Stupid lockdown means no book launch parties, so what’s an author to do when her debut novel is published? A happy dance and a day on Instagram, that's what. And maybe a celebratory packet of Monster Munch...
Andreina, what's the book about? Wait, I'll read the back of it. Hang on... People can’t bring themselves to say what happened to her. They just describe her as ‘the girl who… you know…’. But nobody really knows, no one sees the real Leah.
Leah is the perfect survivor. She was seven years old when she saw her mother and sister killed by a troubled gang member. Her case hit the headlines and her bravery made her a national sweetheart: strong, courageous and forgiving.
But Leah is hiding a secret about their deaths. And now, ten years later, all she can think of is revenge. Ooh, then what?
When Leah’s dad meets a new partner, flamboyant stepsister Ellie moves in. Sensing Leah isn’t quite the sweet girl she pretends to be, Ellie discovers that Leah has a plan, one she has been putting together ever since that fateful day. Now that the killer – and the only one who knows the truth – is being released from prison, time is running out for Ellie to discover how far Leah will go to silence her anger…
Got to love a time-running-out-scenario, they're the best. Andreina, The Girl Who is for young adults. How young is a young adult, and what made you pick that genre?
Generally people start reading young adult books in their teens, but there’s no upper limit on who can read it – provided you like reading about people who are right at the start of their lives, still trying to figure out who they are, getting things wrong and trying to make things right. That’s why I write YA fiction – it’s such an interesting time of life. Also I was an unbelievably dull teenager so maybe I’m just trying to relive my teens vicariously.
Where did you get the idea for the story from?
I was working on a women’s magazine and one day we discussed a girl who had witnessed a horrific crime and been paraded through the papers until she became the “nation's sweetheart.” We realised she would be in her late teens by now and I thought… wow, imagine trying to grow up, be a teenager and make mistakes with that burden on your shoulders?
The subject matter is pretty dark – did you hit any walls with it when it came to pitching to agents?
To be honest the book itself isn’t that dark – it’s more about living with what happened – although it might be triggering for people who have been through something similar. Agents never mentioned it when I was querying, but once I’d signed with an agency I was chatting to an agent at a book launch and she said she would never take anything on that had a child’s death in it. I get that – I didn’t have a problem with it when I started but I feel similar now I’ve had children.
What do you do when writer’s block hits? Apart from have a total meltdown
With The Girl Who I simply decided I was an utter failure and put the book aside for six months or so. But I had a two-book deal so with book two – coming next year hopefully – I had to just write through it. It was agony, but it worked.
Which book that you read as a teenager sticks in your mind today?
There wasn’t much in the way of YA fiction as a teenager – many of my friends were reading Sweet Valley High romances, which I did like. But Lois Duncan wrote fantastic dark fiction for teens. I read the first one, The Eyes of Karen Connors and was completely hooked.
Where do you write? What’s your process and how often are you interrupted by kids asking for Dairylea triangles?
I find it really hard to write with the children in the house. All those parents who seem to tap out bestsellers on their laptop while the kids are bouncing ping-pong balls off the screen are either a) lying or b) utter gods/goddesses. Which means at the moment, during lockdown, I get up horrendously early and hide in my office. When I hear the kids’ footsteps thundering on the floor upstairs I know the fun’s over.
Describe your office as much as you want to
It’s the basement level of the house – freezing cold all year round, tiny window that only gets direct sunlight for two weeks in June. But it’s cut off from the world, which is quite handy.
I hope you've got your thermals on, then. If you could write your next book from anywhere in the world, where would that be? If we weren’t in the midst of a pandemic, obviously
Back at my family’s village in Italy where I could write, stare at mountains and be fed hand-made pasta by loving cousins and aunties.
Sounds idyllic, can I come? I can ask!
When were you at your happiest? You can say if it was, like, last month upon discovering a packet of Monster Munch at the back of the cupboard
Oh don’t – I have a self-destructive relationship with pickled onion Monster Munch, I can’t have them in the house without eating them all and hating myself afterwards.
That’s mad, I must be psychic. It’s a weird time to be publishing your first book – no launch party, no book signings. What are you doing instead?
I’m taking over the @atombooks Instagram stories on launch day (14 Jan) and answering reader questions. There might be a bit of a drink and a happy dance involved, too.
Ask your husband to describe you in five words I just asked him and he spluttered helplessly then said, “um… sneezy would be one of them?” And that’s all I got. He’s right though, I’m allergic to everything.
What’s your favourite smell?
Pizza. Proper pizza not Domino’s.
God no, Domino's is vom. What’s next? Are you already writing a follow-up?
Already wrote it during 2020 in between current affairs dramas and child-related disturbances. It’s pretty raw though – I’m nervously waiting for my editor’s feedback.
Go and open a packet of Monster Munch, calm yourself down.
The Girl Who (£7.99, Atom) is out now.
Follow the lovely Andreina (not literally, on Instagram) @andreinacordani
Click here to buy online or pop to your local bookshop when it opens again for a hard copy. They'll be delighted to have your business and no mistake.