Welcome to this virtual landscape where SCBWI-BI members share their debut journeys with us. This month Helen Simmons steps out with author Joseph Elliott whose debut The Good Hawk, is published this month.

Let’s begin our journey...

There’s nothing like a good walk to fuel creative ideas and give us inspiration in our writing. Where are you taking us on our walk today?

We’re following a coastal path along the Jurassic coast near Charmouth in Devon. I visited it last year and the view from the top is one of the most stunning I have ever seen: wild countryside and crumbling cliffs towering over a stunning stretch of deep blue sea.

What about the landscape you have created in your novel? How important is the setting to your plot and themes? 

The Good Hawk is set in an alternate version of Scotland, and the setting was extremely important to me. The characters are forced to flee the Isle of Skye where their clan lives and cross the mainland – a mysterious plague-ridden country full of dark magic and mysterious shadows… Scotland, with its rugged landscapes and uncompromising weather was an obvious choice, the harsh terrain reflecting the hardships the protagonists face as they travel through it.

As the saying goes, a journey of a thousand steps starts with one. Tell us about your inspiration for your novel.

Scotland was a huge inspiration for me, as mentioned above. So were the children I was teaching at the time. I used to work in a special needs school, and I wanted to create a lead character that reflected the children I knew. Agatha – one of two protagonists in the novel – has Down’s syndrome, but in her world the condition is unnamed. I was keen for the story not to be about the fact that she had Down’s syndrome, though; it is just one aspect of the awesome character that she is.

Now we have got into our stride, can you tell us what you loved most about writing this book? 

I loved the free rein you have when writing fantasy to do whatever you want. More than anything, I get a thrill when I’m at my most creative, so inventing mysterious animals and new clans with alternative ways of living was really fun.

We seem to be lost in the woods now. Can you describe your most difficult moments when you were writing …, and how you got back onto the right path? 

The writing is told from two alternating perspectives – Jaime and Agatha – and there was a point where Agatha’s chapters were much stronger than Jaime’s. I knew the only solution was to go back and completely rewrite every single one of his chapters which was a mammoth task, but I know it was the right thing to do. I now feel like the alternating voices complement each other well, so I’m really glad I took the time to do it. I’m extremely lucky to have two of the best editors in the world whose guidance and support was invaluable throughout the whole editing process. The most annoying thing about them is that they’re nearly always right, even when I don’t want them to be. They suggested I cut one of my favourite chapters; I resisted for numerous edits, but in the end, I knew that it had to go. I mourned it for about a week, then realised the book was much stronger without it.

As we reach the summit, can you tell us how it feels to be a first time author? 

I went to the book printing factory (I expect it’s got a fancier name than that) to see my book printed and it was such an incredible day. Copies of the book were churned out at such an impressive speed. Holding the finished version in my hands for the first time was totally surreal. I still find it hard to believe that my words are printed in a real-life book. My acknowledgements are pretty lengthy because SO many people helped make this book possible – from my agent and everyone at Walker Books to all of my friends and family. I count myself incredibly lucky to have their collective support.

We’ve finished our walk and now so I think we deserve to celebrate with tea in a cosy inn. As we warm our feet by the blazing fire, tell me where you think your writing will take you in the future?

It’s lovely in here, isn’t it? I love a fire… I’ve just finished writing the sequel to The Good Hawk. I can’t tell you much about it yet, except to say there is a new character in it who I’m very excited for everyone to meet.

Finally, I have really enjoyed walking and talking with you today. Can you give us one take away tip for yet-to-be-published writers?

READ! As much as you possibly can, especially books written in the genre in which you plan to write. Every book you read – and the opinions you form as you read them – will help make you a better writer.

For the last 10 years, Joseph has worked as an actor, probably best known for playing pirate ‘Cook’ in the BAFTA-winning CBeebies series, Swashbuckle, for which he also writes many of the scripts. When not writing or acting, Joseph loves painting, snorkelling and playing board games. He is a firm believer that houmous goes well with everything. Joseph’s debut novel, The Good Hawk, will be published by Walker Books UK and Walker US in February 2020.

Follow Joseph:
Twitter: @joseph_elliott
Instagram: @joseph_elliott3


Helen Victoria is a writer of YA fiction, a full-time drama teacher and a reader of anything and everything. When she is not putting on shows, reading or writing, Helen loves to walk in wild places, or hang out with her family and friends in London, France and Cornwall.

Follow Helen:


Imogen Foxell is an illustrator with a particular interest in creating intricate imaginary worlds. She illustrates English literature revision cards for, and interesting words for Her website is Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. 

No comments:

We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.