‘Hull, Nadin!’

Let us set aside for a moment that the University of Hull’s barrel of ‘notable alumni’ was small to start with, and is now very much scraped, and appreciate that I have wanted to do this for more years than I care to remember. Piffle to the Emmy nomination, this is me living the literal dream.

And you can watch me not make too much of a tit of myself on Boxing Day at 20.30 on BBC2. *presses buzzer* Hull, Nadin!

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And another one…

2020 is a busy book year for me, but this one is a biggie. Second adult novel, set in Essex in 1981 and featuring Grifter bikes, Charles and Di, Panda Pops, a Welsh Elvis impersonator, a fake Marc Bolan, and the failed socialist dream of the new town.

From the back cover…

Connie always had big dreams, but they’ve never quite panned out, so somehow, instead of Mick Jagger and a Paris flat, she’s ended up with an Elvis-impersonating boyfriend, a two-up two-down in Leeds and a day job on the checkout at Morrisons. Apart from her beloved daughter Sadie, it’s not much to show for nearly thirty years on the planet.

Jean hasn’t seen her good-for-nothing daughter Connie since she ran away from home to make a name for herself aged seventeen and pregnant, but in the wake of the Royal Wedding, Jean gets a life-changing call: could she please come and collect the granddaughter she’s never met?

For Sadie, eleven, home has always been a movable feast but, when the unthinkable happens, she’s sent to Essex to live with grandparents she didn’t know existed. After an attempt to track down her father fails, she begins to realize that so-called Pram Town might be her most permanent home yet.

We all know how Charles and Di turned out, and Jean and Sadie are hardly a match made in heaven – but is there hope of a happy ending for them?

Written in Joanna Nadin’s trademark dazzling prose, The Talk of Pram Town tells the story of three generations of Earnshaws, the secrets that shaped their decisions, and how, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got . . .

Out in June 2020, but you can pre-order here.

 

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All cheer for Alan

Every so often, a commission gets you thinking. And thinking. And thinking some more. But learning binary? Caesar shifts? How to operate an Enigma machine?

This biography of Alan Turing was one of my biggest challenges and delights to write – being able to test my head for maths, and honour one of the world’s greatest heroes. It’s out in January, but you can pre-order here, and look out for the other titles in the series too.

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Head in all the books

I read a lot. A LOT. About sixty so far this year though it feels more like eleventy billion. Some for work, some for pleasure, some for both.  Some I’ve put down after two pages because CLUNKY. Some because the voice doesn’t ring true. Some just, well, meh. But, in case you need some summer recs, these are the ones that have, for various reasons, stuck; whose worlds have lived on long after the last page was turned. In no order, and with a pathetic effort at reviewing:

 

The Lesser Bohemians – Eimear McBride

Astonishing language and rhythm and passion, and a spot-on recreation of early 90s Camden.

Gorsky – Vesna Goldsworthy

Gatsby as a Russian oligarch. That is all you need to know.

Toffee – Sarah Crossan

The latest from the high priestess of YA verse.

Things in Jars – Jess Kidd

Sarah Waters meets the Grant Museum on crack.

The Gifted, The Talented, and Me – William Sutcliffe

Note perfect (and painful) portrait of a teen boy forced into ‘creative’ education who talks to his penis. Hilarious.

Little – Edward Carey

Madame Tussaud’s childhood fictionalised. A cabinet of wonder.

The Age of Light – Whitney Scharer

Paris, Lee Miller, dresses. Glorious.

Daisy Jones and the Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid

Imagine Fleetwood Mac dishing everything.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid

This woman can do no writing wrong. Hollywood from the 50s to present day.

Normal People – Sally Rooney

Believe the hype.

Peach – Emma Glass

Difficult and mesmerising.

Another Planet – Tracey Thorn

Herts suburbs in the 70s and 80s. Shimmering orange Kodak snapshots and wise insight.

Lethal White – Robert Galbraith

Because Cormoran.

To Throw Away Unopened – Viv Albertine

Gobsmacking memoir.

 

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Book Group Questions for Queen of Bloody Everything

In the space of two hours I have had LITERALLY two emails asking if there are any book group questions for The Queen of Bloody Everything. There aren’t. Or there weren’t. Until now. Because I just thunk some up.

SPOILER ALERT: do not read until you’ve read the book or you will be minty.

 

 

– What makes a ‘good mother’ and how do Angela and Edie rank?

– Why does Dido go back to Jimmy and stay so long?

– Why doesn’t Dido ever seek out her father, or extended family?

– Who do you think Dido’s father might be?

– Should Edie have taken Harry for the abortion?

– Could you forgive Edie?

– Was Dido right to hold out for Tom for so long?

– Do you think Edie dies or survives?

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My BAFTA-Winning Boy

This is how it started. A small boy I’d glimpsed on a street in Peckham, his sleeping bag on his back like a nylon snail.

From that came pages of notes about a boy called Tom, who eventually turned into Joe, who became the star of a book, and then a real boy again, who appeared in a TV series, which last night won its very own BAFTA. I’m still reeling from the ridiculousness and brilliance of it.

 

And as I didn’t get to dress up in my ballgown and parade like Cinderella (I fell over and hurt my knee and had to get the results on my sofa via Twitter), I have a few people to thank who all went into the making of the book and the TV series:

My old agent Sarah Molloy who told me to write the idea.

My new agent Julia Churchill who sold it.

My editor Karen Ball who bought it and then sold it again to Steven Andrew at Zodiak, who sold it to CBBC.

Nadine Marsh-Edwards who produced it, and Beryl Richards who directed it, and especially already-BAFTA-winning Guy Burt who wrote the scripts.

And the stars themselves: Daniel Frogson as Joe, Liani Samuel as Asha, Joe Sims as Dean, Kellie Shirley as Mum, Harrison Slater as Perry Fletcher, Tom Godwin as The Watcher, Erin Shanagher as Miss Granger, Shobu Kapoor as the social worker, and the wonderful Vas Blackwood as Otis. Thank you all. You’ve made one small boy, and me, very happy.

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Here’s One I Made Earlier

As a child, I was a ‘keener’. A ‘swot’. A ‘geek’. Way before geeks were chic or had rows with nerds over which was which. And yet my ambition – to somehow be Queen of Facts, and win many spectacular prizes for this – was not borne out at all in my achievements. I shot for the moon and ended up not among the stars but still in a bland corner of North West Essex in my corduroy dungarees. The list of things I ‘won’ is short and disappointing:

 

  • ‘Sword drill’ – i.e. a ‘game’ at church in which a senior Godly person would shout out the numbers of a chapter and verse in the bible and whoever found it first was generally regarded as superiorly Godly for about five minutes until tuck shop came out.
  • A ribbon for being able to sing the books of the Bible off by heart (see above for kudos rating)
  • A sachet of hair dye from Jackie magazine, only as far as I know everyone who applied got one too.

Compare that to the list of things I Tried To Win and Did Not:

  • Any sporting race ever, but especially the infamous St Mary’s Primary ‘Yoghurt Pot and Umbrella’ race.
  • Any leading role in any musical ever but especially Annie in the West End revival of Annie (which my mother would not let me audition for, but I am still counting this).
  • Young Ornithologists’ Club ‘Spotter of the Year’.
  • A place on the viewers’ pictures wall on Take Hart.
  • A Blue Peter badge.

To be fair, the last one I didn’t actually try to win either, because by that point I assumed I knew the limits of my abilities, and they were fairly mediocre. But recently, life is making up for this catalogue of childhood oddity, because I finally, FINALLY won a Blue Peter badge. For doing star jumps in the TV studio with our illustrator Clare Elsom while Sir Chris Hoy drew stick woman versions of us. Which sounds somewhat feeble but when your last real exercise was in the Yoghurt Pot and Umbrella race in about 1980, and you bear in mind I had been up since 5am and not had a shower, then it is an act of undeniable brilliance. And if anyone tries to tell me otherwise I shall stick my fingers in my ears and sing ‘Genesis, Exodus…’ until we reach end of days.

You can watch me in this act of physical excellent here

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