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Interview with Mary Hooper

*Interview from 2011*

Mary Hooper has written over 70 books for children and young adults. No wonder she says that there’s never enough time to indulge in writer’s block!

Why do you write?

Writing is the only thing I’ve ever been any good at. Reading about real people inspires me… now that I’m writing historical fiction and doing lots of research, I keep finding wonderful characters like Nell Gwyn, Claude Duval, Aphra Behn and Dr John Dee… all of whom had amazingly interesting lives. I love finding out more about them and giving them parts in my books.

Describe the route to your first novel being published…

I always knew I wanted to write for teenagers, so I started by writing lots of short stories for the teenage magazines. This was a good grounding for developing characters and sustaining tension; a short story is like a book in miniature. When I had a fair number of short stories published, I moved on to serials, then on to books.

When did you first know you would be a success?

It’s difficult to measure whether you’re successful or not. Is it when you have x number of books published, when everyone knows your name, when you win prizes or when you’re very rich? Only the first one applies to me!

Do you have an agent? How have they helped you?

My agent is Rosemary Canter, one of the big-name agents. Difficult to know where I’d be without her, because even when you‘ve established a good relationship with your publishers, agents do the difficult stuff talking about money and contracts, thus ensuring that the relationship between you and your editor is unsullied. And of course agents are there as a first screen between you and your publisher, so if you’ve got something completely wrong, they’ll tell you.

Do you write on a computer or long-hand?

Certainly a computer! I know many authors still write by hand, but with a computer it’s so much easier to chop and change and fiddle with your work. First I read what I’ve written the day before, then I change it (good tip: you’ve got to get it wrong, to get it right) and then change again, and again, until it’s probably back to how it was in the beginning. When I’ve gone through it about five times and am fairly satisfied, I start the next section.

As an author, what else do you do connected with your books?

I wouldn’t know how to maintain my own website, Mary Hooper Online. I do quite a lot of school visits, however, so much so that they rather eat into my writing time. I occasionally do author signings – at one of them, memorably, I sold one book in two hours.

What could be the next big thing in your writing career?

My younger books, Two Naughty Angels, have three times been optioned by film companies, the last time by Disney who actually had a script written. The writers’ strike in the USA intervened, however, and Disney went off the boil.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?

There is never enough time to indulge in writer’s block. If I get stuck, I write anything (see motto above) and then when I look at it the next day, it’s easier to see what’s wrong with it and what I should have written.

Is there a book you would have liked to have written?

Harry Potter.

Mary Hooper has written over 70 books for children and young adults. Her latest is The Betrayal (Bloomsbury), the third and last book in the At the House of the Magician series.

‘Fallen Grace’, was published by Bloomsbury in June 2010.

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