I’m an adult science fiction author, but over the years I found myself doing more and more school visits. I love talking to kids about writing, and they also react very well to the anecdotes about my crazy life growing up in rural Spain.
Eventually I decided to write a book for them, but I also wanted to make it fun for parents and for readers of my existing science fiction comedy series for adults. I set the junior novels in the same universe, and there are cameos from some of the characters.
What makes your book different than other books out there?
You try finding science fiction for middle grade readers, especially the realistic kind. Hal Junior is unashamedly a ‘boy’s book’ … although it will appeal to many girls as well. The first book in the series (The Secret Signal) features a 10-year-old Hal Junior and his best mate Stephen ‘Stinky’ Binn. The second book introduces a new character and Stinky takes a back seat.
Where do you get your inspiration?
From my own childhood. Bike crashes, air rifle incidents, accidental fires, bumps, scrapes, danger, high voltage electricity… I’m amazed I survived to adulthood, but boy did it give me material for some funny books ;-)
What kind of books do you read? Are they similar to the books you write?
A lot of murder mysteries, and no, they’re not similar at all. I did read widely in the MG genre after I’d written the first Hal Junior novel, to see whether I was close to the target age group.
Dream cast your book for us.
By the time it was made into a movie all of the current crop of child actors will be adults! (Sorry, I’m a realist.) However, if you’ve seen Just William (the 2010 version), you’ll have a good idea of the ages and personalities involved.
Do you have a ‘day job’? What is it?
Yep, computer programming. I write my own stuff (e.g. the yWriter novel-writing software) as well as various programs under contract.
What has your biggest struggle been so far?
Getting published was a 5-year fun-fest, and then after my first four adult novels were released the hardest part was finishing the fifth book. That’s partly why I switched over to junior fic, although now that I have four Hal Junior books under way I’m finding it easier to go back and finish off the adult novels too.
How do you feel about romances being so common in YA (and to a lesser degree MG) books?
It’s a huge part of daily life for most teens. For MG I don’t think it’s necessary, not to the soppy kissy extent. Middle-grade boys pretend they hate girls, and vice-versa. Lots of peer pressure going on at that age.
Do you think it’s easier to write a series or stand-alone books? Which do readers prefer?
My adult series started as a stand-alone novel, and after finishing that one off I intended to write something completely different. I wasn’t finished with the characters though, so I kept writing more books.
With Hal Junior: The Secret Signal I knew I’d be writing more if the first was well-received. It was, and so here I am with two in print, two on the go and four more plotted out after that.
As for readers (and with MG books, parents and educators), they love a good series. If they enjoyed the first book they want more and more and never want it to end.
What’s next for you?
I’m writing Hal Junior books 3 and 4 at the moment, I’ve just finished book 5 in my adult series, and I’ve also released a collection of my short fiction (Collect One Two)
I’m hoping to have Hal Junior 3 out by December.
Thanks for hanging out with us today, Simon!
Simon Haynes was born in England and grew up in Spain, where he enjoyed an amazing childhood of camping, motorbikes, air rifles and paper planes. His family moved to Australia when he was 16. Simon divides his time between writing fiction and computer software, with frequent bike rides to blow away the cobwebs.