Jenny Valentine

Fire Colour One is a bold and brilliant novel about love, lies and redemption, from award-winning author, Jenny Valentine – one of the greatest YA voices of her generation. here she talks about the inspiration behind her wonderful and emotional new novel.


Did you always know you wanted to be an author? If not what did you want to be when you were a child?

Yes I did! My mum gave me a notebook when I was about eight or nine. It looked like a novel on the outside and inside it was blank. It was the first time I thought, oh, I could do that.

What is the best part and the worst part of being an author?

The best part is having loads of imaginary friends who you know inside out, way better than real people. It might be the worst thing as well, because you are inside your own head a lot and the real world gets a bit far away.

What inspired you to write your latest book?

So many things! I’m always collecting bits and pieces that I know will find their way into a story. We were making a lot of fires to heat our big cold house. I was thinking about art, about making your mark on the world, about leaving things behind after you’ve gone. But I didn’t sit down and think I’m going to write a book about art and fire and all of that. I’m not much of a planner. My dad died and actually I tried really hard not to write about it and then ended up doing it anyway.

Did you have a particularly favourite (or challenging) scene to write in this book?

I think the most difficult bit for me is arranging the scenes in the right order so the story tells itself right. I get help with that from my editor, Rachel. And I always work particularly hard on the beginning, because if I get that right, I know the rest will follow.

If you had the choice to go back and change something in a book that you have written would you do it? If so what would you change?

I would give Cassiel in The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight a different fate. I must have been feeling pretty cruel the day I wrote that.

What seven words would you use to describe yourself and your favourite character in the book?

This question is much harder than it looks. OK. Iris in Fire Colour One is quiet, strong, angry, separate, resilient, smart and loved. I think those seven would apply to me too.

If you could travel to any destination either real or imaginary where would it be?

I wouldn’t mind hearing Charlie Parker’s first gig. Or Patti Smith’s first performance of Horses. Both of those would involve time travel if that’s allowed.

What stands out as the best book you have ever read?

Well it changes but I keep coming back to Franny and Zooey by J D Salinger. I read it first when I was about fifteen and I realise now so much of who I am and what I think is important comes from reading that book.

If you could meet a character from a book who would it be and why?

Zooey Glass. See above.

What is your next project that you are working on?

Another teenage novel. It doesn’t have a title yet and I’m not even sure what’s going to happen but it’s about a family called the Bookers. I’m hoping it might sometimes be funny.

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, Finding Violet Park, which won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 2007. 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.