Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Author Interview: Alison Hart'

Here are some questions we asked Alison Hart, author of Darling, Mercy Dog of WWI.

How long does it take for you to write a book?
 I do extensive research, especially for historical fiction, so the actual writing can take only several months while the research may take up to a year.

What inspired you to write Darling?
 I am a dog lover as well as a horse lover. The majority of my books such as the Gabriel’s Horses trilogy have been written with a focus on horses, so I decided to take a break and write about dogs and their many contributions to society and their partnerships with humans.  Other authors had written about dogs in war, but there were few books about mercy dogs, a fascinating subject.

Apart from Darling, who would you want by your side in a war?
 I would never want to go to war. I have written about the Civil War and World War I. Both were horrible to man and beast.

What were your favourite books when you were ten?
 Ten years old was a long time ago. Interestingly, I was a fan of Jim Kjelgaard’s dog books  like Big Red, which are still out in paperback. I loved Black Beauty and Black Stallion books  
as well as Nancy Drew mysteries.

What kinds of writing quirks do you have?
 I am busy with teaching and antiquing and I love researching, so deadlines  are a must or I will never get to the actual writing part.

Are you able to make a living as a writer? If so, how long did it take you to get to that point?
 I have written over sixty books, yet I have never made a living as a writer. Advances have not changed much since I started, and only a handful of my books earn royalties. Beginning writers see J.K. Rowling fame, but most writers—even those who have great careers—don’t make it to the top.
You did a lot of research for 'Darling' -- how long did it take you to do all that research?
 Research is time-consuming but fascinating. I do it hit and miss, so it’s hard to pinpoint an amount of time. First, I research before I write the initial book proposal, which can be extensive since I want to capture the excitement and history of the era I am writing about.
 Next I have to research to flesh out characters, setting and plot. I am a very sensory writer, so I want to know smells and sounds as well as sights. I also want to know the tiny details such as how soldiers cooked their meals in the trenches. Online sources and photos as well as museums are invaluable to writers.

Who is your favourite author, and why?
 I do not have one.

How did you come up with Darling's personality?
 I wanted Darling to ‘grow’ and change in the story (just like a human character would grow). I know the quirks of dogs bred for herding, so I started her out as a slightly hyper, mischievous sheep dog (think Australian Shepherd) with lots of smarts but no direction.  Once she discovers her purpose, she uses her brains, agility and ability as a mercy dog to save lives.

What was the most challenging part about writing Darling?
 I knew nothing about World War I, so my initial research focused on understanding the big picture – the whos, whats, whys etc. Then I had to narrow down an actual battle (I chose the Battle of Messines out of thousands) and concentrate on understanding that particular battle from beginning to end. It was daunting and I am sure WWI buffs and historians will find fault. There was also little on mercy dogs and none on their use in specific battles though they were used extensively in WWI.

No comments:

Post a Comment