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Jenny Valentine moved house every two years when she was growing up. She has just moved house again, probably not for the last time. She worked in a wholefood shop in Primrose Hill for fifteen years where she met many extraordinary people and sold more organic loaves than there are words in her first novel. She has also worked as a teaching assistant and a jewellery maker. She studied English Literature at Goldsmiths College, which almost put her off reading but not quite. Jenny is married to a singer/songwriter and has two children. 'Finding Violet Park' is her first novel.
Find Jenny on Instagram @jennyvalentinebook
A Q&A with Jenny about her first novel, Finding Violet Park
I owe the showbiz name to my husband!
This is your first book, have you always wanted to be a writer girl and how did you make it happen?
My mum bought me a notebook when I was about nine that looked like a novel on the outside. I had to put the title and the author on the front and then fill it with a story. I knew then. I am not sure exactly how I made it happen - I put the work in I guess.
What was your favourite book as a teen girl?
Such a hard question! I read a lot and I always wish I had made lists of all the books I loved. One that stands out would be The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.
For people who haven't read your book yet - Finding Violet Park, what's it all about?
It's about a boy who finds an old lady's ashes in a mini cab office and decides to find out who she was. He learns a lot of other things while he's doing it.
Lucas is a great narrator, what made you write from a boy's perspective?
No idea! He just jumped out, fully formed, in about the second sentence. I'm not sure I had that much choice in the matter.
Secrets are a big part of the book, what's your biggest secret?
If the book had a soundtrack, what would be on it?
Well, Lucas listens to all his Dad's old records so there'd be some early David Bowie, some Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Ella Fitzgerald, maybe Rolling Stones. Then there'd have to be some piano pieces for Violet to play, Rachmaninov gets played at Lucas's granny's. Then Lucas's own choices might be Sufjan Stevens, Will Oldham, and a song from my husband Alex Valentine's record TARDIS HEART. It's called SORROW and as soon as I heard it I said I'd want it in a soundtrack if I was ever lucky enough to get one.
Apart from your own, what's your favourite book for teens?
Holes by Louis Sachar. I love that book. I think it's perfect.
What's the best thing about being a writer?
Finding the exact word you've been searching for.
Do you have a writing routine, Jenny? Tell us about it¦
Well it's very un-HELLO! I drink coffee, I have a walk by the river with our dog, I sit down and I re-read some of what I did the day before. Then I get going. Sometimes I look up and three hours have gone by, sometimes it's like getting blood out of a stone. I think it helps to have no routine at all, just to go with it, see how it's working.
What's next in the world of JV?
I'm working on my next book. It should be out next year. I can't tell you what it's called yet because I don't know. I'm very indecisive.
The colour pink. Discuss.
Let's see...bubblegum, fake fur, rose petals, cold noses, underwear, marshmallows, candy floss, lip gloss... how am I doing?!
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Award winning author Jenny Valentine is justly renowned for never using three words where one will do, but every word she uses will count. Hello Now is another short novel that punches well beyond its weight. Every novel she writes is completely different, but you always know that you are in for an unforgettable reading experience. So, you would not expect the obvious wish fulfilment fantasy love story of finding true happiness with the perfect time-travelling love object and while that is the bare bones of the story of Jude and Novo, what we get is so much more. Jude is cleverly non gendered throughout the book and so this romance can take on multiple interpretations. The mechanics of Novo’s existence are never logically explained either, but we do have an intense dive into the powerful emotion that often seems beyond rationality and beyond time. It is only when Novo meets Henry, the old reclusive sitting tenant in the house Jude has just moved into, that Jude realises the harsh dilemma facing them. In one of the most touching scenes, Henry and Novo recognise each other for what they are. As Henry later explains to Jude alone, if Novo stays with Jude in her present time, he sentences himself to eternal loneliness once Jude inevitably dies, the same loneliness that Henry currently endures. A sacrifice that Novo is desperate to make but one that Jude cannot live with. Doing what is right is not always easy but embracing the moment, embracing change, and moving forward after loss are lessons worth learning. Exquisitely done and a thought provoking, rewarding read.
Shortlisted for the UKLA 2017 Book Award and Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2016. | Julia Eccleshare's Pick of the Year 2015 Guardian Prize winning author Jenny Valentine’s long-awaited new novel is clever, beautifully written, full of ideas. It tells the story of sixteen-year-old Iris: lonely and desperately unhappy, she finds self-expression and release through starting fires. Her vain, shallow mother, one of the least sympathetic fictional characters ever, has always told Iris that her father abandoned them when she was a little girl. This is a lie and he has in fact been searching for his daughter all her life. They are reunited, but only because her father is dying. The weeks they have together are spent learning about each other – they share a love of art for example, something that Iris’s father has been able to indulge. Just as the beauty and truth of her father’s paintings outweigh any monetary value, so Iris’s love and growing understanding transcends their short time together. Daring to examine what is really important, this original novel is full of insight and intelligence.
Funny and touching and with a brilliant understanding of the delicate balance within families, this captures the daily lives of two absolutely contemporary little sisters. Narrated by Flo, a very tolerant older sister, each of the eight stories relates a specific episode in the life of her younger sister who has renamed herself Iggy. This is the first novel from Jenny Valentine for younger readers. Her books for teens have won numerous awards.
Shortlisted for the prestigious Teenage Book of the Year Award 2009. An irresistible new novel from Jenny Valentine, winner of the Guardian Children's Book Prize with Finding Violet Park. Written with a wonderful lightness of touch, the author manages to weave and interweave the very different lives of a disparate range of characters - 15 year old Sam,10 year old Bohemia and her rather hopeless mother, Steve the landlord and a batty old lady - into a stirring plot that's by turns heartrending and sad but also laced with wit and humour and ultimately an uplifting ending. Quirky but cleverly woven and brilliantly written. Titles on the 2009 Teenage Book of the Year Award shortlist were: Auslander by Paul Dowswell The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray The Ant Colony by Jenny Valentine The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
Shortlisted for the 2008 Costa Children’s Book Award. Rowan is sure that she didn’t drop the negative that a boy presses into her hands but when her friend Bee offers to print it, Rowan’s curiosity causes her to accept. Who was the boy? And what will the picture show? Prize winning jenny Valentine has written another thought provoking story in which a teenage unpicks a difficult part of her life. From the same author who wrote Finding Violet Park.
Highly commended in Branford Boase 2008 Award. Told with a delightfully light touch, this thoughtful and introspective novel for teens tells how hearing the story of Violet Park, leads Lucas on a moving and thought provoking mission that helps him to understand much more about his own life. Shortlisted for the 2008 Carnegie and Branford Boase Awards. Comments from the judges of this year's Branford Boase, Best Debut Novel ofthe Year Award: Nikki Gamble: “This year a large number of books were submitted for the awards and the judges noted an increase in established adult writers producing first novels for children. These trends reflect the increased profile of children's books in the press and media as well as the commercial success. The books selected for the shortlist are marked by their distinctive voices and authentic feeling for child or teenage readers. They are accessible but explore profound themes in the context of a story well told”. Linda Buckley-Archer: “With its aim of recognising the author of the best debut novel for children and its editor(s), The Branford Boase Award continues to highlight and promote the next generation of children’s fiction writers. The 2008 shortlist represents some fascinating new voices across a variety of genres which are sure to excite and challenge readers. The judges noted a tendency on this year’s longlist away from fantasy and towards history and social realism.” Trish Beswick: “We were delighted to find a spread of intelligent fiction submitted, eliciting spirited discussion amid the good humour and agreements. One-size-fits-all cannot and does not belong in the world of writing for children, and the complacent and bland were quickly cast aside. My thanks to the other judges for a booky, sparky afternoon!” Ian Dodds: "The nominations for the 2008 Branford Boase Award yet again demonstrate the full range of new writing talent for children and young people. All the writers on this year's shortlist have distinct voices and all are adept at creating stories that will grip, excite and challenge young readers. Good writing for young people is vitally important and this shortlist proves that."