We sat down to read the London Belongs series, because we have long been fascinated with London. It’s been one of those places that has always called to us and we have a love affair with the idea of it.
The series tells the story of Alex, a girl that moves to London to try and become a playwright. She’s going through a lot of ups and downs, but in the end, does she make London her b*tch? Well, you’ll need to read the books to find out.
We had the pleasure of sitting down and talking to the writer, Jackie Middleton. She’s the writer of London Can You Wait and London Belongs to Me. Two of our faves in the world of contemporary books.
We kinda feel like she’s a kindred spirit, because she gets our love for London. Our review is yet to come, but our love for her books is strong. They are available now.
Read our interview below.
Why write about London? What attracted you to setting the story there?
I often think I was born in the wrong place. I love Canada, but London owns my heart. I’ve always been fascinated with Britain (my family is from there), and I would read books, and watch movies and TV shows featuring London just so I could immerse myself in its history and imagine walking its narrow streets. When I was twenty-five, I finally made the trans-Atlantic leap. That journey turned my flirtation with London into a life-long love affair. Since that trip, London has become my go-to when I need to recharge, figure things out, and have fun. I’ve been over thirty times and try to go at least twice a year. My initial thrill of seeing Big Ben, Tower Bridge, and red phone boxes has never faded. I’m still giddy and inspired when I arrive, and I thought if I feel this way, others would, too.
You could have easily made this book into a love triangle – why did you choose to stay away from that trope?
I love a good trope and I’ve read books with love triangles that I totally eat up, but for my stories, I wanted Alex and the other characters to focus on one love interest at a time. I’d rather dig into all the drama and messy, sexy complications of a single relationship without bringing another partner into the mix. Also, my characters hate to share! You’re either with them fully, or you’re not.
Alex has every reason to give up, quite a few times, why doesn’t she?
Alex has suffered from anxiety and panic attacks (as do I) all her life, so she has always been a fighter. People who don’t understand anxiety often label its sufferers weak or spineless, but the reality couldn’t be farther from the truth. Anxiety sufferers have to be stronger and braver than most people, not only to get through an attack, but to get through their day. Waging the daily ups and downs in her life, Alex occasionally makes odd decisions or seems selfish, but that’s because she’s trying to find the best way to manage her anxiety and survive. Deep down, she knows she “can do this” —she’s proven it time and time again—and pushes on to achieve her dreams even when the going gets tough.
How would you define fear? Do you think Alex is filled with fear or does fear empower her?
I think fear is different for every person. We all have different backstories that influence what fears we carry with us. Having anxiety, Alex has many fearful moments and at times they trip her up and cause great angst, but as she progresses through London Belongs to Me (and you see it even more when she’s a bit older in my second book London, Can You Wait?), she learns how to better manage her anxiety and fears, and it empowers her. In this case that famous quote ‘that which does not kill us makes us stronger’ is so apt!
Alex is definitely a feminist. She’s a playwright and I think it’s rather telling that all three of the plays she writes in London Belongs to Me are about strong women—trailblazers, outsiders, rebels—women who challenged the beliefs of what society thought a woman should be. When she’s having doubts about her own battles, she uses the women she writes about (as well as her favourite character to cosplay, Wonder Woman) as inspiration to kick herself in the butt and blaze ahead. She also has her feisty grandmother, the motorcycle riding Joan, as a living breathing feminist idol. From Alex’s example, I think readers can take away that you can find feminist inspiration anywhere: in your pop culture heroes, your family members, even your own imagination.
What authors inspire you?
So many! I’m a total fangirl for Karen Swan, Colleen Hoover, Renée Carlino, Jill Santopolo, KA Tucker, Karma Brown, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Mia Sheridan, RS Grey, and any author who self-published or took the indie publishing path is an inspiration to me. I love women who don’t take no for an answer, trust their talent, and forge their own path because that’s what I’m doing. No one will champion your book as much as you will, so take control and don’t look back.
Why do you think so many people that are fascinated with London?
London offers something for everyone. If you’re a history buff, you’re spoilt for choice. Love royals? Knock yourself out. Theatre geeks like me will have an endless list of productions to swoon over, and foodies can feast their way around London’s markets and restaurants, and leave craving more. It’s been the launch pad for so many amazing books, bands, actors, films, and TV shows, its influence on pop culture is second to none, so if you’re geeky about that stuff like I am, you’ll find London endlessly fascinating. The London you want to find is there, trust me.
Can you talk a little bit about the research you did to set the book in London?
Having visited London over thirty times, I know the place really well. My husband, who is from a town just outside of London, jokes that I know it better than he does. When I’m there, I tend to hang out in areas that are close to my heart (London Fields, the South Bank, Covent Garden, Islington, St. James’s Park, and Tower Bridge), so I used those settings for my books, which was really helpful, and I walk everywhere. It’s the best way to learn about a city. I’ve literally walked in the footsteps of my characters too many times to count so research was easy and always fun. The same goes for Manchester as well as Dublin in my second book. I also did a ton of research about theatre, but I would hardly call that work because plays are one of the reasons why I visit London in the first place. I regularly hang out at the National Theatre (it’s my home away from home) and go to plays in different theatres every night I’m there (and if I can, a matinee or two as well). I come by Alex’s love for theatre naturally.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on my third novel, another contemporary romance tentatively scheduled for release fall 2018. It’s not a continuation of the London Belongs books, but it takes place in the same world, so the characters you know and love from my first two books may be mentioned or be known by my new characters, and you never know, some may show up!
What do you Fangirl over?
Too many things! I’m all about Sherlock and Doctor Who. In the past few years, we’ve done pretty well at hitting up cons and meeting many of the cast members, and our apartment is being overtaken by collectables. Can’t. Stop. Buying! I’m also a devoted fan of Outlander (Jamie and Claire, I mean really? THE best OTP!), and I love the British series, Humans. Leo and Niska are the best! I also live and breathe music—both my books have been named after favourite songs—and I’ve been a Toronto Maple Leafs fan my entire life (I ran their official booster club for four years and spent tons of time answering player fan mail) and Manchester United are my football team of choice. I love Manchester almost as much as I do London.