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My First Time with...Hayley Barker

September 6, 2017

Hayley Barker has a BA (hons) degree from Birmingham University and has taught secondary school English for eighteen years. She is a huge YA fiction fan and says being published is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to her. How wonderful! 

Hayley was inspired to write her YA because of her fears about the growing wave of crime and animosity against minority groups in England. She lives in Essex with her husband and two young sons.

 

 

 

Here's the blurb for Show Stoppers...

 

Sabotaged high wires.

Ravenous lions.

A demonic ringmaster.

A circus without a safety net

 

Ben, the teenage son of a powerful government minister, attends an opening night and falls under the spell of Hoshiko, the tightrope walker and star attraction.

 

But as he steps beyond the dazzle and spectacle of the arena, to reveal the horrors that lurk beneath, can he find the courage to resist, to rebel, to help end the cruelty and the carnage? 

 

Step right up for this heartbreaking and heart-racing story - the darker the danger, the louder you'll scream...

 

Describe the exact moment you decided to write your book.

 

For a long time, I had been growing apprehensive about the direction the country was heading in – the right wing media seemed to be continually reporting about “uncontrolled” immigration levels and the apparently associated rise in crime and drain on the health care and benefit systems. Racist language and ideas were being bandied about on social media, backed up with out of context statistics or down-right lies and it felt almost as if it was becoming socially acceptable to air these abhorrent views again. I wanted to write something which attempted to address this in some way.

 

I had also been thinking about writing a story set in a circus for ages. I wasn’t a huge fan of actual circuses, which always seemed a bit run down and tawdry in real life, but fictional ones had always appealed to me. I think it was the way that the circus can represent an alternative to drab reality, a supposedly magical escape where anything can happen. For a couple of months, I had been reading books about historical circuses and toying with plot ideas.

 

One evening, the two concepts merged together. I sat down and scribbled down the scene which became the Prologue and the rest of the story developed from there.

 

 

What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write it?

 

To use Drop-box to back up and save my work every time, without fail!

 

What’s your go-to procrastination method?

 

This sounds very martyr-like, I know, but I don’t really procrastinate, with writing anyway. I have two young sons and there’s always a hundred and one things which need doing before I can begin to work. When I sit down to write, I know I only have a few precious hours at the most, so I really try and get the most out of them and make them as productive as I can.

 

 

 

What was the biggest tantrum you had while writing your book?

 

I think I was probably a complete pain to live with for most of the first draft!

 

I’d written the start, and I knew how I wanted the story to end; but the characters needed to get from A to B and I was desperate to get them there.  

I was juggling teaching part time and looking after my family, which meant I was exhausted in the evenings and there was hardly ever time for me to work in the day. I felt increasingly hysterical about never having the opportunity to get my words down. 

Luckily, I have a very supportive husband who sent me off to the library on Saturday mornings and told me not to come home until it shut. Possibly, he was just fed up with my mood, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and call it sympathetic understanding!

 

Best thing about writing your book?
 

There were times (rare but wonderful) when the scenes seemed to write themselves. I put the characters in certain situations and let them work their way out of them; all I had to do was sit and write down what happened. Those are the times I liked best-- when it just felt effortless.

 

And the worst?

 

It was the grappling with the time line. This was fairly unproblematic when I wrote the first draft but when I had signed with Scholastic and was working on my edits, it became really tricky. My editor asked me if I could write some extra circus scenes and expand the experiences of Ben, the male character. Because the book is related alternately by the two main characters, I could never add any scenes for Ben without having to slot in ones for Hoshi, the female narrator, too. Making it all work was like trying to construct a really complicated jigsaw puzzle.

 

Go-to writing snacks?

 

If I’m trying to be good, pasta soup snack shots – filling and low calorie. If I’m being naughty (most of the time) chocolate Hob-Nobs!

 

Who or what inspires you to write?


The pleasure of writing. I love it; it makes me feel complete. I don’t think I will ever not write again.

 

The book that changed you?

 

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. I studied it at A level and a passion for feminist writing and issues, and the knowledge that dystopian literature can cast  such illuminating and relevant light on contemporary society has stayed with me ever since.

 

Your pump up song?

 

18 Wheeler by Pink and F**k you, by Lily Allen.

 

If you could share a bottle of wine with one writer dead or alive, who would it be?

 

It’s between Lord Byron and Oscar Wilde, but I think I’d be too intimidated by Byron, so I’ll go for Wilde.

 

One piece of advice you’d give first time writers hoping to get a book published?

 

This sounds really cheesy, but…don’t give up: believe you can do it, and do whatever it takes to get there. I think the only difference between a pipe dream and a realistic ambition is the amount of work you put in.

 

So many people say they “have a story in them” but never do anything about it.

 

As soon as you sit down and start writing, you’ve taken the first step on the journey, and every day you write after that is another step closer to achieving your goals.

 

 

 

 

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