Q&A with author Hannah Moffatt

  1. What inspired you to first start writing? 

I’ve always loved writing. But it was watching Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art speech on YouTube that spurred me on to be an author.

2. How long have you been writing? When did you first start?

Ever since I’ve been able to hold a pencil! I loved writing stories and poems when I was little. But I started writing seriously for children in 2016 when I signed up to a Writing for Children course at City Lit.

3. Can you tell us about your book Small?

Of course! The story follows Harvey a ten-year-old boy who’s had a run of bad luck. When he accidentally sets fire to his headteacher’s trousers and loses his place at school, Mum signs him up to the only place that will take him: Madame Bogbrush’s School for Gifted Giants.

But Harvey’s not a giant, so he has to navigate the ups and downs of starting a new school all while wearing stilts, a top hat, and extra-long trousers!

As well as learning to clomp, stomp and pound things with clubs, Harvey eventually learns that not every bad thing that happens around him (namely, his parents’ divorce) is his fault.

It’s a silly story that’s full of fun, friendship and acceptance.

4. Can you describe your book using only three words?

Daft. Sweet. (Occasionally) disgusting

5. How does it feel being a published author knowing readers are really enjoying your stories?

It’s a total dream come true!

I’d definitely like to meet more readers. My highlight of the year was getting an Instagram message from a mum whose daughter enjoyed Small! and was telling all her friends about it. I’ll keep that message forever.

6. What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

I enjoy writing messy first drafts and fine-tuning final drafts. It’s drafts 2-6 I struggle with, where I’m grappling to get my often rather strange plots to make some kind of sense! That’s when I have the most self-doubt about the whole thing and wonder if I’ll ever finish.

7. What advice would you give to those who are writing their first book?

If you’re writing children’s books, read current children’s books. And get feedback from people who are writing children’s books, too. If that’s not your immediate friends or family, try joining a course or writing group. You’ll get critiques that are more relevant to the market – helping you write stories children will enjoy today, not just copies of books that were popular 30-odd years ago.

I found my critique buddies at City Lit, but I know the Golden Egg Academy also runs a club where you can meet budding authors and get advice from editors.

8. Where is your favourite place to write?

On a beach, somewhere sunny … but I rarely get to do that. Before I moved house this summer, my favourite spot was at the top of the stairs in our maisonette as it got all the afternoon sun. Since moving, I have a whole room to write in, which is just glorious. But truth be told, I can write pretty much anywhere: at home, on holiday, on trains, on laptops, in notebooks. I worry that if I were too fussy about when and where I write, I’d never write anything.

9. Which authors do you most admire and why?

Authors who break the mould and get away with it-like Andy Stanton with his Mr Gum series.

Authors who use humour to say serious things, like Terry Pratchett.

And authors who pack vast amounts of story and meaning into very few words, like Kazuo Ishiguro. The Remains of the Day is one of my all-time favourites. In children’s fiction, I’d put Carlie Sorosiak right up there, too. I thought My Life as a Cat was a near perfect book.

10. What are common traps for new authors?

Once you’re published, I’d say the biggest trap is comparing yourself to other authors … don’t do it! Some books will always get more marketing or more sales or make it onto more ‘best of’ lists than others. You’ll have a much happier life if you cheer for your published friends and champion their books. (And enjoy all of your own achievements too – whether that’s one child being excited to meet you, a nice review on Amazon or simply revelling in the fact that you’ve written a book that people can buy! Someone else’s book getting more love on social media can’t take any of those things away from you.)

The other trap I’ve been in this year – and I’m not entirely sure how to get out of it – is balancing my time. Before getting a book deal, it was easy: I spent every spare moment writing. Since the deal, time’s more of a balancing act. I know I need to do as much as I can to promote Small! But to build a career as an author, I’ve got to write new things, too. I’m not sure I always get that balance right

11. What risks you have taken with your writing that have paid off?

In some ways, I feel like everything about Small! was a risk. My plots err on the side of bonkers and I was worried people would think I’d thrown too much into the story (it’s got giants, hidden fortune tellers and an unspeakable zombie circus). But, luckily, it seems like the daftness, mixed with a good dose of heart has mostly worked. I had a lot of fun writing Small! and it seems to have paid off.

12. If you could spend the day with another author who would you choose and why?

Probably Neil Gaiman, as I think he’d have the most amazing stories to tell about his life and work (and about Terry Pratchett, who I’d have chosen if he were still alive).

13. I believe you’re a Creative Director by day and an author by night. How do you manage both?

That’s right. I do my day job 3 ½ days a week and keep 1 ½ days plus weekends free for writing. It’s a good mix as I feel both jobs balance each other nicely. I’m super-serious for half the week and totally daft for the rest of it!

14. What were your favourite books growing up?

Lots of the Roald Dahl books stayed with me when I was younger. Especially Fantastic Mr Fox and The Witches. Then I discovered Terry Pratchett’s Discworld as a teen and was instantly hooked.

15. Are you writing anything else at the moment? If so, are you able to give us any clues? 

I am. Let’s just say that Harvey’s adventures in the Stinking Sinking Swamp aren’t over yet…

I want to say a huge thank you to Hannah for taking the time to answer my questions and feature on my blog. You can buy Hannah’s book using booksellers, online and of course using any independent local bookshop.

You can follow Hannah on Twitter and Instagram using @MissDePlume


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