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You Live, You Learn: 20 years of Jagged Little Pill

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I was 12 when Alanis Morrisette released Jagged Little Pill twenty years ago and it was one of the first CD’s I bought for myself. I remember being nervous but excited seeing the ‘parental advisory’ sticker stuck on the front. My mum complained whenever I played the album as it sounded like wailing to her. That obviously made it even cooler to me.

Twenty years on, Jagged Little Pill remains a favourite. When I was 12, I couldn’t fully understand or appreciate the stories she tells on the album, I just enjoyed singing along loudly to You Oughta Know! But now I can. As a writer, you can learn a lot from the way Alanis tells a story in the space of three minutes. You instantly feel the way she feels about the ex that’s the subject of a lot of the album. You can relate. You have felt the same way yourself. That’s why the album is timeless. Emotion has no expiry date, and the album is full to the brim with emotion – anger, sadness, regret, it’s all there.

It’s a truthful album. It’s honest to the point you squirm for her. It’s still rare for an album to feel so personal. I think Taylor Swift is the only current artist I can think of that speaks so personally through music (though less explicitly!) I think that’s why the album has consistently been on best of lists, why it sold so many copies, and why it remains so many people’s favourite. Again as a writer I have learnt from this. Using your own experiences, drawing on emotion you have felt and passing this on to your characters helps make stories feel truthful, and readers will respond to that.

This album much started a lifelong love of music. I still buy CD’s (am
I alone in this?!) and am still drawn to songs that tell a personal story, that make you feel something. I connect best with emotional stories, and I think this has fed into the stories I tell myself.

To celebrate the album’s 20th anniversary, I shall be listening to it as I start to write my next novel. I would love my own writing to be as emotive (and successful!!!) as the writing is on these songs. I think as a writer to know that someone has connected with the story you have written is all the success you want, and need.

Are you a fan of Jagged Little Pill?r

Victoria

xoxo

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Books read in May 2015

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Jessica Beam is a girl who knows how to party. Only lately she’s been forgetting to turn up for work on time. Or in clean clothes. Down on her luck, out of a job and homeless, Jess seeks the help of her long-lost grandmother.

Things aren’t going well for Matilda Beam, either. Her 1950s Good Woman guide books are out of print, her mortgage repayments are staggering and her granddaughter wears neon Wonderbras.

When a lifeline from a London publisher arrives, the pair have an opportunity to secure the roof over their heads – by invigorating the Good Woman guides and transforming modern, rebellious Jess into a demure vintage lady.

The true test of their make-over will be to capture the heart of notorious London playboy Leo Frost and prove that Matilda’s guides still work. It’s going to take commitment, nerves of steel and one seriously pointy bra to pull this off . . .

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Auburn Reed has her entire life mapped out. Her goals are in sight and there’s no room for mistakes. But when she walks into a Dallas art studio in search of a job, she doesn’t expect to find a deep attraction to the enigmatic artist who works there, Owen Gentry.

For once, Auburn takes a risk and puts her heart in control, only to discover that Owen is keeping some major secrets from coming out. The magnitude of his past threatens to destroy everything important to Auburn, and the only way to get her life back on track is to cut Owen out of it.

The last thing Owen wants is to lose Auburn, but he can’t seem to convince her that truth is sometimes as subjective as art. All he would have to do to save their relationship is confess. But in this case, the confession could be much more destructive than the actual sin…

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“Non Pratt is a writer to watch” – The Guardian. From the author of Trouble comes a novel about boys, bands and best mates. Kaz is still reeling from being dumped by the love of her life. Ruby is bored of hearing about it. Time to change the record. Three days. Two best mates. One music festival. Zero chance of everything working out.

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Lee Fiora is a shy fourteen-year-old when she leaves small-town Indiana for a scholarship at Ault, an exclusive boarding school in Massachusetts. Her head is filled with images from the school brochure of handsome boys in sweaters leaning against old brick buildings, girls running with lacrosse sticks across pristine athletics fields, everyone singing hymns in chapel. But as she soon learns, Ault is a minefield of unstated rules and incomprehensible social rituals, and Lee must work hard to find – and maintain – her place in the pecking order.

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Marnie FitzPatrick is a reclusive sixth-former from Hertfordshire with a dysfunctional family, a penchant for Pythagoras’ Theorem and an addiction to doughnuts and gin. Julie Crewe is a disillusioned maths teacher who lives vicariously through the girls she teaches, yet who once danced barefoot through Central Park with a man called Jo she has never been able to forget.

This is the story of what happened in the summer of 1969, when the sun burned down on the roof of the Shredded Wheat factory, and a boy called Freddie Friday danced to the records he had stolen. This is about first love, and last love, and all the strange stuff in between. This is what happens when three people are bound together by something that can’t be calculated or explained by any equation.

This is what happened when they saw the open door.

Book of the month:

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‘It is never what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophies are always different – unimagined, unprepared for, unknown…’ One morning, Julia and her parents wake up in their suburban home in California to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth is noticeably slowing. The enormity of this is almost beyond comprehension. And yet, even if the world is, in fact, coming to an end, as some assert, day-to-day life must go on. Julia, facing the loneliness and despair of an awkward adolescence, witnesses the impact of this phenomenon on the world, on the community, on her family and on herself.

I enjoyed all the books I read this month! Although Prep has a pretty unlikeable main character, which I’m always unsure about, I must admit I like someone to root for in a book. My favourite read definitely has a main character you root for – told from 11 year old Julia’s perspective, it’s a coming-of-age story set against the rotation of the world slowing down. Her first person point of view means the changes the slowing has is limited to her family life in California so you see her growing up in this new world order where days stretch into weeks and people begin to change with it.

This book had a really original premise and I have no idea whether scientifically anything that happens in the book would ever be possible but that doesn’t matter, it’s fiction and the author makes you believe it all, the voice of Julia is brilliant and the book has an almost dreamy feel to the prose, matching the slowing of the world. It was a book that I could have kept on reading. The last paragraph is perfect too. I can imagine I will re-read this book and would definitely recommend it.

Did you read anything special this month?

Victoria

xoxo

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Sunday Songs

What I’ve been listening to this week …

Gabrielle Aplin – Light Up The Dark:

Florence and The Machine – Ship To Wreck:

Lucy Spraggan – Unsinkable:

Kid Wave – Wonderlust:

Throwback tune: Hole – Dollparts:

And because this video is awesome!! (can we have  movie version please?!!) Taylor Swift – Bad Blood:

What are you listening to this week?

Victoria

xoxo

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The bookshop dream

I recently read that Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney is opening up his own bookshop in the town where he lives. He isn’t the first author to do this – Nora Roberts, for example, also owns a bookshop which her husband runs in their hometown.  There seems to have always been a bookshop fantasy for writers – not just for our books to be stocked on the shelves, but also a fantasy of owning our own one.

I think it’s a great idea that successful authors are taking on bookshops. It’s not an easy climate to run any kind of independent shop but especially bookshops which have seen decline and even large chains have struggled to keep up with online retailers and the rise of ebooks. A big name may well draw in customers, fans of the author will no doubt pop in for a signed book or the chance to see their favourite author behind a till, but also authors in general (I hope anyway!) love books. They make ideal bookshops owners because of their passion for books and their desire to encourage everyone to read more.

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I have a feeling my fantasy of owning a bookshop started by watching the film You’ve Got Mail, even though that store closes during the film. I remember being scared about going to university and telling my mum I wished I could just buy a bookshop in the country instead! I am also certain that my love of books is the reason why it always seemed so appealing, to be surrounded by my favourite things every day and helping people discover wonderful books always seemed like a dream, and very rewarding, job.

Like any fantasy, you tune out how difficult it would be to start up your own bookshop – you’d need money obviously, a good location where you’d be able to draw in regular customers, and a strong business plan to make sure you didn’t fold in the first year. That’s why it’s great that authors like Jeff Kinney are taking on the task, he obviously has the money to pour into the business and the passion to really make it work. I am looking forward to seeing how it all works out and whether it will encourage more authors to take the plunge.

I also hope a British author can do the same thing one day as their shops would be easier for me to visit!

Do you have the bookshop fantasy?

Victoria

xoxo

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The Second Love Of My Life

I’m so excited to announce that my debut novel THE SECOND LOVE OF MY LIFE will be published by Headline in April 2016! It’s great to finally be able to share the news with you guys, I’ve been sitting on it for a while now as we came up with the perfect title for the novel and I’ve already completed a round of edits with my amazing editor at Headline Emily (who you can follow on Twitter here).

The news was announced yesterday via The Bookseller and I’ve pasted the press release below:

Headline has acquired an “utterly captivating debut novel” by an “exciting new talent” who works at Waterstones.

Commissioning editor Emily Griffin bought British Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, to The Second Love of My Life by Victoria Walters from Hannah Ferguson at Hardman & Swainson.

The Second Love of my Life tells the story of Rose – a young artist living in the small Cornish village of Talting – whose childhood sweetheart and husband is killed in a road accident, leaving her widowed at the age of 25.

Two years on, as Rose starts putting her life back together piece by piece, and her “challenging journey towards love and happiness is a heart-rending and ultimately life-affirming tale of survival”.

Griffin said: “What makes this novel special is the way that Victoria utterly immerses the reader in its world, portraying Rose’s story with insight, sensitivity and a seemingly effortless balance between light and shade. It moves me to tears every time and I can’t wait to put our publishing plans into action and introduce countless readers to this enthralling novel.”

Walters is a bookseller at Waterstones, and last year won Simon & Schuster’s New Adult short story competition. Her winning story, Dancing in the Fire, was released as an e-book in February.

Headline will publish The Second Love of my Life in e-book and paperback in April 2016, and will give a “tantalising taste of the world of the novel” in a digital short story to be published two months before.

A huge thank you needs to go out to my agent Hannah Ferguson (follow her on Twitter here) for making my dream of having a book on the shelves come true! I’m so thrilled that you guys will be able to read this novel and I can’t wait to hear what you all think in 2016!

(And you can already pre-order the eBook version of THE SECOND LOVE OF MY LIFE here!)

And finally we need a gif to describe how I’m feeling right now:

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Victoria

xoxo

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Books read in April 2015

Books read in April:

All Played Out – Cora Carmack

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In Texas, two things are cherished above all else—football and gossip. My life has always been ruled by both.

Dallas Cole loathes football. That’s what happens when you spend your whole childhood coming in second to a sport. College is her time to step out of the bleachers, and put the playing field (and the players) in her past.

But life doesn’t always go as planned. As if going to the same college as her football star ex wasn’t bad enough, her father, a Texas high school coaching phenom, has decided to make the jump to college ball… as the new head coach at Rusk University. Dallas finds herself in the shadows of her father and football all over again.

Carson McClain is determined to go from second-string quarterback to the starting line-up. He needs the scholarship and the future that football provides. But when a beautiful redhead literally falls into his life, his focus is more than tested. It’s obliterated.

Dallas doesn’t know Carson is on the team. Carson doesn’t know that Dallas is his new coach’s daughter.

And neither of them know how to walk away from the attraction they feel.

Last Night in Montreal – Emily Mandel

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Lilia has been leaving people behind her entire life. Haunted by her inability to remember her early childhood, and by a mysterious shadow that seems to dog her wherever she goes, Lilia moves restlessly from city to city, abandoning lovers and friends along the way. But then she meets Eli, and he’s not ready to let her go, not without a fight.

Gorgeously written, charged with tension and foreboding, Emily St. John Mandel’s Last Night in Montreal is the story of a life spent at the centre of a criminal investigation. It is a novel about identity, love and amnesia, the depths and limits of family bonds and – ultimately – about the nature of obsession.

All Fall Down – Ally Carter

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I don’t mean to get into trouble. Trouble just sort of finds me.

Grace has been shipped off to stay with her diplomat Grandpa in the glittering Embassy Row, a place where trespassing into the wrong garden can cause an international incident. Grace knows the rules – she’s ignored them before – but however much she wants to change, she can’t. Not while she’s certain of three things:

1. She isn’t crazy.

2. Her mother was murdered.

3. Someday she’s going to find the man with the scar, and then she is going to make him pay.

Red Queen – Victoria Aveyard

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This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.

The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.

But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart . . .

All My Puny Sorrows – Mriam Toews

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Elf and Yoli are two smart, loving sisters.

Elf is a world-renowned pianist, glamorous, wealthy, happily married: she wants to die.

Yoli is divorced, broke, sleeping with the wrong men: she desperately wants to keep her older sister alive.

When Elf’s latest suicide attempt leaves her hospitalised weeks before her highly anticipated world tour, Yoli is forced to confront the impossible question of whether it is better to let a loved one go.

Book of the month:

I really enjoyed Cora Carmack’s All Lined Up, if you’re looking for a New Adult writer, you should really check her books out – fun and romantic, I always race through them!

For the book of the month, I was really torn between two books. I loved Red Queen – it’s sort of Games of Thrones meets The Hunger Games meets Divergent and was a great start to this new YA trilogy. But as it’s only book one and the series has a long way to go, I went with this as my book of the month:

Amy Snow – Tracy Rees

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Winner of the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller Competition. ‘A sparkling and compelling mystery. Amy Snow captured our hearts from the very first page’ Richard and Judy.
Abandoned on a bank of snow as a baby, Amy is taken in at nearby Hatville Court. But the masters and servants of the grand estate prove cold and unwelcoming. Amy’s only friend and ally is the sparkling young heiress Aurelia Vennaway. So when Aurelia tragically dies young, Amy is devastated. But Aurelia leaves Amy one last gift. A bundle of letters with a coded key. A treasure hunt that only Amy can follow. A life-changing discovery awaits… if only she can unlock the secret.

This was a lovely Victorian mystery / coming-of-age story about a girl called Amy Snow sent on a treasure hunt  to uncover the secrets of her recently deceased friend. Amy Snow has wonderful voice ad you’ll root for her from page one. Although it’s a mystery it’s really about Amy’s journey rather than her destination as she leaves the mansion she grew up in following her friend Aurelia’s directions and discovers what she wants for her life. She meets all sorts of special people on her way and there is a lovely romance plot mingled in with the mystery. I could definitely see this as a BBC series as each chapter kept you wanting to read on and I think it’s a book I would re-read in the future.

What book stood out for you this month?

Victoria

xoxo