A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Congratulations on the release of The Hidden Princess, the second in your Hidden Among Us series. Can you tell us what you’re most proud of about this novel?
I rewrote The Hidden Princess from scratch in seven weeks. Almost 70,000 words! I had two young children at the time (now three), and a puppy. I couldn’t get the first draft right because I was trying to write a direct sequel, picking up the action directly after the conclusion of Hidden Among Us. My editor had the fantastic idea of moving on the action by six years, so that I could just treat The Hidden Princess as a book in its own right.
Wow to the 70,000 words! Then you deserve even bigger congratulations! The book works wonderfully as it is now. One thing I wanted to ask was how you came up with the idea of the Hidden? They’re an intriguing race who seem to blend features of several mythical beings.
The Hidden come from the folklore and fairytales that I grew up reading. To me, they are the elvish known to the Anglo-Saxons and the Sidhe of Irish mythology. They are the wild, dangerous and beautiful men and women who inhabit old English folk songs, luring their lovelorn victims away from the mortal world, never to be seen again. They are the beautiful and merciless faery girl from Keats’ poem La Belle Dame Sans Merci, who bewitched and captured a young knight. He escapes, but the world holds no joy for him afterwards. The knight in this poem was the inspiration for Connie’s mother Miriam as she appears in Hidden Among Us, set six years before The Hidden Princess. Miriam will never truly bounce back from her encounters with the Hidden. The closest analogy I can think of is that she is like a recovering addict. She might intend to have no more contact with the Hidden, but abstinence hurts almost more than she can bear.
You write from multiple perspectives in this series. What made you decide to take this narrative approach? Was there one character whose point of view you particularly enjoyed writing from?
I’m generally a fan of multiple perspectives – an example of this working really well is Game of Thrones, with each episode containing a series of mini episodes focusing around different groups of characters. My books aren’t really a series, though – I guess they are two companion novels, really, although I do think it’s best to read Hidden Among Us before The Hidden Princess. The multiple narratives happened pretty naturally when I was writing HAU – having those different perspectives as the plot gathered pace was a great way of upping tension and making characters more rounded. In HAU, Connie’s brother Rafe and their mother Miriam could both have come across as stereotypical or two-dimensional if we never saw their own side of the story. It’s the same with the Hidden characters in The Hidden Princess, and Nicolas, who has sympathies with both the Hidden and mortal characters – they could easily just be one-dimensional villains but seeing the story from their side gives them more depth. And hopefully it’s more exciting this way, too.
You mention Miriam. I found it interesting that Miriam goes from over-protective parent in Hidden Among Us to a neglectful, absent mother in The Hidden Princess – do you have any views on mothers’ roles in YA fiction?
All I would say is that mothers are very often absent, necessarily so, from YA fiction. You don’t often get to hear their own side of the story. I did like hopping back in time to Miriam’s own teenage years and early twenties in Hidden Among Us. Her attitude in that book towards Lissy is certainly very different to the way she behaves towards Connie in The Hidden Princess – partly because of the, ahem, differences between Connie and Lissy, and also because of the losses Miriam experiences at the end of HAU. Miriam undergoes several episodes of severe trauma in her life, but the one that occurs at the end of Hidden Among Us scars her the most deeply, and is what causes her somewhat detached behaviour towards Connie in The Hidden Princess. Unfortunately, Miriam is also guilty of having a favourite child.
You have been nominated and shortlisted for several awards, including the Carnegie. Has this made you feel more confident about your writing?
I think the Branford Boase award is fab because it recognizes the huge effort put in by our editors. But being nominated for the Carnegie with my first book and then again in 2010 for Spirit Hunter was definitely a huge boost. I felt very honoured that my books had been considered for an award by librarians – they read so much!
Was there anything you particular enjoyed/disliked about the process of writing The Hidden Princess?
It was definitely a bit full on rewriting it completely in such a short space of time! But in a funny way, doing so really helped. I’m thinking of trying something similar with my next book, actually – I’ve just had a baby and I reckon the adrenalin shot will fire up my sleep-deprived brain!
Haha, rather you than me! I also wanted to ask you about the cover to The Hidden Princess. It’s beautiful and perfectly captures the story. Did you have any ideas about how you wanted it to look? If so, how do you feel the final cover matches up?’
Oh, it’s a gorgeous cover. Maria, the designer, is brilliant. I was a little worried at first that it looks different in some ways to the cover for Hidden Among Us, given that they are companion novels, but Maria has done a fabulous job marrying the two together. And it really is a beautiful thing to behold. I consider myself extremely lucky!
What’s next for you? Will there be more from the Hidden or are you working on something completely different?
I’m actually working on something completely different at the moment!
How are you planning to celebrate the launch?
There are quite a few of us publishing at the moment – there is talk of a virtual launch party on Twitter in a virtual marquee amongst other fun and frolics. Watch this space!
And, finally, do you want to share a quote from the book that sums up ‘The Hidden Princess’
I don’t know that there is one particular line that sums up the whole book, but the rave scene in the woods at Hopesay Reach comes from a handful of experiences that inspired both Hidden Among Us and The Hidden Princess. I used to work at festivals – Glastonbury, the Glade, Secret Garden Party – they are all the kind of place where you see strange and beautiful people very late at night in odd forgotten corners of the festival site. Three a.m. in the woods at a festival is a sideways step away from normal life and the everyday world. The woodland party scene in The Hidden Princess was born out of one of the very earliest images I had of the books in my mind, with the Hidden moving amongst the mortal revellers, and all that latent dangerous potential.
For five years, the Gateway has been closed and Hidden and mortals kept apart. For five years, Connie has believed her older sister dead. And for five years, Lissy has been the Swan King’s captive. But every day the Swan King’s power grows stronger and his thirst for vengeance greater. If Lissy is to keep the people she loves safe, she must risk everything by facing up to her birthright and fulfilling her hidden destiny… A fast-paced, atmospheric and chillingly beautiful novel about love, family and loyalty.
Katy wrote her first novel at the age of 10 (a fantasy epic, of course), and grew up to work in a bookshop, followed by 2 different publishing houses before ending up as a desk editor at Scholastic Children’s Books. She jumped ship in early 2007 and her first novel, Bloodline, was published in 2008. Her latest book, Hidden Among Us, was published in March 2013 with a sequel to follow in 2014.
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.