01 May 2018

Interview and Giveaway for If Kisses Cured Cancer by T.S. Hawken

Author Tim Hawken
Today I'm chatting with Australian author Tim Hawken, author of the Hellbound trilogy and If Kisses Cured Cancer, published today. Thanks for joining us Tim.

Tell us about your New Adult novel If Kisses Cured Cancer, and was it inspired by personal experience?
This was by far the longest writing process I’ve had to go through for a novel. It was like trying to wrestle with a ghost you just can’t pin down. The whole thing took almost five years from start to finish, where my previous books were a year at most. Part of that is because while I was writing it, my wife was going through cancer therapy. There was definitely a lot of inspiration drawn from that - her diagnosis was what helped form the idea for the book. I used a lot of the raw emotion, but also the strange silver linings and unexpected funny moments you experience when going through something like that. While the novel is definitely fiction, that ‘write what you know’ route has ended in something I’m really proud of.

What was the hardest part of writing If Kissed Cured Cancer?
Personally it was drawing on those tumultuous emotions you feel when in love with someone who has a terminal illness. It’s tough reliving the first time you found out, or the uncertainty of whether they’ll survive, even if it is weaving that into a different scenario.
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Professionally it was the editing process. Because it’s a more personal novel, I found it hard to let things go, where previously I could be really ruthless with parts that weren’t working. I was fortunate to work with a brilliant editor Dmetri Kakmi on that part, which really helped pinpoint the things to ditch and things that needed further exploration. I also wanted to make sure there was some humour in there. That’s how I cope with shitty situations, so it felt right. Plus, who wants to read something that just makes you feel depressed? Not me. Finding that balance was a tough one. You want to give the subject its due, but also keep things entertaining and interesting.

How does journalism differ from writing a novel?
With journalism you’re trying to tell a story using the facts. With fiction you’re trying to tell the truth using a story. You also have more chance to dance and play with ideas when writing novels, where normally with journalism you’re doing your best to be short, snappy and concise.

Having written the Hellbound trilogy (a dark fantasy/horror series), how did you manage the transition from writing horror to something more lit based?
It was surprisingly hard. Characters and psychology are obviously important in speculative fiction, but plot is what often drives the story forward. You’re always looking to twist and turn, excite and terrify. Literature is more people focussed, which can sometimes feel like you’re being boring. I found myself constantly trying to throw physical conflict into scenes which called for a more subtle approach. A concealed knife doesn’t belong where a cutting secret will do.

When do you do your best work? Where do you do most of your writing?
I do my best work in the morning. I’m normally freshest then. Having said that, I won an award for a short story a few years ago that I started writing at midnight, because I couldn’t sleep during a full moon. So, maybe it’s just when I’m focussed and the ideas are running.

I mostly write in my office at home. If I’m traveling, I find planes are a great place to get things done without the distraction of the internet, or ringing phones, or my kids wanting something to eat.

What are some of your favourite books/authors? 
God, so many. Literary fiction, I love True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey, Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie and Shantaram by Gregory David-Roberts. Haruki Murakami is also great. I like his blend of the real and the imaginary. 

Spec fiction, I love almost anything by Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman and Ursula K Leguin. I’ve got a massive soft spot for Harry Potter and The Hobbit. There’s an absolutely amazing short-story collection by Angela Carter called The Bloody Chamber that’s perhaps the most stunning example of prose I’ve ever read. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favour and pick it up. 

Sounds great, I might add it to my TBR. What are you reading at the moment?
Right now I’m listening to Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft on Audible. It’s great drifting into another world when you’re hanging out the washing, or doing the dishes.

Do you have a favourite bookshop in Western Australia?
Hmmm that’s a tough one. There are so many good local stores. I’d have to say Planet Books in Perth though. They have a well-curated range of spec fiction, graphic novels and lit fiction all under one roof.

What book have you always meant to read and haven’t got round to yet? Anything you feel embarrassed never to have read?
I’ve tried to read In Search of Lost Time by Proust a couple of times, but stopped. It’s such a beast of a story and I find the start boring. It’s lauded by a lot of people as the greatest work ever written, so I’m determined to get through it one day. I’m embarrassed that I don’t seem to have the patience (or maybe intelligence) to see what other people are seeing. I’m sure I’ll try again in a few years.

Your book If Kisses Cured Cancer is published today, so what’s next?
Next is focussing on a tour of book launch events this month, to help raise funds for Love Your Sister. We’ve organised some craft breweries to sponsor the nights, so it’s all about books and beers for breast cancer. If you’re in Victoria, WA or on the Gold Coast there will be one coming to a town near(ish) you.

After that, I have a horror film project I’ve been talking about with Nathan Phillips (Wolf Creek, The Final Hours, Snakes on a Plane). I’ll either be diving into the script for that, or starting a new novel. Watch this space. 

Wow, that sounds amazing! Wolf Creek was terrifying. Anything else you’d like to add?
If you’re interested in some exclusive content around If Kisses Cured Cancer - like a companion playlist and behind-the-scenes on the cover design - head to timhawken.com and sign up to my newsletter. You’ll also get a free eBook version of the first book in the Hellbound Trilogy as an added bonus.

Also, Carpe Librum is giving away a signed copy of If Kisses Cured Cancer to one lucky Carpe Librum reader (in AUS & NZ) this month. Follow the prompts below and enter to win.

Thanks for joining us Tim, and who can resist a free book, right? Congrats on the release of If Kisses Cured Cancer and for joining us at Carpe Librum today. Readers can enter below for a chance to win a signed copy of If Kisses Cured Cancer and be sure to visit Tim's website for a free ebook copy of Hellbound.

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