Author Interview with Penny Hooper

Tell us about yourself and how we can connect with you.

I’m Penny Hooper (AKA The Girl Who Whispered) I’m an award-winning multi-genre author, blogger, and activist currently based in the Highlands of Scotland. You could probably say I started my ‘writing’ career as early as eight. Back then, I loved to write little stories and would read to my mother. When I was a teen, I got back into writing as a form of escapism. I had a challenging childhood, as when I was about four/five and in Primary School, I developed a rare ‘condition’ called Selective Mutism (sometimes called Situational Mutism, which I think is better fitting), which is a severe anxiety condition which caused me to stop talking in school. It continued all through Primary and Secondary school, until I was the age of seventeen, finally kicking it when I went to college. It was so bad, that my only way of communicating was by whispering; hence, I became The Girl Who Whispered.
Now, as a more confident adult, and reconnecting with my love of stories, I decided to become an author and I plan on using my work to help others with Selective Mutism (as well as other causes close to my heart).

How did you get started with writing?

Writing professionally, or at least, writing my first book with the intention of getting it published, was actually a new year’s resolution. One day, around Christmas/New Year, I just decided that if I wanted to write a book, to tick that off my bucket list, well… I needed to push myself and just write! 

I told a good friend of mine, Rob, who is always an enthusiastic person when it comes to my big brash and overly enthusiastic ideas, and he became my muse for bouncing ideas off. I started with just one idea; the idea of a book, centering my story around it, and it had to involve demons of course. For a good few weeks, if not months, I was developing this story and finally started to write. This story has become my obsession for years, notes everywhere, in paper format, Word format, even notes on my phone and still hasn’t been published – I parked it for a while, not only to go back with fresh eyes, but I had to take time off to complete a degree. But, since that first day, I have written and published two books, written two short stories, started a blog, I’m currently editing the third book, and I plan on publishing that first book; Rose Garden Sanatorium, well, eventually! Haha! 

How do you come up with plots or characters for your book?

Well, you know how I came up with the plot for Rose Garden Sanatorium, but the others; they usually come to me in dreams. It could be a simple thing, like I could have a dream of being in a bar and talking to someone, but then seems to spiral into a full-blow story.

It’s the same for characters too, for the majority of the characters, they are inspired by either a dream, or a real person – whether it’s someone I know, or a celebrity. I also have a lot of me in some of the main characters, as a lot of my writing is based on day-dreaming and wishing I was somewhere else but reality; write what you know, right? But a lot of times, they also seem to develop along the way, showing their own personalities. 

I also do a LOT of research, for example, in Rose Garden Sanatorium, there are a number of characters spanned out across the series (yes, Rose Garden Sanatorium is going to be a series!), which are based on real demons in demonology. I do research into that demon, picking out what religious texts say about them, or other sources, and use that to form their personalities. For example, the books are centred around The Seven Princes of Hell, at least the German Theologian Peter Binsfeld’s classification (although, I renamed Satan as Amon, which will be explained why in the books), and the demon Beelzebub will be pictured in the book as a lover of food (he’s the demon associated with Gluttony).

What is your favorite thing about being a blogger, writer, or author?

Connecting with people. I’ve met so many interesting people; authors, filmmakers, musicians, actors, even just bloggers or the general public, it’s incredible to meet such diversity. But, it’s also been amazing to meet people who either my work has touched/helped or I have reached out in other ways. I’ve recently become a bit more active on groups that help those with Selective Mutism, or parents with children who have Selective Mutism, and I’m looking forward to doing more to help (and not just in the Selective Mutism community, in other areas too!)

What advice do you have for new writers just starting out?

Write. Just write. Write what you know. Write badly too. Don’t be afraid that your first piece of work might be terrible. Use it, learn from it, and edit it. Writing a book is very difficult. But if you’ve started the first step, you’re already well on your way to writing your first book.

I also recommend reading and read different genres and authors if you can. Branch out, take note of the writing style, the detail, the character development, the plots, the twists, and turns. If you want to write horror – read horror, but also read other genres – you never know, something from a sci-fi or romance book might be helpful with that horror story you’re writing! 

What projects are you working on right now?

As well as trying to publish my third book, and attempting to finish Rose Garden Sanatorium, I have a few other projects lined up. I’m writing a memoir of my life with Selective Mutism – people keep asking me about ‘The Girl Who Whispered’ thinking it’s a book when it’s actually the alternative name I have for myself. So, I figured I’d actually write a book called ‘The Girl Who Whispered’ and make it a memoir. 
I am also planning a charity tour down Route 66 with a good friend of mine. I plan on doing it to raise funds and awareness for a Selective Mutism charity, and my friend also has a charity he’d like to support. We also jointly agreed to support a world hunger charity (we’re both big foodies and the tour will be based around cars, bikes, and food!). We plan on doing it big, too, connecting with charities, companies (I’ve already been approached by the PR guy at the Harley-Davidson Museum) and other people, and setting up a YouTube channel or TV show of sorts. 

I also have a few other ideas lined up in the future. I would love to set up my own publishing business, with the view of being as environmentally friendly as possible and supporting underrepresented groups in the writing world. 
I also would like to try screenwriting in the future, as my dream would be to see Rose Garden Sanatorium on the screens!
And, lastly, if you could learn how to make any food what would it be? I had to add this one in because of course, this blog is centered around writing AND food… and being a foodie myself, I HAD to add it!

So, although I am not a massive fan of making big elaborate meals – I’m the sort of person who prefers a BBQ over a fancy dinner in a five-star restaurant… I have always wanted to learn how to make a decent Indian curry. I have tried and failed a few times. Some have turned out alright (I made a nice spicy paneer curry a few months back), some have turned out tasteless (a biryani). But, I have always loved authentic Indian food. Luckily, my friend, who is joining me on this Route 66 charity tour, is from a large Indian family and loves cooking, so I’m hoping he can teach me a thing or two – or maybe just be my personal chef?

And, although this would be very extreme (Vegan’s, please look away now!). I love the idea of learning how to hunt, shoot, and trap wild animals for food. I think having this skill is something that has almost died out since we have become dependent on supermarkets and fast food. Or, maybe I have just watched too much Walking Dead! Haha.

Thank you Penny for a wonderful interview!

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