An interview with writer B.A. Hippsley

Former Swansea University, B.A. Hippsley is scheduled to have his first novel – Containment – published on 16th May 2018 by the independent publishers Severed Press. Educated to MA level in Creative Writing, he also has both a BA and HND in Media Broadcast Communications, from Swansea University. Furthermore, he has recently set up his own media tuition business, (Wise Owl Media Wales) hoping to benefit the communities of the surrounding areas. I caught up with Hippsley, who talked more about his upcoming novel, as well as his academic and professional experiences.

What has your writing journey involved so far?

I started a couple of years ago when I did the MA, and I quite enjoyed script writing so I took it from there. I’ve had segments of plays performed in the Taliesin by the Rough Diamonds – which is a group of actors. I’ve also had some of my other stuff performed in colleges by drama students. I’m trying to get into the script market, as well as the books.

What was the inspiration behind your upcoming novel – Containment?

Initially, it started out as a script I was playing around with and trying to get something together. Then, when I started the MA, they wanted a piece of long fiction with three chapters and I thought ‘actually, I could turn this into some of the three chapters’. That’s how it started out.

It took 5 years to develop this manuscript – can you explain why this is?

I had initially written it out as a script in bits and pieces, and then two years on the MA course was a further development, and I’ve just kept on expanding and expanding until 5 years roughly elapsed and we were ready to turn it into a book.

What inspired you initially to choose the science fiction/horror genre for your novel?

A lot of the stuff I had done on the MA course was science fiction, and it’s a genre that I quite enjoy and I thought that if you enjoy something, you might as well see if you can do something with it.

Can you explain about the process of getting your novel published?

In a word – ouch! I tried all the local, big publishers, so starting at the top and working the way down, but absolutely no interest or they wrote back saying that they liked the beginning of the story, but not the end, and vice versa. It was basically trying to plug everybody. Luckily, I hit upon the publisher Severed Press – they’re independent publishers and they seem to specialise in this kind of genre so they were very interested in taking it forward as a publishing concept.

What did your MA degree in Creative Writing involve?

The degree was 2 years, and you get to sample screen writing – script, radio, drama, as well as short stories, long stories, poetry, and you’re able to choose what you want to focus on. I thoroughly enjoyed Swansea’s Creative Writing MA course. In another interview with the press, they asked me if I thought I needed a qualification to write a book and, well, J.K. Rowling, for example, she didn’t have any academic qualifications at all but I do think having the MA is definitely an asset in publishing a book.

Your Undergraduate (BA) degree is in Media Broadcast Communications, however your MA degree is in Creative Writing – what prompted the change in direction, so to speak?

Good question! I’d messed around with video cameras since they were in analogue form, and VHS tapes. I did a HND as well and I loved it, it was brilliant. However, when I did my BA here at Swansea, they did a very small section in screen writing and creative writing and I thought, ‘I prefer this to the film stuff’, and I was made aware that they did a Creative Writing course as an MA, and I thought, ‘this is it, this is the whole thing’. So, it was a career interest change because I felt that I preferred writing to filming.

What did your BA degree involve? What did you learn and do during the course?

I learnt about radio, as well as various things to do with the press, which I quite enjoyed. There was also a lot of video stuff, short films, and IT stuff. And also, of course, script writing.

Touching more on your media experience, can you expand more on this path? What has inspired you set up your own media tuition business?

I teach in Further Education and I teach media stuff and film production. Of course, I enjoy the creative writing. I thought that rather than getting paid by a college, I thought that if I set up my own business, I could probably work just as well.

You’ve also taught and lectured in Further Education establishments across the local area – what is it like to share something you’re passionate about with young people?

I think because, generally, if you’re in the media industry, you’re a creative person, and I think it’s then good to get the ideas out because you’ve got all sorts of people that make up these classes. You’ve got someone who’s maybe very interested in sound, or maybe interested in video, or script writing. I think it’s absolutely brilliant to get them all together, churning out ideas and expanding it into something they want to do. I find it very rewarding.

What has been a highlight of your career and experiences so far?

This is like the “what are your strengths and weaknesses?” question in job interviews. I think it’s really getting Containment from scraggly bits of paper, and turning it from an academic study into a book!

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Generally, the only thing that stops someone from getting their book published is usually themselves. Once you’ve got over the hurdle of ‘I can’t do it’ and you think ‘I’m going to write a book – I don’t care if no one likes it, I’m just going to write a book’, and once you’ve got that mind-set, you just keep going.

What advice would you give to students looking to gain practical media experience, even if they’re not studying a media related degree, for example?

There’s always lots of voluntary stuff to get involved with. Volunteering is a great way to start learning stuff. Even if you start volunteering by going somewhere and making tea or coffee; for example, a friend of mine who did the HND with me, she went to BBC Cardiff. For about two years, she just made coffees, and now she’s one of the chief researchers for BBC Cardiff. Sometimes, you’ve got to start low, but as long as you show an interest, there’s generally not a problem.

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