Nigel Hinton: ‘Never Trust Experts’
The mild mannered author of 19 novels shares his compelling personality and his own story.
As I pick up my blackberry and dial the eleven-digit number that will put me through to Nigel Hinton, I make sure I have all my questions at the ready and my charm switched on. Now, perhaps at this point some of you are wondering just exactly who is Nigel Hinton? Well, Nigel Hinton is a successful English novelist, being the author of 19 stories which cater for different audiences and age groups. Some of his most recognised work is the Beaver Towers children stories, about a boy who winds up in an enchanted kingdom of talking animals doomed by an evil Witch. Other books he has written include the teen fiction stories Buddy and Collision Course amongst many others.
The phone rings. A friendly, well-spoken voice replies and welcomes my expected interview. I start by complimenting his work and explaining that I was a fan of his work, particularly Beaver Towers when I was a child. After exchanging pleasantries we initiate the interview. It was apparent, that Mr Hinton used to act before he started writing. So the first question that escaped my mouth was ‘What sort of acting did you do?’ he answered immediately and explained how he was involved in amateur dramatics from the age of 15. He loved acting and tried to do it as much as he could at Canterbury Christ Church University, where he read English. However he described it as ‘creatively unrewarding’ and therefore decided not to pursue it.
I was naturally very curious about how Nigel went about writing a book. Where did he get his ideas? How did he start writing? How does a book come together? Does he plan his books before hand? All the answers to these questions were answered; surprisingly in one go. The author explained how difficult it can be to know when a book starts. He went on to say that some of his ideas come some time before actually writing them down – up to 10 years! The book becomes a book in his head; it’s just a matter of writing it all down.
Nigel’s first book Collision Course was written when he was 33 years old, as a dare by the class he taught. They encouraged him to have it published. It took two years to find a publisher who liked it. Nigel loves writing, but admitted that sometimes it was very hard work. He chuckled down the phone and admitted he was a lazy git. Sitting at my desk furiously taking notes, once again I was reminded how much easier my life would be had I learnt shorthand.
Nigel Hinton has also written scripts for television and film. I asked him what these were. First, he wrote a television one off called ‘Reaper’ in the late 80s and was invited by the BBC to adapt his teen book Buddy into a five part TV series, starring Wayne Goddard as Buddy and Roger Daltrey as his father.
Currently, Nigel has two horror films in production; unfortunately he couldn’t let any names slip. They are both ready for filming next year he explains, but have run into legal difficulties because one of the ex crew members claims he put a large amount of creative interest into the projects and is therefore suing. He spoke with bitter disdain, and continued to say that if the production is successfully sued, the projects will be finished.
Moving on to a lighter topic, I asked the writer if there is time to read books himself. He replied that he always makes time for reading, and likes to read books for pleasure and inspiration. He thanked his toilet for being so comfortable that it was always nice to read a book while ‘crapping’. At the moment, he said he was reading A Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, two Jacqueline Wilson stories Vicky Angel and Girls In Tears. Before I could react at the Jacqueline Wilson stories, he explained that he plans to write a book aimed at teenage girls, and needed the additional perspective.
I was intrigued to learn which books Nigel Hinton regarded as his favourites from when he was a child. He insisted that he had far too many to list, but gave examples of Enid Blyton –The Famous Five in particular, A.A. Milne’s Winnie The Poo which he quoted as ‘wonderful, fabulous, hilarious, stories, which can be appreciated time after time’. Blimey, I thought, now there’s a lot of adjectives.
Nigel loves Hemingway and Steinbeck, his favourite book nowadays is Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Hemingway, he said, was a great influence on his writing, believing it to be very masculine and powerful.
‘What’s your favourite colour?’ I asked, anticipating a surprised reaction, which I did not get. ‘I would have to say red’ Nigel replied. He explained that this was because one of his characters, the young beaver ‘Baby B’, in Beaver Towers, is always described as wearing red dungarees!
I wondered what Mr Hinton thought of the Harry Potter phenomenon. He hesitated before telling me how he praises JK Rowling for her success, and that when he heard about the release of her first story, ‘The Philosophers Stone’ it wasn’t all that popular until it had been spread by word of mouth. He read the book and found it entertaining. He went on to say that not a lot of publishers liked Harry Potter and turned it down, until one person at Bloomsbury believed it had a bright future…
Not all of Nigel’s publishers liked his work. They weren’t keen on his Beaver Towers and said he was a better teen writer, so he found another publisher who did like it and it became a popular children’s story. ‘Never trust experts’ he insisted.