Q. What prompted you to sit down and write your first story? Tell us about your writing journey
As a young child, my two favourite past-times were drawing and writing and my favourite school subjects were English and Art. I lived on a farm with the animals as company: My first book – around the age of 8 or 9 was hand written in 2 x A4 exercise books, with illustrations done separately, cut out, then glued in place between areas of text. The title was Black Shadow and featured a horse (The horse theme seems to have pursued me) Two of my favourite books then, were Black Beauty and My Friend Flicka.
Q. You are also an illustrator. Which do you enjoy more writing or illustrating your stories?
There is no preference. Whatever stage I am up to – whether it be the writing or the image-making, I am totally engaged with that particular aspect of the book at that time.
Q. What’s the best writing tip you have been given?
When in London decades back, I met a Fleet Street writer and Journalist who’s words of advice I have never forgotten “Write as if each word is a brand on the flesh…” she advised.
And I recall it each time I edit, especially when I need to let go of some phrase I like, but which adds nothing to the story.
Q. What is your process when illustrating another author’s work?
I re-read the ms several times then divide it up as a story experience into the pages of the expected format: ie 24 or 32 pages This has to do with the “flow” within the story.
I then rough up character ideas and “location” scenes for the spreads often introducing a further story element – perhaps a minor character, or item, relevant to the story, with consideration as to colour, tones, direction lines, mediums etc. before forwarding these to the publisher for approval. Sometimes I include a finished spread together with other sketches for the publisher’s feedback.
Q. Tell us 5 words that best describe you?
Tenacious, instinctive, resourceful, innovative, spontaneous.
Q. If you could invite one author, dead or alive to dinner who would it be? Why?
Ahhh! What a question .. I cannot limit myself to one… That is like asking a chef to use only ONE ingredient! in a recipe. Besides, wouldn’t anyone prefer several lunches?
There are too many possibilities to limit myself to only one! So…
- Although usually seen as an actor, Peter Ustinov wrote as well and has made many memorable quotes. For his intellect, amazing life experiences and razor sharp sense of humour I would have enjoyed having lunch with him before he died.
- Dr Suess (Theodor Suess Geisel) who knew about publishers rejections (between 20 and 43 publishers for one book apparently!) And because of his wonderful wit and playfulness with words and sounds. Also to discover more about his political and humanitarian motives. (For example, Horton Hears a Who …is claimed to be an allegory on Hiroshima.) His life was so rich and colourful.
- Isabel Allende: House of Spirits, for her passion and writing style of “Magical Realism” that kept me turning page after page…of several of her books with increasing fascination.
- Roald Dahl … for his stand against political correctness and his statement “…what really excites a child’s appetite is the grotesque, the subversive and the sinister”
Q. If you could be any character from any book for a day who would you be and why?
Lets get back to childhood…. at least in the head if not the body!
Alice in Wonderland, for her many ‘out of body’ experiences and her comments to the Queen! And for her willingness to be written into such bizarre scenarios within such a weird and wonderful world and still maintain a sense of presence and aplomb!
Q. What’s next from Jill Carter Hansen?
While awaiting to hear back from publishers currently foster-parenting some stories sent earlier in the year (I hope my prodigy are standing up well to scrutiny!) and some possible illustration work for another writer, I’m preparing roughs for my next Artist’s book…with a secret title, so ask me again in about 6 months. (NOTE: this time-line exists at the mercy of Life’s unexpected incidents!) One of my children’s poems: Airborne: is due out in the November issue of the School Magazine. Meanwhile I continue writing poetry, making images and stories and hoping that, one day, publishing responses may become less time-consuming than they are now.
Jill Carter-Hansen. 2014.