Q: Tell us about yourself. What got you into writing?
VB: I started writing at just ten years old! My first novel was about a girl starting at a performing arts boarding school and making new friends, navigating crushes etc. It was so very cheesy but I still have it saved and read it from time to time. Since that first taste of writing I’ve been hooked. It’s my escape, my way of dealing with my own emotions through characters and their situations, and sometimes I find the story begging to be written.
Q: Tell us about the premise of What Happened to Coco
VB: Coco is the “it” girl at the exclusive Lainsbury Hall School. When she goes missing from her bed without a trace, it’s down to her four friends to discover her secrets, by unveiling a few of their own.
Q: What inspired you to write it?
VB: I was reading a lot of Sherlock Holmes at the time and the premise is very loosely based on The Case of The Priory School, where a little boy goes missing from his bed at his fancy boarding school. A little while after reading this story I suddenly had the idea of “what if this was a little more conspicuous? What would happen if the most popular girl went missing from her fancy boarding school in modern times?” That afternoon I brainstormed Coco’s name and I knew who she and all of her friends would be. After that day, I could not stop thinking about these characters! Ideas and snippets of conversation would come to me at the most inconvenient of times, and I ended up writing a lot of this book on my phone. Coco and her friends seemed to burrow into my mind and demand to be written, it’s truly a story where the characters have taken over and I think this is because they feel so real to me. The relationships are reminiscent of my own school days. Each of the characters are coping with their own issues, such as grief, infertility, coming out, academic burnout, and either I or close friends have experienced these issues at some point. Writing What Happened to Coco was very cathartic at parts, because the characters and their emotions surrounding these problems are so very real to me.
Q: Did you do any research for your book? If you did, what did it consist of?
VB: I didn’t go to boarding school even though I so wanted to as I grew up watching St Trinians, Wild Child and Harry Potter. My partner, however, did go to boarding school in his later school years. There were times when I thought “could these kids really get away with all of this craziness?”, so I quizzed my partner and his friends. By comparison, Coco and her friends’ antics are tame!
Q: Do you agree with the statement write what you know? Why or why not?
VB: I think there are some things that need to be experienced before they can be written about in a meaningful way, but sometimes the emotions can matter more than the situation in itself, and I think a good writer can relate themselves to these situations even if they haven’t been directly affected, a little like a method actor. We’re inspired by the world around us and I think if something is compelling enough to a writer, they could do it justice.
Q: Do you enjoy editing?
VB: I certainly don’t hate it like some people do. I think the best part about editing is going through a slew of issues and then coming across a supportive message or reading part of your own work and thinking “this is actually good”, and that feeling is so fantastic I wish I could bottle it.
Q: How do you juggle your writing and life?
VB: By neglecting all housework and my boyfriend for days on end. In all seriousness, I write whenever I possibly can, or at least I scribble notes to myself to refer to when I have a moment. Writing is my favourite pastime so I will happily spend all night scribbling away, I can’t get enough. I’m lucky in the sense that it doesn’t feel like working to me, even when I’m finishing a round of edits.
Q: Do you write in other genres? Have you ever written in different mediums? (Poetry, screenwriting, playwrighting, song writing, journalism etc)
VB: I have written a bunch of poetry, some of them I’m pretty proud of. I find it really cathartic and relaxing to put complex feelings into rhythmic words that paint a picture.
In terms of genre, everything I write has strong romantic themes, and seems to be young adult, although I’m finding my characters growing older as I do, and I’ve found myself favouring protagonists in their early 20s at the moment.
Q: If you could invite a fictional character for lunch (from your own book(s) or another writer’s), who would you invite and why?
VB: From my own book I would invite Conrad and Ella. I just want to hug them both, they’ve been through so much. I’d also like to invite Pi Patel from Life of Pi. I think he’d give me a lot to think about and would have some amazing stories.
Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
VB: Do it! I spoke with my favourite author, Cecelia Ahern, years ago and this was the advice she gave me. My advice is to write, don’t get bogged down by the idea of publishing, agents, all that complicated stuff, if you have a story, write it first and worry about the rest later on. Once your story is written, get involved in the community on Twitter, Instagram, Tiktok, there’s so much good advice and support available out there.
Q: What are your future plans as an author? Are you working on another project?
VB: I am querying another young adult story at the moment. This one is about a wlw relationship affected by gun violence. The protagonist is a British girl in America and it’s very sad but has some beautiful moments! I am also currently toying with a What Happened to Coco related piece. I have a half written WIP and two or three more in the pipeline. It’s endless!
WHAT HAPPENED TO COCO
When a girl disappears, long-buried secrets resurface…
Coco is missing. Her room’s a mess, and her phone is left behind in her dorm at Lainsbury Hall School.
Ella, Coco’s childhood best friend, is desperate for her to return, although she knows that if she ever sees Coco again, there’ll be a lot of explaining to do.
Bea knows that her new group of friends attracts drama, and she thinks she has the last shred of common sense between them all. Only, if that was true, she would leave Genevieve, her toxic ex, well alone.
Conrad is confident that Coco will return safe and well. Only, the way his secrets are unravelling, he’s worried he won’t be when this is all over.
Harrison and Coco are the perfect couple. Everyone knows that. But looks can be misleading. Even the smartest boy in school can make a terrible mistake.
In order to navigate the web of secrets and lies that Coco leaves behind, her circle of friends needs to unravel a few of their own.
But the question remains: What happened to Coco?