A writer like you: India Hill Brown
Meet India Hill Brown, debut author of middle-grade ghost story THE FORGOTTEN GIRL.
In this interview, we talk about reading as an empathy-builder, how her family history influenced her passion for books, and her debut novel, of course! She also shares writing tips like using a timer to overcome writer’s block, practicing gratitude to stay motivated, and being persistent when trying to land an agent.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
Tell us a little about yourself.
Hi all! I’m India Hill Brown. A fun fact: I never thought I’d be an author with 3 names! The reason it happened is because I got engaged around the time when I announced my book deal. I knew I would change my name after marriage, so had it been a year or two before, I probably would’ve stuck with India Hill. A year or two after, I likely would’ve went with India Brown. But, since I was in “name limbo”, I couldn’t choose! But I found I quite like the three-name thing. It reminds me of Edgar Allen Poe, Louisa May Alcott, and one of my favorite authors – Lucy Maud Montgomery.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on two stories! A YA romance and I’m fleshing out an idea for another MG novel.
What are your hobbies?
All of my hobbies include paper. When I’m not writing, I love reading. There are few things I love more than curling up with a good book for uninterrupted hours. I also love notebooks and decorating my planner with stickers and markers to make appointments and other boring adult responsibilities more fun. I’m a huge planner/notebook enthusiast and every time I see a new one, I want it!
Who are some of your favorite authors?
As stated above, one of my favorite authors is Lucy Maud Montgomery. Reading Anne of Green Gables was life changing for me! I love the way she feels everything – the happiest of moments, anger, and sadness. Of course, I love J.K. Rowling because Harry Potter was also life changing. Jenny Han, Morgan Matson, and Nicola Yoon, because they right the cutest romances. Sophie Kinsella is an auto buy author for me, because I know I’ll laugh out loud at anything she writes.
Tell us about your debut middle grade.
My debut novel, THE FORGOTTEN GIRL, releases on November 5, 2019. It’s a ghost story about two 12-year-old best friends, Iris and Daniel, who stumble upon a segregated and abandoned graveyard and awaken a ghost named Avery. Avery is upset that she’s been forgotten, and will go to great and deadly lengths to be remembered again. You can preorder my book here.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always know that I wanted to be a writer! When I was little, I’d get large stacks of loose-leaf paper or a composition notebook, and sit at the kitchen table and write for fun. I won the “Best Writer” classroom award in the fourth grade, and The Lt. Governor’s Writers’ award for my school in the fifth! Writing is one of the only things that comes “easily” (and I use that term loosely) to me, even when it’s really hard.
What has shaped you into the writer you are today?
Lots of things. I’m a very empathetic person (enneagram 4/INFP, I’m just an extreme feeler) and I honestly think the world needs a little more empathy. Reading builds empathy, because throughout the whole story, you’re reading things from someone else’s perspective. I want to spread empathy so we can understand each other and the needs of our fellow humans. Also, I want to spread more joy. There is SO much to be sad or angry about, so I want someone to be able to pick up a book of mine and feel good.
Why are reading and writing so important to you?
I’m a Christian, and I really believe that writing is a part of my God-given purpose to spread love. Also, my roots are very concentrated in South Carolina, and I’m only a few generations removed from slavery. My great-aunt didn’t even know how to read. I know that so many of my ancestors were punished for even attempting to learn how to read, and that’s not something I take lightly. I feel incredibly blessed to have access to any book I want to read, and to write books for others. Also, I just really, really love to read and write.
Any tips for overcoming writer's block?
Sometimes, I just have to take a step back from whatever I’m working on and do something totally unrelated, whether that’s going to the pool or watching a movie. Or, I’ll read a really, really good book that inspires me to write a really, really good book. Forcing it doesn’t typically work. If I have to, for some reason, I’ll just set a timer and write without pressure for however long. Usually, It’ll get me back into the groove.
How do you stay motivated?
Since a lot of writing happens from home, it can be hard to stay motivated sometimes when it’s so tempting to just take a nap instead. But, something I like to do is practice gratitude – being thankful for having the opportunity to write stories, and getting excited about the story that I’m writing helps!
Any advice for landing an agent?
Don’t give up! Sending out tons of queries and manuscripts can seem so difficult – especially when you’re only receiving no’s (I’ve been there) but it only takes one yes! Keep sending out those queries, and keep writing.
Describe your typical writing process or routine.
When I have the start of an idea, I let myself think about it for a few days before I actually write things down – whether that’s in the shower or while I’m trying to fall asleep. When I’m ready to start plotting and writing the story, I buy a new notebook. I love having different notebooks for each story I’m working on. During the day, I like to grab a cup of coffee, open up all the windows, curl up with a blanket, and write or type!
What is your ultimate writer dream?
I have so many, but I’d love to get paid to be a Writer-in-Residence in a beautiful place, like a beach house, a cabin, or a beautiful college campus. The idea of writing uninterrupted, with just me, my thoughts, and amazing views, all while getting paid for it sounds like an absolute dream!
Where can we connect with you?
To free the writer today, try out one of India’s writing tips. Get out your timer, your gratitude book, or your sticker planner. And if you feel discouraged by rejection, remember that it only takes one yes.