Author Interview with Hilary Freeman
1) You’ve written several books, which was your favourite to write?
That’s a tough question. They’ve all been enjoyable and also frustrating/difficult in their own ways. Loving Danny, about a girl who falls in love with an edgy musician, was my most autobiographical book - so it was fun to use my real experiences and fictionalise them - and also the first, so I didn’t really know what I was doing, which was quite liberating.
I liked writing the voice of my main character in Don’t Ask, which is about a girl who gets herself into a big mess trying to find out some secret information about her boyfriend by inventing a new identity on social media. She was fun to write as she was quite mischievous.
But I probably enjoyed writing Lifted most because I was able to play with different styles: a mixture of third person chapters from several perspectives, as well as first person blogs. It made the writing process more interesting.
2) How do you come up with the ideas for your books?
My ideas can be triggered by anything - my work as a journalist and agony aunt, something I hear on the radio, a news story, something that happened to me, a picture I see, or something somebody tells me, even just a phrase that I like. Something will capture my imagination and then, over the next few weeks or months, a story will start to grow in my head, complete with its characters. There’s no formula and you can’t predict how or when it will happen. And not all the ideas are good ones. It’s definitely not a science!
3) How long does it take to you to write a book?
That’s difficult to say because I rarely have the luxury of working full time on them; I juggle my book writing with my work as a journalist and agony aunt. I usually dedicate Sundays to writing and take a few weeks off here and there to do big chunks. The more time I have to write, the more I write because once I’m ‘in the zone’ I speed up. I write an average of 1000 words a day, sometimes 2000 or even 3000 if I’m really steaming. It can take up to a year to write my first draft - unlike many writers, I only do one draft, editing as I go along - but if I was doing it full time, it would probably be possible in three months or so.
4) Which was the most challenging book to write?
My latest book, When I was Me, which is coming out in the autumn, was probably the most complicated in terms of its plot - it’s a psychological thriller and the main character wakes up one morning to discover her life isn’t her own. Reflecting her confusion and panic, and creating tension, without making it too confusing or giving too much away, was a challenge. The book also deals with quite heavy themes, like philosophy and physics, which I had to convey in simple terms that a teenager could understand, and in the voice of a 17-year-old.
5) Do you have a favourite character or couple to write about?
My favourite character is probably Noah from Lifted, my novel about a shoplifting blogger. He’s a noble, lovable, gangly computer geek who makes a big sacrifice for his best friend, even though she takes him for granted and barely notices him. Lots of people have told me they really liked Noah. He’s the guy I wish I’d known when I was a teenager.
6) Do you have a favourite quote from any of your books?
Ooh, that’s tricky. Now you’ve asked that, I can’t think of a single quote from any of my books. (This is why I hated doing English exams; terrible memory for quotes. Actually, terrible memory full stop: sometimes I can’t remember my own characters’ names!) The line which lots of readers seem to like best is the opening line of Loving Danny: ‘Isn't it weird how the truly significant moments of your life often begin as the most banal?’ I think it strikes a chord because we’re all aware that the most important, life changing things that happen often come out of the blue and seem trivial at the time. We never know what’s going to develop from them. The same idea: that tiny decisions can have big consequences is explored in more depth in When I was Me.
7) Out of all your book covers, which is your favourite?
I really like the covers for my Camden Town Tales series: The Celeb Next Door, Stuck on Me and The Boy from France. They’re very pretty to look at, with gorgeous designs and colours, and they work so well together. The little motifs that decorate them - like bracelets and converse and flowers - reflect Camden Town and, hopefully, really appeal to their target readership too.
8) What’s next for you?
I’m just at the editing stage for When I was Me, and then I’ll have to start publicising it. It’s always exciting waiting for a new book to come out. As for writing, I have a few ideas, including an adult thriller set in the South of France, but I haven’t started writing it yet. Watch this space….