5-4-3-2-1: Will Hill

By Jim Dean, January 11, 2016

Will Hill’s superb debut novel, Department 19, kicked off one of my very favourite YA series. The five novels in this truly epic sequence came to an end with last year’s Darkest Night, a brilliantly satisfying conclusion. To celebrate the recent paperback release of Darkest Night, we got him to take part in our 5-4-3-2-1 feature!

FIVE books you’d save from a burning bookcase

The Iron Man by Ted Hughes. One of those books that I loved without reservation when I was a kid, then was nervous to read as an adult in case it wasn’t as good as I remember. And it wasn’t. It was even better.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Possibly my favourite novel of all time. Although the copy that’s actually physically on my bookshelves has no special meaning at all, as it’s probably the tenth one I’ve owned – the rest have all been given away to people I discovered hadn’t read it 🙂

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. Not just because of Lyra, and Pantalaimon, and Lee Scoresby, and Iorek Byrnison, but because of the prose: the gorgeous, inventive, lyrical prose.

(It might be hard to believe now, but when I was working in Waterstone’s Trafalgar Square in 1999-2000, there was SO much more excitement about the then imminent publication of The Amber Spyglass than there was about Harry Potter and The Goblet Of Fire. Strange times, looking back…)

It by Stephen King. Not just because it’s one of my very favourite books of all time, but because the copy on my bookshelves is signed and dedicated to me, from when I was working for his publisher and he visited the UK. An uber-fan once offered me £750 for it, and I didn’t even consider it.

Boy and Going Solo by Roald Dahl. Yes, I know that’s two books, but they’re the two parts of his autobiography and this is my list so I don’t care. I could easily have put almost any of his novels in this spot (especially The BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, Fantastic Mister Fox and Danny The Champion Of The World) but his real life was arguably more weird and wonderful than any of his stories, and his telling of it is utterly glorious.

FOUR TV shows you can watch all day long (when not busy writing)

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I was late to this, and binged it in two afternoons after I finished the first draft of a new novel. Ridiculously funny and adorable.

Anything by the BBC Natural History Unit (although preferably with David Attenborough narration). I find them all incredibly soothing, despite the tension and (incredibly beautifully filmed) violence that tends to fill them.

Making A Murderer. I watched this in two five-hour shifts over the New Year and couldn’t take my eyes off it. Completely riveting, although if you decide to watch it, be prepared to end up extremely angry with the world…

South Park. Any episode, any time.

THREE relationships you love reading about

Harry, Hermione, Ron. Because obviously.

Almost any group of kids written by Stephen King, who – for me, at least – depicts the triumphs and terrors of childhood and adolescence better than anyone else. Particularly the four boys in The Body (which was later filmed as Stand By Me) and the Losers’ Club in It – totally believable, heartbreakingly awesome.

Pretty much the entire cast of Patrick Ness’s The Rest Of Us Just Live Here (which was probably my favourite YA novel of 2015) – especially Mikey and Jared. Endlessly moving without ever coming close to schmaltz.

TWO songs that sum up the last novel you wrote perfectly

Sympathy For The Devil by The Rolling Stones.

Trying by Bully.

ONE piece of advice you’d give yourself if you could travel back in time to before you became a published author

Write the best books you possibly can. Focus on the words on the page, spend your time on them, work as hard as you can on them. All the other things that are part of being an author – agents, submissions, pub dates, events, likes, retweets, awards, sales figures, contracts – are important, but the words are the only aspect you can really, truly control, and – when all is said and done – the only things that really matter.

What do you think?