Q & As: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? And more…

saiprasad acharya asked Serina Hartwell:

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Where do the your ideas come from?

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?

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Serina Hartwell That’s quite a list. Let’s work through it, Saiprasad.

It never occurred to me to write until I became really sick. I made a full recovery, but it made me question what I was doing with my life. I wasn’t happy at work and I had a missing piece from my life. Something that I just couldn’t ever put my finger on. I’d been looking for it for 38 years and had changed jobs and careers many times in order to find it.

They always say that if you never put a racket in a child’s hands then you may never find out that they were the next champion tennis player. This was the same instance for me. I had an old computer, but it was sat in an awkward place. Somewhere where I had to sit on the arm of the couch to use it. I didn’t have a desk and sitting at the kitchen table with the computer was out of the question. I woke one day having just had a quite prolific dream, which left me with the overwhelming feeling that I should write. I’d just finished reading everything that Stephenie Meyer wrote and had run out of her work, leaving me hungry for something else to read, but she wasn’t writing, because she was concentrating on her films. The thought occurred to me that I should write something of my own, so I borrowed my daughter’s reconditioned second hand laptop and headed down to the bottom of the garden.

On that first day, I wrote the first chapter of Hidden. On the second day, I wrote the second chapter and I just kept on going. I knew immediately that I’d found the thing that was missing from my life and I haven’t stopped writing everyday or doing something towards the writing since. That day was in August 2010. It turns out that I was born to be a writer. The realisation opened my life up in ways I cannot measure and I am so grateful that I finally found it.

I gain my ideas from all sorts of places. Life experience, watching people interact, I am a sucker for a documentary, so this inspires a lot for me, but I mainly take inspiration from random things that occur around me. That keeps the writing more interesting.

The hardest thing about writing is getting the work out there. As an author, my work is competing with the work of millions of other writers and it’s really hard to stand out. Finding my work is like finding a needle in a haystack, so I spend more time promoting than writing these days. It’s an unhealthy balance, but a necessary one, and one that I have to accept until my work is more widely known. It is a heavy burden that takes a lot of creative energy away from the writing and that’s what I find hard.

I go through bouts of reading loads and then not reading at all. While I’m writing, I tend not to read, purely because I don’t have time and don’t want to be distracted by other people’s work. Reading is always something I associated with my dad and my daughter. My dad was rarely seen without a book in his hand and his granddaughter has definitely followed in his footsteps. I never thought of myself as a reader, but I have always been one, when I think about it. When I look back to being a child, I spent all my time in the school library. I read constantly, and even went to the public library after school to do my homework. I used to walk home from school reading books and never once fell over or bumped into anyone. It’s only when I thought back to these early days, I could see that it was always there. Always a part of my life.

Choosing my favourite authors is a difficult one. Having to choose between them is like choosing between your children. I would have to go with the ones who have inspired my work the most, I suppose. Stephenie Meyer taught me to create full characters. John Steinbeck taught me to be descriptive. Shakespeare taught me to be engaging and use hooks and create cliffhangers to leave your audience wanting more, while James Herbert taught me to get straight into the action. I would probably go with this list as my top favourites, not just because they influenced my writing, but because I enjoy reading their work too.

I hope I’ve covered all your questions there, Saiprasad. Thank you for asking them.

Serina Hartwell – Author of The Hidden Saga
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