Hi Michael, welcome to TeenLibrarian. Thank you for giving up your time to answer a few questions about The White Hare.
Before we begin would you please introduce yourself to the audience?
I am a publishing director at Bloomsbury, where I have authors like Peter Frankopan (whose book The Silk Roads was on the bestseller lists for thirty-one weeks last year, William Dalrymple, Frank Dikotter, Adam Sisman, John Simpson, Anna Pavord and many others. Lots of biography, history, memoir. I live in south London, and have a family that includes three now rather tall sons.
I think that I am right in saying that The White Hare is your first novel for young readers?
It is. I’ve written two other, adult novels; Smashing People and Sacrifices.
What inspired you to begin writing for a teen audience?
About fourteen years ago I went with a New Zealand friend to see the film ‘Whale Rider’, where a young girl has to win the trust of her grandfather by proving herself the natural leader of their tribe; she forms a bond with a whale and is ridden out to sea, and indeed under the sea. It made me want to write something that combined human relationships with a magicality that perhaps transcends and heals the fractures in the real world. I think Robbie’s encounter with Mags’s world helps him reconcile himself to the world he finds himself in, and ultimately to forgiveness towards his father.
What feeling did you have when you saw the first finished copy of The White Hare?
As a book comes together you see all sorts of aspects of it; cover ideas, proofs, book proofs, bits of flap copy, the look of the pages, and you know the text back to front from working on it so long. So in a way there’s no surprise when you see the final thing; but it is just amazing anyway, especially when your publisher has taken such care and paid such attention as Zephyr has. And detail such as the light blue silk ribbon and the way in which they have used the cover on the pages within the book, which I didn’t know about, were a source of lovely surprise and delight.
What is the most satisfying part of the writing process for you?
To be honest, it’s simply the writing; making something up on the pages, especially when you have an idea you are confident with and are just working it through. I write in ink in a rather lovely library, so there’s a very pleasurable feeling of seclusion and communing with one’s own thoughts and ideas; I’m always rather astonished that I have any.
TWH is also the first novel published under the Zephyr imprint – do you feel any pressure being their headline author?
I’m very proud to be their launch title, and I so hope it works for them (and me). They’ve done a terrific job, and I feel just the ordinary anxiety about what’s going to happen to my poor little brainchild, whom I hope many will love as I do.
Is any part of the story based on personal experiences?
That’s tricky. Lots of little bits and pieces along the way. Generally, I grew up in south London, as did Robbie, and we’ve been going down to a cottage between Arthur’s Seat on the Stourhead estate and Cadbury Castly, King Arthur’s castle, as Mags tells Robbie for twenty-five years, which I always felt was a deeply magical place (the cottage overlooks the Somerset Levels, which feature in the book).
Do you ever read the works of other Teen/MG authors? If yes what can you recommend?
Apart from Rowling and Patrick Ness, I drew upon my own favourites: Alan Garner, John Masefield and Barry Hines’s A Kestrel for a Knave (a friend of mine spotted a bit of Jez Butterworth in there, too).
How would you describe The White Hare to pique the interest of a potential reader?
That’s a hard question and something I am still working on! To any readers out there I would say that The White Hare is, at its core, a coming-of-age story. I would love the reader to join me on Robbie and Mags’ journey as they learn about what it means to love in a world where this is the bravest thing a person can do. And if you enjoy my story as I tell it, then I have succeeded in all I set out to do.
Do you ever visit reading groups in schools and libraries? If yes what is the best way to get hold of you?
Not so far, but very happy to do so. You can get in touch with the Publicity Director at Head of Zeus, Suzanne Sangster.