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Interview with Hilly Barmby

I am delighted to welcome another author from the SpellBound stable, Hilly Barmby, to my blog today. It has been lovely to chat with her and learn more about her writing and the inspiration behind it. Thank you for taking time to chat today, Hilly.


What inspired you to write your book?


Many people ask me where my inspiration came from for my first book, From My Cold Dead Hands. And it happened that, few years ago, I watched Bowling for Columbine, a film by activist Michael Moore. It is a powerful film and made an impression on me. It got me wondering who would advocate such a viewpoint? But what if that person was now a slate wiped clean? Would they still hold those beliefs when they are presented afresh?

Just in case, do people know where the title of my book comes from? It's the National Rifle Association's slogan (The NRA)

"I'll give you my gun when you pry (or take) it from my cold, dead hands" Nice, eh?


For my second book, The Pact, I lived a lot of what happened to Elena. I had Big Dave creep into my room with his giant hands outstretched and his terrifying sing-song voice. I lived in fear of Rab, his boiled eggs and toast, and his mad, drunken ways. I lived her life. Take that as you will…


Who is your favourite character in your book and why?


I have to say I love Cassie in From My Cold Dead Hands. I’ve had lots of people say she’s funny. I like that.


But in The Pact, I might have to go with Maria, because she’s not bound by any moral constraints… oh dear!


What was the first story you had published?


From My Cold Dead Hands was published in July of 2022 by Bloodhound Books. I was 61.

My second book, The Pact, was published in October 2022.

But, I was approached by a Spanish publisher to illustrate one of Lorca's poems.

Los encuentros de un caracol aventurero by Federico Garcia Lorca.

I have it under one of my pen names, Livvy Lee, which is a combination of my middle name (Olive) and my partner’s middle name (Lee).

It's meant for little kids (7+) but is rather terrifying, in my opinion.


Do you have another story planned or in progress? When can we expect to see that?


I have a YA dystopian trilogy coming out with SpelllBound Books. The first book, Eazee Life, will be in August, the second in February 2024 and the third the latter part of 2024.

Eazee Life is a ’genre bending, high-stakes fiction that grapples with social justice’.

It is a futuristic view of England.


What is it that makes you human? Could it be the fact that you were born and have the right to a soul? But what about Benedict? A clone. Not born but grown in a tank to fulfil a purpose not his own.


I also have a stand-alone dystopian coming out with SpellBound at a later date. It’s called Glimpse.


All my YA work will be under my pen name, Billie Hill.

Who is your favourite author?


There are too many, but I would say, I adore John Irving…ooh, and Jane Austen, Tolkien, the wonderful Terry Pratchett and, and...


What do you like to do when you’re not planning or writing your next book?


I’m an artist. In fact, I’m more known for my artwork than for my writing. I belong to a prestigious art group called Artists' Network Alpujarra or ANA. I work with watercolours, ink pens and coloured pencils. We have been exhibiting our work across this area of Spain since 2016. So, along with writing, I paint. I paint a lot!


Many people are shocked that I have two published books and four pending. (And hopefully more in the future.) I also make ceramics (our kitchen and garden are full of weird ceramic bowls and plant pots). I make jewellery, and basically upcycle everything from furniture to old tins.


When did you know you wanted to write novels?


My English Literature teacher was not encouraging, to the point where I left my English ‘A’ level class… but I wrote bad poetry for years on the quiet. None of it was ever meant to be read by anyone else. For some reason, in my twenties, I decided I would write a science fiction novel for middle-grade readers. Maybe one day I will dust it off and see if I can get it out into the world?


I have always had stories running inside my head, like films, to the point where my own safety is in peril. There must be an angel on my shoulder, who shrieks, ‘STOP!’ when I’m about to step out in front of a car, as I’m too lost in my head. My poor angel.


Do you write novels in other genres?


Oh, good grief, yes! I have written fifteen novels to date, starting with the MG science fiction, then a memoir (don’t ask!), which led onto YA dystopian, then a nitty-gritty noir, followed by a chick-lit and finally my psychological thrillers. Or something like that.


What do you like most about being an author?


Getting my stories out and then having people I’ve never met praise them and even send me photos of where they are reading my books. What a feeling!

Do you have a specific routine for writing? Is there a special place or particular tool you use?


I used to be a Design Technology teacher and I would write in any available moment when I wasn’t teaching. Every school holiday, every evening after work, most weekends, I wrote in the corner of the living room. Now, I’m sort of retired (I ran away!) and I live on the side of a mountain in Spain. I have had a workshop built on our land, where I write and paint. It’s totally mine.


We have the ubiquitous olives and oranges, but we also have lemons and limes, walnuts (the cute tree rats now get all the almonds) and avocados, nisperos and quinces. I make a lot of jams and chutneys! We have jars of green olives in brine and black olives in oil.


We live on an arid mountainside, so the threat of fires is always on our minds. Recently, there was a massive fire raging on the mountainside in the next valley. It is an awful thing to behold. We irrigate our land using an 800-year-old watering system built by the Moors, which is still used today. It is incredible to see.


As there are so many abandoned dogs here, we have, since we arrived, had rescue dogs, except they can come with a lot of baggage! (Oh yes, they can! Ask our vet!) So, when one dog died, our neighbour offered us one of his puppies. Our dogs are called Daisy and Lara.


I used to use Pages for Mac but now I only use Word.


What advice do you have for other writers?


Read everything, not just your own genre. And then read some more. The next bit of advice is to ask for help (from the right people). And listen to them but you don’t have to take it all on board. Then finally, edit, edit, edit your work, leave it for as long as you can, then read it on a different device or use another format. (I download my work onto my Kindle and read it as if it’s someone else’s novel. It’s an eye opener!)

And then edit some more…


If your book were to be made into a movie, who would you like to play main character’s name?


Cassie would be played by Charlize Theron (oh, yeah, baby). Ele would be played by someone like Johana Cobo. She has the right sad, sultry look about her.

The Author


At the age of seventeen, having been told by her English Literature teacher to sit on her hands in lessons, as she spoke more eloquently with them than actual words, Hilly decided to prove her wrong. It started with a bout of terrible poetry and has finally culminated in the publication of her first novel. She is also a painter and ceramicist, and has a lady-shed in the middle of an organic fruit farm on a mountainside in southern Spain. She lives with her musician partner and two rescue dogs.

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