Interview by Nene Davies on 5th August 2016. Reproduced by kind permission of the author.
See http://www.nenedavies.com – NeneDaviesBlogs
Congratulations Hazel, on the recent publication of your memoir. Tell us a little about it!
My idyllic childhood is torn apart by the bombing of Rangoon, just prior to Christmas 1941. Mum convinces me I’m off on a marvellous holiday as we flee the city – leaving my precious dolls behind.
The Japanese armies overrun Burma, forcing us to flee from one refuge to another. My father has worked for the British government and initially relies on the official refugee policy. My mother fears for us – especially my older brothers who take daring opportunities to harass the Japanese.
The story tells of our travails during the darkest days of enemy occupation. Threaded with light, shot through with hope, it recounts my hard-won passage from innocence to maturity.
I know you to be a lover of history. What is it about stories from the past that fascinates you?
My love of stories from the past originated from an early age. My mother often spoke to us of her life as a child. She was a great story teller and it all seemed a very long time ago to me. At school, English and History were my two favourite subjects. I loved studying about kings and battles fought and won. Later on, at the university, I majored in history.
I think the old adage that history repeats itself is quite true. We should learn from past mistakes. When we know a person’s or a country’s past, we begin to understand them better. To understand is to forgive. Then perhaps we can forgive others, learn to tolerate differences in others and live in peace with them.
What would be your advice for new authors who want to write a memoir?
My advice to new writers who want to write a memoir is: ask questions about your past. Question your parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters. Write notes on all they say – their happiest days and their saddest ones. Gather as much information as you can from them before they pass away. Look at old family photos to trigger your memory. Finally, read books on memoir writing before your start.
I regret not having read ‘how to write’ books before I commenced. One of the most useful books to read is Kathy Stewart’s Writing Memoir. Tips from an Editor on writing life stories. Had I read this book previous to writing my memoir, it would have saved me hours of hard work.
What are you favourite types of books to read?
My favourite genres are memoirs and historical novels, especially books set in World War Two. Perhaps because I was a little child during the war and like to compare my life to others. Some fared even worse than I did, while others didn’t even realise that a war was on. To most children who grew up during the war, it proved an unforgettable time and left its mark on them.
Do you enjoy the research aspect of writing about people and events from the past?
I find research an enjoyable and exciting part of writing. It is thrilling to discover something new on the subject of my research. Some authors delegate the researching to others, but I neither have the money nor the inclination to do so.
My next move is to polish Book Two of my memoirs and my historical novel The Soprano. Meanwhile, I’m awaiting publication of my historical novel. Chocolate Soldier. The Story of a Conchie, which is due to be published in September.
My book, Heaven Tempers the Wind. Story of a War Child may be bought on line or better still, signed copies may be obtained at my book launch on the 9th of September.
For more information, please visit my blog on: https://hazelmbarker.wordpress.com/