Serina Hartwell Author of Hidden Answers Five Questions



English author Serina Hartwell's novel Hidden launches a multi-book fantasy saga featuring a family that appears to straddle two worlds - one a suburban or rural Earth community, the other a fantasy realm.
What inspired your novel?

One day I had an urge to have a go at writing something. I just wondered if I could do it, the compulsion really strong. I sat down at an old computer that a friend had given me – a big bulky tower set up in an awkward place – and wrote a couple of pages. I started striking the keys, instantly finding a storyline. The weirdest thing, but it felt natural and comfortable. It got interrupted and I never went back to it.

Soon after, the computer died and that was that. The urge remained, it grew in strength; on a handful of occasions in my life, I’ve had dreams that have been so profound, they have not only stayed with me, but marked a significant point in my life. I now dreamt about writing in this way.

Waiting for the right moment was emotional. The burst of excitement, all the more concentrated by the anticipation, found its opportunity one August day in 2010. Everything fell into place that day; I had some free time with no interruptions, borrowed a family laptop and headed down the garden. I feel the butterflies now, like holding a winning lottery ticket on a windy day. One false move and the whole thing could be a disaster. I opened a Word document and began typing. I wrote the opening chapter of Hidden. I haven’t looked back.

You can check out some of my specific inspirations at my Pinterest.

To be honest, I thought [main protagonist] Bronte was too young for YA at the outset of your first book in the series, Hidden. But look at Mark Twain's fiction - he pitched Tom Sawyer originally as a book for adults, and his publishers said "No, we should pitch it at children." and he's regarded as one of the figureheads of American literature today.

Haha. Those were my sentiments exactly.

Because I knew where I was going with it, I knew that the next book would be a problem if I aimed it too low, plus the story is too complex for younger children. I'm aiming it at the lower end of YA through to adult. I was going to start them off as adults, but knew there was a story leading up to where I intend to start the saga.

I didn't want to miss out. I did consider only briefly visiting their childhood and then moving on to where we start with them in Trapped, but again, the story wouldn't let me.

It turned out to be much bigger than I imagined in the beginning. Once you start, once you open that floodgate, the story will take you to where it wants to go. You should never fight that, because that is part of the process.

Even if it undermines the potential for a big readership?

Have you ever been to the cinema with a child and watched something like The Incredibles or Despicable Me?  As you sit in the audience, watching what is essentially a children's movie, you will look around and see the adults laughing even harder than the kids.

The creator of the movie was clever enough to put enough in for both audiences.
I read Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga before writing my saga, and found that she provoked feelings in me, emotions that I hadn't felt as a child. I had buried them as redundant.

When I began writing, I had no idea what the story was going to be, or where it was going to take me, because really, this is my journey that I am sharing with the world. I only knew that I was going to do my best to draw on as many emotions as possible, because I personally wanted to relive what I'd just rediscovered.

I wanted to hate and laugh and fall in and out of love again. I wanted to explore the real aspects of bullying, which is something I have to deal with every day as part of my day job [working in a school as a librarian and counsellor addressing children’s social and emotional problems].

Really, I was just being selfish in some respects, because I write and explore what I want to or need to and I suppose this is just my way of sharing complex issues with the world.

The first book is aimed low, and the main theme is love, friendships, being on the cusp of becoming a teenager and stretching those boundaries for all they are worth.

Bullying, discovery and yet still being a child.

I've aimed it as low as being suitable for a 12 year old, and they will identify with and take from it what they need, but for the older end of YA and even adults, they will be taken back, hopefully, like I was, and allowed to explore these emotions again.
My inspiration came from so many places, but this was my motivation.

What about how long it takes for you to write? What’s your process?

On average, I will write three to five thousand words in a single session. If I write less then I'm having a bad writing day.

My record is 7000 ish, in a day, but it was really flowing

The most I've ever written at once was 60,000 in 12 days. That's for my third book, The 
Awakening, by the way.

But then I ran out of holiday, I had to go back to work and lost all that amazing writing energy. It's so precious when it comes.

And what about drafting? How many of those 7000 words are going to be read by your readers?

It comes from the heart. If I don't like it when I'm typing it, then I'll go do something else until I'm in the right frame of mind. I do, however, do many rewrites.

I like to look for shopping lists, and I like to look through all my bad habits. Ha!

I have many and I'm starting to learn what they are now, but that's how I teach myself to write, through trial and error. Through making the adjustments, I find that it becomes learnt and I'm far less likely to make that mistake again, unless it's ingrained and then even a nuclear bomb wouldn't shift that.

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Serina Hartwell's saga begins with Hidden, and continues with its sequel, called Trapped. Hidden can be found here on Amazon.