How often do you read a book, fall head over heels in love with it, and then get a chance to interview the author?! I was unbelievably lucky enough to stumble upon the novel Paintbrush, a book about two teenagers who live a fairly uncommon lifestyle but still struggle with normal day-to-day teenager thoughts and feelings. Paintbrush blew my mind, and I’m so excited to share this with you! Please enjoy my interview with the author, Hannah Bucchin!
Erin: Hi Hannah! Thank you so much for setting aside some time to answer questions. I absolutely loved Paintbrush and I am thrilled to ask you about the book and your processes as a writer!
Hannah: Thanks for interviewing me, and for the thoughtful questions!
E: First of all, what is your background? Did you always want to be a writer?
H: I have always loved writing – I’ve been writing stories since the first grade. However, I didn’t consider actually being a writer until college. I started out as a science major, but took a creative writing class and fell back in love with writing. After that, I couldn’t stop thinking up stories to tell and about becoming an author.
E: What kind of environment do you write best in? Is there anything that you absolutely have to have with you to write?
H: The best environment for me to write in is definitely a coffee shop or library. I have a lot of trouble getting anything done at home, since home is where my very comfy bed is, and also where Netflix and HBO live. Also, I like environments with a little bit of background noise. Headphones are necessary for writing, as well as some sort of caffeinated beverage and a notebook and pen.
E: When you first start writing a new story, what do you start with? Is it the setting, the characters, an inkling of an idea?
H: For me, ideas tend to start from a small idea of a situation or setting (think: “What would it be like to be a teenager growing up in a hippie commune?”). Once I have that small spark of an idea or question, the characters develop in my head, and they take the story from there.
E: What authors do you draw inspirations from? Any favorite books that have stuck with you while you write?
H: So many authors have inspired me! Sarah Dessen books have always spoken to me in a big way. “I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson and “Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell are my idea of perfect YA books. Growing up, I loved the real and honest voice of the Alice books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.
E: Any advice for young writers just starting out?
H: Write a little bit everyday. I know that this is a bit of a cliche and often-repeated piece of advice, but it is so, so true. It was (and still sometimes is) a hard lesson for me to learn, but establishing a habit and a schedule is so important to productivity of any kind. Even if you’re exhausted or grumpy or overwhelmed, and writing is the absolute last thing you want to do, force yourself to sit down for ten minutes and put something on the page. Even if it’s just a sentence, at least you spent a little bit of time with your characters today, which will make it that much easier to do some writing tomorrow.
E: Paintbrush is your debut novel, and it is absolutely stunning. What was the process like knowing your first novel would be published?
H: It was so incredibly exciting! And a little bit scary. It was like a tiny piece of me was getting sent out into the world, which is exhilarating and nerve-wracking all at once. It was also a huge learning experience for me, as I had little to no knowledge of what it actually takes to publish a book. It’s an incredibly process that involves so many people at so many different stages. Publishing is sort of like watching your book grow up.
E: Where did you get the idea of the Indian Paintbrush Community Village for Sustainable Living?
H: I’ve never lived on a commune or similar community, but I have worked on a number of organic farms, and I’ve always been fascinated by the idea. Western North Carolina, where the story takes place, is this wonderful mix of country/rural and hippie/hipster culture. I came up with the idea of a hippie commune during visits to the area, before I lived there, and the story and characters took shape from there.
E: Do you think you would enjoy living in a community like Paintbrush?
H: I think I would like it for about a month, and then I would be ready to leave. I love nature and farming and yummy fresh food, but I also like having my own space and alone time. Paintbrush is all people, all the time.
E: Are any of the characters based on yourself?
H: No, definitely not. They all have pieces of me in them, but none of them are directly based on me.
E: Which point of view was easier to write from? Did you sympathise with one character over the other about their ambitions for the future?
H: I found it easier to write from Josie’s point of view, but I think I sympathized with Mitchell’s character a little more. Mitchell’s ambitions for life after high school are a little more similar to the way my ambitions were (and are). But Josie’s personality is a little more similar to mine, so I found it easier to write in her voice.
E: I can’t wait to get my hands on your future works. Are you working on anything new?
H: Yes I am! I can’t reveal too much about my current project, but I can tell you that it’s another contemporary YA novel, and that it follows the lives of two sisters over the course of one summer.
E: And a fun question. You can invite seven people, alive or dead, real or fictional, to a dinner party. Who would they be?
H: Love this question! Off the top of my head, I’d choose: Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, Mindy Kaling, Jo March, Elizabeth Bennet, Daenerys Targaryen, and Leslie Knope. (I didn’t set out to make this a girls-only party, but I like that it turned out that way. I think we could all drink margaritas and have some great conversation.)
Thank you again to Hannah Bucchin for her lovely responses and Janelle Leonard at Blaze Publishing for setting up this interview. I hope it inspires you to read Paintbrush! I truly fell in love with it and it was one of my favourite books of 2017. You can keep up with Hannah and her writing here:
Check out my review of Paintbrush!