Hilary Jane Jones is the author of The Wicked Wood, which was book of the week on the 28th October (which didn't seem that long ago) and I have been able to ask her some questions, here are the answers:
1. MS: Why do you like nature so much?
HJJ:I love the natural world because there is so much beauty in it and because it is NATURAL - it manages to be what it is without interference. From landscapes and seascapes to the creatures that inhabit them I find the whole of nature miraculous. It tends to be us humans who have created ugly blots on the landscape! I marvel as much at the shape, colour and texture of a tiny leaf as I do at the sweeping views from hilltops. I love the exquisite scent of flowers, the sound of water trickling down a stream or crashing against rocks, the wind rustling autumn leaves, and soft white snowflakes falling to cover the earth in a blanket of white. I enjoy watching animals in their natural habitat, and an constantly amazed at how they know instinctively what they need to do to survive: many newborn animals are up and walking within minutes of being born. I love to look closely at nature and let my imagination run wild - as you know from my poetry.
2. MS: Whats your favourite book?
HJJ:“How Green Was My Valley” by Richard Llewellyn - I absolutely love it and have read it many times. I have a very old, battered copy that’s falling apart but I would never part with it.
3. MS: What tips would you give to people who want to write stories-like me?
HJJ:Let your imagination flow freely and write from the heart. Don’t try to copy someone else’s style, just be yourself. Write about things you enjoy, and read as much as you can - fact, fiction, poetry - it all helps to broaden your mind and fire your imagination. I studied English (language and literature) at ‘O’ level and ‘A’ level (didn’t go to university) and this helped too. I think spelling and grammar are important - I find myself getting very frustrated if I have to read something that is full of mistakes BUT when you are writing the first draft of your story it doesn’t matter as much - the most important thing then is to let your imagination flow because you can correct any mistakes when you edit it later.
I used to enjoy entering competitions and won quite a few prizes for short stories and poetry: my best achievement was winning the Sunday Express Children’s Christmas Story Competition when I was 14 (a long time ago!).
4. MS: Would you say boys should read more and play computer games less?
HJJ:Well, I think both reading and computer games can help fire the imagination in different ways BUT with a book you have to use your imagination much more. With a written story it’s up to YOU to decide how a character looks or what a particular place may look like whereas when it’s presented to you on a screen you will only ever have that particular image of it. I find books much more relaxing than computer games (I hardly ever play them by the way - I don’t enjoy them!). It would be a great shame if boys stopped reading books and spent too much time playing computer games - it’s up to writers to keep bringing out good stories so that boys WANT to read them. As with all things, there needs to be a balance.
5. MS: Who would you recommend your book(s) to?
HJJ:‘The Wicked Wood: Part One of The Journey’ (and subsequent books in this series) is enjoyed by children (probably from about age 8), teenagers, and adults because it tells a fantasy story in rhyming verse and is beautifully illustrated with photographs from the natural world. It teases the reader’s imagination, inviting them to look deeply into the photographs to see what their imagination can conjure up. It also makes people look at the natural world around them in a very different and more meaningful way when they go out walking after reading this book.
‘Shirelands’ is the first book in our ‘Dreamscapes’ series: rather than telling a story it is a collection of stunning landscape photographs accompanied by individual poems. Some poems describe the landscape itself, others describe the emotions that the photograph inspires. I would recommend it to anyone who loves the natural world: it is not really a children’s book though there are poems and photographs in there that older children and teenagers would enjoy.