The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Hayley Long

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Hayley Long

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Summary: Here at Bookbag we're really enjoying Hayley Long's Lottie Biggs books, so we couldn't pass up the chance to ask her a few questions.
Date: 31 August 2011
Interviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James

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Here at Bookbag we're really enjoying Hayley Long's Lottie Biggs books, so we couldn't pass up the chance to ask her a few questions.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Hayley Long: Me. The truth is I write primarily to entertain myself. And what I write comes from the heart and I believe in it absolutely. The quirky fonts, the daft illustrations, the jokes, the cultural references, the recognisable everyday scenarios and characters… they’re all there because that’s what engages me. Of course, it goes without saying that it’s a real buzz to get messages from my readers – it feels a bit like being in a club with other people who share the same sense of humour and points of interest as I do. But more than anything I like to write and it’s important that I focus on the creative act of something I care deeply about. I could easily spend hours on twitter and facebook but then I wouldn’t get anything written.

  • BB: I know you’ve written books for adults as well as the Lottie Biggs series for teens – which do you prefer, and are there major differences in the way you approach writing them?

HL: I’ve enjoyed writing everything I’ve written. But I have to admit that writing for teens probably has the edge. For these reasons:

- The final word count doesn’t have to be so high so it’s a lot less daunting. - I can do fun visual things like throw in silly pictures or suddenly switch to size 72 font or maybe just put one word on an entire page…

- Also, it’s fun writing about teenagers because – although they may not realise this but I think they do - they are often very very entertaining.

  • BB: I’m not going to lie, I’ve been waiting to ask this question – are you a Gavin and Stacey fan? I can almost hear Nessa’s voice when I read Lottie sometimes!

HL: Oh! Gwen! Make me an omelette!

Hahahahahhahaahhahahaha!

Yes, yes, I LOVE Gavin and Stacey. Although, LOTTIE BIGGS CAME FIRST. I’d written several drafts of Lottie Biggs is Not Mad before I even began watching Gavin and Stacey. And yes, you can hear Nessa I suppose – but only because loads of people sound like her in Cardiff. Or should I say The Diff? Either ways, I loves The Diff, I do.

  • BB: Lottie’s list of her ten favourite Welsh people on MyKindaBook is great – how many of the non-fictional entries in it would be in your own top ten as well? Anyone in your top ten who’d surprise us?

HL: Well thank you, I’m glad you liked Lottie’s Welsh list, I’ll pass that compliment on to her…

As for my own list, Shirley Bassey WOULD DEFINITELY be on it! Because, like Lottie says, she’s a proper legend, isn’t she. There’s no other singer like her and I don’t think there ever will be again. And also, it would be rude and disrespectful not to have her in any list of Top Ten Welsh People.

Who else? I’d have Cerys Matthews from Catatonia in my Top Ten too. I absolutely loved Catatonia in the 90s and saw them play loads. Cerys is a feisty girl with a great voice and she can play the guitar. I admire that.

Rhod Gilbert, the comedian. To be honest with you, I don’t actually find him all that funny but… er… well… I think I sort of fancy him a bit….

Oh and Dylan Thomas, the poet. YES I KNOW that there are plenty of other writers who have come out of Wales but really, Under Milk Wood is beautiful. And anyone who wrote the words…

The ship's clock in the bar says half past eleven. Half past eleven is opening time. The hands of the clock have stayed still at half past eleven for fifty years. It is always opening time in the Sailors Arms.

… truly deserves to be remembered.

And finally, I’d choose my friend Kirsty who is from Mold in North Wales – just down the road from Wrexham. So that’s five people I’ve picked. So that’s a Top Five Favourite Welsh People then.

  • BB: As a resident of Wrexham with a friend who has a shop in the Butchers’ Market you have no idea how thrilled I was to see Lottie turn up there in book three! Have you spent much time in the town yourself? Any favourite places?

HL: Hahaha, I LOVE that your friend has a shop in the Butchers’ Market! Which one is it? I’ll be honest, I’ve only ever visited Wrexham twice. The first time I went with my husband because there was actually a possibility that he might have taken a job there – but then he didn’t, so that was the end of that. We went by train up from Cardiff and the train ride was beautiful. And I liked Wrexham too. Mind you, I like absolutely anywhere if it’s in Wales. My favourite place actually was the Butchers’ Market. It’s got a nice atmosphere and it has one of those cafés that looks like it serves you extremely strong tea in a chipped mug. That was the inspiration for the Good Friends Café in Lottie Biggs is Not Tragic. And then the second time I visited I had a fun weekend break in the town – so essentially I was a tourist! I bet Wrexham doesn’t receive too many of them! But, actually, I was secretly sizing the place up as a partial setting for the third Lottie book. The people in Wrexham are lovely. Very friendly. I hope the football team gets back into the football league where it belongs.

  • BB: I love Winnie the chinchilla! Do you have any pets of your own?

HL: Yes, I have a little black rabbit called Irma the Bunny. She’s lovely. For six months of the year she lives in the garden and for the other six months – when it’s cold – she lives in my front room as a house bunny. I was all set to give Lottie Biggs a pet rabbit but then one day I went to Pets at Home to buy Irma some food and I saw a really ancient white-haired chinchilla called Winnie in the pet adoption centre. I wanted to take Winnie home with me but, actually, you need a lot of space for a chinchilla because they need a massive cage and they aren’t all that easy to look after – you have to know what you’re doing. So instead I just added Winnie to the cast of Lottie Biggs is Not Desperate and gave him to Lottie Biggs.

  • BB: If you could ask any other author any question, what would you ask and who would you ask it to?

HL: I’d bring William Shakespeare back to life and I’d sit down with him – probably in a tavern over a glass of cloudy ale – and I’d say, ‘Now be honest with me, William, who REALLY wrote those plays?’ Because it sure as heck wasn’t an uneducated glove-maker’s son from Stratford-upon-Avon. This just wouldn't have been possible in the late 16th and early 17th centuries..

  • BB: Do you listen to music when you write, and if so what’s on the soundtrack to the Lottie Biggs series?

HL: Nope. Absolutely can’t do it. I love music and still have loads of vinyl left over from the days when I used to DJ in Cardiff with my friend Kirsty – that’s the one from Mold – but I just find it too distracting while I’m writing. I can cope with a bit of classical music playing in the background but that’s about it. Music always features in my stories though. I don’t consciously choose something. It just sort of presents itself. Lottie Biggs became a fan of Jimi Hendrix because of his song ‘Manic Depression’ and then in the second book, Carole King popped up. It doesn’t worry me that most kids probably don’t know who these people are. They’re respected musicians who will sound good forever. And it’s fun to discover new stuff through reading I think. The book I’m working on at the moment features several iconic American singers. I daren’t discuss it yet though in case I jinx it in some way…

  • BB: Is there any book you’d recommend to readers who’d enjoyed the Lottie Biggs series?

HL: For me, the most fantastic teen book ever is The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 ¾. I read that book when I was 12 and I honestly think it changed my life. It certainly made me laugh a lot. I remember thinking it was so funny and so outrageously rude but really, it just captures that difficult teenage experience perfectly. And Sue Townsend, the author, is so brilliant at observing the bizarre little details of life that many of her characters and situations areinstantly recognisable. I’ve never been a big one for fantasy. I think real life is frequently fantastical and weird enough. Sue Townsend always illustrates this..

  • BB: What's next for Hayley Long?

HL: What indeed? Well, it’s time to move on from Lottie. I’m in the middle of a new novel. I’ve got some new characters. They live in London. They’re teenagers. Hopefully anyone who liked Lottie will like this too. Yes they will. Of course they will! Anyway, it’s coming from the heart again! I really can’t tell you any more than that I’m afraid. It’s all still at that stage where it’s just between me and my keyboard. :)

  • BB: Thanks for talking to us, Hayley and we'll miss Lottie.

This interview was kindly given to us by the ever-generous Ya Yeah Yeah

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