JENNY MCLACHLAN spent thirteen years of her life teaching English: a job that combined her passion for the written word with her passion for showing off. It also provided her with the inspiration for her books. In the summer of 2014 she became a fulltime writer.
Jenny lives by the seaside with her husband and two small but fierce girls. In addition to writing, she enjoys exploring the South Downs, running and, if it will embarrass her husband enough, jiving in any vaguely suitable situation.
It’s done, over, finished. The Ladybirds are gone.
What does that feel like?
It feels like I’ve come to the end of a long journey. When I first wrote Flirty Dancing over ten years ago, I didn’t know I would write each of the Ladybirds’ stories in turn…In fact, there were no Ladybirds and beyond going to the same school the girls weren’t really connected. I put my first draft away and spent about four years thinking about the four characters. One day I realised that the backstories I’d created for each Betty, Kat and Pearl could be books in their own right and I then rewrote Flirty Dancing, working in details about the girls’ lives. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Bea, Kat, Betty and Pearl feel real to me, like friends. In my mind there isn’t much difference between my memories and ones I’ve invented for the girls and I’ve even imagined what will happen to them in the future. Sometimes when I’m out shopping, I’ll think, Betty would like that. When I finished the series I felt slightly lost: it was like people I’d been hanging out with for years had gone away.
What kind of research did you do for Star Struck?
I visited Japan with my husband and I was fascinated by the country. To me it felt like a country of contrasts: on the underground I saw girls dressed in kawaii street fashion and women wearing traditional kimonos. Tokyo is hectic and unlike anywhere else I’ve been in the world. In one day I went to a dumpling theme park, an ancient temple and played a video game where I took a dog for a walk. At some point, I thought Pearl would feel at home in Japan which in turn led to me taking a little bit of Japan – Hoshi – to Pearl.
When I was researching Hoshi’s character I also spent a lot of time looking at various Pinterest boards on Japanese street fashion.
I didn’t really need to do any Romeo and Juliet research because during the fourteen years I was a teacher I taught it every year. I still read it again before I started writing Star Struck and I loved weaving images and references from the play into the book. In the play, Juliet is told by her father to marry Paris, who is described as a perfect man, ‘a flower’. This is one of the reasons Jake’s surname is Flower. I doubt anyone will notice, but I enjoyed adding these details!
In Star Struck, the Ladybirds visit the Pineapple Dance Studio in London for a street dance workshop. I went and did a workshop there for a friend’s hen do and I really enjoyed it. I thought Pearl would love it there.
Eastbourne has a huge theatre called The Congress and I imagined that’s where the girls performed Romeo and Juliet the Musical. The stage manager there, Chris, very kindly took me backstage and explained how a show works. I also quizzed a friend Meggie who has starred in lots of local musicals.
Did Star Struck always have the ending is does now or has Pearl’s story evolved?
No, it had a totally different ending! I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but originally Pearl fell for a different character, but while I was planning the book I realised there was only one character who was the perfect match for Pearl. Also, (spoiler coming up – only read it you’ve read the book!), originally I didn’t plan for Pearl to play a female Romeo. I have to give credit for this idea to my husband. One evening we were in the kitchen and I was picking his brains about the ending of Star Struck because I felt it wasn’t strong enough. He said, ‘Could Pearl play Romeo?’ and just the thought of this gave me goose bumps. The very last scene of Star Struck is possibly my favourite in the series. Pearl has come a long way since she first picked up Bea’s naked Barbie in Flirty Dancing!
Best & worst thing about being a writer?
The best thing about being a writer is the fun of playing with language and using words to create characters and fictitious worlds. It really is magical to take a story from your mind and then share it with readers. When you meet someone who has read your book and it has meant something to them…that’s the best feeling.
And the worst thing? Feeling insecure. I felt very confident when I was a teacher, but I feel less secure as a writer. It’s quite hard to start again in a new career.
And because I’m sure there is one story: weirdest thing/event that has happened in your publishing journey?
Shortly after Flirty Dancing was published, I did an event at Churchill Shopping Centre in Brighton and I was really pleased that the group I learnt to jive with, Brighton Jive, came along too. My lessons with Colin Tenn (who runs Brighton Jive) inspired Bea’s story. I ended up dancing with Colin at the event in front of a lot of shoppers – a surreal and fantastic experience. Curiously in Love Bomb Bea also dances at Churchill Shopping Centre. When I wrote the scene I never imagined that I would end up doing the same thing!
The event was filmed so if you want to see me jive I’m at 2.02 mins!
How has your life changed since Flirty Dancing was published?
One of the ways that my life has changed is that I now get to see a lot more of my children. Because I write full time, I can take them to school and pick them up, and I get to go to all their nativities and plays. I’ve also met a lot of new friends: writers, bloggers and readers. I suppose I led quite a private life before: I didn’t use Twitter or Instagram and I’d never written a blog or done an interview. That’s all changed!
Changing the subject, apart from writing what do you love doing?
I’m one of those people who has loads of hobbies. I love cooking and baking, cycling, running and walking. I’ve always enjoyed making things and I like drawing and painting. I get pretty obsessed with particular periods of history (the 18th Century, World War One) and at the moment I’m very into astronomy. But my favourite pastime is (and always will be) reading.
I’m giving you a free platform to talk about anything – GO:
I wish more teenagers were readers. It’s quite easy to get young children into reading because they basically love picture books, but I worry that bedtime stories are being replaced with TV. I don’t think it’s made clear to parents just how much easier it is for children to achieve at school if they have an independent reading habit. When I was a teacher, it was obvious which students read: their vocabulary was ambitious, they could cope with exam papers and they could think independently and link ideas together. I think a love of reading is one of the greatest gifts an adult can give a child.
Can you tell us something about yourself that not many people know:
I’ve been in a house twice when someone has broken in…I think that’s a bit unlucky, but I’m hoping it means it will never happen again. Bumping into a burglar in your own home is scary!
So what happens now?
I’m currently writing a book for teenagers about a girl who is obsessed with space.
Tea or coffee?
Do you and liquorice allsorts get on better now?
No. We have parted ways.
Ever re-arrange book displays in bookshops?
Occasionally if I find them in the wrong section. My mum does a pretty good job of re-arranging books in my local bookshops for me.
What magic power would you like?
The word that describes you best is:
Book you’ve read the most?
Of Mice and Men (I’m sure that’s true of most secondary school English teachers), oh, and The Tiger Who Came to Tea
What’s the perfect cure to a bad day?
A bath, book, beer and The Beach Boys
The first time you saw your books in a shop, what did you do?
Felt shy. Then my husband made me have my photo taken with them.
Do you secretly hate fish?
Ha! No, I love them. Here’s a picture of our fish:
And finally, what is the question you wish people would ask and never do?
Why do you write romances?
In a huge fantastic final hurrah to our lovable heroines – Bea, Betty, Kat and Pearl – Jenny McLachlan’s latest book tells Pearl’s story. Pearl is the ‘bad girl’ of the group – she drinks, she smokes, she swears – and she’s mean to Bea and Betty. But she did fly halfway round the world to rescue Kat in Sunkissed. If there’s one thing Pearl knows deep down, it is how to be a friend. And now, more than ever, she could really use a friend.
There will be laughter, there will be tears and there will definitely be kissing. Most importantly, Pearl will be keeping it fierce!
Star Struck is published 10th March 2016 by Bloomsbury
Thanks to Bloomsbury you can win the ENTIRE The Ladybirds Series.
How amazing is that?!
- Flirty Dancing
- Love Bomb
- Star Struck
All for you read and enjoy, over and over.
To enter, just click on the link HERE
Giveaway is UK only and ends 8th March 2016
Good luck! 🙂