Welcome to my first author interview!
Every Friday I will post interviews with authors asking questions about their books and writing lives, while allowing my followers and readers to catch a glimpse into the intricate world of literature (through these authors’ responses).
Today’s author, and the first in a hopefully long series, is young writer Hannah Birss, an Ontario native following her passion for writing.
Hannah Birss, or H.E. Birss, as her debut novel Tempered By Fire states, is a new published writer living in Toronto. She is currently attending University and is enjoying the success of her first novel.
Tempered By Fire is a young adult novel that is written in a comic and entertaining tone.
1. At what moment did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was about four years old. I also wanted to be a veterinarian, a fire-fighter, and a person who eats grapes though, so I don’t really know if that counts. I would like to take a moment to say though that I am now a writer AND a person who eats grapes, so in that way, I’m a huge success.
I would say that when I was about fifteen, I decided that I would like to be a writer for a living. I feel like I was a writer a long time before that, but it was at that age that I sat down and decided that it was what I wanted to dedicate my life to.
2. How did you come up with the idea for your debut novel, “Tempered By Fire”?
No writer is an island. I took a lot of inspiration from previous YA books, but what really made me want to write it was that while it would have most of the genre conventions of a YA fantasy, I wanted it to be a comedy. I wanted to make people laugh, and I wanted my book to be different and to stand out that way, so I just kind of went from there.
3. What inspires you?
A better question would be what DOESN’T inspire me. Inspiration is just about everywhere, should you choose to look for it. Writing is as natural as breathing to me. Everything I see or hear is either immediately filed away or woven into a story. I love to make up stories as I go, wherever I am. I have a very vivid imagination.
Someday I’m going to have some extremely satisfied kids at bed-time.
4. What made you decide to be self-published?
There were many things that contributed to my decision to be self published. While I did submit to several agencies and had some favourable interest, as a young writer I’m not exactly the one that agencies want to put their trust into. I don’t have a degree as of yet, I’m not widely published, and I’m an unknown. Agencies and publishers are above all businesses, and they run as such. If something could be risky, they’re probably not going to take that chance. I was pretty darn risky, and I realized that pretty quickly. The number of submissions received in a year are massive, and very few titles are picked up. I decided that I wanted to go ahead and do it myself. I’ve gained a huge appreciation of people in the professional business of publishing. They really have their work cut out for them.
5. What are some of the difficulties you face with writing?
My biggest problem is fear. Fear that it will be poorly received, fear that it won’t make people laugh, fear that it’s just gibberish. I know that my novel isn’t perfect. TBF has typos and grammar mistakes. I’ve never been particularly good at typos – my mind just skips over them, but for many people they’re glaringly obvious. Essentially, when I can admit my own flaws, I start exaggerating them, which kind of just snowballs into this massive fear-yeti that just makes me want to cower under my bed.
Inspiration has never been a problem for me, but sometimes I do worry that I’ll have trouble writing them. While I’m super excited for the second one, which I’ve finished storyboarding and doing research for, the book after that already seems to be putting pressure on me. Impatience is something I have a lot of trouble with, which I combat with procrastination. Probably not the best combination.
I’m really just a big ball of anxiety.
6. How does it feel to be published?
A combination of joy, terror, and just plain old vanilla relief that it’s finally out there and over with.
7. Where do you see yourself ten years from now, writing-wise?
Really, I’d just be thrilled if I could make a living out of it and work from home, wrangling kids and assorted furry things in my spare time. Hopefully I’ll have established a career in writing by then and have a small fan base that I can connect with who share a common love of my characters and their stories.
8. How did you pick your title, “Tempered By Fire”?
To be honest, I have no idea. I know where it came from, because the book directly references it, but I have no idea where or when or how I decided that its title was going to be Tempered by Fire. I remember several other names I was playing around with before I settled on it, but I really don’t know how TBF came to be.
9. What authors inspired you as a kid?
As a kid I pretty much metaphorically devoured every book I could get my hands on.
I loved the Unicorns of Balinor books when I was really young, but then I got into authors like Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, Anne Rice, Stephen King, Patricia C. Wrede, among many others. Now I really enjoy anything by Michael Crichton (I love me some dinos), Ilona Andrews, Kelley Armstrong, Holly Black, and Charles de Lint.
10. If you could give a new writer any advice, what would it be?
I consider myself to be a new writer, and while my blog is all about writing and self-publishing, I still feel unqualified most of the time to give that advice.
As Alice once said “I give myself very good advice, but I seldom often follow it.”
Each individual writer is different.
We each have our own narrative style, our own character development, and our personal preferences or habits. I think the best thing I can say is find what works best for you, and go with it. While advice such as “write every day” and “don’t give up” is wonderful and should be heeded, I think it really all boils down to the reception of the individual. Some people work great with scheduled writing. Some don’t.
Find what works best for you, and stick with it.
Thanks for checking out this week’s interview and stay tuned for next Friday’s interview!
Tempered By Fire:
Check out Hannah’s book on Goodreads: Here
Her writing blog can be found: here