How did you get into writing?
As an only child, I made up stories to amuse myself, scribbling them in exercise books bought in my local paper shop. When I taught 3-7 year olds, I discovered my stories went down a storm. As an exercise, I would begin one of my fantasies and ask the children take turns adding to it. We travelled in many surprising directions to finish the story to everyone’s satisfaction.
Are you more comfortable with novels or short stories?
I prefer the long haul of a novel.
Which books affected you as a young reader?
I loved Grimm’s fairy tales, liking sour rather than sweet. A friend of my grandmother’s, Aunty Alice, (I’m from Wales, children call everyone Aunty) gave me a copy of The Borrowers for my birthday, and I lapped it up. I collected Richmal Crompton’s William books. I still have that collection, still read and love them. Ah, but then in my teens I discovered John Wyndham and science-fiction; the start of a life-long passion.
Reading your work, I’m always struck by the distinctive tone you achieve. Is that a conscious choice?
I studied drama in college and I try to adopt the persona of my main character; try to be them. I dream his or her life, where they live, how they live and how they think. This colours the story.
What attracts you to writing for young adults?
I suppose, basically I haven’t grown up. I don’t think I ever will.
Another outstanding feature of your writing is the rich and imaginative vocabulary. Where does that come from?
Years and years of reading every kind of book I could get my hands on, old styles and new. The classics, historical novels, crime, fantasy and science fiction – anything and everything. I have all those words queuing inside my brain, waiting to appear on my computer screen in a splurge of mix and match. (I also have a thing for dictionaries.)
Which contemporary writers do you enjoy?
Charlie Huston is my top favourite – unique, with a writing style to die for. Then there’s YA author Suzanne Collins; her series The Hunger Games turns me green with envy. I love Andre Norton. Not strictly speaking contemporary, but a fabulous YA writer. Oh, and Carol O’Connell, the crime writer – her detective heroine Mallory is totally original, intriguing and all round awesome.
Hearing your voice on the podcasts is a real bonus. Not just your lovely Welsh accent, but it fits the material so well. How strong is the influence of Wales on your writing?
The countryside my characters move in is Welsh; places I live near, places I visit. The towns have aspects of my South Walian town. Certain names crop up again and again. Screw Packet Lane is one, a feature of my childhood that disappeared in the re-generation of the 60’s.
You seem to be drawn to surreal, fantastic, post-apocalyptic landscapes of another time or place. Why is that?
It frees my imagination. No one else has entered this world, it is mine. No one else owns it and I can do what I like with it. It’s exciting, anything can happen.
What’s your current project?
A book for teens, Goyles. A dystopian tale, in which two teens and a wolfhound battle to save the world from man-eating monsters.
JW Hicks: A life-long story maker and story writer who took early retirement from teaching and signed on for creative writing classes run by Cardiff University. Soon after, she started writing her first futuristic novel. Her most recent, Modall, was shortlisted for the 2010 Dundee Prize for unpublished authors, while the first pages of Altered and This World and The Next came 2nd and 3rd in Words with JAM’s 2011 First Page Competition, judged by Andrew Crofts.
You can hear Jane reading from Altered, and another of her short stories, here.
In between the novels, she writes short stories; Time and Again in Whitby was published by Yorkshire Ridings magazine. Freeze Frame by Debut, and an eerie story Bane was recently shortlisted for the Meridian Short Story competition. Cats came third in Global Short Stories and Tied was published in the Short Fuses Anthology. Fever in the Blood won the Ouse Valley Short Story competition. Keys and Locks and Open Doors appeared on eastoftheweb.com and along with Watching was subsequently published in Words with JAM.
JW Hicks can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org