Two interviews in two days – not a bad start! Please see an excerpt from my chat with Missy below, and find the full interview here:
MF: Your website says you write contemporary commercial literary fiction which doesn’t fit into any recognizable genre. Does this create problems in marketing your work? If so, how do you overcome the obstacles?
HJB: I would agree that it is more challenging marketing work that isn’t easily classifiable as a thriller or a romance for example – but these difficulties are offset for me by the pleasure of writing something that isn’t formulaic, of trying to be innovative. Literary fiction is a genre in its own right – perhaps the melting pot of everything that isn’t thriller, romance, YA, sci-fi, fantasy, crime, historical etc and I preface the description with contemporary, as my stories are set in the present time, and commercial because sometimes we think of literary fiction as being quite high-brow and full of words that leave the reader reaching for a dictionary. I try to write with an energy that will engage the reader and keep them moving through the book – I don’t want them to feel bogged down in flowery descriptions, philosophising and obscure vocabulary. So I search for my readers in a number of ways: firstly, there are lot of book-lovers out there who do read voraciously and have an appetite to read something different from what they have read before – who are looking for quirky surprises. Secondly, I look for themes in my books – for instance, Thirty Seconds Before Midnight is a retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth which happens to have a giant land tortoise as a key narrator. His name is Herbert and he has a presence on Facebook – and it turns out there are a lot of tortoise lovers and, indeed, tortoises on Facebook. Herbert has a lot of friends and the book has received some great reviews as a consequence. Equally, I market to people who are interested in the Greek myths and fairy tales and the retelling of them. Herbert will also be starting a blog series soon where he interviews other animal characters from other novels for adults. He also blogs on my website you see!
MF: You say your are “particularly fond of llamas and tortoises.” What makes them so special to you? Are there any other bits of trivia you’d like to share about yourself?
HJB: I’m not quite sure where my love of llamas came from – I’d like to have a couple of them in the garden one day. One of my best ever memories was the gift I gave to my father on his 70th birthday – he, my mother, my boyfriend and I took a llama each for a walk one crisp December morning a couple of years ago in Ashdown Forest in Sussex. It was a wonderful, unforgettable experience – so funny, and each of the llamas had a very distinct character – mine was quite lazy – he always wanted to be at the back of the line, my Dad’s would eat ANYTHING it could… I’ve attached a picture of mine taken on the day for your viewing pleasure! Tortoises I’ve loved a long time and treated myself to a pair – Apollo and Artemis – for my birthday a few years ago. They are currently hibernating in a fridge in Dorset with Cosy Tortoises as I’ve been away a lot this winter and was concerned I wouldn’t be able to check up on them properly myself. I miss them but they’ll be back in a month or so. I’ve been to see giant tortoises in the Galapagos and the Seychelles, and have just returned from Africa where I went to see a colony on Prison Island in Zanzibar that were a present from the Seychelles. Sadly they have to live in a fenced up compound because people keep trying to steal them. Tortoises seem so wise, and actually they are surprisingly clever – and also quite fast at times too! They are very curious creatures and will always come to see what I am doing when I am near them. And they love baths! The other bit of trivia would be a total addiction to Scrabble and also Words with Friends on the iPhone. I seem to have about ten games on the go at any one time and get a rush of pleasure when I play a new word for the first time, or one of my favourites like ‘yurt’ or ‘gnu’. My favourite word ever is ‘kerfuffle’ but that’s nearly impossible to play in Scrabble due to the dearth of f’s.