About Me

A little bit more about me, and some FAQ's
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Young Adult Author

Hayley Barker

I live in Essex with my husband, two sons and our dog. When I’m not writing, vising schools or taking part in author events, I’m usually taking care of the family–running someone to a sports fixture, cheering on at the side-line, cooking, feeding and tidying up or maybe jumping on the trampoline with the kids.

I cannot imagine what my life would be like without literature in it. Before becoming published, I was a secondary school English teacher and books have always played a massive part in my day-to-day to life and have made me the person I am today. Being an author is a dream come true for me and I feel so lucky to be spending every day doing what I love.

FAQs

Have you always wanted to write?

Yes, I’ve always loved creative writing but it was only after the birth of my first son that I started to take it seriously. I guess my attitude to my career and my priorities changed. I think lots of people have the ability to write but you have to be prepared to devote the time and effort it takes to really give it a go. I knew that I didn’t want to look back one day when it was too late and regret not giving myself a fighting chance.

What’s your go-to procrastination method?
This sounds very martyr-like, I know, but I don’t really procrastinate, with writing anyway. Because I have a young family, there’s always a hundred and one things which need doing before I can begin to work. When I sit down to write, I know I only have a few precious hours at the most, so I really try and get the most out of them and make them as productive as I can.
Best thing about writing?
There are times (rare, but wonderful) when the scenes seem to write themselves. I put the characters in certain situations and let them work their way out of them– all I have to do is sit and write down what happens. Those are the times I like best – when it just feels effortless.
And the worst?

Working from home can become pretty lonely, if you let it. I love writing so much but I think it’s important to make sure that I strike the right balance – meeting friends for coffee or lunch now and again, going to exercise classes and walking the dog give me better perspective and are actually as important as the hours spent pounding on the keyboard. Sometimes it’s hard not to lose sight of that and there’s always the danger of turning into a recluse!

Go-to writing snacks?

Chocolate Hobnobs!

Who or what inspires you to write?
The pleasure of writing. I love it; it makes me feel complete. I don’t think I will ever not write again.
The book that changed you?

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. I studied it at A level and a passion for feminist writing and issues, and the knowledge that dystopian literature can cast an illuminating and relevant light on contemporary society has stayed with me ever since.

If you could share a bottle of wine with one writer dead or alive, who would it be?
It’s between Lord Byron and Oscar Wilde, but I think I’d be too intimidated by Byron, so I’ll go for Wilde.
One piece of advice you’d give first time writers hoping to get a book published?
This sounds really cheesy, but…don’t give up: believe you can do it, and do whatever it takes to get there. I think the only difference between a pipe dream and a realistic ambition is the amount of work you put in. So many people say they “have a story in them” but never do anything about it. As soon as you sit down and start writing, you’ve taken the first step on the journey, and every day you write after that is another step closer to achieving your goals.
What books do you enjoy reading? - Fact/Fiction/Fantasy etc

I love fiction of all genres and periods. As an English teacher I had the opportunity to work with so many diverse texts and I loved pretty much all of them. Over the last few years, I’ve spent a lot of time reading Young Adult fiction. It’s  fresh and diverse and vibrant and there are so many pioneering and inspiring writers out there.

YA characters don’t have to worry about monotony and the daily grind of life. For them, it’s all about the big issues: about finding oneself, about intense relationships, about exciting adventures. That’s what makes us look back on our teenage years with such nostalgia and, for me, what makes YA novels the most escapist reading, and writing, of all.

Describe the exact moment you decided to write Show Stopper.
For a long time, I had been growing apprehensive about the direction the country was heading in – the right wing media seemed to be continually reporting about “uncontrolled” immigration levels and the apparently associated rise in crime and drain on the health care and benefit systems. Racist language and ideas were being bandied about on social media, backed up with out of context statistics or down-right lies and it felt almost as if it was becoming socially acceptable to air these abhorrent views again. I wanted to write something which attempted to address this in some way.

I had also been thinking about writing a story set in a circus for ages. I wasn’t a huge fan of actual circuses, which always seemed a bit run down and tawdry in real life, but fictional ones had always appealed to me. I think it was the way that the circus can represent an alternative to drab reality, a supposedly magical escape where anything can happen. For a couple of months, I had been reading books about historical circuses and toying with plot ideas.

One evening, the two concepts merged together. I sat down and scribbled down the scene which became the Prologue and the rest of the story developed from there.

What would you say is the main message you’d like people take away with them when they read Show Stopper?

Oppression of people has taken place across the world and throughout history, and is still happening now, in so many places, and in so many ways. Here in England, we sometimes have the attitude that such horrors could never happen in a “civilised” society like ours. I don’t believe that’s necessarily true. I think we have to be really careful not to be complacent and not to let prejudice and marginalisation creep into mainstream society. For me, the most horrific thing of all is that there are certain types of people who would probably relish something like the situation I imagine in Show Stopper actually happening. I believe we have to guard against them and never let ourselves be pulled down by hatred and bigotry.

Sadly, many of the terrible things which happen in Show Stopper are not as unlikely and fantastical as they may first appear. People have been tortured for entertainment right back to the Roman gladiators and beyond. Just to skim the surface and name a few examples:

·         Jewish people, the disabled and homosexuals were all targeted in the most horrific ways by Hitler and the Nazis. Hitler’s aim was genocide – to destroy an entire race of people. After their deaths, their body parts were often recycled and used for experimentation.

·         In India, the Dalit, a group of people deemed the “Untouchables”, still experience discrimination which is just as horrific as that which the Dregs suffer in Show Stopper.

·         In South Africa, apartheid–the institutionalised system of racial segregation and discrimination–lasted over forty years and was only finally abolished in 1991.

·         The slave trade across the Atlantic Ocean went on for hundreds and hundreds of years and Black people in America were legally segregated until 1964.

The Twentieth century, the bloodiest in history, saw more than its fair share of the horrors mankind is capable of inflicting and it does not always feel as if we are learning the lessons of history. As I write, the children of refugees seeking sanctuary in America -the supposed land of the free- have been taken from their parents and are living in cages. The truth is sometimes worse than any fiction.

Racial and sexual discrimination are still in operation in many places across the globe and I wanted this novel to be an outcry against intolerance and prejudice. I didn’t want to write a didactic novel though, but one which people couldn’t put down, one which entertained and gripped with its story.  That’s what I tried to do when I wrote Show Stopper, I guess it’s for the reader to judge whether or not I’ve succeeded.

What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write it?
To back up and save my work every time, without fail!