A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Rachel Hamilton’s debut novel is out today. I asked her a few questions…
I’m so excited to be interviewing you! Can you tell us more about The Case of the Exploding Loo?
I bet I’m more excited about being interviewed by you! Especially on my book birthday.
The Case of the Exploding Loo is the first in a series of adventures featuring reluctant 12-year-old detective, Noelle ‘Know-All’ Hawkins. Know-All is super smart with a photographic memory, but even she can’t figure out how her dad – wacky celebrity scientist Brian ‘Big Brain’ Hawkins – disappeared in a freak portaloo explosion.
The only clues at the scene are Dad’s smoking shoes. The police and reporters claim it was spontaneous human combustion, but Know-All is not convinced. Dad was on the verge of a huge breakthrough with his top secret Brain Ray machine when he vanished, and she thinks this might have had something to do with his disappearance. With the help of her sister Holly, she vows to find out what really happened.
On your website you share a mind map you draw after planning each book and it’s completely brilliant. Can you tell us a bit more about that? How do mind maps help you?
I’ve been a sucker for mind maps ever since I met Tony Buzan, who explained that putting information into this form allows you to ‘roam the infinite expanses of your brain’. The expanses of my brain are a lot less infinite than Tony Buzan’s, but when I put book ideas into a mind map everything becomes clearer and easier for me to understand. It highlights key messages and themes, hidden links and connections, and also suggests sections that might need deleting.
I love the way my brilliant illustrator, The Boy Fitz Hammond, used elements from my mind map to design the front cover of The Case of the Exploding Loo. It makes it feel ‘mine’ but in a way that’s far more fun and creative than anything I could have come up with.
I love the discussion of nominative determinism in the book – if you could pick another name for yourself, what would you choose?
I’d probably have to be re-named something like ‘Sofa Loafer’! The mum in The Case of the Exploding Loo isn’t an entirely fictional creation – I spend considerable chunks of my life on the living room sofa and I’m worried one day I’ll be suffering the same problems as Mum with a certain part of my anatomy!
The Case of the Exploding Loo is very funny – what’s the funniest book you’ve ever read? And what’s the last book that made you cry?
For sheer laugh-out-loud brilliance, you can’t beat Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole 13 ¾. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read about Mole’s struggle to become a published poet (“The tap drips and keeps me awake / In the morning there will be a lake”) and to win the heart of treacle-haired Pandora Braithwaite (“I asked Pandora how long she would love me. She said, ‘As long as Britain has Gibraltar.’”)
The last book that made me cry was The Year of the Rat by Claire Furniss. I’ve complained to Claire that I’ll never be able to go back to my hairdressers after bawling my eyes out through my last cut and blow dry. I can’t recommend this book highly enough, but I suggest you read it in the privacy of your own home with a large box of tissues.
Can you tell us about your writing process? How do you cope with the solitary nature of being a writer?
I try to make my writing as sociable as possible because I’m not a very good hermit. I often write in cafés or at writer-friends’ houses so we can be antisocial together. I also like dragging friends on research trips because it makes them so much more fun. My sister and cousin came on my latest information-gathering outing for Book Two and we had a blast setting off security alarms and plotting museum heists.
I also love brainstorming book ideas because I have some wonderfully wise and helpful friends, including a policeman, an ex prison-officer and a couple of superbrain tech-boffins, so I do a lot of my research via the medium of chat. I’m also a (sitting down) member of a standup comedy group who help keep me in comedy-mode.
Have you got any abandoned manuscripts that no one will ever see?
Several, including a Mills & Boon romance I wrote about fifteen years ago with a hero named after my husband who made all his decisions by tossing a coin. It’s as bad as it sounds. Mills & Boon weren’t interested. The fools!
Which three books would you take to a desert island?
Something practical, like the SAS Survival Guide: How to survive in the Wild, on Land or Sea
Something long, like The Complete Works of John Milton
And an empty notebook, so I could write the next book(s) in my series.
Finally, how are you planning to celebrate publication?
So many ways! This has been my dream for such a long time that I’ll be milking the celebrations until people make me go home.
I’m spending this morning at my kids’ school where lots of the students have pre-ordered ‘The Case of the Exploding Loo’. The local bookstore are turning up with a big box of books and I’ve got my signing hand ready.
This afternoon, I’m holding a virtual launch party on Facebook (from 2pm – 7pm). I’ve lived a pretty nomadic lifestyle and spend part of the year in the UAE and part in the UK, so I want to cyber celebrate with my friends, regardless of where they live.
After than I’ll be organising book events everywhere and anywhere that will have me, throughout June, July and August. Party, party, party! Cake, cake, cake!
Sounds like the perfect celebration to me! Thanks, Rachel.
Rachel Hamilton studied at Oxford and Cambridge and put her education to good use working in an ad agency, a comprehensive school, a building site and a men’s prison. Her interests are books, films, stand-up comedy and cake, and she loves to make people laugh, especially when it’s intentional rather than accidental. The Case of the Exploding Loo is her first novel, and she’s currently working on a second.
Keris is the author of three YA novels – Della Says: OMG!, Jessie Hearts NYC, Emma Hearts LA – and two NA novellas (under the pen name Esme Taylor). The first book in her Reel Friends series, Starring Kitty (an LGBT romance) is out in July. She’s addicted to American TV, Twitter, and tea.