Welcome to the Sing Like No One’s Listening Blog Tour!
To celebrate the release of Sing Like No One’s Listening by Vanessa Jones on September 1st, blogs across the web are featuring original content from Vanessa, as well as 10 chances to win a finished copy plus a grand prize giveaway!
Below is a guest post by the author, Vanessa Jones! At the bottom, we’ve also included our mini-review of the book. Spoiler alert: we really enjoyed it!
Finding the Drama: How I Use an Actor’s Approach to Writing
by Vanessa Jones
Before I was a writer, I was an actor. For years. So when I started writing, it made sense to use my drama training as an approach to storytelling. I found there were lots of ways in which the two overlapped. Even now, if I’m ever struggling with a scene, I always take it back to acting. My first novel, Sing Like No One’s Listening, is about a girl at performing arts college, so using drama techniques to help my writing seemed quite a fitting approach! Here are just a few of the ways I’ve found drama to be helpful in my work.
Building a Character
As an actor, you’re usually building a character based on someone else’s writing, but I think the questions you ask yourself about your character as an actor work really well when you’re creating one from scratch. “What does my character have for breakfast?” is the obvious one, but knowing what they think about certain things and how they see other people (and themselves!) is crucial in creating three-dimensional, believable characters. If you know them, your reader will know them.
When I was writing Sing, it was a love letter to the musical theatre world, inspired by my time as a performer, and I wanted the story to have technical elements of the musical woven through. So, when it came to the climax of the story, or the moment of realisation for the main character Nettie, I went back to a musical theatre device called “the eleven o’clock number”. This is a song at the point in a musical where the character singing undergoes either a change of heart or comes to an important realisation. It’s usually (not always) towards the end of the show, hence the name. I wanted Nettie to have her own eleven o’clock moment, and for her story arc to build towards that.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the improv game “Yes, And”. It’s designed to get actors to accept ideas from others and build on them. Good news: it works for writers, too. I guess that’s why they often have a team of writers on TV shows—several heads can be better than one! I think it’s a useful thing to remember when getting feedback from others: ultimately, it’s your work, but accepting ideas from other people can dramatically improve your writing, even if it’s just the germ of an idea that you develop into something wonderful of your own. Accept and build.
Being in the Moment
This is a number one for actors, but it definitely also works when you’re writing a novel, especially if you’re working in the first person. Being in the moment, seeing things through the eyes of your characters, immersing yourself in the world you’ve created—all these can make for a more authentic story. I try to imagine what an actor playing the character in my book would do with what’s on the page—is there enough for them to build a believable portrayal of that person? What about subtext? Body language? People are complex, and that needs to come through in your writing.
Rejection, rejection, rejection
This last one is definitely something I learned as an actor! And after over a decade in theatre, rejection was one area of writing and publishing that I felt genuinely prepared for. Inevitably there were going to be knockbacks—of course not everyone was going to like my book, just as I wasn’t always right for the job when I was going to auditions. It’s tough, putting your heart and soul into something only to have it turned down, but I guess the thing that kept me going was the thought that when someone did take the book on, it would be because they were truly excited by it. So, I kept knocking on doors, and eventually, one opened.
Blog Tour Schedule:
8/31 – BookhoundsYA
9/1 – A Dream Within A Dream
9/2 – The Fandom
9/3 – WordSpelunking
9/4 – Christy’s Cozy Corners
9/7 – I’m All Booked Up
9/8 – Book Briefs
9/10 – Wishful Endings
9/11 – Diva Book Nerd
“Jones’ novel has the expected Fame vibes that will delight any reader who loves stories of aspiring young stars learning their craft, but its exploration of Nettie’s complexities makes the story unique…. Jones offsets the narrative’s weightier moments with light and quirky ones, making it a fast read with staying power.” — Booklist
“Anglophiles, music and theater nerds, and those looking for some classic will-they-won’t-they romance will all find something to enjoy here. Jones writes her subject matter authentically, with obvious passion to balance the professional arts’ not-so-pretty struggles…. A touching portrait of healing after loss.” —Kirkus Reviews
A moving story of grief and healing – sure to be a pure joy for any musical theater aficionado.
Nettie Delaney has just been accepted into a prestigious performing arts school―the very same school her superstar mother attended. With her mother’s shadow hanging over her, Nettie has her work cut out for her―and everyone is watching. To make matters worse, Nettie hasn’t been able to sing a single note since her mother died. Whenever she tries, she just clams up. But if Nettie’s going to survive a demanding first year and keep her place in a highly coveted program, she’ll have to work through her grief and deliver a showstopper or face expulsion.
All may not be lost, however, when Nettie stumbles upon a mysterious piano player in an empty studio after class. Masked behind a curtain, can Nettie summon the courage to find her voice? Or will the pressure and anxiety of performing come crashing down?
All about finding and raising your voice, and not throwing away your shot, Vanessa Jones’s well-crafted journey of grief and healing will pull readers along with its strong narrative voice and satisfying sense of mystery.
Vanessa Jones trained at Laine Theatre Arts and went on to be a musical theater actor in West End Shows, including Sister Act, Grease, Guys and Dolls, Annie Get Your Gun, and Mary Poppins. She began her writing career with a stage play for a fringe theater and also works as a freelance copywriter and editor. She lives in England with her fellow chimney sweep.
- 1 winner will receive a finished copy of Sing Like No One’s Listening. Check out the other tour stops for more chances to win.
- US/Canada only
- Ends 11:59pm ET on 9/13
GRAND PRIZE GIVEAWAY
- 1 winner will receive a finished copy of Sing Like No One’s Listening and a Wireless Bluetooth Karaoke Microphone!
- US/Canada only
- Ends 11:59pm ET on 9/13
*We received this book in exchange for an honest review.*
Nettie Delaney hasn’t been able to sing a note since the death of her mother.
On the day of her audition at Dukes, London’s prestigious performing arts college, Nettie receives an old voicemail from her mom, who recently passed away from cancer (and was a star performer herself back in the day). Unable to sing, Nettie flees her audition and accepts that she will never be admitted. But one day, she receives an acceptance letter and is given a second chance at her dream.
Upon arriving at Dukes, Nettie is thrown into the spotlight. She can’t sing a word due to “stage fright”; she’s drawn the attention of the college’s mean girls; and she’s constantly living in her mother’s shadow. One night, Nettie stumbles upon a mystery piano player and begins singing along— at last she’s found her voice. But, when it comes to class and auditions, she can’t get a word out. After she’s put on probation, Nettie decides it’s time to finally find her voice…and maybe love along the way.
We really enjoyed this book! We didn’t know it at first, but Vanessa Jones is a former West End actress, so the book felt very authentic. Nettie was a reliable MC, and for anyone that has dealt with loss, she is extremely relatable. We felt for the girl and rooted for her from start to finish. The fact that she overcame her “stage fright” was inspiring and we’re glad she finally found her voice despite all the little things that kept getting in the way.
Speaking of which, the mean girls were…super mean and kind of ridiculous. I know every YA contemporary story has to have at least one, but yikes. These girls were mean for no reason. But we’re glad karma caught up to them in the end!
Nettie’s friend group had us LOL’ing the entire time. We loved Leon, Alec, and Kiki. They were true friends and brought heart to the story! The teachers who were in Nettie’s corner were also great additions. We were glad she had such a genuine group of people supporting her after the BS she dealt with.
Now on to Fletch, the love interest! We really loved Fletch. He was witty and super charming, and most of all, he could relate to Nettie’s loss. His brother had also recently passed and the two bonded over their shared experiences with grief. Their chemistry was off the charts from the beginning. We wish the ending with them hadn’t been rushed, but we appreciated that the author emphasized solving Nettie’s stage fright over fixing her miscommunication with Fletch. Their ending was well-written and adorable! Major feels.
One thing we would’ve liked to read more about was the mystery behind Nettie’s mom and why she ended her career. There were lots of references to her mom’s career ending suddenly and under mysterious circumstances, but none of it was explained. Overall, though, every thing else felt resolved and left us satisfied.
Definitely pick up this up if you love YA books that take place at performing arts schools! For some reason, we kept thinking of that Hilary Duff movie, Raise Your Voice, while we were reading. We loved that movie and this book had similar vibes. Oh, the nostalgia!
And surprise! We received links to *two* giveaways for SING LIKE NO ONE’S LISTENING. See below for more info, and good luck if you enter! There is also an introduction video to the book by the author, so be sure to check out the link below. 🤗