Next in our ‘Getting to know’ series I had the great pleasure of chatting with Hannah Gold. She is deeply passionate about the planet we call home and what it means to be a friend.
Tell us about your latest book…
The Last Bear is the story of 11-year-old April Wood who spends the summer on a remote Arctic island with her scientist father. The island is called Bear Island but because of the melting ice-caps, the polar bears can no longer travel so far south. But one endless summer’s night, April spots something distinctly bear-shaped. A polar bear who is starving, lonely and a long way from home. Determined to save him, April begins the most important journey of her life.
On one level, it’s the pure joyful celebration of the love between a child and a wild animal, but, on a much deeper level, it’s also a battle cry for our planet. Michael Morpurgo, who read an early copy, called it “an important first novel, important for us, for polar bears, for the planet. It is deeply moving, beautifully told, quite unforgettable.”
It’s got the most beautiful illustrations by the award-winning Levi Pinfold (who did the 20th-anniversary editions of Harry Potter) and is out on February 18th with HarperCollinsChildren’s books and it really is the book of my heart.
What was your nickname at school? (If you had one)
Not sure I had one at school but as soon as I went to University, my friends started calling me Hannah Spanner – and amusingly (for them!) even taped a spanner to my bedroom door one day.
Were you good at writing at school?
It was the one subject I always enjoyed the most and I think when you enjoy something, you tend to see better results because of the effort you put into it. I was terrible at things like maths and science so whilst I got bad grades in those subjects, I did well in creative writing.
What was your favourite book as a child?
Tough to choose just one! So . . .I am going to cheat and choose three. And since I’ve always loved animal stories then either Narnia, Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh or The Animals of Farthing Wood.
What was it that inspired you to become a writer?
I actually can’t remember wanting to be anything different – except for a brief spell wanting to be a vet. But since I couldn’t bear the thought of having to put animals down, I decided to write about them instead – which is far less traumatic.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Worrying too much about how good or bad you are. When we worry too much about our writing and what anyone else might think of it, we are thinking too much about other people’s opinions or judgement of us. It took me a LONG time to get good at writing, so don’t be hard on yourself if your early attempts aren’t what you want them to be. You will get better.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
To see the positive in everything – even the things that didn’t go the way I wanted. In the past, if something didn’t go my way, then I would use it as an excuse to tell myself how rubbish I was. But in time, I learned to look for silver linings in everything – because even rejections can sometimes give us the greatest gifts – if we allow them. So, I would tell myself and any aspiring writer, that no result, good or bad, is ever a reflection on how wonderful you really are deep down.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
It was a story I wrote at school after my cat had died actually. I was absolutely heartbroken and wrote a story about how I was feeling. It was the first time I vividly remember being able to take all these quite overwhelming feelings inside of me and do something productive with them. My teacher loved it so much she wanted to put it in the school newsletter. But I was too embarrassed and said no. But I used a similar emotion for The Last Bear and this time, I want everyone to read it!
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
After I got my publishing deal for The Last Bear, I made a real effort to get to know the other children’s authors out there – particularly those who write similar books to me. I’m also very friendly with other authors who share the same publisher as me. But I’m still very early in my career so am too shy to call them friends yet! I still feel a bit like the new kid in class if I’m honest.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
Probably in a wildlife sanctuary trying to save some animals.
Has a book ever made you cry? What was it?
Anytime an animal is killed or nearly dies! I have to look away.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I did a writing course last year – not to teach me how to be a better writer, but to show me how to handle my thoughts, anxieties and emotions in a much healthier way. How we think about ourselves can have a huge impact and it’s much better if we can learn to think in ways which make us feel happy rather than sad.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
A polar bear, obviously!
What does literary success look like to you?
Making a difference with my book and knowing I did my bit to help save the polar bears and seeing concrete evidence of this. We are in danger of losing the Arctic and of literally getting down to the last bear. So I am determined and passionate that we won’t let this happen and hopefully my book will show everyone, no matter how small you are, that you can make a difference. Polar bears are just the most wonderful and majestic of animals – let’s do what we can to save them.
Do you Google yourself?
I try not to but then my husband does it anyway.
And most importantly… What is your favourite biscuit?
Anything with chocolate in it!
Hannah’s website is www.hannahgold.world
*If you are an author (or publisher who would like to introduce an author) and would like to do your own q&a, or something else, to feature on the blog then send me an email… It’s a great opportunity to wax lyrical about your work and do some shameless self-promotion.