Interview with T.S. Hawken, author of If Kisses Cured Cancer

Author T.S. Hawken

Tim Hawken is the West Australian author of New Adult novel If Kisses Cured Cancer published earlier this year. Thanks for joining us for an interview at Boomerang Books Tim.


Can you describe your book If Kisses Cured Cancer in one sentence?
A funny yet serious book about the importance of connecting with those around you (and not being afraid to go skinny dipping in the forest).

What inspired you to write If Kisses Cured Cancer?
It was a combination of a few things, but the big one was my wife being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. The process was obviously awful, but there were lots of strangely funny and golden moments sprinkled in that journey. I wanted to create a fiction book that reflected those ups and downs, and would do the subject justice yet not be depressing or overly fluffy.

If you could meet any writer who would it be and what would you want to know?
Neil Gaiman. The guy is amazing at every form of writing – short stories, novels, comics, TV. He’s unbelievably great and deliciously odd. I’ve read about his writing process and general approach to life, so would probably just prefer to chat about magic, telling the truth through lies, and working with Terry Pratchett.

Bedside table reading for T.S. Hawken

How do you organise your personal library?
You mean the pile of books that are precariously stacked on my bedside table? They’re generally organized by date of purchase. I do have a shelf of books I’ve read and loved in my office for reference as well. They’re loosely arranged by genre and then grouped by author.

What book is on your bedside table right now?
In no particular order, there’s: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie, The Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape, Fromelles and Pozieres by Peter FitzSimons, Lost Gods by Brom, The Great Stories of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, Bound by Alan Baxter, The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, and Primary Mathematics by Penelope Serow, Rosemary Callingham and Tracey Muir. My Kindle is also there, which has a few hundred titles stored in it too.

What was the last truly great book that you read?
I actually had to go to my Goodreads page as a refresher to make sure I wasn’t just putting the greatest book I’ve read on here (which by the way is Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, closely followed by the Harry Potter series, closely followed by True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey). The last book I gave a full 5 staggering stars to was Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Total genius.

What’s the best book you’ve read so far in 2018?
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Wow, what a book. It’s like a dark version of The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion and so, so much more satisfying. Massive recommend.

I agree with you about Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, I read it last month and adored it. What’s your secret reading pleasure?
Fantasy and sci-fi books. Shhhh. I love these genres so much I had to make a rule that every second book I read has to be something else. I feel like broadening your reading habits is a sure way of finding gold you might not otherwise have come across.

What’s next? What would you like to tell your readers?
Next is planning out a new story idea I have that will remain mum until it’s actually a reality. There will be another book next year but what that is, you’ll have to wait and see. To follow any news, sign up to my newsletter at timhawken.com. You’ll also get some special content about If Kisses Cured Cancer you won’t find anywhere else.

On Pratchett

I was surprised to realise that I’ve been blogging for over two years now, and yet, I’ve never once blogged about Terry Pratchett. That is astoundingly bad form, form I plan on correcting right now. I can trace my reading history through author loyalty. There was Enid, there was Morris, and then, Terry. Sure, I’ve had fleeting dalliances with J.K. and Chuck, but I always come running back to Terry. Maybe it’s because he’s the only one with a normal name (okay, so J.K. isn’t that strange when you expand it…). Or maybe it’s the innuendo.

Definitely the innuendo.

In the seventh grade, at my best friend’s insistence, I read my first Pratchett. Equal Rites. If you haven’t read Pratchett, his Discworld series is an interconnected maze of books published since 1983, and Equal Rites is the best place to start. It’s Book #3, sharp, funny, wise, breath-taking. For so long, I’d wanted to write books – but it wasn’t until I’d finished with Equal Rites that I’d decided what kind of author I was going to be.

This is a story about magic and where it goes and perhaps more importantly where it comes from and why, although it doesn’t pretend to answer all or any of these questions.

It may, however, help to explain why Gandalf never got married and why Merlin was a man. Because this is also a story about sex, although probably not in the athletic, tumbling, count-the-legs-and-divide-by-two sense unless the characters get totally beyond the author’s control. They might.

However, it is primarily a story about a world. Here it comes now. Watch closely, the special effects are quite expensive.

A bass note sounds. It is a deep, vibrating chord that hints that the brass section may break in at any moment with a fanfare for the cosmos, because the scene is the blackness of deep space with a few stars glittering like the dandruff on the shoulders of God.

The thing about Pratchett was, when I revisited Equal Rites and its related sequels the following year, it was better. Sure, the pratfalls still made me laugh, but I noticed something else: sex. Every second line meant something else. A character had written a cookbook called The Joye of Snacks, and I never quite understood why it was so frowned-upon. As I grew older, I discovered more and more and… well, the man has a gift. I feel his OBE is well deserved.

And now that the final book in his YA Discworld series has been released, I Shall Wear Midnight, I’m going to give you an introductory reading list. While you’re getting your NaNoWriMo on, devote the rest of your November to discovering Pratchett. And don’t scoff because it’s fantasy… it’s so much more. Read these, and in this order:

Equal Rites
Wyrd Sisters
Witches Abroad
(it did Shrek better… and 10+ years earlier)
Lords and Ladies (inside every fat girl, there is a thin girl… and a lot of chocolate)
Maskerade
Carpe Jugulum
(dare you to read a vampire book after this and say this isn’t the best)

The sub-series then continues in the form of the young-adult books:

The Wee Free Men
A Hatful of Sky
Wintersmith
I Shall Wear Midnight
I’ve had enough of being depressed that with I Shall Wear Midnight over, I may never get to see these characters again. And I want someone to mourn with.

At least until I restart the series again and find another buried sex joke I didn’t catch the first 300 times.

Sam Downing Reviews: Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

The other week I had a work-related Christmas dinner (great food, great company), and my team played one of those corporate-style getting-to-know-you games wherein we each had to name a person we’d love to have dinner with.

I nominated Terry Pratchett.

I read a lot as a kid and a teenager, but Pterry’s Discworld books were the first novels I was super-invested in. Between the ages of 13 and 16 I reckon I devoured each entry in the series at least five times – there were more than 20 Discworld novels in those days (there’s now 37), so that’s a lot of reading.

Pratchett probably had more influence on my writing and my worldview than any other writer. So it’s through this lens of adoration that I read the newest entry in the Discworld series, Unseen Academicals.

First up: even a bad Discworld book would still be a good book.  Unseen Academicals (synopsis here) is not a bad Discworld book. But nor is it the greatest. The development-of-football plot didn’t feel as fleshed out as other Discworld spoofs (particularly coming so soon after Going Postal and Making Money), the plot lacked a clear drive towards something, and the new characters often felt like retreads of characters that Pterry has done better in the past – while I liked Glenda, Nutt, Trev and Juliet, I don’t really care about any of them.

That said, there are some great moments: pretty much anything about the Librarian, Ponder Stibbons and Ridcully, whose rivalry with former Dean provided some of  Unseen Academicals high points. Pratchett introduces fun new supporting characters (Pepe, Dr Hix) in amongst the old faces (Rincewind), though other Discworld fixtures seemed way off (Vetinari, who seemed oddly un-Vetinari in many of his scenes).

Perhaps this sounds harsh. But I really did enjoy  Unseen Academicals(what can I say? I’m a Pterry fanboy). I wouldn’t recommend it to a Discworld newbie, but it’s nevertheless a solid entry in this fantastic (in every sense of the word) series. And it also has a touch of finality: because of Pratchett’s Alzheimer’s disease,  Unseen Academicals could be one of the last adult Discworld novels. Which is a very sad prospect.

This month’s guest reviewer, Sam Downing, is a twenty-something blogger, young-adult writer and hack journalist from Sydney. Follow him on Twitter and visit his blog here.