Hazel’s top tip for aspiring authors: My top tip is to avoid the mistakes I made. Don’t be in a hurry to send in your work to a publisher. Revise, revise and revise again and again.
Hazel Barker lives in Brisbane with her husband Colin. She taught in Perth, Canberra and Brisbane for over a quarter of a century and now devotes her time to reading, writing and bushwalking. From her early years, her passion for books drew her to authors like Walter Scott and Charles Dickens. Her love for historical novels sprang from Scott, and the love of literary novels, from Dickens. Many of her short stories and book reviews have been published in magazines and anthologies.
Hazel’s debut novel Chocolate Soldier, was released by Rhiza Press in September 2016. Book One of her memoirs Heaven Tempers the Wind, was released by Armour Books in August this year. Both books are set during World War Two – the former in England and the Far East, the latter in Burma.
Visit Hazel’s website here.
Why do you write? I write because it gives me pleasure and satisfaction. It’s not what I earn or don’t earn. It’s like going on a journey.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’ve retired now. If I was still working, I’d be teaching, as I am a teacher, but now that I’ve retired, if I wasn’t writing, I’d be immersed in orchids and helping my husband with his hobby.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? My toughest obstacle was impatience – sending my manuscripts to publishers before they were polished to perfection.
How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover/illustrations? Last year I had two books published. My first book was a memoir Heaven Tempers the Wind. Story of a War Child. My publisher was Armour Books. A month later, Rhiza Press published my debut novel, Chocolate Soldier. The Story of a Conchie. Both publishers asked me what I had in mind for the covers. As my memoir was set in Burma, during World War Two, I wanted a setting with pagodas in the background and planes flying overhead.
My novel, Chocolate Soldier was not what I’d asked for, but my publisher sent me several covers to choose from, and I selected the one I liked.
What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The best aspect of my writing life is the joy of writing and getting my work published. I’ve made so many friends within my writing groups and met so many wonderful people since I commenced my writing career. I guess that makes three. But it was difficult to stop …
—the worst? The worst is the lack of time – having to sacrifice being with my husband or participating in other pleasures together.
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would join a writing group ASAP, instead of struggling on my own, and hold back from sending in my work too soon to publishers.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish I’d been told that writing styles have changed over the years and that I should not take my favourite classical authors as my model.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? The best ever given to me was by Jean Briggs, who used to help so many aspiring authors. She told me not to write in the passive voice. She also said I had a good academic style of writing suitable for a thesis, but not for a novel.
Story of a War Child
Hazel’s idyllic childhood is torn apart by the bombing of Rangoon. The Japanese armies overrun Burma, forcing the family to move from one refuge to another. Hazel’s father, a Muslim, and her mother, a Catholic, fears for her children. Told through a child’s eyes, this story tells of a family’s travails during the darkest days of enemy occupation.
The book is available from Armour Books.