Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today, Debz! It’s no secret I’m in awe of your latest publishing news! But we’ll get to that…
- When did you start writing?
Believe it or not I wrote my first novel when I was nine! And it was read out to the school. A Famous-Five rip-off complete with tomboy and dog but it was an original story at least! And later I won a kid’s writing competition. But really seriously, I’ve been writing for close to ten years. Before that I was always writing in some form, and in the job as a scientist I was writing more technical things. I also took the odd creative writing class. But once the need to write took over and I really started writing – as in every day, I knew I had to give up the day job and make it my life! I’d say it was an obsession waiting to come out since I was a child. But to be better I then studied for my MA in Creative Writing, ran a writing group and took all sorts of writing courses. I also started working with a short story publisher.
- Can you tell us a little bit about your daily life?
I have a wonderful life in the mountains of Snowdonia in North Wales although I grew up near London. I get up every day with a big smile and the first thing I do (after walking the dog) is my daily writing Blog and then I work on my own writing all morning – every week day.
At lunch time I then walk the dog again (if it’s not raining!) and then I have to do my paid work – professional critiquing, copy editing and proofreading. That takes me to dinner time. I try to work office hours as when I had the day job I was up at 5am to write and wrote into the evenings and we all need to rest too!
- You have great respect and love for animals, evident in your stories and the themes you use, has this always been the case?
Oh I have always had a love affair with animals and when I decided I wasn’t ready to be a full time writer (yet), at aged thirteen, I switched to vet science and got a place at Liverpool University training to be a vet when I was nineteen. It was only health problems back then that stopped me qualifying although I later went on to get a zoology degree and an MSc. in Ecology. So I have always been into animals and through my writing I set up a small press to raise funds and awareness for the Born Free Foundation. Paws n Claws Publishing is a great love of mine. I never make my money back, in fact profits go to Born Free but I get to run workshops with children and that’s how I came to launch the Paws Animal Writing Competition for Children. We publish the winning stories and so if you know a child aged 9-16 who writes, the next competition opens in September!
And the next Wild n Free book is out November 1st!
And for the younger ones there are these picture books – all for charity too! www.thejet-set.com and illustrated and written by Colin Wyatt (my dad!) a Walt Disney artist!
- You were shortlisted for the Commonwealth prize for your story ‘Chutney’ can you tell us how it felt being included in the top ten of such a prestigious competition?
Shocked! I had no idea that little story would make it that far – really! I was happy with it but competitions are so hard to get placed in, especially such big ones as that. I think you can say I fell off my perch when I saw how far I got in that one! I had no idea the story was what they’d like, set on an allotment, an odd group of friends counting down time to the end of the world – or so they thought. Might sound gloomy but it’s actually a funny story and the world isn’t really ending. I think these kinds of competitions and especially being placed make a big difference for how you’re perceived and look great on the CV when seeking an agent! I think my newly acquired publisher was happy to use that in the marketing!
- Not long after the Commonwealth prize shortlist, you won the Bath Short story award out of a pool of over a 1000 entries for your story ‘Learning to fly’. What I particularly like about this story is the way you tie in the aspect of the bird metaphorically and physically from the beginning to end seamlessly within the story itself. Can you tell us a little about this story, and how you came to write it? And perhaps share the link?
Yes again shocked to win that! And so so pleased I cannot tell you! Yes there were 1149 entries and Learning to Fly won! The story came from personal tragedy even if the characters and the story is fictitious. In the story as you’ll see the protagonist is a tomboy from Liverpool whose brother has died and it’s how she copes with that first year. My partner Lee died aged thirty-two , some eight years ago now and he was from Liverpool – in fact I lived there happily for ten years. He and I were also very much into birds of the tweety feathery variety and that’s why we loved living here in North Wales where you see so many different types. So I guess I used aspects of my own grief and my own journey but using a different circumstance (Lee did not die the same way as the tom boy’s brother) and using a different relationship – but grief and how it affects families is the same. What ’s more I made sure the story ends with hope – and new life and promise because things do get better. It’s important our stories have messages like that and with something like this, I guess we can all relate to it in one way or the other. I am honoured it won as the other stories were so good! And you can read it here or listen to it (how wonderful it was recorded!) and it will be in a collection of winners stories later this year too!
- If your writing year wasn’t spectacular enough, you’ve also got some news about your debut novel ‘While no one was watching’ can you tell us about that?
If I am honest, like many writers my dream has always been to make it as novelist but I learned so much from writing short stories and developing that so I could improve my novel writing. I had a lot of very near misses along the way with agents and publishers and While No One Was Watching is my 4th novel, the others need to be revisited! But it’s often that way and I could see I was getting closer and closer and did wonder if it would EVER happen! But on March 11th this year (the date now written in purple ink on the cork from a bottle of sparkling wine) I finally received the news, a phone call, I felt like I’d been waiting for my whole life! A Welsh press with a fab reputation, Parthian Books signed me and my debut novel is out in October. It’s an adult psychological thriller about a little girl, Eleanor Boone, who disappeared at the exact moment in time Kennedy was assassinated but is still missing fifty years on – but why? What did she see?
It’s out in time for the 50th anniversary of the assassination this November and I would love to come back and tell you all more about it nearer the time! Right now it has all been edited and proofed and I’m waiting to reveal the final cover! So exciting!
- You are also featured in the Springbok anthology, which includes writers from around the globe. If you can, can you tell us a little bit about the process behind making the book, and how you found the writers?
Because of my involvement with animal charity books, including one called Gentle Footprints that I wrote a story for, selected and edited the stories and we launched it at the Hay Literary Festival with none other than Virginia McKenna herself (actress and co-founder of the Born Free Foundation) I was asked if I could advise with a new project. Springbok Publications Ltd is the brainchild of writer Conrad Brand. I didn’t know him but I did know other writers he had asked to be part of this charity project. I know him well now although we have yet to meet!
He wanted to put together a collection of wild animal stories with the odd poem thrown in and illustrations for a worthy animal cause and not many worthier or in need of funds than Save the Rhino.
I offered to help so in a way I am a consultant and I have since written a story for the collection and will be editing some of the stories. All for the charity – no one takes a fee or even gets a free book so ALL profits go to the cause.
The contributors were by invite only and I did have some part in making one or two suggestions because he wanted writers from outside of the UK so I approached an Australian writer friend. While she doesn’t write animal stories she knew someone who was an excellent writer she could recommend – one Rebecca Raisin and here we are – kindred spirits separated by an ocean or three!
Do check out the website and look out for this book later in the year!
- What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
It’s a cliché – but it’s simple: Never Give Up. Read, read and read and take advice, have your work critiqued and listen. Be a sponge and in the face of rejection, learn from it and keep going, because those who work hard and are prepared to be in it not for money or glory but the passion of writing – are the ones who make it! And above all – enjoy the journey!
- What’s next for you?
Well I seem to have a busy end to the year with lots of things happening and books coming out. But right now as I prepare for that I am working on the third draft of my novel about a feral child called I Am Wolf, which is an adaptation of the story I have published in Gentle Footprints that goes to agents hopefully in October.
I have another two novels to rework and an idea for a new one – and right now I am having a couple of weeks away from the novel to work on some more short stories!
- If you could pick one author to have dinner with who would it be and why?
It would have to be one of the greatest storytellers of the 20th and the 21st century and even though there are so so so many writers I admire he is the one who started me on this road – and that’s Stephen King. (Great question by the way!)
It’s been so lovely – thanks for having me! J
You can find the lovely, Debz Hobbs Wyatt here:
Daily Writing Blog: http://wordznerd.wordpress.com/
Facebook Page (I need Likes!): https://www.facebook.com/DebzHobbsWyattAuthor
Thank you so much, Debz! What a great interview. Inspiring! And your dad works for Walt Disney? That is amazing! We wish you every success with your novel and I can’t wait to read it.