Q&A + Top 5 Playlist Songs with Janelle Milanes (The Victoria in My Head)

Hey everyone! Today I'm super thrilled to welcome to the blog Janelle Milanes, author of the upcoming YA Contemporary novel The Victoria in My Head! I had the awesome opportunity to ask her a few questions about her novel which releases on September 19th from Simon Pulse and she also shares with us her top 5 favorite songs from her super awesome playlist! Enjoy!!! ♥

The Victoria in My Head by Janelle Milanes
September 19th, 2017 from Simon Pulse
YA Contemporary
A shy, rule-following teen winds up joining a local rock band in this laugh-out-loud, heartfelt coming-of-age novel.

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.
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...Q&A with Janelle Milanes...

1. What are a few random facts about The Victoria in My Head that no one knows about yet? 

This book was initially set in the 1990s until my agent (wisely) suggested that I shift to the present since the themes are still relatable to teens today. So, landlines were changed to cell phones, mix CDs to playlists, etc. Though I did keep a few 90s references in, such as some of the songs on the playlist and Vi's Nirvana t-shirt mentioned in the book's opening chapters. 
This fact also serves as an embarrassing confession: I first had the idea for Strand's character after seeing Harry Styles in One Direction's "Best Song Ever" video. That led me down a rabbit hole of past musical heartthrobs like Mick Jagger, Lenny Kravitz, Kurt Cobain, and many, many others. I thought about how inaccessible and larger-than-life they feel. Then I thought about what a relationship between a rock star sex god and a shy, inexperienced girl suffering from stage fright would look like. I found that dynamic really interesting and wanted to explore the idea of a crush as a catalyst for changing your life. 
My last fact is that Victoria is not an autobiographical character, but we share a few real-life similarities. I was on the cross-country and track teams in high school solely to put those activities on my college application. I also participated in a quinceañera and had a blast doing it, although sadly I didn't have a hottie like Strand as a partner. 

2. If you had to only listen to ONE song for the rest of your writing days, which one would you pick? 

Oh my god, this is the most difficult question I've ever been asked. 

When I write, I listen to a lot of soft music that feels emotionally resonant but won't get too distracting. One of my go-to artists is a band called Beach House. Their genre is technically classified as "dream pop," which is a pretty apt description since the music puts me in that helpful dreamy writer's headspace. Really, any Beach House song will work, but one of my current favorites is "Space Song" from their album Depression Cherry. Then again, if you ask me this question a couple of weeks from now, I might choose a completely different artist/song. I'm too fickle to commit to one!

3. What's one thing that you deeply desire for readers to get from The Victoria in My Head? 

At its core, this is a book for daydreamers who might lack the courage to pursue their own happiness. Victoria is a girl who is caught between others' expectations and her own ideas about what will fulfill her. Looking back on my teenage years, i remember many a nervous breakdown because it felt like I was on the precipice of some big, scary life-changing decisions. I felt a certain type of path was being prescribed for me, and at times that idea was suffocating. In response, I retreated inside my imagination to escape the pressures of reality. I hope readers of this book can share comfort in the fact that life isn't decided for us, that it's okay to be unsure about the future. Most importantly, I hope this book will motivate readers to chase the passions that get us through the day. 

...Top 5 Playlist Songs...

1. Mitski "Your Best American Girl"

I love the grungy, unpolished feel of this song. If there is one on the playlist that captures the character of Victoria, this is it. Even though the song is specifically about a relationship, the larger message involves tension between cultural expectations and the singer's inability to fit a certain mold. I chose it to open the book because Victoria struggles with adapting to the role her family and friends have established for her. 

2. The Platters "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" 

I couldn't resist slipping a classic into Vi's rock-heavy playlist. This song is hauntingly beautiful and when I listen to it, it kind of hurts in the best way possible. It comes at a time in the book when Victoria realizes that the perfect relationship she thought she'd have is doomed to fail. 

3. Beach House "Other People" 

This song has a melancholy vibe to it which is fitting as Victoria struggles with her confusing feelings. She's faced with admitting the failure of one relationship and, at the same time, fighting off her growing attraction to someone else. I think "Other People" strikes the perfect balance of saying goodbye while longing for something more. 

4. Future Islands "Seasons (Waiting on You)" 

I don't want to spoil the moment in the book that goes with this song, but I will say it's climactic--just like the song's chorus. To me, this song is about intense yearning. Victoria denies herself what she really wants until she finally gives in to her own desire, and something about this song so beautifully captures that release for me. 

5. Pixies "Debaser" 

One of my favorite songs ever. It's loud and distorted and completely free--basically, everything Victoria wants to be. To me, this song is about breaking the rules and indulging in all things absurd. Victoria gets better at doing this by the end of the book, which is why this is the last song on the playlist. 

Aaah, thank you so much for the wonderful answers and for the notes about your top 5 songs from the playlist! Guys, you can listen to them HERE along with the many other great titles that are part of The Victoria in My Head playlist. And don't forget to add this book to your TBR because it seriously sounds awesome! (Plus the Latina in me rejoices! :D)

About Janelle Milanes
Macintosh HD:Users:JanelleMilanes:Pictures:Janelle Milanes.jpegJanelle Milanes is originally from Miami, FL and received her BA in English Literature from Davidson College. A lifelong YA addict, she moved to New York for her first job as a children’s literature associate at Simon & Schuster. For the past five years, Janelle has worked as a teacher and librarian throughout the New York City area. Her first novel reflects many of her own experiences growing up as a second-generation Latina in America.Janelle currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their two cats. Her favorite Disney princess is Belle, since she was also a big book nerd. 

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