Write On! interviews author Jenny Valentine
Jenny Valentine is an award-winning writer for Young Adults. Her first novel, Finding Violet Park, won the Guardian prize in 2007 and was followed by Broken Soup, The Ant Colony, The Double Life Of Cassiel Roadnight, Hello Now and the Carnegie shortlisted Fire Colour One, as well as Iggy And Me, a series for younger children and the middle-grade trilogy, A Girl Called Joy. Her work has been published in 19 countries. In 2017/18 she was the Hay Festival International Fellow, spending the year meeting and learning from teenagers worldwide. She lives all over the place and has two daughters.
WO: How would you describe your writing to someone new to it?
JV: I write novels for young people. Realist, not fantasy, and in a simple plain style. I won’t use five words where one would do.
WO: Can you tell us a bit about your latest book?
JV: I’m just about to finish my latest YA book. It doesn’t have a title yet. Usually they jump out at me, but I’m still waiting.
WO: What inspired you to write in the first place, and what inspires you now?
JV: I wanted to write from the age of nine, when my mum gave me a notebook that looked like a novel on the outside. I wrote my first book at 34, slightly directionless, with two small children. I figured it was time. I think I wanted them to be proud of me. In between, I read and read. I consider that my training.
Now, what inspires me is how much I love doing it, when it’s working, when it’s going well. I don’t love it when I’m stuck, pushing boulders up hills.
WO: The current issue of Write On! explores the theme of ‘Contradictions’. With that in mind, do you ever actively look for, or specifically avoid contradictions in your writing? Is there a part of your writing process that contradicts itself, yet somehow works for you?
JV: What an interesting question! I don’t think I actively look for anything when I’m writing. I’m much more passive, and I can only really tell you what contradictions a book might contain once it’s finished.
I guess the central contradiction with the way I write is that, even though I’m in charge, I don’t know what’s going to happen next. It shouldn’t work but it does, and I get to the end somehow, every time.
WO: What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring writer?
JV: Forget you are writing and just stay in the story.
WO: Question from Twitter user: @madeleinefwhite What’s been your biggest personal challenge in terms of navigating the publishing industry?
JV: My fear of networking.
WO: Can you tell us anything about future projects?
JV: I’m thinking about another middle-grade book. Something cheerful and optimistic. You can probably tell, it’s very early stages!
WO: Lastly, if you could choose one fictional animal/creature to be a pet or companion, who would it be and why?
JV: I always envied Lyra Belaqua her daemon. Someone who is and isn’t you. Who you know, without having to try.
You can find out more about Jenny Valentine online, including articles and titles, and connect with her on Instagram: @jennyvbooks
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I wrote my first book at 34, slightly directionless, with two small children. I figured it was time. I think I wanted them to be proud of me. In between, I read and read. I consider that my training.