Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Author Interview with Mary Hooper (face to face)

At the beginning of this month, I was very lucky to be able to meet Mary Hooper for the second time at her visit to my school. She is one of my favourite authors and although I wasn't allowed to take time out of my lessons to listen to her talk to the younger years as I did last year, I did get the opportunityy to get her latest book, Fallen Grace signed and interview her in person. Very exciting! To interview her, I stayed behind with a friend to watch her officially open my school's new library extension so the questions are a mix between mine and hers. Interviewing face to face (with a recording) was a fantastic experience because it was like a chat and Mary is a lovely person. So without further ado, I am very happy to be able to introduce Mary with the answers to our questions here today!

Note: I do have some photos from the event but they have other people from school in them so I can't post them for privacy reasons.

Interviewer: What is your favourite thing about writing YA historical fiction?

Mary: All the things I find out along the way.

Interviewer: What time period do you most enjoy writing about?

Mary: Ooh, I’d say 17th century.

Interviewer: How do you research your books to get your descriptions accurate to create a period feeling?

Mary: It’s a long answer isn’t it? Well, library first, and then the Internet, personal visits to places, talking to people, all sorts of bits, reading old newspapers from the time, that sort of thing. 

I never actually noticed
the skull in her eye

Interviewer: What’s your favourite cover out of all of your books?

Mary: Ooh, I think probably At the Sign of the Sugared Plum, I like the skull.

Interviewer: Yeah, I like that one too but all of yours are wonderful.

Mary: It’s good, isn’t it?!

Interviewer: I have The Fever and the Flame [At the Sign of the Sugared Plum and Petals in the Ashes] edition.

Mary: Oh have you?

Interviewer: Who is your favourite real life historical character and who would you most like to meet?

Mary: Oh, Charles Dickens [Featured in Fallen Grace] definitely.

Interviewer: I thought it might be him.

Mary: Mind you, I quite like the idea of Nell Gwyn {featured in Petals in the Ashes] as well; I think she might have been fun.

Interviewer: Is there a story behind Velvet’s [main character in Mary Hooper’s new book, Velvet] name because I remember on Facebook you were asking for ideas.

Mary: Yes. No, I just looked at a list of Victorian girls names and got it off the list, I just loved it, and my editor loved it and we decided she could be the title of the book and it was such a nice name.

Interviewer: Yeah, I like it to.

Can you tell us any more about Velvet (featured in Velvet]?

Mary: Only that, she goes to work for, first of all she’s working for a spleen laundry and she then goes to work for a medium, who’s crooked, but Velvet doesn’t know that.

Interviewer: How would you feel if Fallen Grace was shortlisted for the Carnegie medal this year?

Mary: I’d love it to be shortlisted, I’d love it.

Interviewer: Have you got any ideas for your next book yet?

Mary: Yes, I think it’s going to be, I think it might be 18th century, which I haven’t tried before, and I think it’s going to feature the Hulks, I think I mentioned this on my Facebook page. The Hulks were prison ships on the Thames, they kept a sort of overflow of prisoners, especially before they sent them to colonise Australia, you know, that was one of the punishments in prison, that they would deport them, that was a valid punishment. I think that that will only be part of it but it should be interesting.

Interviewer: Which of your characters would you most like to meet, including the ones from your contemporary books as well?

Mary: I’d probably like to meet Grace [Fallen Grace]. She’s a very enterprising girl.

Interviewer: What got you started in writing?

Mary: What got me started? Writing short stories, which are a very good way for anyone to start, because it gives you good practice at writing. Yeah, short stories. And I did lots and lots of short stories and sold them and then moved onto doing serials. And you know, once you’ve done a serial for a magazine it’s almost like the same length as a book.

Interviewer: Where is your favourite place to write?

Mary: Just in my spare room. Surrounded by bits, bits and pieces, and pictures, all sorts of things I collect.

Interviewer: Have you any tips for budding writers?

Mary: Oh, tips for budding writers. I always say the best thing is to read as much as you possibly can because it’s quite rare for anyone of your age to be able to write a whole book. Na also you haven’t got the experience of life, whereas, you know, when you’ve been around as long as I have, you have. So, you know, while you’re waiting to be old enough to write I think, read, read, read.

Interviewer: What types of books do you like to read in your spare time?

Mary: I tend to read historical books, factual and fiction, anything historical really.

Interviewer: Are any of your family interested in books?

Mary: Any of my family? Well my children. My son’s just written a book and that’s the only connection I think. He’s much more science fiction, his book is science based, much more learned than mine.

Interviewer: Who is your favourite author?

Mary: It changes, you know, it changes all the time according to who I’m reading, it’s usually Charles Dickens, a good cover-all.

Interviewer: What were your favourite childhood books?

Mary: I really used to like, and still do, Just William books, have you ever read them? They’re excellent.

Interviewer: Is there another particular person or author who’s inspired you in your writing at all?

Mary: No, not really. Just a case of seeing if you can do it, you know, if you want to do something it’s always worth having a try because, you know, so what if you fail. So yeah, always try.

Thank you very much for doing the interview, Mary, I really enjoyed it! I really like the sound of the ideas for the book you are working on next as I love the eighteenth century.

If you haven't read any of her books before, I really recommend that you look them up because she is one of my favourite authors and introduced me to historical fiction, which is why I love it so much today. I reviewed her latest book, Fallen Grace, which has just been released in the US back in July on this blog so you could start with that as I loved it. Her new book, Velvet,  is being published by Bloomsbury in the UK in September this year (I can't wait!) but the cover has not yet been revealed. Here's the synopsis:

Velvet is a laundress in a Victorian steam laundry. With both her mother and father dead, she is an orphan and has to rely upon her own wits to make a living. The laundry is scalding, back-breaking work and Velvet is desperate to create a better life for herself. Then Velvet is noticed by Madame Savoya, a famed medium, who asks Velvet to come to work for her. Velvet is dazzled at first by the young yet beautifully dressed and bejewelled Madame. But soon Velvet realises that Madame Savoya is not all that she says she is, and Velvet's very life is in danger ...A romantic and thrillingly exciting new novel from an acclaimed and much-loved historical writer for teens

Doesn't it sound fantastic- the Victorian era, an orphan and romance? Yes please :)

Above- Signed copy of Fallen Grace and two pretty Mary Hooper bookmarks


  1. Velvet sounds amazing!
    Aren't you lucky! I love Fallen Grace, it was great. Wow- I ENVY YOU!

  2. So very cool that you got to interview her in person!! Agreeing with Ria about Velvet - love that as a book title and plus the premise sounds promising :)

  3. Ah, I loved it when she came in. Velvet sounds slightly too romantic for me, but I'll read it. Yes, just becuase of the mediums involved. You know me :-)
    Nina xxx


I love comments, they make me smile! So thank you for taking the time to write one, I read all of them.
I try my best to reply here or on your blog :)

Stephanie x