Interview with hilary west

When did you first start writing?
I started writing about 1993, after working in libraries. I felt unfulfilled and was desperate to break out into a new area : writing was it. I found it gave me a freedom and was both fulfilling and satisfying. But first of all I needed something to write about. I set off on my adventure. I left home and lived in various places, some of them not very nice but all full of characters and situations that would get my creative juices flowing. I even lived in homeless hostels in places like Liverpool and Manchester in Britain just to widen my experience of people. Living in a small town my experiences had been to say the least restricted. There was a big wide world out there and I wanted to see it. I had travelled further afield when I was young, going abroad and visiting countries in Europe, but there was still a lot of my own country I did not know. Being legally homeless I qualified to write for the Big Issue, the homeless paper, and in total I had eleven articles published. It was the first time I had been paid for my writing so you can imagine I was quite proud. But then I found I wanted to write on a more extended scale and in 1999 started my first novel which was 'The Dome'. The book was accepted by Minerva Press for publication and came out in 2000. It has since been republished by Booktango and is now an ebook. Its theme covers areas like prostitution and knavery in the medical profession. It was a book born of experience and also tempered by quite a lot of imagination. It was then the big self publishing firms were coming into their own and I knew that was the route I would be going down. I had become an indie. First I published with Wordclay and had print books for sale but this was soon superceded by ebooks with Booktango who have now been taken over by BookCountry, a Penguin firm. At the last count I have sixteen titles for sale, some novels, some books for children, but nearly all of them are ebooks. Twenty years have passed, I don't know where the time went, and maybe financial considerations are not uppermost, but I am glad I decided to write and wouldn't change anything. They always say the journey is the important thing, not the arriving. I guess they are right!
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book is called 'House of Parrots' and is a mystery book. The story behind it is just made up but based on news events and what goes on behind closed doors. I won't say any more than that for fear of giving the plot away. Really what inspired me most when writing the book was the setting. I visited a small village in Northumberland one beautiful summer's day and was really taken with the place. By the river was stunning, so still and calm with a heavy canopy of trees filtering the warm sunlight. The village was wonderful with a small shop, a couple of pubs and assorted houses as well as a superb twelth century church. The village had its own castle too, now in ruins. It was really a bit picture postcard. If they ever wanted to film my book they would have the perfect location. I gave the streets fictional names of course but more or less stuck to the actual physical lay out of the roads and position of the pub etc. I gave the village a fictional country house on its outskirts though that was to become Abbeyfield Manor. There is a lot of soul searching goes on in the book, done mainly by Robert Bailey, the young butler at the Manor, and he is torn between love for Julie and the local barman Darren Bignold. Love affairs abound in the village and there are several love scenes where all concerned get their bit of nooky. It is a book about parrots too of course and they play their part in the unfolding drama. They are in fact a central symbol.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I could see the way the publishing industry was going. There are an awful lot of hopeful authors today and the indie way is the only way of dealing with this increase in numbers. I guessed that I could wait around for years hoping to get a contract from the established houses or get in there straight away with self publishing. There was no contest. The indie way is so fast and you are in control from the beginning to the end. Now it is all free too, so why wouldn't you do it? For me it was the natural way of getting my books out there, edited by myself ,so I could not complain if I got anything wrong. And now some indies are doing so well. There may not be equality yet but we can all live in hope.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords is a wonderful tool for authors. Everything is done for you as regards distribution etc, so once your book is uploaded you just have to sit back and see how it does. Of course this word 'success' is loaded. What is success? If it is getting your books out there and available to read by a public that would otherwise never get to read you, I guess it is a success. My books are available for people to read. Payment is not important, it would be nice, but really it is very much a secondary consideration. I am still in the early stages with Smashwords, but I am living in hope that my book will become known to a wide public together with the help of twitter and sites like Goodreads.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Well it is all behind me now. My books are complete for the most part, but when I was writing it was just the ability to express yourself and project your own personality onto the page that was the greatest joy. It was all yours. Nobody else could claim it as their own. Maybe that sounds a trifle egotistic but I think all writers would admit to that if pressed. I was able to use experiences that I had had and it was as if nothing in my life had been wasted. It was as if everything was in thrall to an ergonomic principle. I had wasted nothing, even books I had read became tools for further inspiration. I just loved this feeling of saving everything in time, bottling it if you like, for ever.
What do your fans mean to you?
Well if I had any maybe I would be able to comment. There may be a few, in fact I know I have a few on Goodreads, so yes they exist, believe it or not. They mean a great deal to me, because I feel there are like-minded people out there that maybe can empathise with some of my characters and maybe my own character too when they read me. I would like to feel the 'fans' are people that can enjoy a joke and laugh at a lot of what I have to say. If they do they will be closest to my heart, for I often tell things with my tongue in my cheek. Life is all about laughing, it is the best medicine. I would like to think I have made people laugh and see the funny side of things. That is important in today's increasingly sinister world.
What are you working on next?
My last novel is 'Fraudster's Folly', and was published just before Christmas 2014. It is about fraud of course and contains the usual mix of eccentric characters and 'fun' situations. It is an ebook.
Who are your favorite authors?
I think you could go on about so many authors in this one. I love Shakespeare, the language is so beautiful and Midsummer Night's Dream is a favourite. I also like The Tempest and Romeo and Juliet. When I first read Iris Murdoch's book The Bell I was spellbound because she is so good at evoking an English summer from a time gone by. Her plot is wonderful too and the characters so attractive. I liked The Sea The Sea too and The Italian Girl. I have recently been reading John Baker, a mystery writer, and have a liking for his books as well as Chaz Brenchley, Margaret Murphy and Cath Staincliffe. As a young person I loved Thomas Hardy. The writing is so rich with a continual backdrop of intense colour. Dylan Thomas is a favourite poet as is R.S. Thomas, a man that tries to express the inexpressible. I like Shelley and Keats as well. Tenessee Williams is a favourite playwright and I like The Glass Menagerie and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Scott Fitzgerald I like too especially The Great Gatsby. Mia Farrow was a great choice for Daisy in the 1970's film version. I like Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, especially The Hound of the Baskervilles. Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain is a very special book detailing as it does the attitudes to illness in the last century.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I am not writing I like to listen to music of all kinds. I particularly like the summer when the Proms are on in England, and I will be glued to the radio most nights. But classical music is not everything. I like Judy Garland, Shirley Jones and Kathryn Grayson. The old musicals were non pareil, especially Showboat, Oklahoma and Carousel. I listen to some popular music too notably of the seventies and eighties, and may even listen to Lady Gaga or Madonna. Susan Boyle I like too. Other spare time I enjoy reading other's books and of course spend too much time I feel on the internet.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I think a lot depends on the community you are involved with. I myself am a member of ASMSG, that is the Authors Social Media Support Group. By being a member I am exposed to their books and have read quite a lot of their work. Together too we can review each other's work and that is a valuable resource.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, it was The Glass Anvil. I did not write it as a tiny kid either, I was well on in years. I was aware of the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Darlington to Stockton Railway in 1975, but wrote this little story much later. I wanted to use my imagination around a real event and concentrate on the characters of those involved rather than on plot.
What is your writing process?
Often it is cinematic. Some say this is a cop out but I feel you can imagine everything by using this method, by seeing it in your mind's eye before you. Pieces of speech come to you much easier by imagining things scene by scene. Apparently Cath Cookson used this method and let's face it she didn't do too badly!
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I think it was Squirrel Nutkin, a story by Beatrix Potter Things are hazy now, but I can remember loving his character. I loved the illustrations too, very much like any child would. I think it was about the same time I had a penchant for Torchy the battery boy. My, that's going back!
I understand you write books for children as well as mystery novels. Can you tell us a bit about them?
Yes, I have written several books for children. Five are in the series of Harriet on her holidays: Harriet Goes Abroad, Harriet's Adventures in Europe, Harriet's Holidays, Harriet's English Holidays and Harriet's Christmas Holiday all tell of little girl Harriet's trips on holiday. She is an eight year old girl, interested in sun, sea and sand, but also will look at cathedrals, museums and enjoy classical concerts, poetry and flower gardens. She nearly always has a holiday friend that accompanies her on her adventures and in the stories you may learn a little foreign language or get to know just what there is to see in places around the globe. The books are suitable for primary school children and should entertain girls as well as improve their English and widen their vocabulary. These are all ebooks and the cheapest place to obtain them is, where they are 99 cents each. Another ebook for children I have out at the moment is Witches' Treasure. This consists of six little tales of imagination and sorcery, and has a witchy and fantasy element. My only print book out now is The Secret Kingdom and this consists of four magical tales that should delight and enthrall children. The tales are entitled - The Sundial's Secret, The Moon Garden, The Witches of Lulworth Cove and The Magical Jewels of Belle-Helene. So as you can see there are books for both boys and girls and the books are both fun and educational.
Published 2015-04-04.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

House of Parrots
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 47,690. Language: English. Published: March 31, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Traditional British
(5.00 from 1 review)
'House of Parrots' is a murder mystery novel set in a small village in England. It tells of Gerald Brown, the parrot man, who attracts something very nasty, a madman attacking his house, leaving dead birds on the doorstep stabbed through the heart with a dagger. It is a well-knit, village community rocked to its core by the goings on, not to mention illicit love affairs, gay scandal and murder.