Interview with author Caroline Hulse about new release Like A House on Fire

There could be a writer in us all...

There could be a writer in us all... - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

We speak to local author, Caroline Hulse, about the novel-writing process, how you might go about finding inspiration to write your own story during this downtime and what to expect with latest release, Like A House on Fire

Caroline Hulse

Caroline Hulse - Credit: Archant

When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

It was something I always wanted to do, but it was never something I thought was realistic. Before I got my first book deal for The Adults, I had been writing at night for about 20 years whilst working in Human Resources. At times it was hard to keep going, especially after having several books rejected, but you just have to keep picking yourself up and dusting yourself off and saying ‘this is the one’, even if it’s not.

What is your writing process like?

Everyone’s process is different. I initially thought writing in my spare room with the dog at my feet would be the dream, but instead I got lonely and the dog hated it. Now the dog goes to day-care and I hire a desk in an office. I think managing your energy and making sure you are in a good mindset to write is key. Writing a book is a long process and you almost have to play mind games with yourself to keep working at it. Don’t give up and you will get better.

What is your biggest piece of advice for an aspiring writer?

Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t expect too much. You don’t have to write 40 hours a week, especially if you are writing alongside a full-time job or other busy aspects of your life. I found carving out a bit of time specifically to write was important, so I used to give myself Sunday and Monday night because I was just too tired from work come Tuesday. Accepting that you are not always going to feel creative every day and letting yourself off the hook is essential.

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Where have you found inspiration for your novels The Adults and Like A House on Fire?

I don’t look that far for inspiration if I am honest. I am fascinated with people, which is where my job helped. By the time HR gets involved there is usually a conflict or difficult situation at hand. My work tends to be set around reasonable people under duress who are pushed until they end up doing something they regret. My latest book, Like A House On Fire, is about multiple generations of a family, and while it is not based on my family there are situations we can all relate to like family parties and the pressure of a ‘perfect day’.

How do you find an agent and publisher?

So much of getting published is in the universe’s hands, so you have to just keep sending things off and hoping it crosses the right people at the right time. You should make it obvious where your writing fits and look for an agent who represents your genre. They’ll get sent hundreds of pitches a month, so they need to fall in love with the work. Your work can get rejected a hundred times but it is not because it’s bad and that is one of the hardest things about the industry.

What did it feel like to get your first book published?

It was very surreal. I went from having no experience in the industry to getting a UK and international publishing deal in 14 languages and the film rights getting sold. I would sometimes look over at the bookshelf to see the copies of every book from around the world just to make it feel real. Now with Like A House On Fire coming out I feel much more settled into the process, but it took a period of adjustment.

What advice do you have for someone who feels they have nothing new to say?

There are no new stories. Everything is a version of or based on something that has gone before. You’ll find that the people who write the books that you really enjoy reading are also just people trying to come up with ideas as well. There isn’t this box of genius ideas that other people get to pick from that you can’t use.

Like A House on Fire will be available on 14 May