Thursday, May 13, 2010

Interview with Hillary Frank

is the author of the YA Fiction novel
The View From the Top

which was published today!

Visit Hillary's site here.


How does your work as a radio producer affect your writing?

Being a radio producer means I get to meet all kinds of people and hear how they talk. That helps me a lot in creating realistic dialogue. Also, when you're writing for radio you need to be concise. And visual. Both of those things are invaluable skills in fiction writing as well. Even though you have more space to say things in a novel doesn't mean you should take a long time to say it.

What have your experiences doing writing workshops across the nation taught you about writing?

The writers I've taught who have wound up being most successful are the ones who have taken on the hard work of editing their stories. I'm not just talking about one or two rounds of editing. I'm talking about rewriting over and over. Scrapping entire pages or concepts for the sake of making the story better. This is the most important piece of advice that I think I tell anyone in any of my workshops. THE VIEW FROM THE TOP was a completely different book before it became what is published. And before that version there was another version. It's hard to throw out something you've been working on for ages, but often if you do, you have the freedom to create something much better than what you had to begin with.

What do you prefer, writing for radio or writing novels?

I don't like one better than the other. I like to switch back and forth. Radio allows me to work quickly on a deadline and has the benefit of immediate gratification. Novels have the luxury of time. Time to create, time to edit, time to perfect. But writing novels is also a lonely endeavor. Sometimes I like that quietness. But sometimes I like to be out and about, interviewing people for radio. Novels also allow for way more procrastination, which can be a plus and a minus.

What do you do in your spare time, when you're not writing?

Well, right now I am doing a lot of breastfeeding and diaper-changing. My daughter, Sasha, was born in February, so I'm spending my time taking care of her. Before she came along I was knitting a lot. And learning to sew. And I watch a lot of TV. Right now I am very excited about the return of Friday Night Lights.

Why do you choose to illustrate your own books?

For most of my life, I thought I was going to be an artist. An illustrator or graphic designer. But when I was in college, my professors encouraged me to be a writer. I decided that I wanted to combine the two. And not for picture books. I wanted to write and illustrate books for older people. Each time I write a book, I try to think of a new way to incorporate my drawings--in a way that will add meaning to the text, not just be there for decoration. In THE VIEW FROM THE TOP, the idea was to accentuate the sense of loneliness in the book--the feeling that all of the characters have that they're isolated from everyone else.

What do you think is most unique about your writing?

The question I get most from my readers is, Why don't your books have happy endings? What I tell them is, in my experience, real-life conflicts don't end neatly. There are usually loose ends flapping around all over the place, even when a relationship is over for good. I think some teen readers find my approach to endings perplexing because they are used to stories with easy answers. A lot of teens read novels looking for answers to their problems. I know I did. And I actually think that open-ended endings can provide a lot of hope because the reader can fill in the blanks of what happens next.

HILLARY FRANK was interviewed by READING ROCKS on May 13, 2010.

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