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Saturday 8 February 2020

Guest Post: Q & A with Joseph Elliott on The Good Hawk

What’s The Good Hawk about?
The Good Hawk is the first book in the Shadow Skye trilogy and is about a clan that live on the Isle of Skye in a mythic version of Scotland. After an invasion by warriors from overseas, the only people to evade capture are a girl with Down’s syndrome called Agatha, an anxious boy called Jamie and a young child-bride called Lileas. Together they must cross the haunted mainland, filled with terrifying beasts and dark secrets, in an attempt to rescue their family.

This is your debut novel. Had you written much prior to this?
As my other job, I work as an actor, and a large part of that has involved script-writing and editing over the years. When I first graduated, I set up a comedy sketch group with three friends called Four Screws Loose. We toured and performed together for over six years, including a run at The Adelaide Fringe, which I absolutely loved. During those years, I was constantly writing sketches for us to perform and editing the other guys’ work. 

Then I landed a job in children’s TV, which led to a fair amount of script writing work for different television shows. I’d always loved the idea of writing a full-length novel so, over the course of several years, I was silently working on a manuscript at the same time. I finished my first novel in 2015, but couldn’t find a home for it. To take my mind off all the rejections I was receiving, I started writing The Good Hawk, and that’s the book that landed me a literary agent, and then a publishing deal!

What made you decide to include a character with Down’s syndrome?
When I first started working as an actor in London, I needed a second job for when I was 'resting' (unemployed), so I started working at a secondary school for children with additional needs. I adored the job, and gradually progressed from being a teaching assistant to leading my own drama lessons and directing school productions. I taught a wide range of children, including many with Down’s syndrome, who surprised and entertained me every day. I wanted to create a heroine that the children I knew could relate to and be inspired by, which is how Agatha came into being.

One of the main themes in The Good Hawk is that of difference, or being perceived as different. What prompted you want to write about that?
I think difference is a theme everyone can relate to; we have all felt different – and insecure as a consequence of it – at some point in our lives. These feelings are even more prevalent during our teenage years, at a time of great change and personal growth. The perception of others as ‘different’ – and consequently ‘other’ as a result of it – is the cause of so much negativity in our world. I like to think The Good Hawk may help break down certain preconceptions (or reinforce positive beliefs), and prove that we should embrace one another’s differences and individuality.

What were your favourite books growing up? Were there any books in particular that inspired The Good Hawk?
I’ve always been a big fan of fantasy. When I was young, my favourite series was The Animals of Farthing Wood by Colin Dann (my mum still believes it was these books that turned me vegetarian, despite me pointing out that no one eats foxes or badgers…). As a teenager, I devoured everything by Australian author Ian Irvine. I’m still a big fan of his work, and eagerly anticipate his new releases. I think everything I’ve ever read has inspired The Good Hawk in some small way or another – even books I didn’t enjoy, as they spurred me on to write something that I would.

If you had one piece of advice to give to aspiring authors, what would it be?
I’d say to read as much as you possibly can (including my book – available to buy now from all good retailers!) Reading other people’s work helps you learn what works and what doesn’t; it’s really invaluable.

Visit again on the 16 February for your chance to win your own copy of The Good Hawk in our fresh-off-the-press Giveaway.

Joseph Elliott is a writer and actor, well-known for his work in children’s television including CBeebies series 'Swashbuckle'. His commitment to serving children with special education needs was instilled at a young age: his mother is a teacher trained in special needs education, and his parents provided respite foster care for children with additional needs. He has worked at a recreational centre for children with learning disabilities and as a teaching assistant at Westminster Special Schools. The heroine of his first book, The Good Hawk, was inspired by the many incredible children he has worked with, especially those with Down’s syndrome. Joseph lives in London. Say hello to Joseph on Twitter: @joseph_elliott.