Bit on the side:
Hilary Badger is an author
Interview by Siobhan Fitzgerald
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
· I’ve been working in advertising since 2001, having avoided a near-miss with a legal career.
· I have worked in most of Melbourne’s big agencies and did a 1-year stint in Auckland at Saatchi & Saatchi.
· I have 2 kids, Romy, aged 4 and Caspar, 8.
· My spirit animal is the African Honey Badger, pound for pound the most vicious anima on Earth.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing, particularly your Space Scout series?
· Space Scout is my second series for middle primary readers.
· There are 10 titles in the series.
· The series concerns the search for a suitable replacement planet. Each book visits a different planet.
· Both Space Scout and Zac Power are intended to interest reluctant readers. So they deliberately have short, punchy sentences and lots of gadgets
· I now have a reluctant reader of my own, so my writing has come full circle.
When and how did you first started writing children’s fiction?
· I started writing children’s fiction early in my advertising career, thanks to the influence of a uni friend who handily became a commissioning editor.
· She invited me to work on a project and my writing took off from there.
· This was fantastically lucky, because many, many people want to write children’s fiction. I think every parent has thought they could write a children’s book and lots of people think that because a book is short, it’s easy to create.
Do you work full time in an agency as well as doing your creative writing?
· I work in the office 4 days a week. The fifth day, I spend with my daughter and son, when he gets home from school.
· I do my writing in the mornings before everyone wakes up.
Have you always had creative side projects?
· I have always enjoyed short story writing, so yes. But I’m from an era before “side projects”. “Side project” suggests there’s some destination or even economic endgame. I think I’d call writing a life-long pleasure and diversion.
How does having a separate creative outlet help you deal with the stress and rejection that can go hand in hand with being an advertising creative?
· My editor says I’m easy to work with I’m flexible with making changes. Rejection rolls right off my back. That’s what 20 years in advertising does
· I actually think parenting has been a bigger influence in helping me handle emotional peaks and troughs in my work life. Being a mother is an endless lesson in prioritising and emotional resilience. And as a working mother, I have had to learn not to dither about with things I can’t influence – at work and at home.
Has your creative writing changed you as an advertising creative?
· It has made me far more confident with the story-telling aspect of film. Structuring a novel, I really became very familiar with the 3-act structure, which obviously applies to a narrative ad as well. Except for social film, which insists on putting the climax before the inciting incident.
Does it help you put your job into perspective?
· I think maturity helps me put my job in perspective. I love my job. I am confident in my ability to deliver. I know I have the professional and life experience I need to perform at work, so that’s what I draw strength from when things get difficult. It’s just those years of experience reminding me I have handled similar situations in the past and thrived. My writing is something I draw joy from – and, of course, masses of heartache. But that’s creativity.
I sometimes think it’s good to have another place to put your creative ego, apart from advertising work. Does that ring true for you?
· Hmm, not really. Creativity and ego aren’t a strong connection for me, in writing or advertising. To me, putting out anything creative is a vulnerable act. Yes, you want it to resonate but to me, that’s not ego. It’s about the pure pleasure of making a human connection.
· However, I do agree it can be good for creative people to have an outlet
that’s not advertising. And preferably, one that doesn’t involve too much self- flagellation. I enjoy the creativity of cooking because it’s not about having the best concept. It’s actually about the sensory pleasure of literally making something with your hands. It’s a place where I don’t have to punish my brain to think harder. I can just create.
When do you find the time to write? (Do you have to be very disciplined?)
· In a word, yes. The only time I have time to write is very early in the morning, so that’s what I do. I can also recommend internet blocking software to massively increase your productivity.
Can you talk to us about your writing process?
· I am not a plotter but I don’t make things up as I go along either. Over time I have worked out that my process is to have 6-10 key story beats in place, but let the in-between bits evolve. I write every day unless I’ve been working late the night before or the kids are sick. I use the Scrivener software, which has a word count tool represented as a worm. I just set the target I was to make
that session and don’t stop until the worm says I can.
Have you always got stories bubbling away, ready to come out—or do you have to dig deep to find them?
· Yes, I always have story ideas in mind. Ideas in general, in fact. You need something to think about at the traffic lights, right?
Any upcoming books we should be looking out for?
· Get back to me in a year. I am working on one now but it is painfully slow.