About author, Heather Hill: Heather is a Scotland based comedy writer, author and mum of five (not the band). She is one of a rare kind; the rare kind being one of only 0.5% of women who are colourblind. She has been known to leave the house with blue eyebrows on at least one occasion. Her debut novel, ‘The New Mrs D’ is being pitched for film by a British TV comedy producer and Snipper Films.
Three Reasons Why Authors Should Never Give Up
At the age of forty, I was working in an office doing a job I hated. I had been overlooked for promotion or even a pay rise after being instrumental in creating some fantastic money saving administrative tools for the company that weren’t seen as part of my job. I just did them because I could and I offered, thus saving the company thousands of pounds as they were going to have to hire an outside contractor for the work had I not volunteered to do it.
One day, I was standing at a photocopier, making four copies of over four hundred documents for my boss, thinking, ‘what am I doing with my life?’ I thought of all the jobs I’d held over the years and how I had made almost all of them more interesting for myself by doing work outside of what was expected of me – mostly creative stuff – and always underpaid, handing it over to those on far larger salaries than mine with a smile and a ‘here, have this.’
That afternoon, I quit my job.
More recently, (and after I had finished my first book), I watched Steve Jobs talking about the pathway to success in his address to Stamford on YouTube. He said, ‘you’ve got to find what you love.’ He talked about how all the courses and jobs he had done in his adult life, no matter how insignificant he thought they were at the time, had played some small part in his pathway to success. He said, ‘you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.’
I began to connect my dots.
I began to think of all the jobs I’d ever done and all of my life experiences to date and a little girl of eight or nine who used to write short stories that her father loved so much, he encouraged her to submit them to publications. None of them made the grade and her father died when she was fifteen, taking with him all those magnificent ideas that she could write things people might like to publish. It was twenty five years before she remembered them. She, was me.
And if you are reading this now with interest, she is also YOU.
So, to my three reasons why authors should never give up:
- Because no one can make you give up except yourself and you’re not going to do that, are you?
- Because if you are a true writer, all you can think about doing with your life is writing. And as Steve Jobs said, ‘you have to find what you love.’ If you have found what you love and it serves you well, you should never let it go.
- Because if you are lucky enough to have been blessed with a talent, you should spend every day in gratitude for it and you have absolutely no right not to use it.
Good luck, fellow writers!
Describe your writing style in five words: Conversational, comedic, acerbic, stream-of- consciousness, observational.
Have you always wanted to be an author? Not at all. I always loved to write but never believed I had it in me to be a writer until I hit what I can only describe as a ‘what am I doing with my one and only life’ crisis at forty. Up until then it was my dearest wish to be a nurse, but I failed the course miserably in my twenties.
What is your writing/editing/publishing process like? I am most definitely a night owl as for whatever reason, it is when my head hits the pillow for some much needed sleep that ideas start to hit me. More recently, I realised I was spending too much time on my bahookie (that’s Scottish for ‘bum’) and so bought myself a treadmill to give myself a workout every day. I’ve now discovered I get my best ideas on the treadmill. Like getting off it.
Editing is a way too slow process for me. I’ve been editing my latest book now for over six months which is shocking. But I do feel I have to put my completed manuscript aside for a good while before I can really look at it again with fresh eyes and see all the clangers. So in truth, the best way to really describe my editing process is laughing out loud at my clangers for four months before thinking, ‘ooh, I better get on with this.’
Hard/paperbacks or eBooks? I have loved books for my entire life. The smell, the feel, the joy of spending hours and hours in a book shop or library – you can’t beat any of it so yes, the hard copy wins every time for me. Having said that, the ebook is a Godsend when you have very little money, as new writers often do. You have to do what Stephen King advises when you are a writer: read. Write. Read. Read. Read. Write. Read. There is no doubt that since ebooks came about I am now able to afford so many more books and have exactly what I want in my hand the minute I think of it. That is pretty intoxicating stuff.
At what time of day do you think you work best? Night time. I’m either a vampire or an owl, because my mind seems to come alive at night, even though I do feel tired. But I’d die if I ever found a dead mouse in my bed so I must be a vampire…
Tell us about what a typical day is like for you: I’m a mum of five, although three have now grown up and left home so I now hold down no less than four jobs. I write, I spend time promoting my writing, I supplement my income with some blog writing for businesses and I look after my eighteen-month old grandson while my eldest daughter goes out to work. So my writing is a luxury, most often left for after hours as it is hard to think of new comedy plot lines while there’s toddler running all round the room shouting ‘biscuit!’ at you. Although the shape sorter lid he often wears as a hat does help with the comedy thought process.
How do you come up with the title of your book, The New Mrs. D? Confession time: I didn’t. It’s a long story but I had a very dear friend, who I actually met on Twitter, who encouraged me to write a book after telling me how much my jokes cheered his day. You see, he was dying of cancer when we began conversing and has since passed away. His name was Hywel Jones, but he told me he was adopted and his birth name was David Dando. I travelled 200 miles to visit him just days before he died and promised to name a character in the novel he had encouraged me to write in it. When the book was finished, I named it ‘Mrs David Dando’ – the premise being that the main character had completely assumed the name of her husband, thus relinquishing her own identity in marriage. (She would drop this in the end). But my agent advised me to change the title, eventually coming up with ‘The New Mrs D’ herself when my other ideas, such as ‘Elle McPherson Stole My Body’ just didn’t work.
What is your favorite part about being an author? It is being able to take an idea from the deepest recesses of your mind and share it with a wider audience. Even when the feedback isn’t complimentary, I still get a buzz knowing someone in Australia sat one day reading my book. No matter where I end up in life, I wanted to write and I reached readers around the world. I will always feel grateful for that.
Is the social media a help or a hinder? It can be both if you let it. But I began writing after opening a Twitter account, tweeting random funny thoughts and jokes from my own head and cultivated quite a good following. Then I was voted one of the funniest women on Twitter by The Huffington Post and I thought, ‘wow, I can make people laugh.’ So, my writing career was actually born out of social media so I would have to say a big, BIG, help.
Every author must have (a): Huge shoulders for shrugging off criticism. It is so hard putting your ideas, creative work and thoughts out into that big, wide world which has suddenly become much smaller thanks to the internet. Now every man and his dog can leave you a scathing review and no matter who you are, they can hurt if you aren’t able to develop a good, healthy attitude to it. I firmly believe the fear of being criticised stops many people from even attempting to write a book and that is a real shame. You have to remember that you can’t please everyone and it is a rare writer indeed who can produce books every ardent reader on the planet will love. Comedy in particular is very, very subjective. Writing takes inordinate passion… and with inordinate passion comes inordinate criticism. You have to not let it sway you away from the path of doing what you love. Who wants to die thinking, ‘what if I’d tried?’ Not me. Not you.
What do you want your readers to take away from your books? With ‘The New Mrs D’ I genuinely hoped to make people think and open up quite a taboo subject for debate. It is about porn addiction and only shows one woman’s opinion of that and how it has affected her. I am the first to admit that her reaction isn’t how everyone would react, but it is after all a representation after months and months of research on how women are coping with discovering their husband’s porn use on the internet. I talked to many women who have been afraid to admit, even to their closest friends, that they felt threatened enough by it to leave. The other aspect is having a character with huge personality flaws and who marries a man in haste. I got a lot of criticism about that. People saying, ‘why would any woman be that dumb?’ I can assure you it is neither dumb, nor as unusual as you might think. It is a point that I think puts people off when they begin reading the book. But characters aren’t interesting to me unless they are as flawed as real people.
What are you working on right now? It is a fast-paced, fun-filled tale about three widows in their sixties, who decide to try and get a reading from a world famous psychic medium for one last message from their late husbands. After failing to be chosen at the show which was to be his last before retiring, they embark on a road trip to his house on the Isle of Islay in Scotland to beg him to do one last reading… and end up accidentally kidnapping him.
Blurb: Four days into their honeymoon in Greece, Bernice and David Dando have yet to consummate their marriage and after having accepted his almost non-existent desire for sex throughout the relationship, Bernice finally discovers the reason; he is addicted to porn. Learning that the love of her life chooses the cheap thrill of fantasy over her is devastating but then, ‘every man does it; it’s just looking, right?’ If she leaves the relationship because of virtual adultery, will she be labelled as pathological, overreacting, or even worse, frigid?
When funny, feisty, forty-something Bernice plans the adventure trip of a lifetime, she doesn’t expect to be spending it alone. But as it turns out, unintentionally contributing to a Greek fish explosion, nude karaoke and hilarious misadventures with volcanoes are exactly what she needs to stop fretting about errant husbands and really start living. But when Mr D tries to win her back, Bernice has a decision to make: is this a holiday from her humdrum life, or the start of a whole new adventure?
‘Why are you alone?’
The question came from a little girl sat at the next table with her parents –who were both engrossed in the game. She had long dark hair, green eyes and peered at me polishing off the last of my meal over small, round glasses. Pretending not to notice she was speaking to me, I ignored her and waved to get the waiter’s attention.
‘Could I have some water please?’ I said, pointing to my glass and giving him a wink, in case it was international waiter/customer language or something. After dinner and one half of a carafe of wine, I was beginning to think I might need scissors to get the crushing Spanx pants off later. And wasn’t I supposed to be cleansing myself of all this boozy living?
‘Well, why are you?’ the little girl continued to question me.
I looked at her and forced a smile. ‘Because that’s the way I like it,’ I said.
She continued to stare without blinking, making me shift in my seat like a Mastermind contestant on their fourth pass.
‘What happens just before a man…’
BEEP BEEP BEEP!
‘I’ve started so I’ll finish! …ejaculates?’
‘Ooh… err… I used to know this one! Oh, it’s been a long time… Erm… Oh, pass!’
‘Evie!’ The brusque voice of the little girl’s mother brought me back to reality. ‘Don’t be so rude! I’m so sorry.’ The woman smiled at me before turning Evie back round to face her. ‘Leave the poor lady alone.’
The words, ‘poor lady’ stung a little. It was how I must have looked – a poor, lonely lady.
Sighing, I picked up my handbag and headed for the toilets. As I checked my reflection, I reaching into my handbag for some lipstick, but instead found some kind of wire coiled inside. I tugged on it and out popped a bulbous object I recognised. Oh for heaven’s sake! I’d dropped the damn pelvic toner in my bag! I pulled the machine out and stared at the cone, wondering if this was a sign telling me I was to be condemned to Slack Vaginasville for forgetting today’s session. Maybe I could just nip back to the apartment after my meal and have an early one? I could phone Suzy while I was squeezing. Urgh, noooo. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Anyway, could I hold a vaginal cone in for twelve minutes without a toilet break after a half carafe of wine? Deciding against it, I shoved it back into my bag, which I threw over my shoulder, checked my hair in the mirror and hurried back outside.
As I strolled back to my table, there was a tug at my shoulder.
‘What’s that thing?’ It was Evie, and the cheeky little minx was tugging on my handbag!
Turning to see what she was referring to, I froze on the spot. To my horror, I realised she was pulling on the wire from the pelvic toner, which was hanging out of my half-closed bag.
‘Get off that!’ I hissed. ‘Don’t you know it’s rude to…’
‘Wow! What is that?’
As the entire thing came free into her hands, she stood gazing at the cylindrical bulb in wonderment. It was time to think up some very clever explanation and fast. However, I was pants at that.
‘It’s a… it’s a…’
Looking around the taverna it was clear everyone was – thankfully – focussed on the football, which by now had now kicked off.
‘It’s a mini karaoke machine,’ I lied. ‘But it’s broken, so give it back to me please.’
‘A karaoke? Oh, I love singing! Can I have a go?’
‘Well, you could but as I said, it’s broken so…’
She rolled the vaginal cone around in her hands, fiddled with the buttons on the monitor and stared back up at me. ‘How is it broken?’
‘See, there’s no music. Now if you’ll just give it to m…’
‘Mummy, look at me! This lady gave me a microphone! She wants to hear me sing! Can I?’
Her mother was still engrossed in the TV and without turning waved a hand at her. ‘Okay, that’s lovely Evie, now shhh!’
’Water for you?’
My waiter had appeared, giving Evie the chance to break away, skipping round the back of the tables holding the vaginal bulb to her mouth as a makeshift microphone.
‘BAYBEE, BAYBEE, BAYBEE OHHHH!’
I looked at the waiter, who was now watching her with a bemused look on his face.
‘Please,’ I said, grasping his arm. ‘I’m actually feeling a little sick. Do you mind if I cancel the rest of this order and just pay my bill?’
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