A Discussion of Creativity & Writing: An Interview with Penny Hooper

Today we are talking with Penny Hooper about her creative process. Penny Hooper is the author of I Fell In Love with a Psychopath and It’s My Mistake.

About Author

Penny Hooper is an award-winning multi-genre author and activist.

So let’s get into the questions!

First, tell us about your book!

My book ‘I Fell in Love with a Psychopath’ is about a woman who moves to Chicago to chase her dream to work in a museum, but it doesn’t quite go to plan. She meets the funny, outgoing Liam working in a boring office, having a small crush on him, but never quite getting his attention, until one day he finally asks her out. She also meets Xander in a bar one night, he’s tall, ruggedly handsome and mysterious. However, one of them is a psychopath…

How did you come up with this idea? What inspired you?

I can’t remember exactly where I got the idea from, but I think I had a dream one day about a man, I can’t remember the details of the dream, but I do remember having this weird infatuation with it afterwards, like I was still living it. I decided then, that I couldn’t quite part with that feeling, so I had to use it to inspire a story. I also remember thinking about all the thrillers on psychopaths out there, and they always end up the same; someone gets killed or at least nearly killed. But, the truth is, there are many people with psychopathy that are living normal lives, not everyone turns out to be killers. So, I wanted to kind of promote the better side of psychopaths, but of course, add in a few twists and turns along the way!

Tell us a little bit about your main character(s). Were you inspired by anyone particular when writing them?

Well, I can’t say too much about the two male characters in my book, as it might give the story away! But, the main character; Jo, like most of my main characters, a lot of her personality is based either around who I used to be, or who I am now, or who I want to be. Jo, in this case, is mostly based around who I used to be; shy, lacking confidence, and naive, but she does grow a little as the story develops, into more of the person I am today; a little more confident and strong.

What about your setting? What inspired you to choose where the story took place?

Ah, the Windy City; Chicago. Ironically, I haven’t yet had the chance of visiting, even though my book is set there (I am planning on visiting in the next year or so, as I’m planning a charity tour down Route 66 with a friend!). In my book ‘I Fell in Love with a Psychopath’, I wanted to set the book somewhere new, rather than keeping it to the UK all the time, where I’m from. Chicago is the one city in the USA that I have always loved (aside from LA and New York), it looks clean, bright and beautiful, so I set myself the challenge. I did have to do a lot of research, however!

What is your writing process like?

Haphazard. Haha. And this largely depends on the genre I am writing. My two published novels are both romantic suspense, so I initially start with an idea, brainstorm how I want to story to develop and set upon writing it, chapter by chapter. I know what’s going to happen at the start, in the middle, and how it’s going to end. However, one of my books I’m still currently working on; Rose Garden Sanatorium is a little different as it’s written very differently. Firstly, it has multiple points of views, and although I have an idea of how it ends and roughly what will happen in the middle – as well as the whole story which will span a series – I have been a lot more open to change – if I decide that it doesn’t seem to flow right, or I decide a character wouldn’t actually do or say something in particular, I would change it. Which is probably why it’s taking me nearly three years so far to write. I also had another idea of a story, which was slightly inspired by the writing style in Paula Hawkins’ book ‘The Girl on the Train’, as the timeline changes a lot, cutting back to an earlier timeline so your understanding of what’s going on develops just like a detective’s would.

What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most?

Getting the initial story down as a first draft is always my favourite, just seeing the idea in my head forming into something tangible. But, one thing that I think sets me out differently to other authors, is that I like detail. I also said this in a recent podcast with Megha Upadhyaya… there is one chapter in particular in my book Rose Garden Sanatorium that originally was one of my less-liked chapters, it’s of a character that is a secondary character, initially I wrote it as a filler, so you build up an idea of what’s going on slowly. But I decided to go back to it, after putting a lot of time and effort into the chapters that I loved, I decided I should give the lesser-liked chapters a bit more attention. The chapter itself is about this agent who is put on her first mission, and the scene only really goes from the building to the van, but I go into detail about what she’s wearing, how it was designed, the equipment and so on. It seems like a lot, and I can imagine my future editor saying it’s unnecessary, but there are a few little ‘easter eggs’ in there, which if you read it properly, you will see and build up a picture of what is actually going on.

What was the most difficult part in writing your book? How did you overcome it?

In ‘I Fell in Love with a Psychopath’, the most difficult bit was actually the beginning. I started off with a chapter that I enjoyed writing, and it formed the starting point of the rest of the story, the story and characters developed along the way. But when I went back to it after getting half-way through, I realised that start wasn’t captivating enough. It took me a while to figure out what to do. But in the end, I actually created a prologue for the story, which actually started half-way in to the story, so you read this pivotal moment in the story first, then you go back to how it began. You read the first half of the story learning what happened leading up to that moment. Then, the rest of the book is what happens after that moment.

Finally, do you have any words of inspiration or tips to new authors?

Yes; just write. I’ve said this before in other interviews. The only way you are going to learn, grow as a writer, and actually finish writing that book (I can’t talk too much, as I’m STILL writing Rose Garden Sanatorium!) is to write. Don’t worry if you don’t think it’s amazing, you’re not going to learn if you don’t practice. And, another piece of advice; work out if you want to go down the traditional publishing route or self-published, and be prepared that the book you are writing, even if it’s the most interesting and well-edited book in the world, if a traditional publisher isn’t interested in the genre, they will not be interested in your book. Both options are difficult and lots of hard work, but for different reasons.

Thank you for joining us today! If you’re interested in Penny Hooper, check out the links below!

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Until next time,

E.S. Barrison

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