By Nina Kalirai
Many of us have that one book we just can’t seem to put down. Recently, for many people that book has been “London Can You Wait?”. VIBE TALKS correspondent Nina Kalirai recently had the chance to speak to Jacquelyn Middleton, author of both “London Belongs to Me” and “London Can You Wait?”.
In the interview with VIBE TALKS correspondent Nina Kalirai, we discuss the future of both novels and what it took to write them. We also discuss what inspired Jacquelyn to become an author, what it’s like being a writer and what’s next for her.
Nina: Give us a little summary about your first book “London Belongs to Me”.
Jacquelyn: Well, “London Belongs to Me” is a contemporary romance/coming of age story, about a young American girl from Florida, who’s just graduated from college and she hops over the pond, and heads to England with dreams of becoming a playwright. She’s basically kind of running away from the problems she had back home, and she’s trying to discover herself and find where she belongs.
Nina: And of course, there is the highly acclaimed sequel “London Can You Wait?”, so is this a part 2 to London Belong to Me or is it the start of a new story?
Jacquelyn: It’s a continuation, however I did write it in a stand alone style, so if people haven’t read “London Belongs to Me”, they should be able to start “London Can You Wait?” without any difficulties. They should catch on pretty quickly about who the characters are and their relationships. But that being said, I do think people will get more out of “London Can You Wait?”, if you read “London Belongs to Me” first, just so you see how characters met and how those relationships began.
Nina: Can you give us a little bit of a summary of “London Can You Wait?”?
Jacquelyn: Well, I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but it kind of does on the back of the book. Alex, who’s the main female character, and her boyfriend, who is an Irish actor, are having some issues in their relationship. Basically, he’s away on assignments, filming all around the world, and he’s very popular. The press is very interested in him, he’s got fan girls chasing after him…so they’re relationship’s kind of a long distance one, and it’s causing a lot of stress for Alex, who also suffers from anxiety and panic attacks. The second instalment of my book is more focused on their relationship, and whether or not they will survive all the problems that are coming from external forces, as well as internal forces in their relationship.
Nina: Are either of the two novels based off of true stories in any way?
Jacquelyn: Not really. I mean, I think anytime you write a novel there’s probably some aspects of your own experience that go in there. But I’m Canadian, I’m not American, and I’m not a playwright, I’m a writer. I was influenced for my first book, the first story about Alex wanting to be a playwright, by a real life playwright writer who I interviewed one time when I was in London, who was very successful with his first play. That kind of influenced me in terms of thinking maybe I could write a story about a girl, in kind of a similar situation. Not completely though, because there are a lot of things that are different, but just the idea that somebody could perhaps makes a splash very quickly with their first piece of professional work.
Nina: Did you write “London Belongs to Me” knowing that there would be a sequel?
Jacquelyn: No. I didn’t. I kind of had an idea of where the characters might go, but I thought that might just be something that lived in my head and something that I’d move on with and create new characters. But people really loved “London Belongs to Me” so much. I had quite a few people from all over the world, it was kind of amazing because I’m a first time author and I’m an Indie author, but I got e-mails and messages on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and people were saying how much they loved Alex and they loved all the characters, because it’s quite a diverse group of characters, with different sexual orientations and from different places. People really loved the gang, and they wanted to know, “what’s happening next?”, so that kind of screwed me on and I pretty quickly decided I would write a sequel, just because everyone was so interested about it.
Nina: Yeah, and definitely the feedback for both books have been pretty awesome for you. I’m sure many readers are dying to know, will there be a third novel continuing Alex’s story?
Jacquelyn: No. There won’t be. I would love to, that was kind of my first thing, I thought it’d be fun to write a third book and make it a trilogy but I think in a way they’ve kind of been through a lot already. It’s time to move on to someone else. That being said, the book I’m writing now, it’s not a sequel or a continuation but it’s in the same universe. What I mean by that is the main characters are new, but they are in the same world. So they may know characters from the other book, characters may be mentioned, they might appear, there might be other little things that are in the other books that kind of pop up. For instance, if people read the new book they’ll go “Ah! I remember that from the first book!”, but anyone coming into it fresh, it would just be like a reference they wouldn’t necessarily know. They wouldn’t have to know the background or anything. They’re just little winks to people that have read the other books. Some of my favourite authors do that often, they’ll write a new story and somebody pops up from a previous book and they’re just there for maybe one scene and your like “Oh, I love that!”.
Nina: Kind of just like a reminder I guess.
Nina: Are there any talks in the works of making a movie based on the series at all?
Jacquelyn: No, but I have had people say they wish they were going to be made into a movie, which would be really cool. I’ve had different people from different countries approach me about rights for other countries for books, but nothing for movies. Although, the people that loved the books have talked about that quite a lot, and have gone into great detail about who they would want to cast. It’s a fun discussion to have!
Nina: What inspired you to become an author?
Jacquelyn: I’ve always wanted to write a book. Even when I was a little kid, I grew up with a very artistic, creative mother and sister. They were very much into art and I was too. I drew a lot as a kid. I actually thought I wanted to be a cartoonist. I used to make little comic books with animals. I love Disney and Hanna Barbera and that kind of thing. I used to make little comic books which would have a story line of some sort in them, and then as I got older I went into television. I worked in broadcasting for most of my adult life, but I always wanted to write and it was something that was in my head. Then I ended up being a freelance writer, writing for magazines and papers and that kind of thing and there was sort of a lull. I thought, if I’m ever going to try this is probably the time. I decided to just give it a go, not thinking it would be published, but I just thought let’s just try it and I did and I loved it and published it and I’m here now!
Nina: You never know until you try, huh?
Jacquelyn: That’s exactly it! If you don’t give it a go, you’ll never know.
Nina: What do you think the hardest part is in writing a book?
Jacquelyn: There’s a lot. It’s easy to get distracted. I find that’s probably the number one problem that I have when I’m writing, to be in the document and in the manuscript and not get waylaid by social media or my dog or people calling going “Hey, let’s do lunch!”. I think for me it’s blocking out all those distractions and actually getting to it, because it’s really easy, especially when you're writing at home, and you’ve got laundry or there’s bills to be paid, you have to run errands like “Oh, we don’t have any milk” or something like that. It’s really easy to get distracted. For me, that’s kind of the hardest thing. And two, coming up with ideas because sometimes you think you’ve run out of ideas and that’s kind of scary.
Nina: How do you personally deal with writer’s block?
Jacquelyn: That’s a good question. I try to write through it. It’s hard because you can sit there and just get frustrated but I really try to keep pushing on and see if I can get through it. I find one thing that happens with me though, is that if I am kind of stuck, doing mindless tasks kind of breaks it up. So stuff like, go down to the gym and get on the treadmill, or listen to music. Music’s a great one for finding ideas for me and giving me those “Oh, I should’ve thought of that!” moments. If I’m really, really stuck I’ll usually put my ear buds in and fire up the iTunes or Spotify and have a listen to something, and that can sort of get me into a mood where I might be able to write through it. I just keep chipping at it. I try not to walk away and then walk away for too long.
Nina: And you did mention earlier that you are currently writing something, but my next question is, what is next for you?
Jacquelyn: Next is this next book. It’ll be out in the fall, and the cover’s already done, it’s beautiful! I’m almost at the last act of the book. I’m on the verge of finishing it very soon. That’ll be my next project, so I’ll have that come out and then on the heels of that I’ll be trying to think of what I’m writing next. Right now, there is a little bit of a panic not knowing what’s going to come after this one. It’s never ending. It’s like “Oh no, I don’t have any ideas.” and then something will fall into your head when you least expect it.
Nina: Exactly, that’s what I was going to say. It will probably come to you right when your done this one and you won’t even expect it!
Jacquelyn: I hope so, I hope it’s like just turning a corner and there it is!
Nina: Where can listeners go to purchase both novels and for more information on you?
Jacquelyn: For both books, if you’re in Toronto, there are actually copies at the Yonge and Eglinton Indigo. They’re more readily available online, you can get them from amazon.com all around the world, paperback or e-book. Same goes for indigo.ca, barnesandnoble.com in the States, waterstones.com in the U.K., iTunes if you just want the book for your phone or your iPad. They’re online and they’re very easy to find. I have a website, and there’s links there as well to buy the books, and there’s a whole bunch of extra stuff. There’s playlists for the book, there’s behind the scenes things and they take place in London and Dublin and New York, and there’s little hints of information there and people can get more info about the books!