Victoria Cruz inhabits two worlds: In one, she is a rock star, thrashing the stage with her husky voice and purple-streaked hair. In the other, currently serving as her reality, Victoria is a shy teenager with overprotective Cuban parents, who sleepwalks through her life at the prestigious Evanston Academy. Unable to overcome the whole paralyzing-stage-fright thing, Victoria settles for living inside her fantasies, where nothing can go wrong and everything is set to her expertly crafted music playlists.
But after a chance encounter with an unattainably gorgeous boy named Strand, whose band seeks a lead singer, Victoria is tempted to turn her fevered daydreams into reality. To do that, she must confront her insecurities and break away from the treadmill that is her life. Suddenly, Victoria is faced with the choice of staying on the path she’s always known and straying off-course to find love, adventure, and danger.
From debut author Janelle Milanes comes a hilarious and heartfelt tale of the spectacular things that can happen when you go after what you really want.
I was given the opportunity to interview author Janelle Milanes, and I learned a lot of about The Victoria in my Head, her writing process, and more.
1) What was your favorite and least favorite part of writing The Victoria In My Head?
I had the most fun when I was exploring Victoria’s many neuroses. I love how she questions herself every step of the way, from what her body is “supposed” to look like, to the proper way to kiss, to what an acceptable rock star ensemble is. I think this is something a lot of teens (and adults!) can relate to. I still find myself pulling a Victoria and questioning, “am I doing this right?” in most areas of my life. It was interesting to take that uncertainty to new heights through Victoria’s character and spill all that on the page. Oh, and also a lot of fun to write? The banter between Victoria and Strand. I could have written hundreds more pages exploring all the annoyance, pent-up attraction, and burgeoning friendship between them.
My least favorite part was the revision process. Victoria was a nightmare to revise. I had originally set the book in the 90s, with a 90s playlist to match, until my agent helped me realize it would work better set in the present-day. There were so many problems in the early draft that could have easily been solved by cell phones and email. So, I had to work around all that and update all the references in the book. In addition, there were some big-picture revisions that initially stumped me. To sum up, I much prefer writing to revising. I guess I’m a person who enjoys word vomiting all over the page without cleaning up my messes.
2) What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
My advice is two-fold. First, read. Read your ass off. Especially, but not limited to, the genre for which you hope to write one day. Reading will give you an innate sense of what works for you as an author and what doesn’t. When I’m in a writing slump, I pick up a book and after reading a couple of pages, I’m suddenly inspired and itching to get back on the computer. Also, well…reading is fun.
Second is to finish a first draft of a story. Doesn’t matter how long it is, whether it’s a short story, a novella, or a book. The important thing is that you finish something. I will warn you that chances are it will be bad, because almost every first draft is bad. Let it be. Wading through the terribleness is an important part of the writing process. If you’re too concerned with perfection, nothing will ever get written!
3) How has writing The Victoria In My Head shaped you both as a person and a writer?
I didn’t realize until late in the process how much my writing journey mirrored Victoria’s journey as a singer. I struggled a lot with the anxiety of not knowing what would happen to the book when I finished. Putting myself out there by querying agents and then, later, submitting my manuscript to editors, was a terrifying process. Like Victoria, I questioned whether I was good enough to pursue my passion. Since writing The Victoria In My Head, I’ve become much more confident in myself and my abilities, but battling my insecurities will always be a struggle.
4) Can you give us a summary of your writing process?
Once I have an idea for a book, I tend to see where it takes me–I’m not much for detailed outlines, but I usually have a vague sense of where I want the story to go. Sometimes it changes during the writing process and sometimes I’m able to keep the ending I originally envisioned. I like to leave it up to how I think the characters would behave, and I usually get to know them much better while I’m writing, so I’m able to adjust the story accordingly.
As for my routine, it varies. I’m a teacher, so during the week I try to write a little bit when I get home from work. I keep my word count goals pretty low because I’m totally exhausted when I get home. On a weekday, I consider even writing a sentence an accomplishment. I much prefer writing on weekends when I have a full day to myself. On Saturday or Sunday, my husband and I like to hold each other accountable for our writing. We go to a coffee shop in the morning and I start the day with a goal of how much I want to do. Then? I treat mahself. I order a big delicious latte and get to work.
5) Is there anything else in store for Victoria, or is her story complete?
I’m so torn on this. Part of me loves how the ending left Vi content in her uncertainty. That’s part of her growth, I think–the acceptance that the future is unknowable. You can either let that frustrate you, or you can find happiness in it. That said, I have so much affection for her and the rest of the characters that I’d be open to revisiting them at some point. It’d be interesting to see where life has taken them!
I hope you all really enjoyed the interview, and learned something about The Victoria in my Head and Janelle Milanes! She’s an awesome author and person.
I was given the opportunity to read an arc of The Victoria in my Head via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Victoria in my Head was a fresh and witty coming of age novel. I liked Victoria as a protagonist. She’s smart, aware, funny, and most of all very realistic. I enjoyed being presented with the concept of having many selves and wanting to combine and connect them to live the best and truest life possible. I really loved all the diversity that was present within the adorable and quirky cast of characters. I sped through the arc in one day because it was so fast-paced, and Victoria and her story really drew me in. I related to Victoria so much, and was thus able to connect more to her and become more invested in the story as a whole.
I thought that having a song to correspond to each chapter was a super fun idea, and added a lot of the feel and flair of the story. I definitely recommend listening to the songs as you read. I liked the romantic aspect of the novel, and I found it to be very realistic which helped me root for it even more. I also enjoyed the family aspect of the story, and I liked seeing the pressure that Victoria feels throughout the story represented in YA because it’s real for a lot of teens.
The Victoria in my Head is an overall awesome, diverse, and true coming of age story. I would definitely recommend!!
Big thank you to Melanie over at Rich in Variety Tours for organizing this awesome book blitz!