What, Where, When? with Heather Hill

Continuing the What, Where, When? feature of writers and their writing processes, I am very pleased to welcome Heather Hill,author of The New Mrs D, to the blog to talk about her writing life.

Heather HillHi Heather. What do you write – what are you currently writing and what made you start writing in the first place?

I have always liked to write about quite serious subjects and give them a comedic aside. I don’t really know why my work naturally tends towards this, but I have this belief that comedy really reaches people on a whole other level; it can make the most difficult things more palatable.

Ten years ago, I wrote a YA novel after the Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman murders. These two beautiful young school girls were murdered by someone they knew – a school janitor. At the time, like the rest of the country I was terribly sad but also angry. I remember thinking, ‘why do we tell our children about stranger danger but not giving them the means to arm themselves against pedophile grooming from adults they know and trust?’ So I wrote my first novel. It was a short book; a cautionary tale on pedophile grooming but with a hint of comedy and a good story children could relate to. It sought to give kids information. It didn’t go into what the protagonist in the story was suffering; it took him away from the scene via his friendship with a ghost. The book got seven rejections, although one editor from a major publisher said they liked it and it did make it to an editorial meeting. Then it was rejected. The reason being, the subject matter was considered too dark. But despite this, after I self published it without really giving it any marketing oomph, my son’s schoolteacher used it as a class read last year, which I was very pleased about.

With my current book, the subject is porn addiction. Something many might consider to be another uncomfortable subject in a work of comedy fiction. But again, I am hoping it is done in a way that reaches people. There are plenty of very good non-fiction books on this subject but I think, again, a sprinkling of whacky humour makes the whole subject more easily consumable to a larger audience. I hope I am right and I hope it helps people who are caught in a similar situation to Mrs D.

At the present time, I’ve been working on a completely different book; all the while having a sequel to The New Mrs D tucked away in my mind, bursting to get out. It was stalling me while working on the new one because I was dying to spill it out. But I was afraid to start without knowing if the current book would sell. Now  it has entered the Amazon top 100 women’s fiction humour chart on pre-sales alone, so I’m surprised, ridiculously thrilled and ready to dust off that sequel idea and make a proper start.

When do you write – authors tend to have a set routine, morning, lunchtime, night – when do you write and why then?

I write at inopportune moments. I say this, because I have quite a large, busy family (I’m a mum of five) and although my eldest three are grown and flown now, there’s always someone around the house or virtually. I speak to all of them via little Kik messages and Facebook DM’s – which seems crazy but it works for us. Now you have ‘the knowledge of mum’ at your fingertips. Life is certainly never boring. I don’t really have a set time for writing, I just go with what comes really. I’m extremely disorganised if I’m honest. I can confirm that I’m a bit of an insomniac, so will often write very late at night.

Where do you write – some people do it at a desk but some people do it at the kitchen table. Where do you do it?

 Okay, I have a Hello Magazine answer for this one and the real answer, so here goes.

Heather Hill My deskThe Hello Mag answer – there is a beautiful room in my house with a smart little desk and on it sits my almost new PC with a view out across fields. This is where I’m supposed to work.

The real answer: I am an old-fashioned fan of long-hand writing.  I don’t know why but I’m addicted to a fresh page and an extra sharp pencil to write. I love it! And I lie on a rug by the fire, scribbling away while the dog battles with me for fireplace position.

What do you write on – Apple or Windows? Laptop or desktop? Word or Scrivener? or anything else…

With writing everything long-hand, ultimately, of course, it then takes twice as long and I have to go type everything up. Which I do on a very tiny Samsung Notebook that regularly freezes and/or gives me the blue screen of death. Even worse, I work with it balanced on the arm of my sofa in the lounge. Don’t do this at home, people! I have carpal tunnel syndrome to prove it and a permanently numb toe on my right foot. Not good. The health & safety police have a warrant out for my arrest.

How much contact do you have with other writers – are you a solitary writer or do you have a writing group?

I don’t do writer groups, although I fully advocate them. I live in a field away from people and don’t get out and about often.  But I do network with a lot of writers online and find them a very kind, supportive group of people. They all know what it is like when you are just starting out; they feel your pain and some even hold your virtual hand while you’re whimpering about rejections and things all writers go through. It’s nice to speak to those that have been in the game a lot longer than me and realise I’m not on my own with all the emotions writing a novel and trying to get it out there puts you through. I’ve also been lucky to share a little of my work with a couple and get good constructive feedback, but I never ask other authors to do this. It has come about from people offering. I don’t like to bug very busy writers by asking them to read my stuff.

Finally – writing in coffee shops – yes or no ?!

Drinking in coffee shops – yes! Writing in there? I have never tried this but knowing myself pretty well, I think I’d find the cake counter too distracting.

Heather’s novel, The New Mrs D, is available from Amazon.