Children's Literature Interest Group: Interview with Mary Hooper

Mary HooperBritish children's and young adult author Mary Hooper was born in Barnes, South West London. She left school at fifteen, and went to work as a window dresser, and then as a secretary. She eventually returned to school, as an adult student, earning a degree in English from Reading University. Hooper began her writing career with short stories, publishing in women's and teen magazines. Her first book, Jodie, was published in 1978.

What comes first - plot, character or situation?

I think situation - by which I take to mean "theme" - so the theme would either be teen pregnancy, say, or the Great Fire of London or the theatre in the 17th Century. After that comes research and through this the plot and the characters gradually emerge according to what you find and what takes your fancy.

When you start to write a book, do you know how it will end?

Not always. I know that it will be a happy ending, or at least a hopeful one, but it all depends on the twists and turns of the plot.

Do you base your characters on real people?

Not really, although I may borrow character traits from real people.

How much research do you have to undertake before you start to write?

About a boxful! I usually get a certain amount done, and then make myself start writing or I could find my research going on for ever. Once writing, I usually reach a certain point where I have to stop and do a little more research, and sometimes what I discover affects the plot and I have to go back and change a few things or put in a couple of red herrings.

What drew you to historical fiction?

The handsome highwaymen, the Great Plague, the canny midwives, Nell Gwyn, Charles II and his 13 illegitimate children, Victorian cemeteries - all that fascinating stuff to be found out about.

At what stage in your writing process do you use a computer?

Apart from researching when I scribble notes, I don't write anything by hand. Everything from the title onwards goes on the computer (so much easier to revise and chop and change).  

Are there special conditions or places you need to be to write?

It's nice to have all my books/maps/charts around me so I've got back-up if I want to know anything. I could never write whilst on tour or on holiday.

Do you write to a set timetable – a certain number of hours per day?

No. Just do what I feel like.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What do you do about it?

I get on with something completely different (like the ironing!) The block always clears itself up after a while, or overnight

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

No regular income!

What is the best thing about being a writer?
You're your own boss and people think you're clever - and best of all, they often write and tell you how much they loved your books.

What do you think you would be if you weren’t an author? 
I quite fancy being a midwife. 

What were your favourite books when you were a child? 
Just William - and any Enid Blyton.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer? 

Keep reading, reading, reading... 

 

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