Rachel says…

Screen shot 2014-03-05 at 10.41.22Today’s blog tour stop is with Amy Bookworm, who has carried out an insightful interview with Rachel herself. No, really… (plus the last pages of The Facts of Life, in case you need a little catch up).

Hello Rachel! You have a diary so… you’re probably not scared to share secrets. But one-on-one *to camera: obviously no eavesdroppers*, with me, why don’t you tell us something nobody knows about you (at least not without reading your 7th diary!)

Am only divulging as know for a fact that Mum is not on interwebnet due to protective helmet issues but the Mysterious Missing Digestive of 2011 (which ran for several days including full on-tape interviews) was NOT Dad it was me.

Off to a great start… Now, you can return to the familiar get-to-know-you, nickname, hobbies, where you live, BFFs… Come on! Give it to us! *getting psyched*

I still don’t have a nickname despite trying several times to instil Ray Riley into consciousness of friends, potential lovers, idiot brothers etc. I don’t have hobbies either. Hobbies are for furry-pant wearing, ghost-hustling children like James. I have only my pursuit of literature, poetry and art. Which is not a hobby, it is life itself. Only am thwarted in said pursuit by living in Saffron Walden where the most exciting thing to happen in last twelve months was when they temporarily installed a mini roundabout at the bottom of the High Street. Thank God for Jack, Scarlet and Sad Ed and their left-wing leanings, sex therapist parents, and general fascination with untimely death.

What star sign are you? Not that I know much about them but it’s something I like to ask… *mystical music*

I’m a Leo i.e. naturally creative and charismatic only with mental hair. Scarlet says star signs are a form of oppression to force you to conform to made-up character traits and also something to do with late capitalism and women’s magazines. But she would say that because she’s a Libra.

Do you know which Hogwarts house you’re in, if so…? *trails off expectantly*

James says I am only allowed in Hufflepuff because he and Mad Harry will commandeer the only remaining places in Gryffindor. Have told him repeatedly that Hogwarts is not real and he is not going to get transferred there for GCSEs no matter how many begging letters he sends to Michael Gove. Anyway, why would I want to go to a school for wizards when I have Goth Corner Mark II anyway which is full of bats, capes, thrones and delusional would-be witches.

So, off to University, which University do you hope to go to, for which studies? Plus, what’s the job you’ll be looking for after Uni, do you think?

It was supposed to be Goldsmiths so I could live in a squat in Peckham with a tortured poet but Scarlet has ruled that out on so many grounds I cannot begin to list them. So hopefully Hull. Which is at least Northern i.e. a) inherently interesting b) very far away from Saffron Walden and c) has lower entry requirements than Manchester. And obviously, once I have graduated, I will continue my studies in the university of life as I follow my calling as an actress, director and controversial playwright. And possible girlfriend of one of the Arctic Monkeys.

*narrows eyes* What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned in your life?

Never EVER agree to consume herbal remedy from a boy who thinks God is a laser-eyed dog or you will end up accidentally kissing Justin Small Nipples Statham and ruining entire relationship with The One.

Are you inspired by “teachers”? Which one has inspired you the most… *shrugs shoulders* Why?

Well, obviously, drama teachers Mr Vaughan (despite minor drug habit, oversized nipples, and ongoing relationship with Sophie Microwave Muffins Jacobs) and Mr Pringle (despite giving up guerrilla theatre (not gorilla, as previously thought) for bit part in Eastenders).

If teachers aren’t dreamy enough for you (or maybe it’s the location that’s lacking) *nods sympathetically* , describe your dream girl/boy. Have you caught them? If not, where would you expect to meet them?

Well, I thought The One was Justin Small Nipples Statham on account of his long hair and ability to play the solo out of Stairway to Heaven. Then I thought it might be Davey MacDonald (has a habit of getting thing out in class) in a love-across-the-divide way. But it always comes back to Jack i.e. Jack Clement Atlee Stone: brother of Scarlet, future first ever simultaneous anti-war Foreign Secretary and winner of the Mercury Music Prize, and general excellent kisser.

What inspired you to start writing a diary & how have you kept it up for 7 diaries worth- all through high school I believe… As a teen myself, I’m not sure I can imagine it! Or having a life interesting enough!

But that’s the point. Life in Saffron Walden is tragically normal. Nothing ever happens. But it’s important to record your angst and philosophical musings so one day someone can make a film of your life (preferably starring that one out of the Hunger Games NOT Emmerdale).

If you had to be room with another 3 people: 1 person like you (hint: teen who writes a diary or is written about XD)- cannot be a friend of yours currently; 1 author and another famous person who would they be? Why?

Sylvia Plath. Who was totally like me. And an author and famous. Because only she understood the torment of being a poetic women trapped in patriarchal society. With a mother who has a J-cloth permanently welded to her right hand. OK maybe not that bit, but I bet she’d sympathise.

Are you at all like Joanna Nadin (you may have heard of her)…? In which ways are you most similar?

We have the same mental hair and mental little brother. But unlike me she totally failed to become a controversial anything or live in a squat or snog an Arctic Monkey so I don’t think we’re that alike after all.

Last but not least, a girl gotta ask, cats or dogs?

Cats. They are clever, aloof, and don’t tend to eat two bath bombs and then foam pink musk all over my carpet.

So, where did we leave you in the last book, incase anybody has forgotten? Has life taken a turn, now, for better or worse?


Wednesday 31st December

New Year’s Eve

Thank God it is New Year’s Eve. The sooner this year is over the better. It has been utterly the worst year ever. Both the world and my life have been racked by ill-fortune and economic mismanagement. Plus am still one centimetre down on last year (millimetre gain was blip caused by rogue hair matting). The only consolation is that next year cannot possibly get any worse.

Am utterly resolute in decision not to partake in Scarlet’s hero-themed welcome home Jack and Obama New Year’s Eve party. Sad Ed has already been round to reveal his outfit of choice. It is Batman. Pointed out that this is mistake on several grounds, i.e. a) is utter lie as his heroes are all miserable/dead musicians, e.g. Jim Morrison/Morrissey etc. and b) tight and shiny bat suit is very revealing of bulges, including non-worldly penis and bingo wings. Sad Ed said am right on both counts but is all ploy to win over Scarlet as Batman is ultimate goth superhero, plus he knows for fact she is going as Catwoman, who everyone knows was doing Batman on the side. Plus on positive side, lycra is girdle-like and he has lost several inches off waist. He is mistaken if he thinks that outfit will win Scarlet over. He does not look at all batly. He looks like a crap transvestite. Sad Ed has begged me to go with him, preferably dressed as Robin, but said it would compromise all my anti-hero ideals. Plus am needed at home to babysit Jesus and Uncle Jim. Grandpa and Treena are getting drunk in Queen Lizzie, Mum and Dad are going to play Jenga at Clive and Marjory’s and James is at a Warhammer mathletes ner­dathon with Mad Harry and Wendy. They are mental with potential debauchery. Apparently Damon Parker is bringing a can of shandy and Ali Hassan has a Kanye West CD. They are morons. Sad Ed says I will regret it later when he is doing utterly grown-up things like put­ting his penis to good use and I am watching Lark Rise to Candleford. Said a) ick and b) it is Road Runner actually. Jesus does not like Julia Sawalha. Nor does the dog. It is static hair issues again. Yet it is not afraid of meep-meep­ing emu creature. Anyway, he is wrong, I will not regret my decision.

10 p.m.

Oh God. If have to watch idiot Wile E. Coyote blow him­self up again am going to potentially steal Sad Ed’s thun­der and engage in untimely death. Why does he not learn? Even Jesus has fallen asleep. May just go upstairs and text Sad Ed to check on progress. Is just being caring. Am not actually interested in gossip.

10.05 p.m.

Have got reply. He is all minty as there are three Batmen, and both of them have proper suits as opposed to leotards borrowed off their mums and cardboard masks. Plus they do not have tails. Have pointed out that did think tail was mistake as do not recall bats actually having them.

10.10 p.m.

He says he has removed tail but it has left gaping hole on buttock, revealing birthmark shaped like Gary Lineker’s head. Have told him to get felt tip and colour buttock black and no one will be any the wiser.

10.15 p.m.

Sad Ed says cannot find felt tip but has stolen goth eye­liner from Scarlet’s bedroom. Said that is good.

10.20 p.m.

Sad Ed says he is now in trouble for leaving black bottom prints all over off-white sofa. Have texted back to say am losing interest in his buttocks and what else is happening please.

10.30 p.m.

Oooh text beep. Will be gossip from Sad Ed. Not that need gossip. Is purely philanthropical, i.e. making sure all friends have not drowned in eggnog punch.

10.31 p.m.

Was not Sad Ed. Unbelievably was Justin Statham asking if had changed mind about his grown-up pants area. Said NO. AM ANTI-PANTS. KEEP CONTENTS TO SELF. ICK.

10.32 p.m.

Ugh. Text beep. Is probably Justin again. When will he get message that am utterly not interested in content of his pants.

10.35 p.m.

Was not Justin. Apparently he got pants message after all. Was Sad Ed. Whose pants content I have seen and rejected outright. Anyway, he says no one drowned in punch, but that is not eggnog, is new experimental gin, pineapple juice, and chocolate sauce variety. Which is all very interesting. But notice that Jack is not mentioned. Not that care about him. Or contents of his pants. Am just concerned that he has made it home safely and is not caught up in actual Al Qaeda bomb plot at airport (as opposed to drunk beardy uncle plot).

10.40 p.m.

Although would be good if he was caught up. I could steal the Fiesta, drive to airport and infiltrate aircraft and talk terrorists down with my negotiating skills, and utterly rescue Jack. Hurrah. Will text Sad Ed to check if Jack in peril.

10.45 p.m.

Sad Ed says he not at party but not in peril. He stuck in traffic on A11 in Nelson Mandela’s sick-smelling Volvo. Never mind. Is probably good thing. Do not want to rescue ungrateful Jack, who has not even told me he is coming home yet. Plus rescuing only works in fiction. In real fact-based life I would crash Fiesta on mini round­about and end up in hospital with gear stick where gear-stick should not be. Will check on Uncle Jim and moronic coyote (dog, not Wile E) instead.

11 p.m.

Oh God. Uncle Jim is having sobbing breakdown due to turning off of Road Runner and reading of Tintin in Tibet, which just reminds him of Marigold. Is all my fault. I should have followed Mum’s instructions (A4, magneted to fridge) and monitored him at all times. Will check list to see what have to do in this situation.

11.15 p.m.

List has no instructions for weeping uncles. Although it does tell me how to relight the boiler pilot, make an emergency escape rope from bedsheets, and perform Heimlich manoeuvre on dog. Will use initiative and tell him some simple facts of life, i.e. there are no happy end­ings, love does not exist, and the sooner he grows up the better.

11.20 p.m.

Uncle Jim is not at all in agreement with fact-based stance. Said he of all people should understand, given utterly non-happy ending of love life halfway up a Himalaya. He said au contraire, it has only fuelled his con­viction that love is everything, and that if you don’t believe in happy endings then there is no point to uni­verse. Told him if he had any Riley sense, he would grow up, and read some Stephen Hawking instead of the Asterix and Tintin. He said where’s the fun in that? Said life isn’t meant to be fun and stormed out before he could baffle me with any more yoghurt-knitting alternative nonsense.

11.25 p.m.

Oh. Have got text. Is probably Sad Ed with more buttock-related hoo-ha.

11.26 p.m.

Was not Sad Ed. Was Jack. It said, ‘Just got email. Must have got clogged in Christmas ether. Where are you, Riley? Want to see the new you!’ Have not texted back. Cannot even be bothered to reply. Especially as the new me is wearing no make-up, is all red-faced from getting minty, and is in perpetually vile mood.

11.27 p.m.

Actually, is true. Am always in vile mood these days. Why is that?

11.30 p.m.

Oh God. Have had revelation. Is thanks to yoghurt-knit­ting Uncle Jim. He sat outside bedroom door (refused to let him in as was all red-faced from mintyness) and said ‘Do you know who you sound like, Rach?’ Said ‘Sensible grown-up.’ He said, ‘Yeah. Like your mum.’ And then stomach did hideous enormous heave thing. And realized do sound exactly like Mum. Although with slightly less use of phrase ‘I told you so’. But none the less, have utterly morphed into low-fun, permanently minty Janet Riley. Was about to utter strangulated cry but Uncle Jim clearly on one of his confessional rants and got in first with ‘Don’t grow up yet, Rach. In fact don’t grow up ever. Happy endings aren’t just in books. You just need to believe in yourself. And in love.’ And then he started going on about believing in rainbows and pots of gold so switched off at that bit because James spent a year trying to deduce the possibility of pot of gold and has established beyond reasonable doubt that it does not exist. But he is right about happy endings. That they’re worth aiming for. Because even if you fall down, half the fun is in trying.

I want my happy ending. I want to be a princess. I want my knight in shining whatever.

And I don’t need rescuing. But maybe I can rescue him instead. And tell him that I might not be grown-up. And I might make mistakes. Colossal ones involving magic mushrooms and naked ex-boyfriends. But that it doesn’t mean I don’t love him.

11.35 p.m.
Because I do. I love him.

11.45 p.m.

Oh. I really love him. I have to go and tell him. I have to rescue him right now. Jesus will be fine. He is asleep on dog and dog is asleep on washing machine. What can pos­sibly go wrong there? And anyway, Uncle Jim is here. And he might not be grown-up in Mum’s eyes. But he’s clever. And sober, for once (Belgian lager out of bounds now floodgates opened). And he knows more about life than anyone else I know. Oh God, have only got quarter of an hour of year left. Why, oh why did I wish it away. I have to get there before midnight. I have to tell him before he snogs Hillary Clinton or the Invisible Woman.

11.46 p.m.

OK. This is it. I’m going to get my happy ending. Not as a heroine. Mostly because I don’t have the time to make authentic Sylvia Plath costume. Instead am going as me. Because Jack was right about one thing. Being me is enough. In fact, it’s utterly brilliant.


Or at least it will be. In about fourteen minutes . . .




About Joanna Nadin

A former broadcast journalist and special adviser to the prime minister, since leaving politics I’ve written more than 80 books for children and adults, as well as speeches for politicians, and articles for newspapers and magazines like The Guardian, Red and The Amorist. I also lecture in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, and hold a doctorate in young adult literature. I’m a winner of the Fantastic Book Award and the Surrey Book Award, and have been shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, the Booktrust Best Book award and Queen of Teen among others, and twice nominated for the Carnegie Medal, for Everybody Hurts, and for Joe All Alone, which is now a BAFTA-winning and Emmy-nominated BBC TV series. I've also worked with Sir Chris Hoy on the Flying Fergus series and ghost-written Angry Birds under another name. I like London, New York, Essex, tea, cake, Marmite, mint imperials, prom dresses, pubs, that bit in the West Wing where Donna tells Josh she wouldn’t stop for a red light if he was in an accident, junk shops, crisps, Cornwall, St Custard’s, Portuguese custard tarts, political geeks, pin-up swimsuits, the Regency, high heels, horses, old songs, my Grandma’s fur coat, vinyl, liner notes, the smell of old books, the feel of a velveteen monkey, Guinness, quiffs, putting my hand in a bin of chicken feed, the 1950s, burlesque, automata, fiddles, flaneuring, gigs in fields on warm summer nights, Bath, the bath.
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2 Responses to Rachel says…

  1. Emma Steel says:

    I am a little older than the usual readers of the Rachel Riley series!

    I proofread for the National Blind Children’s Society and I was sent Back to Life to proof, and I have not laughed that much at a book in a long time, (not since Adrian Mole in the 80s!). Then I worked on a couple of the others, and let me tell you it is difficult to concentrate when you have a stitch, and tears from laughing.

    I have just finished proofreading The Facts of Life, and loved it.

    I love getting ‘minty’ with my husband, and although my kids are 21 and 14 they now get threatened with a ‘level two shouting’, which tends to make them laugh as opposed to tremble with fear!!

    Thank you for the giggles!!!

    Emma Steel

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