I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Hilary Hawkes. Enjoy.
Hello Hilary, can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Hilary Hawkes and I live in Oxfordshire in the UK.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing stories when I was eight years old.
What first got you interested in writing?
I always loved listening to stories as a child and was an avid and keen reader from the start. My parents believed in bedtime stories and my favourite time at school was storytime. I started to write my own stories so I could create worlds and characters of my own. I think it was my way of escaping into a world of fantasy!
Do you attend a writing group?
No. But I belong to a lot of writers’ organisations such as The Society of Authors, Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and The Scattered Authors Society.
What genre(s) do you write? What drew you to this/these genre(s)?
I have always written fiction for children – from preschool to 11+. Writing for children means I can let my imagination take off with no limits I think!
However, I also write non-fiction books for grown-ups and concentrate on writing about things I know about and have experience of.
Have you ever had anything published?
Yes. My first experience of being published happened when I was 19. A magazine published 12 of my short stories which was sooo exciting! I’ve had five children’s books published and three non-fiction books for grown-ups.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve created an online project called Strawberry Jam Books. This consists of free downloadable stories, e-books, resources, games and information that promote fairness and friendship for children who live with disabilities or difficulties. It’s aimed at preschool to age 12 readers.
I’m passionate about my Strawberry Jam Books project and spend a huge amount of time writing new material for this.
Have you sent your writing to agents/publishers? Have you received any rejections?
I did once have an agent. We were together for three years but I am now agentless. Rejections? Oh yes! Like everyone else many, many rejections along the way.
Would you consider self-publishing/e-publishing? Why/why not? Are you interested in eBooks, or do you prefer the old fashioned paper-made books?
I have self-published on a very small scale for particular groups of people. I’m not sure how it would work out on a larger scale as I don’t think I’m any good at marketing or self-promotion!
My non-fiction publisher has recently started making their titles available as e-books as well so it will be interesting to see how that goes.I like printed books and e-books equally and buy both. I love my e-reader but I also love actual physical books and have a bit of an obsession for collecting them!
Who/what influences your writing? Where do you get your inspiration from?
I’ve always had a thing about fairness and friendship. I grew up in a family where more than one member had a disability of some sort. I like things to come good and fair and for justice and understanding to occur in my stories – and for anyone nasty to get their just desserts of course!
Sometimes something I see or a comment I overhear can inspire a story idea.
How do you come up with your characters’ names and personalities?
The characters names and personalities seem to arrive in my head at the same time as the idea for the story.
Do you have a writing routine?
I do some sort of work on my writing most days. I love it and don’t really see it as work. I tend to avoid very early mornings and late nights for writing. Probably because I’m still asleep or about to drop off to sleep at those times.
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
I plan everything – all the way through. But it’s a flexible plan so I’ll adjust as I go if I need to.
Do you have an editing process?
I read and check the story as I go and again when it’s finished. Sometimes I make big changes at that point. Sometimes only small changes. For quite a few years I worked with children in schools and so used to take my stories in to read to the children and get their feedback.
With the non-fiction books I’ve had published, I gave the finished manuscripts to my husband to read through. He misses nothing!I did a degree in publishing and English and worked for publishers for some years before I had children. But, to be honest, proof-reading and copy-editing were never my strong points!
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
I think I can be myself when I’m writing and creating stories. I feel very absorbed and fulfilled by writing. I guess the downside is that it can make you a bit unsociable as it requires long lengths of time alone!
How important is it for you to share your writing?
Very. Words should be written to be shared, inspire or entertain. However, I do write poems now and then as a kind of therapeutic exercise and those I do keep to myself.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given with regards to writing?
Always write from your heart.
What advice could you give to a new writer?
Write first of all for enjoyment. Persevere and pay attention to feedback you get from editors/tutors.
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
I love reading. I belong to a gym and go to body balance classes. I enjoy meditation, walking the dog, eating chocolate, being in the company of my husband and our three young adult children and spending time with close friends. Oh yes, and I’m afraid I’m a bit addicted to a couple of tv soaps.
What kind of books do you enjoy reading most?
I enjoy fiction about families and the lives people lead, how they face difficulties and overcome them. I like Santa Montiefore’s books and another book I’ve enjoyed is ‘The Woman who went to Bed for a Year’ by Sue Townsend. It was hilariously funny. But it was also very profound. The main character’s husband obviously had asperger’s syndrome - like mine.
I also really enjoy reading anything about spirituality and philosophy.
Do you have any favourite literary quotes or poems?
My two current favourites are:
‘I know what I have given you, I do not know what you have received.’ Antoniao Porchia (Italian poet, 1886 to 1968) and this poem , attributed to Nadine Stair:
Do you have a website/blog/twitter/facebook dedicated to your writing?
I have a website at www.hilaryhawkes.co.uk and my Strawberry Jam Books project is accessed at www.hilaryhawkes.co.uk/strawberryjambooks
Thank you very much Hilary.