Monday, 4 January 2010
Author Interview with Belinda Hollyer!
That’s a very interesting question, Amber, and quite a difficult one to answer. The character that’s closest to being like me is a girl called Laurie, in a short story (its title is ‘The Middle Ground’) that I wrote for a collection about friendship called YOU’RE THE BEST. In fact, the story is closely based on a real incident in my life, which is the sort of thing you’re not supposed to do in fiction, so I broke (or maybe only bent) a basic rule in writing about it. But the choice I’d make to be one particular character would be Jessye, in RIVER SONG, because I would love to experience her magical connection to a taniwha - the mythic Maori water monster that appears in that book.
I’m not sure that I ever actually made a decision to be a writer: I just did it! I was about three when I first started writing stories, but by the time I grew up I didn’t believe I could invent good stories of my own, so I wrote non-fiction instead – history books and so on. It wasn’t until years later that a friend and publisher suggested to me that I should try writing a novel, and once I trusted myself enough to begin the first one, the ideas never stopped coming. I still have a whole bunch of ideas in my head waiting for attention.
I’ve been a teacher, a book editor and book publisher, a school librarian and a college lecturer, and I’m now an almost full-time writer. And as you can guess, the connecting thread that runs through all those jobs is the love of books! I often say that I’ve spent most of my working life enjoying some combination of children and books, and that’s still true.
It’d probably be easier to say what music I DON’T like – because I music’s very important to me and I listen to lots of different kinds. I usually have music playing while I write, and choosing the right music helps me to create a particular atmosphere or mood on the page – and that, in turn, helps me write. On my website I list some of the female singers I particularly enjoy; right now I’m playing Florence and the Machine for her inventiveness and energy, and KD Lang for her musicality.
Well, many other writers constantly inspire me – to try harder, to do it better, and to tell the truth more inventively. When I read something wonderful I often think: Oh, I wish I’d done something as good as that!
I don’t have just one favourite book, and the books that are my favourites these days tend to rotate, depending on my mood: a funny book to cheer me up; an historical drama to sweep me far away; a book of poetry to soothe or inspire me: the list is almost endless. The book that made the biggest impression on me when I was growing up was STUART LITTLE, by E.B. White – I just adored it, and I still know bits of it off by heart. Another big favourite when I was older was WARRIOR SCARLET, by Rosemary Sutcliff – I’d love to write historical fiction if I could do it anywhere near as well as she did.
This question was a fascinating challenge, and thinking up the right answer kept me awake at nights! It’s a tough call, and I ended up wanting to buy lots of things instead of only one, if that’s OK? (You don’t say it has to be just one thing...)
Anyway, the first thing I’d do is buy lots of wonderful new books for every single school library and public library in the UK. With unlimited money I could set up a trust fund to keep that going, but to start with I’d just go crazy and buy hundreds of thousands of books in one go, which would be the best fun imaginable! (You can help if you like, Amber – don’t you think it’d be great?)
And after that, I’d like to buy a little house on an island I love called Waiheke, in New Zealand. I partly grew up on Waiheke because my grandparents lived there, and it’s a very special and lovely place to me. I’m going to Waiheke next month for a few weeks, and I would love to stay for longer – and the little house I rent is a lovely place to write, and it has the most amazing and perfect view imaginable. (If you look at the blog intro page on my website, you can see a photo of the view.) The house isn’t for sale, but still, I’d like to dream of buying it...
I’m currently working on two different books. One is set on the island I’ve just mentioned – Waiheke, in New Zealand – and it’s a mystery thriller for older readers. I’ll do some more work on it when I’m back on the island, where it’s easier to imagine what’s happening in the book, and where everyone is in important scenes. (Not all my books have a strong sense of place, but I can already tell that this one does, so getting it right is critical.) The other book’s very different – it’s for younger readers, it’s funny, and it’s narrated by a dog!
Thank you, Amber!
18 year old book blogger who aspires to work in journalism and/or publishing, and dreams of one day seeing her own work on bookshelves around the world. Amber has been running The Mile Long Bookshelf single-handedly since 2009.