Here I start a series of interview of authors from the Timelines Anthology, a collection of historical short stories for children, I have asked them a series a five questions.
Today I am interviewing Kim Hutson.
Tell us how you got involved in the Timelines project.
The opportunity arose through doing my masters course at MMU. Some of the tutors told us they were putting together an anthology of historical fiction stories for young adults and I thought that sounded great, so got involved as soon as possible! Initially I expressed my interest and then I went along to a workshop they held in the Special Collections department of the library where they house a fantastic collection of rare and historic children’s books. It was fascination to see the books and then we did a creative writing workshop based on some of the illustrations. It really got the ideas sparking.
How and why did you come to write your story?
Although I came up with some interesting ideas at the workshop, which I may even use in the future, I actually decided to write my story based on my place of work, Ordsall Hall. I’m lucky enough to work in a Tudor house museum which actually dates back to 1360 and even earlier. Our learning sessions and activities always seem to be based on the family who lived here in Tudor times, their stories and what life was like then. I wanted to look into a different time period and my attention was drawn by my colleague to a newspaper article from the 1830s. The report was about two chimneysweeps who had been working at the Hall and had been caught stealing some silver spoons by hiding them up one of the chimneys. The story was, in reality, very grim indeed so I have used a little artistic license and a dash of the supernatural to make what I hope will be an entertaining story for young people.
Tell us a little bit about your story.
As I said above, this is the tale of two young chimneysweeps, one the apprentice and one the master, who go to sweep the chimneys at Ordsall Hall. The younger one, Richard, is coerced into hiding some silver spoons up the chimney and they are eventually caught, but not before having some spooky experiences in the meantime. I have to admit that the real ending to the story was a very sad one, so I have given young Richard the happy ending I don’t think he was able to have in reality. I hope that if his ghost is still floating about somewhere he approves!
Some people think it is easy to write while Ernest Hemingway said: “It is easy to write. Just sit in front of your typewriter and bleed.” Where do you stand?
I think, for me, it depends what I’m writing. I find it very difficult to be prolific but then when it does happen it kind of splurges out of me onto the page. I find it easier to write short stories as there seems to be less at stake; I know that if it’s hideous I can just press delete and write another one, or set it to one side and start again. With a novel I find it very hard because so much time, effort and soul are involved in the crafting, planning, plotting, characterisation and actual writing of the beast. I find it quite daunting. I think physically writing is easy, but writing something you are happy with is another thing entirely – I think possibly it’s best to just write and write and then fish out the good bits later. Then at least you’re actually getting something down on the page – even if it’s gobbledygook you scrap later
What is it that appeal to you when writing for children?
I have always loved children’s books. Of course, as a child, but then my love for them didn’t dwindle as I grew up. For years I thought people judged me for this but then I got a job in a children’s library and realised that I wasn’t that unusual – there are plenty of adults who have an interest in children’s books. Alongside this interest, I have also always written – from writing stories about animals and adventures at the swimming pool when I was little, to songs and poetry as a teenager through to studying creative writing at university – I can’t imagine life without writing and children’s books always seemed to fit and come naturally to me. I have to say I also like the idea of young people reading my stories at an age of transition – at the time in their lives that they will be the most inquisitive, imaginative and really making decisions (conscious and subconscious) about who they want to be.