Last week I read and reviewed an incredible novel titled If Kisses Cured Cancer. Today I’m so pleased to be able to welcome the author, T.S. Hawken, whose actual name is Tim, to Behind the Pen. Over to you Tim…
When did you start writing and what was the catalyst?
I started writing seriously in my early to mid twenties, while studying literature and journalism. Inspired by a writing assignment I’d been set to ‘create a contemporary Satan’, I dove into research and wrote easily the best thing I’d done to that point. It earned the best mark I ever received at uni by a mile. That instant, positive feedback started the ball rolling into novels, short stories and more.
How many novels have you written and published?
This latest novel (If Kisses Cured Cancer) will mark the 4th I’ve had published. There are a few terrible ones in my drawer that will never see the light of day, plus a few screenplays and TV pilots.
How long on average does it take you to write a novel?
Normally from start to finish, including the editing process, it’s about 12 months. This latest one was closer to 5 years! The main reason for that was that during the process my wife was undergoing cancer therapy. Plus, we’d just had a couple of kids, so you could say things were fairly disruptive.
Do you have any particular qualifications that relate to the subject matter covered in this novel?
My wife battling cancer was definitely a big inspiration for this novel. Putting in those emotions and unusual things you go through as a couple helped me write something that was realistic and heartfelt, while at the same time allowing me to process everything that was happening.
How far has your writing career evolved from when you first began to write to what it is today? Is this in line with your initial expectations?
It’s changed drastically. I started writing as a student. My first novel followed me through my career in sales and marketing. Now, I write full time, but a lot of that is copywriting for different brands, as well as the creative stuff. That mix helps with cash flow, supporting a family, mortgage and the occasional holiday. That’s not what I expected in my twenties. Naively at that age you expect to be a writing superstar that pumps out bestseller after bestseller while drinking whisky and attending parties in your tailored corduroy jacket with leather elbow patches.
Do you read your book reviews? Do you appreciate reader feedback and take it on board, even if it is negative? How do you deal with negative feedback after spending so much time writing your book?
I do read reviews of my books, especially when they’re fresh off the press. 5 star reviews are a great little boost to the ego, and very welcome, although I find most of the really valuable feedback comes from 3 or 4 star reviews. They’re generally the ones where people get critical, without panning things just to be a jerk. I’ve definitely changed my writing for the better based on things people have said in reviews. Blogs, Amazon, Goodreads, or newspapers – take good advice where and when you can get it. Shut out the haters and bask in the great feeling when someone feels your work is good enough to rate 5 stars.
Are you more of a print, e-book, or audio book fan?
I’ll take good books anyway I can get them. Nothing quite beats being snuggled up in bed with a good print book, but I’m often on the road and it’s not practical to take a stack of novels with me. My Kindle is my constant travel companion. I absolutely LOVE Audible too. Driving, doing the dishes, hanging up the washing – it’s amazing being able to stimulate your mind while doing otherwise mindless tasks.
What attributes do you think you need to remain sane as a writer? Are there any particular things you routinely do for yourself to maintain your own headspace?
Just loving writing. You need to want to do it whether you’re getting paid for it or not, praised for it or not. If you’re chasing your tail because you think that next article, blog post, short story or novel is going to make you a star, you’re in for a very humbling experience. A thick skin is handy too, but not so thick that you don’t listen to constructive feedback when it’s being offered.
If you could sit down for an afternoon with an iconic person from history, who would you choose to spend that time with?
I’d love to set up a mixer with Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Moses, Zoroaster, Ramakrishna and Confucius. Then, I’d sit in the corner with Hunter S Thompson and Ernest Hemmingway to document the fallout.
In lieu of that, a few glasses of milk with Nietzsche would be pretty interesting.
If you were in a fight to the death, what would be your weapon of choice?
A mortal tickle fight with feather dusters would be my pick. We’d live a lot longer and do plenty of laughing before we finally carked it.
If Kisses Cured Cancer
Matt Pearce is depressed, working an uninspiring job and lacking any prospect of dragging his life out of mediocrity. That is until he meets Joy: a cancer survivor who lives beyond the rules of normal people.
As the pair go on a series of unusual dates – from hijacking fish n chip orders, to ‘extreme people watching’ at the airport – their love for each other grows. But Joy’s past is about to catch up with her, and a hidden secret could tear the two apart forever.
If Kisses Cured Cancer is a quirky look at finding love in unlikely places. It is about the importance of connecting with those around you, enjoying every moment and not being afraid to go skinny dipping in the forest. It will have you in tears of joy, tears of sorrow and tears of laughter.