Monday, June 20, 2011

Interview: Nigel Hinton

YA Titles:

Walk the Wild Road Summary:

Leo took one step forward and then stopped. This was it-the road away from everything he knew. He could turn back. But then who would save his family from starvation? No, Leo was their last hope. He must go on...

The journey is not easy-he'll have to sleep on the streets, steal food, and even fight off greedy soldiers. Along the way, Leo discovers the kindness of strangers and the loyalty of friends. But he also learns there are some people you just can't trust, especially when you're on the wild road to America. -- Goodreads


Describe Walk the Wild Road in three words.

Here are three words which other people have used about the book - Moving. Epic. Gripping.  I can only hope they are true.

The Preface says that there's a legend in your family that your grandfather left home when he was young, but this isn't his story. Since the story came from this legend, what sort of research did you do for the book?

I read a lot about Poland’s history, notably God’s Playground by Norman Davies. As background for peasant life I read Stanislaw Reymont's four volume masterpiece, The Peasants. I researched my own family history, as far as possible, on the internet. I then went to Poland and found my grandfather’s tiny village and I traveled the 200 mile route that I imagined he took from there to the Baltic Sea.

You've written other historical fiction novels, what drew to write historical fiction?

The only other novel I have written which can be considered historical is Time Bomb, which is set in 1949 in the part of London where I grew up. In that book I wanted to record a world and a way of life which has totally disappeared during my lifetime and which allowed children the possibility of freedom and exposure to danger which is rarely found nowadays. As for Walk The Wild Road the starting point – my grandfather’s experience – obliged me to set it in 1870. I certainly loved having to imagine that ‘foreign place’ which is the Past.

What's your writing process (do you generally go through a lot of drafts and revisions, are you part of writing group, etc.)?

Yes, I do an enormous amount of re-writing which, as much as anything in my case, comes down to cutting and making more simple. I am looking for the most direct and shortest way of saying things. The stripped-down style of writers like John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway is what I’ve always wanted to emulate.

I work in that solitary state of being alone with my ideas and writing. I would not be very good in a writing group situation – I need to concentrate on my own vision. On the other hand, when I write screenplays I really enjoy the collaborative process and have written a number of scripts with another writer. In that particular case I think we bring out the best in each other.

How did you approach editors to get Walk the Wild Road published?

I gave the manuscript to my agent and she approached possible editors.

Were you an avid reader as a teen, and what were your favorite books?

I have been an avid reader at every stage of my life but my teen years, especially 15-19, were probably those when I read the least, being caught up with other pursuits: sports and girls. Nonetheless I still read regularly. I loved sci-fi books by people like John Wyndham, and popular blockbusters such as Gone With The Wind, Peyton Place, The Man In The Grey Flannel Suit. I was very much in love with America and American culture in my teens. And, of course, Steinbeck and Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald were ever-present favourites though those years.

What made you want to become a writer, and what drew you to YA in particular?

Much as I loved reading, it never occurred to me that I could write myself until, almost by accident, I wrote a story for a class of teens I was teaching. I read it to them and they loved it and encouraged me to try to get it published. It became my first book, Collision Course. I suppose that first experience led me to write more for the YA market, although I have also written for younger children and for adults. I am attracted to the tension which is implicit in the experience of adolescence – the often painful thrust of the child towards adulthood.

What are you reading now?

I have just finished the wonderful One Day by David Nicholls. Next, I think it’s time to revisit some of the Russian classics – Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. A lot of my friends, quite independently of each other, have recently gone back to War and Peace, so it might be that.

Thank you Nigel for stopping by and best wishes!

My review of Walk the Wild Road  here.

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