Hello again, friends! Today we’re bring you something really special – an interview with author Harriet Springbett! If you haven’t seen our last post yet, check it out to learn a bit more about Harriet’s novel – Tree Magic – and to hear more about the ideas behind it!
We were interested in learning a bit more about Harriet’s writing style and her tips for aspiring writers, so she was kind enough to give us a bit of an insight into her writing world! Enjoy!
What does your usual writing routine look like? Do you prefer a particular place to write in? What time of the day do you get the most writing done?
I started to take writing seriously in 2005 and an integral part of that decision was to allocate myself a specific writing time and then stick to it. I’m definitely a morning writer – this is when I have the most ideas and energy – so I write every weekday morning. Having a routine makes it easier to treat writing as a job. I think about my story and take notes at other points during the day (and night) too, but this is bonus time. My regular evening runs even count as work time, as this when I play through new scenes in my head. It’s often the best time to solve my characters’ conflicts.
Sunlight is very important to me, and I tend to follow the sun around the house, sitting to write where I can see outside – or sitting outside whenever possible. This means there are tables every room. My current favourite place to write is in my tiny dressing room, squeezed between hangers of clothes, just because it has a huge window, the morning sun and a view over lots of spring flowers.
What was the most difficult part about writing Tree Magic, and would you do anything differently when writing your next novel?
Finding a title was difficult, but my longest challenge came from settling on the best approach to creating the novel. I’m totally fascinated by the creative process in general, and I love discovering parallels between writing and other arts. My first (bottom drawer) novel was tightly plotted and didn’t leave enough room for creativity. So I decided to let Tree Magic (my second novel) grow organically. This was more fun, but it required massive editing. My latest novel, Red Lies, White Lies, is a combination of the two methods, and I feel much happier about this. I’ve used the same approach for my current novel: I’ve plotted the main motivations and conflicts but have left room for the characters to do what they must within this framework.
The most complicated technical aspect when writing Tree Magic was probably finding the right voice for Rainbow’s age as her story progresses: she’s 13 at the beginning and 18 at the end, and teenagers change a lot between those two ages. My own kids were very young at the time and I had their voices around me all day, so this didn’t help. They’re teenagers now, so I feel very in tune with the YA books I’m reading and writing at the moment.
If there was one thing you could change about the publishing industry, what would it be?
That’s an interesting question, as the poor publishers have already had to cope with huge changes over the last 10 years. As an idealist, I guess I would replace the big publishing houses with a multitude of small publishers, all with equal resources. That would make the whole sector fairer – but it sounds rather Animal Farm-ish, doesn’t it?
Do you prefer the writing or the editing stage?
I love thinking up ideas and pulling them together to make a story in my head, and I love editing. The actual writing is the hard part for me. It’s where you have to take risks. I’m a very slow writer because it takes time to get into my fictional world and make the decisions for my characters using the right words. Although this part can be laborious, scary and fill me with self-doubt, it is also the most exciting part. It’s when the magic happens. It’s when the characters pick up the scent of the story and run with it.
To help myself through this long part, I often stop writing in the middle of a scene. This makes it easier to pick up the next day. I start every session by reading back to the beginning of the scene and editing a little, to get back into the swing of it, and then I continue writing. It’s a big mistake to finish at the end of a scene, so I start a new one, even if I know I’ll change it all the next day. As a Jodi Picoult once said: “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?
I’ve learnt so much over the past 12 years that it’s difficult to find just one piece of advice. I guess I would tell them to write short stories before attacking a novel. The turnaround time is faster, so you can learn from your mistakes more quickly and have fun experimenting until you’re clear about how and what you write. Only then, once your training has warmed you up, should you embark on the marathon of a novel.
Thanks to Harriet Springbett for answering our questions and giving us an insight into her writing methods! These tips have been really useful, and we’ll definitely be using them in our own writing endeavours. Don’t forget to pick up a copy of Tree Magic!
Tree Magic by Harriet Springbett
Rainbow’s magic hands can shape trees at her will, but her gift is dangerous and has fatal consequences.
From England to France, through secrets, fears and parallel worlds, Rainbow’s journey to understand her powers takes her beyond everything she’s ever known.
To find the truth, she must also find herself.