EVERYTHING CHELSEA HIGH…

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. 

Chelsea High, Jenny Oliver, Teen romance, young adult fiction, contemporary fiction, teen read, book

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.

If you want to see more of the inspiration behind Chelsea High then head to Pinterest and have a look at the mood board: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/JennyOliverBks/chelsea-high/

You can hear a reading of the first chapter to get a taste here:

And if you want more from Norah, Ezra and the Chelsea High gang, then you’ll be pleased to know I’m currently editing Chelsea High Two!

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Feeling the reading fear and doing it anyway!

The new year is well under way. I can’t hide from it any longer pretending it’s still justifiably Christmas. I’m back at work, scribbling messily in a new notebook imagining a time when I’ll look back on these scribbles and laugh at who I naively thought these characters were going to be! But you’ve got to start somewhere (I remind myself every book.)

I also have a teetering pile of new books on my shelf. I kicked off the year with Samantha King’s THE CHOICE – a completely gripping psychological suspense that had me glued to the pages and rushing through to the end. It’s a bum on the edge of your seat kind of read that you can’t put down until it’s done.

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Up next has got to be Maria Semple’s TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT. I loved WHERE D’YOU GO, BERNADETTE? so this is a real treat that I’ve been saving for just the right time – like storing up all your chocolate as a kid or, as I’m currently doing, building up to buying a bag I REALLY want because the anticipation makes it all the better (re the bag however, I’ve been putting it off for a year now – going into the shop and picking it up then putting it down again – and I’m not sure I’m ever going to take the plunge, it’s been so long!)

For Christmas I got FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY by Susan Jeffers and I’m intending for it to have a huge impact on my life. I will soon be fearless. I will buy aforementioned bag.

My fingers are also itching to start THE BREAKDOWN by BA Paris but I can’t read two suspense back to back – I need a breather from all the stress and fear. (Although maybe that’s about to change!)

Then there’s THE RIVIERA SET by Mary S Lovell… it’s a signed copy! Woo hoo. I want to read that immediately too. And Dawn O’Porter’s THE COWS…

So many books. So little time. I’ve actually got the slight reading fear, but I’m going to do it anyway!

And for anyone who wants to try something new this year, The Grand Reopening of Dandelion Cafe is only 99p at the moment. It’s the start of the Cherry Pie Island series and a novella so completely undaunting and speedily devourable! There’s absolutely nothing to fear! http://amzn.to/2ieBUSr

The Grand Reopening of Dandelion Cafe