Hello everybody! Today, I’m absolutely thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One, with my interview of the author Maggie Horne. Onto the post!
1. Hi Maggie, so happy to have you here today! First off, can you please describe the book for us in 5 words?
Hello! Thank you very much for having me!
Okay: 1. Tween 2. Lesbian 3. Takes 4. Down 5. Patriarchy (I mean, obviously that’s a bit of an oversimplification, but I’m impressed I got it to fit in 5 words so we’ll go with it!)
2. The book focuses on a group of girls trying to take down a boy who is sexually harassing them at school and online. What made you want to write about this, particularly for this age group? Were there any challenges in writing about sexual harassment and assault for young readers?
Honestly, there wasn’t any moment where I decided to write this story for this age group – I actually wanted to try writing middle grade (my background is in YA), and this felt like the only story that felt right for me to tell as my first shot. My memories of being Hazel’s age involve a lot of unfortunate fashion choices, spending time with my friends… and sexual harrassment at school.
On my part, it was really easy to write this story for a middle grade audience because it was true to my own experience. I definitely did run into some pushback where whether or not the book’s content was appropriate for the audience came into question, but I always thought that was kind of funny. Like, you don’t think sexual harrassment is appropriate for 12 year olds? Me neither! Yet here we are!
3. Another hugely important theme in the book is friendship, and specifically Hazel having her first real friendships. What was your favourite moment to write with the trio of her, Riley and Ella Quinn? (who always gets her full name!) Did you base any of their relationships on ones you’ve had in real life?
Hazel’s Journey To Friends was such a special and important part of the book for me – her eventually opening up enough and trusting enough to genuinely become friends with Ella Quinn and Riley was such a nice thing to get to write. The funny thing is, I think more of the friendships were inspired by experiences I had long after middle school, once I was able to do the same thing. I’ve always said that Hazel is like me, but cooler and more sure of herself, so I guess it makes sense that she figured all of that out before me!
4. Something else amazing about your book is that Hazel knows she has crushes on girls, and I think queer rep in middle grade is so important. Do you think the industry is changing enough that we might start to see more of it? And I can’t resist asking if you have any book recs?
I think it definitely is! I was middle-grade age when I realized I was queer (though it took me a lot longer to come out) and I think, thankfully, kids are getting more and more empowered to have those thoughts and questions about themselves at an earlier age. At the same time, though, homophobia is definitely on the rise in a lot of insidious and horrible ways, so I hope that, either way, the queer kids who read HAZEL get something they need from it.
I always have recs! Jake Maia Arlow’s ALMOST FLYING is one of my favourite-ever queer middle grade books. And next year, SKATING ON MARS by Caroline Huntoon releases, and I can tell you right now that it’s incredible.
5. As this is your debut, what has been your favourite moment in the run up to publication? And what are you most excited about now the book is out?
I’ve been SO lucky and had so many amazing moments leading up to publication! Indie booksellers, especially, have been so kind and supportive, and HAZEL’s been both an Indies Introduce and Indie Next selection. I think my favourite moment, though, was learning that I had gotten a starred review from Kirkus – my two best friends also debuted with Kirkus stars, so, even though I know I shouldn’t have, I was really really hoping to do the same.
6. Along similar lines, I wanted to ask what your ultimate dream is, as an author? At what point do you think you’ll feel successful?
Honestly, I just want to keep publishing as long as I can! Of course I’d love the big movie deal and everything like that, but my goal has always been to write as much as I can for as long as I can. A big dream of mine is to have a book published in every age category, from picture books to adult!
7. Even though the book is about a very serious topic, as I’ve said before, it’s also hilarious in terms of your writing style and the snappy dialogue. What tips would you give to other writers on how to create this in their work?
This was one of the most important things to me, as I was writing this book! Yes, there’s a lot of serious stuff going on in this book, but it’s not a book where horrible things happen and girls are very sad. I tried really, really hard to remember how I saw things when I was Hazel’s age, and that led pretty well into remembering what I thought was funny.
8. And another writing question now: what’s your writing routine like, if you have one? Do you have any unusual habits or quirks?
Oh, I wish I had a writing routine!! I work full-time and I have a toddler at home, so I write whenever I have a spare moment. In a good week, I’m able to get writing done in the mornings and evenings, but often I really rely on the weekends to get stuff done.
9. Lastly, before some quickfire questions, can you tell us a little bit about your next book? I’m SO excited for it coming out!
I sure can!! I’m also so excited!! My next book, coming Winter 2024 with Firefly Press, is called NOAH FRYE GETS CRUSHED. It’s about 12-year-old Noah, who, after being away from her friends all summer, quickly realizes that something’s changed: they’ve discovered boys in a big way, and Noah really, really hasn’t. Afraid of being left behind, Noah decides that if she just picks a boy in her class, she can teach herself how to have a crush on him. It goes just about as well as you think it would. Noah’s different to Hazel in that she hasn’t figured out her identity in the same way Hazel has – where Hazel forced herself to be really independent and self-assured, Noah’s always had a really tight-knit group of friends to lean on.
Favourite middle-of-the-night pancake topping?
Whipped cream and chocolate chips! (They go together so they count as one)
If you entered the speech contest, what subject would you choose?
I did speech contests all through school!! In fact, my 7th grade speech was on… Unsolved Mysteries of the 20th Century, just like Hazel! That one admittedly wasn’t my best work, but one year I made it to the regional competition (brag).
In honour of the cover, favourite badge you have on a jacket?
Can I cheat and say the little springer spaniel on Hazel’s jacket? Luna Valentine, the cover artist, added that one for me; it’s my dog, Winnie!!
3 favourite books of 2022?
BAD THINGS HAPPEN HERE by Rebecca Barrow
FRIZZY by Claribel Ortega and Rose Bousamra
THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD by Tiffany D Jackson
3 upcoming releases you’re excited for?
THROWBACK by Maureen Goo
SKATING ON MARS by Caroline Huntoon
HOW TO EXCAVATE A HEART by Jake Maia Arlow
Thank you so much for reading! Are you planning to pick up this book? What pin badges do you love? I’d love to chat in the comments!
One thought on “Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One Blog Tour: Author Interview with Maggie Horne”
Thank you for such an awesome Q & A session. A great book, so full of positive vibes on a hard subject, but so eloquently done. And a wonderful author insight. I can not wait to read the next one.