Friday, 4 July 2014

UNCOVERED INTERVIEWS: Heather Hill

It's publication day for Heather Hill, who has stopped by today for a question and answer session about her novel The New Mrs D. In the book, by popular blogger Heather, Bernice is about to take the trip of a lifetime alone, after discovering her husband's addiction to porn. The New Mrs D is available now, and we couldn't wait to put our weekly questions to Heather!

Tell us about your latest novel in 15 words or less.
An empowering tale of one woman's midlife awakening on a honeymoon... alone.

What inspired you to write The New Mrs D?
This is a kind of sad tale to begin with. I made a friend on Twitter, Hywel Jones, who I later learned had terminal cancer. Even though he lived in Wales and I am in Scotland, we formed a unique friendship in 140 characters on Twitter, the full story of which features on my blog. But to cut a very long story short, he loved my comedy and always found time to encourage my writing despite everything he was going through. He was a man who loved life and used humour to get him through - one of the most remarkable people I've ever met.

Two years ago, I was submitting scripts to TV companies and getting close to 'something', but nothing was materialising in terms of work or commissions. I felt I wanted to keep my love of writing going, but wasn't really sure where it was all going to lead.  I was emailing Hywel back and forth with our various life updates and we spoke about my attempting a novel. Then, my husband and I took a trip to Greece and whilst there, I learned that Hywel had died.

It wasn't unexpected, but I was devastated nonetheless. I remember going to a quiet little cove, dipping my toes into the Aegean and thinking, 'Hywel can never experience this again.' An odd thought in the circumstance, I know, but that's exactly what went through my mind.

Two days later, we were in the airport waiting to travel home and the whole outline for the novel just popped into my head. I bought a note book there in the airport because I had to get it all down. I then spent the entire flight scribbling notes; I think I ended up with an overview for about fourteen chapters. I still have the notebook.

The last time I saw Hywel, I promised to name a character in my first book after him. Hywel was adopted, but his name at birth was David Dando. My novel is released on 4th July, which is the second anniversary of his death. I hoped it would be a fitting tribute - although I should stress the character is NOT at all based on him!

Where do you do most of your writing?
Would you believe, in my lounge on a tiny notebook on the arm of the sofa! I do have a room, a desk and a chair where it's all supposed to happen, but I keep ending up back on the sofa - I'm there now! Not at all good for the posture! Don't do this at home!

What is your favourite book?
Oh my goodness, I am the ultimate book sniffer, so choosing one is sooo hard. I have recently discovered and fallen in love with some wonderful, women authors I hadn't read before, like Amanda Prowse, Kate Atkinson and Kerry Hudson. But, if I had to chose one then I'd make it the very first book I ever loved, which was The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. I clearly remember my big sister giving me a beautiful hardback copy for Christmas when I was about nine or ten and absolutely loving it more than any of my other presents. She bought me Watership Down at the same time, but that terrified me!

Which part of The New Mrs D did you enjoy writing the most?
Absolutely hands down favourite was the scene that you see on the cover. I don't want to give too much away by telling you about it, but this part I had sweated over, revised and rewrote again and again because it was both pivotal and poignant for my character and, I hoped, women in general. I wanted to get it just right. It is Chapter Nineteen and I hope readers will love it as much as I do.

Who is your favourite literary heroine?
Every woman who sits down to write a novel and finishes it. Seriously, it is so hard to put your heart out there in the public domain, it takes a lot of courage. I know I should name a character here but really, all power to the hard work and bravery of women and writers in general who get out there and do what their heart tells them to do. It's not easy.

PS I rather love Mrs Pepperpot too. Maybe because she is one of the few people who are shorter than me.

Do you have any tips for readers who are looking to become published writers?
Don't let them tell you you can't do it. Ever. If you want it, stop dreaming of it and go get it. Don't edit until you have finished your first draft - which will be awful and a shadow of the completed novel you end up with, trust me. But don't be put off!  This did happen to me so I know what I'm talking about here. Think of your first draft as the first, wood and steel shell of a new house. You still have to build the walls, put in the plumbing, ventilate it and turn on the heat. There is so much more magic to come yet. Write it, let it breathe then rewrite it.

Get social media savvy and buy your name as a web domain! Unless you are called Heather Hill because it's £2,000 at the moment and although I've searched the entire inside of my sofa, I'm just not going to make that purchase at the moment.

I also highly recommend reading Stephen King's 'On Writing'. It is by far the greatest thing I have read on the subject of novel writing. A friend recommended it to me when I was halfway through my first draft and letting all that lovely doubt seep in.

Are you working on anything else at the moment and if so, can you tell us?
After a series of publisher rejections for The New Mrs D, I pondered on whether to write a sequel or not. I already had a outline in my head but what if the first book didn't sell? Then my agent, Hannah Ferguson and I got our heads together and decided the book was too important and had to get out in the world, so I have ended up being lucky enough to publish with agency assistance.

The upshot is that whilst my novel was in submissions, I began work on something entirely different which I got almost halfway through a first draft and now have filed away. Because now I'm publishing The New Mrs D, I think it's time to spill that sequel out of its hiding place in my head.

Thanks, Heather!

You can find out more about Heather Hill and The New Mrs D by visiting her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

The New Mrs D by Heather Hill
Four days into their honeymoon in Greece, Bernice and David Dando have yet to consummate their marriage and after having accepted his almost non-existent desire for sex throughout the relationship, Bernice finally discovers the reason… he is addicted to porn. Learning that the love of her life chooses the cheap thrill of fantasy over her is devastating but then, ‘every man does it; it’s just looking, right?’. If she leaves the relationship because of virtual adultery, will she be labelled as pathological, overreacting, or even worse, frigid?

When funny, feisty, forty-something Bernice plans the adventure trip of a lifetime, she doesn’t expect to be spending it alone. But as it turns out, contributing to a Greek fish explosion, naked karaoke and misadventures with volcanoes are exactly what she needs to stop fretting about errant husbands and really start living. But when Mr D tries to win her back, Bernice has a decision to make: is this a holiday from her humdrum life, or the start of a whole new adventure?

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