Andrew Hiller Interview

Back in December, I read and reviewed A Halo of Mushrooms by Andrew Hiller. We also decided that we would have an interview posted on my blog. However, the holidays came along and we both were busy so it took a little longer to get the interview done. But now, I can post it!

Interview With Andrew!


What is your book, A Halo of Mushrooms, about?

On the surface, it’s about a healer who steals one of the last withering mushrooms of the first faerie ring in the hopes to transplant it and restore wonder, magic, and wisdom to all the worlds connected to the ancient fungi. On a deeper level, it’s about scarcity and how we react when something necessary is dying or disappearing. To what lengths will we go to save it? Will we lose our humanity in trying to grab what little remains? How do you save a dying species?

What inspired you to write A Halo of Mushrooms?

While I was working in the newsroom, I kept being assigned to report on stories about drought, cities going bankrupt, species decline, and other frustrating subjects. It seemed to me that we were seeing a lot of decline (economic and environmental) all at once… not just in one localized spot, but in unconnected places all around the world. The story emerged from that observation and then merged with other thoughts.

How did you come up with the title of your book?

I went through several titles actually. I initially was just going to call it “The Bald Mushroom” which seemed pretty cool to me, but I worried that no one would have a clue what that meant. Also, my friends hated it as a title.

I liked the idea of a halo because of its several meanings: A halo of light, an angelic symbol, a protection, etc.

Which character(s) can you relate to most in the novel?

I think it’s important to relate to everyone you write about. People say, “Write what you know,” I’ve never bought into that… I prefer “Write what you understand” or “Write what you are curious about?” After all, when we write we are often exploring a why… Why do people act the way they do? Why did events or history unfold the way it did< Why does an object in nature respond to stimuli in the way it does?

Who was the hardest character to write about in your book and why?

I guess the hardest character was Jacob, Lara’s boyfriend. Jacob became an offstage character. We never get to meet him. He never gets to defend himself. His actions are always interpreted by others. Yet in several ways, he still is a major catalyst in the story. How then to write this invisible character and make him human and not a cardboard cutout, wall decoration, or a plot device?

Characters like Jacob are not unusual in the real world. All of us feel the weight of people who are not there. People whose influence lingers long after they leave the room or our lives.

What is your favorite thing about being a writer?

Creation. I love the flow of ideas and exploring. I love learning and discovery. To get lost in texture, sound, color, and emotion is a blast.

Did you always want to be a writer? If not, when and how did you realize you wanted to become one?

I think I always wanted to be a storyteller. I sold my first painting at 14 and my first poem a year later. I’ve gotten to report for NPR, be published in the Washington Post, and see my plays live on the New York stage. Writing is key to that, but I think telling stories, whether true or made up, is what it’s all about.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Good question. I’ve been told I do, but I’m not hyper conscious about it. I tend not to outline much and trust that I can refine what I need to through the editing process. I believe in my audience and readers (perhaps sometimes too much.) I hate dumbing things down. So, I may leave a few things unexplained hoping that the reader will puzzle them out or fill in the story through the lens of their experience and philosophy.

What advice do you have to give to new authors or people who want to become authors?

Dream. Write. Dare. Think of a rough draft as a place to play. Just put everything in there and then start pulling back what works and what ideas are the ones that really sing to you. Don’t follow trends because unless you are really quick by the time you finish your story, it gets through a publisher’s slush pile the trend is over. More importantly, if you follow a trend… the story you write will not be yours. It’ll just be what you think someone wants to hear. Write instead about what interests you, excites you, and scares you. Also, don’t be afraid to make your heroes miserable… they’ll thank you in the end especially if they win out.

What would you like to say to your readers?

Thank you for bringing our stories to life. Without the reader, without someone to listen, our stories fade. Also, let a writer know what you think! We often put our work out there and never know if it brings about a smile, a sigh, a tear, or if it causes raging boredom! Many of us love to interact with readers. I know I do.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about A Halo of Mushrooms or any of my other work.


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