Interrogating children's author Will Hadcroft
How do you strike the balance between writing something you want to write and writing something that people want to read, in terms of the compromises you make, if any?
It can be hard keeping the balance. At the time I was sketching out the general ethos for my Anne Droyd series for children, I was obsessing about a remark that I heard playwrite Dennis Potter make. He said he if were writing the type of dramas he was famous for, that push the envelope and make the audience ask awkward questions, now, producers and editors would be showing him the door. They want “safe” material that pushes the buttons of predictability. Interestingly, one literary agent rejected Anne because they felt the presence of real life issues (bullying, children experimenting with smoking, the religious worldview versus the secular worldview) got in the way of the story. My business mind says get rid of the issues that might make the reader feel uncomfortable, but my heart agrees with Dennis Potter – sometimes people need to think about things they don’t want to think about. Of course, no child has ever objected to the presence of real life issues. They are brighter than some people think.
What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in?
I love taking something extraordinary and unbelievable and dropping it into the real and otherwise mundane. The BBC TV series Doctor Who is very good at juxtaposing the fantastical with the everyday, and I was inspired by the writing of American writer/producer Kenneth Johnson who gave us the television series of The Incredible Hulk (the Banner/Hulk character dealt with realistic people in normal circumstances, as opposed to the mutations, monsters and military of the comic book). A lot of this sort of thing informs they style of my Anne Droyd series. I’m also keen on symbolic works and allegories. The surreal TV programme The Prisoner was the starting point for my teen novel The Blueprint.
Do you have a box, drawer, folder etc where you keep thoughts and ideas for future stories? Such as names you have come across, bits of dialogue, ideas, characters - even if you have no idea when you might use them?
I have a shoebox! I’m always on the lookout for names. Television credits are a good source for surnames. Sometimes I name check family and friends and name characters after them. I’ve also named characters after fans that have been especially loyal. For years I had this idea of someone, perhaps a court prosecutor or judge, saying, “This society holds you in contempt,” and the main character replying, “That’s all right. I hold this society in contempt.” I suppose I imagined myself saying it to some authority figure. That exchange finally found its way into The Blueprint. So, while I always have a plot or a character in mind when I start a new book, those other incidental bits may have been floating around the back of my mind for years.
How much of you is in your characters? Which of your characters is the you that you’d most like to be? Or be with ?
In the case of Anne Droyd, I’d say that she represents the autistic, analytical side of my nature (I have Asperger’s syndrome). Gezz is the sensible, moral side of me, and Malcolm is the philosopher in me. Luke represents everything I wasn’t when I was a boy – cool, trendy, confident, and materialistic. As for Liam in The Blueprint, I would say he is quite close to me as a personality.
Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that your spouse wonders if they're married to you or one of your characters?
It’s more a case of wondering if I’m listening. I am fortunate to have a wife who understands that I will be “absent” a lot of the time while I’m working on a book. To produce a piece of meaningful writing, there’s quite a bit of daydreaming and solitude involved. Thankfully, she appreciates that fact.
What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?
I like imaginative stories with an emotional heart. I have to care what happens to the characters. So, I try to imbue my own works with the same appeal.
To what lengths do you go to convince readers that your book has the X factor?
Well, the “x” in the x factor is that indefinable something that you can’t put your finger on that separates the work from its rivals, so it’s hard to identify it. But I would say I endeavour to make it feel real, no matter how farfetched the premise. I like to give my characters vocal mannerisms that real people have. Sometimes I take them from people I know or have met. For example, Mabel in Anne Droyd and the House of Shadows says “my pet” at the end of every sentence. I got that from a young saleswoman who sold me a car!
How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?
I get irritated. Not because they pointed it out, but because it’s there to be found. It means I as the author missed it, my test readers missed it, my editor missed it, and my proofreader missed it. That’s a lot of people! But it’s inevitable, and you have the chance to correct the errors if the publisher puts out a new edition at a later date.
What do you like most about visiting KUF?
The enthusiasm for books, and the site’s moderators who are friendly toward writers like me who have a small but loyal following.
What is on your near horizon?
Anne Droyd III, Anne Droyd and the Ghosts of Winter Hill. It’s written and edited, the artwork is terrific. We’re just waiting for it to come back from the typesetter, then we’re away!
Where can we find you for more information?
My blog web site www.willhadcroft.com, Amazon UK and USA, Goodreads, and I have some video presentations on YouTube as well.