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Interview with Rachel Hawkins

by Michele Lee


Rachel Hawkins is the author of the young adult paranormal title Hex Hall from Hyperion.    Rachel talks to Michele Lee about the release of her new book.

ML: Can you start out by telling us a little about Hex Hall?

RH: Hex Hall is the story of Sophie Mercer, a 16 year old witch who gets sent to Hecate Hall, a reform school for all sorts of magical creatures. Shenanigans, some near-murders, and kissing all ensue. 

ML: Hex Hall brushes against the Harry Potter legacy before arcing out on its own, how did you try to stand out from the giant footprints left by Harry and his friends?

RH: Well, one of the ways I describe the book is, "What if you got sent to Hogwarts, only it TOTALLY SUCKED?" :) In my mind, Sophie and all the kids live in a world where the Harry Potter books exist (Sophie even cracks a Hagrid joke), so I think having the character aware of how different their situation is from the Awesome-Sauce that is Hogwarts helps!

ML: What do you think are some of the challenges for writing for a young adult audience?

RH: Teens are the smartest readers ever, so you really have to bring your A Game! They can spot the tiniest plot hole, and they won't let you get away with anything that feel inauthentic. So making sure my characters sound like real kids is definitely a challenge!

ML: Do you feel that being a teacher helped you write Hex Hall and connect better with a teen audience?

RH: Without a doubt! I taught 12th grade British Lit, so I was trying to take things like Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales and make them more accessible to teens. That really helped me nail my "teen voice." Also, my kids were always bringing in books that they were reading and letting me borrow them, so I felt like I had a could handle on the kinds of things teens liked to read.

ML: Readers learn early on in Hex Hall that Jenna, vampire extraordinaire and Sophie's room mate/best friend is a lesbian. Do you feel that this was a bold move, or does it reflect a higher level of acceptance teens have for "alternative lifestyles?"

RH: At the time I was writing it, I didn't think it was all that bold. Jenna was a lesbian the same way she was a blonde; it was just part of her character make up. But I taught several gay teenagers, and I liked the idea of readers of all sexualities having couples to root for and identify with!  And I definitely think teens can be more accepting. At least I hope so!

ML: You've talked a lot on your blog about how much rewriting Hex Hall went through before it was perfected. Can you tell our audience here a little about the evolution of the book?

RH: My process is always a little weird, and it's ESPECIALLY weird for Hex Hall. I basically wrote a draft and a half on my first run through. I'd written about 150 pages, and there were some elements that weren't working (No Jenna! Or Archer! QUELLE HORRUER!). So I heavily edited those first 150 pages, then finished the rest of the book from that point on. 

ML: Swag Question: What promo item have you always wanted to see your name on? Which one are you the most proud of?

RH: I really think the world needs Hex Hall flip-flops. :) But seriously, I ADORE the Hex Hall t-shirts! They're so cute and fun!

ML: Which authors are you totally in awe of and why?

RH: Soooo many. Eudora Welty, who just captures the South- with all its flaws- so beautifully. Diana Gabaldon who writes these big, freaking books that just fly by. John Green for so perfectly hitting what it feels like to be a teenager. 

ML: Literacy is an ongoing challenge in today's school. Can you recommend some books (besides Hex Hall) that you feel can help foster a love of reading in children and teens?

RH: Again, so many! A quick list would include anything by Libba Bray (ditto Cassandra Clare) Elizabeth Marie Pope's THE PERILOUS GARD, Lindsey Leaviit's PRINCESS FOR HIRE (so fun, you could die!), all of Lois Duncan's books, every word Roald Dahl ever wrote... oh, we could be here all night!


ML: Finally, can you tell us a little about what's coming next for Jenna and Sophie and the Hex Hall crew, and what's next for you?

RH: For Sophie, et al, Book 2 sees them dealing with the fall out from Book 1, AND going on a Crazy Summer Vacation. For me, I'll be starting Book 3 here pretty soon, as well as a few other Super Seeeekrit Projects.  ;-)



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