to play, it’s a quirky little place with a real sense of community. The exact opposite of Chelsea High! Walking among the ramshackle bungalows and houseboats – buildings with giant fiberglass ice-cream cones stuck to the roof and fake sharks in the garden – the idea of Norah and her eclectic family came into being.
The Whittakers live on a houseboat on the Bohemian Mulberry Island where everyone knows everyone. The community is like a family. There are island parties, bands, theatre and swimming in the river.
There are lots of island communities up and down the Thames. If you want to visit Eel Pie Island it’s twenty minutes on the train from London Waterloo to Twickenham then you can either walk or take a five minute bus journey to the island. Alternatively you can take the tube – as Norah does – to Richmond and again hop on a bus.
Head over to Instagram where I’m doing a takeover of @electricmonkeybooks! I’ll be talking about everything to do with my new Young Adult book, Chelsea High. Find out all the behind the scenes inspiration, my favourite characters, maybe even a tour of where I write. Join me 4 o’clock today xx
A date for your diaries! Join me this Thursday 9th July at 3pm for the #HQBookClub on Facebookto talk about The Summer We Ran Away, writing, reading and any other questions you have…
2. Win! Head over to HQStories Instagram for the chance to win a copy of The Summer We Ran Away by adding your favourite summer song in their comments. (And for an extra slice of summer, check out my summer Spotify playlist)
3. Finally, The Summer We Ran Away is STILL only 99p on Kindle/ Apple/ Kobo and other fab ereading devices! Enjoy.
Less than one month till The Summer We Ran Away hits the shelves! I hope you’ll love it. And I hope it provides some much needed escapism. With summer holidays looking increasingly unlikely, what better way to take a break than with a book.
Early reviews have been fab:
‘The perfect summer escape whilst in lockdown.’ The World is a Book
‘Funny, warm, heartfelt and a lovely read. I actually think this is my favourite so far.’ Thispriceisusuallyright.com
‘It was a rollercoaster of ups and downs and I give it top marks. It kept me hooked all the way through. I absolutely loved this book.’ @healthandlifehappywife
‘Such a perfect summery read about being brave, taking chances and appreciating what you have. I loved it.’ overflowinglibrary.com
Don’t forget, you can preorder your copy online now, pop it in your trolley at the supermarket, or get in touch with your local bookstore to order it for you.
I’ve found reading one of the greatest escapes in these current times. My New Year’s resolution was to read as many books as I could from my bookshelf. Little did I realise I’d be granted the time to do so! Having never really read Orwell before – bar an attempt at 1984 when I was way too young – I read Keep The Aspidistra Flying and couldn’t quite believe how accessible it was. I’m guilty of shying away from anything I think is going to be hard work and it shamed me into realising my mistake! On that note, I read Pachinko which my mum gave me and has sat on my bookshelf unread for a while. But oh my god, I LOVED it. And still miss the characters now. Years ago, I bought The Thorn Birds from a car boot sale with the most amazing classic cover. TBH, I bought it for the cover rather than to read it, but I’m on the last few pages now and so pleased I didn’t let it sit on the shelf forgotten.
I haven’t stuck purely to the resolution, however. My shopaholic tendencies have been steered from browsing the TKMaxx and Hennes aisles to Waterstones.com, thehive.com and my lovely local bookshop, The Open Book, who are rustling me up a copy of Alexandra Shulman’s Clothes and Other Things That Matter. I love a book that’s hit the headlines, and I’ve just finished Such a Fun Age which had me gripped. As did American Dirt. And Daisy Jones and the Six was a refreshingly unique interlude. Yesterday a new box arrived on the doorstep packed with goodies including The Binding, Uprooted and a jigsaw (don’t get me started on my new OBSESSION with jigsaws!)
Lots of little things come together to create good things in troubled times. As well as reading, these have been mine:
The smell of Aesop geranium leaf body cleanser that I was given ages ago and saved for ‘best’. Well now seemed like a GREAT time for indulgence.
The family-walk ritual which is always to the same patch of parkland where we’ve flown a kite in the wind, fished unsuccessfully with a twig and a piece of nylon thread, collected too many pine cones and stared up at the clear blue sky.
Listening to Masterclass while doing the afore mentioned jigsaw and drinking a well-earned glass of post-homeschool wine.
Clapping on a Thursday for the wonderful NHS and seeing all the neighbours out on the road or on their balconies, the kids in their pyjamas bashing saucepans and drums. It’s amazing.
I’d love to hear what’s getting you through the day at the moment. What are you loving? What books are you reading?
Don’t forget, you can preorder THE SUMMER WE RAN AWAY now. It’s out in June. And CHELSEA HIGH, my debut young adult book, is out in August. Both perfect escapist reading 😉