Author Interview – Havelah McLat

So, I thought I’d do something different on my blog. I thought I’d interview a few authors and artists! Of course, shock-horror, this isn’t a new thing… lots of people do this… even non-authors! But, it’s new to me and… I will admit, I’m a little scared!

To start this adventure off… I reached out to Twitterverse (here’s my profile) to see if any of my fellow authors wanted to be test subjects… I mean, interviewees, and I got a few replies, which I am very grateful for! So, here is my first Author Interview with Havelah McLat!

If you like this post, please do like, comment and share. And don’t forget to follow my website for updates on future posts!

About Havelah McLat

Havelah is a young author and artist from Ohio, USA. She is a multi-genre author with three collections of young children’s stories already under her belt, along with a published short story and flash fiction. Here is her website: havelahmclat.com.

All three of her young children’s books are free (you can find them on her website), and I had the privilege to read her most recent book ‘The Promise’ (I wrote a small review below), which is Christian children’s book. She also has two other children’s books which are fantasy.

Havelah is also a beautiful artist, which you can see her work on her website. Certainly, my favourite is this:

Shared with the permission of Havelah.

Review of ‘The Promise’

When I first started reading ‘The Promise’, I will admit, I was a little sceptical at first, it is based heavily in Christianity and I am the least religious person ever (I even start blog posts with ‘hello, my little demons’, which you will notice I removed from this one out of respect). However, I do love learning about religious history and hearing other’s interpretations, and I actually enjoyed reading this story!

Without giving too much away, Havelah tells the story of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection through the eyes of three young kids, but they are Jewish and Roman/Christian. I feel the main take-away from this story is tolerance and love, which you will understand when you read it.

However, the story did have a few grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, making it a little difficult to read, but it certainly has all the makings of a great story and a talented writer!

Interview with Havelah

What got you into writing?

Okay, I started writing about nine and half years ago. I asked my older sister to write a story about us as fairies. Then I was into fairies, which still I am, and she wrote one. At that point, I grew interested in writing my own stories. She inspired me to write. I wrote my first fairy story a year later and from there I continue to grow in writing.

Where do you get your ideas?

During my first year as a newbie writer, I used copying other peoples’ stories. I would use Disney Fairies characters, and Barbie movies, but now I realized they helped me to find my writing style. So, I started not using the characters but using the inspiration. Sometimes I get ideas from movies, musics and books. I learned that using other peoples’ stories like copycating is wrong. But it is not wrong that they inspired you and helped you find writing style.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

To be honest I didn’t see myself as a writer till later in my life. Before then I would draw pictures and fairy characters. When I watched my sister write a story, I wanted to be a writer. I felt writing stories gives me the opportunity to share my creativity and imagination.

Do you have a schedule when writing? Or do you try to fit it in when you can?

I don’t really have the schedule when it comes to writing. However, I do have a goal when I want to finish it. Other than that, I write when I feel like it.

How long does it take you to write a book?

That depends on the story. Before I started writing longer stories I used to write short stories under 1k or 2k. It will take a day or week. I learned writing a story takes time.

What’s the main theme in your most recent book, “The Promise”?

In this one I want the reader to know that we don’t have to earn our way to heaven, or have to be religious. More about building a relationship with Him and knowing Him because He loves us. God has given us a gift to believe Him. He is not forcing it but it is up to us to accept the gift or not.

Do you prefer writing fantasy or Christian books?

I like writing fantasy because it is really fun to do. I love writing fairy stories and creating their world and their adventures. However I am open to try different genres. Fantasy genre is probably my favorite thing to write.

How do you deal with criticism? 

I have my moments. I just have to remind myself that every story I write isn’t for everyone. One person may not like it because it isn’t for them and the other loves it. Plus I learned taking criticism can be a good thing if they share both sides. Positive and negative. I guess every writer handles this situation differently.

Which one of your works is your favorite?

Haha, I have to say it is Key to a Journey A Retelling of a Classic (Anastasia story) Why? Because I had so much fun writing it because I got to write Anastasia (inspired by the animated movie and the Broadway musical) in a fairy world. 

Are you working on anything at the moment?

I’m working on a crossworlds fantasy novel Transport of Troubles. The inspiration started two and half years ago. I wrote the story last summer but I wasn’t too happy with it. A year later I decided to rewrite it in a longer story. I’m really happy with this story. I am in the second draft. I hope one of these days it will be in the reader’s hands. 

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A big thanks to Havelah for being my first test subject on this new blog post. Please do give her website a look havelahmclat.com. And watch this space for more interviews with other talented authors soon! 🙂

Why “The Girl Who Whispered”?

Hello, my little demons! 😈

I don’t get many questions about why the name “The Girl Who Whispered”, but I have had a few comments that have been made in poor taste, so I want to just explain where the name comes from, why I use it and why some of these jokes are in bad taste.

Short answer: I had selective mutism as a child.

Selective mutism is defined as “a complex childhood anxiety disorder characterized by a child’s inability to speak and communicate effectively in select social settings, such as school. These children are able to speak and communicate in settings where they are comfortable, secure and relaxed.” – Referenced from https://selectivemutismcenter.org/whatisselectivemutism/

I had no idea there was even a defined term for this until only a few years ago!

Long answer:

When I was a young child, I was bullied. I had red hair and freckles and I was quite reserved and quiet. There are a lot of other complex situations that made me the way I am, and I don’t personally have all the answers, nor do I feel completely comfortable explaining them.

But I will explain that I think it started after a particular issue in Primary School. I remember it quite well, considering I was probably only about 5 at the time. I remember being in a classroom with a load of other children, we were all playing, having a down time or something. There was a particular child, a boy, who decided to rearrange the tables and chairs, but he was deliberately trying to trap me in them, deliberately singling me out. It was at this time that the teacher called us all over, but this boy kept moving the tables and chairs so I couldn’t get out. I think I was the one who got told off for not listening to the teacher, but she failed to notice I wasn’t ignoring her, I was being trapped by this bully.

Somewhere in my little brain I decided enough was enough, after all the years of adults not listening to me, I went into remission.

I stopped talking.

I refused to talk to the teacher. My friends.

Even my parents.

I went home that day and my mum didn’t understand why I wasn’t talking to her. My dad got home from work and he didn’t understand why I wasn’t talking.

I had developed selective mutism.

My parents tried in a few ways to help me, one of which was to send me to a different Secondary School than the other kids. Most of the kids, after completing Primary School, went to one Secondary School. I went to a completely different one. It didn’t work though.

And by then, because the issue hadn’t be addressed properly, it evolved. As a pre-teen and eventually a teen in Secondary School, I had difficulty trying to express myself because of my selective mutism and in the end I found a new way to communicate; by whispering.

I had become The Girl Who Whispered.

Of course, this had it’s own issues. A lot of times people would assume I just had a bad throat and lost my voice – not that I corrected them. I had more children bullying me because I was now different. I had teachers trying to fix me. I had my parents and friends trick me into talking. I had issues with communicating still. Issues with grades. Social issues. And I developed a few bad habits from the social issues (avoidance for example).

My selective mutism didn’t really go away until I became a young adult, when I was about 17 years old when I left school and went to college. All the kids in the class were new, no one knew who I was (until I met one kid who was at my old Primary School, which I remember vividly, but I just hoped he didn’t remember me!)

But I finally had a voice. And some really bad social skills!

Meeting up with old friends, or bumping into those I went to school with was extremely awkward, but I eventually “grew out” of my selective mutism and started talking to them all properly.

A lot of my newer friends didn’t even know about my previous issues. It’s only until recently in the last few years that I started talking about it and opening up.

Also, my selective mutism not only gave me issues with social skills, but I also developed depression and anxiety. Most of my life has been difficult. Even now I get bad days. But the bad days are easier to deal with now, because I kept fighting. I learn to recognise when days got bad. Found healthier coping mechanisms. And grew emotionally.

The ironic thing is, when I was a child, if I got passionate about something you couldn’t shut me up about it (even as an adult). But when I had selective mutism, I lacked that basic need, to have a voice, to speak up for myself.

It still haunts me now, my past, what happened to me as a child. And I’m slowly getting over it, learning social skills, communicating properly, and finding ways to get over my weaknesses (social situations for example).

This is one of the reasons why I write. It’s a silent voice. Because when I was a child, not only did I love reading (as a form of escapism from the real-world I hated so much), but writing was my way of communicating easily. When computers became popular, I used to sit for hours on Instant Messenger, MySpace and Chat rooms, it was a way of being normal for a change – no one knew I didn’t talk properly. I would also write stories, build my own little universe to escape to.

I, one day, would also love to do something where I’m not sat behind a computer screen with written words. I actually love to sing and I have a huge interest in acting.

I remember the first time I actually got to “stand up” and sing to an audience, and although it isn’t as glamorous as it sounds, as I just stood on a tour bus in Brooklyn. But, my goodness, I will never forget that. And I’m so glad my friend got that picture (see below).

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This is me singing on the tour bus. For more photos of me, scroll to the bottom of the post! 🙂

Acting is another thing I wouldn’t mind to do – although I’m realistic, I can’t see it really happening, everyone wants to be an actor! – because not only are you speaking out, saying your lines, but you’re also pretending to be someone else… something I wished a lot when I was a child. I wished so often to be anyone else but Penny. (Update: Since writing this blog post, however, I am planning a tour of America, for charity… and I will be filming it!)

Now, though, I embrace it. I embrace who I am and what I went through as a child. It made me who I am today. Okay, I still have a few quirks and flaws, but I hate to imagine who I would be now without it.

I may never have travelled to Australia. I may never have abseiled Forth Rail Bridge. I may never have walked across Sailsbury Plain. I may never have got my Bachelor’s Degree or my Master’s Degree. I may never have met all the interesting people over the years. I may never have flown a plane. I may never have fired that brown bess musket.

And, of course, I may never have become a writer and an author and I may never use my writing to help others.

I am Penny Hooper.

And I am The Girl Who Whispered.

I use this designation to hopefully inspire people.

Keep fighting, guys! ❤

P.s. If you think you know someone who has selective mutism, please try encourage them to get professional help. Do not try to “shock” them into talking. Do not simply assume it “will go” that “it’s a phase”. If it’s lasting more than a few weeks or months, then it could develop into something more serious. Unless you are a professional who understands selective mutism, do not attempt to fix it! I wished my parents or teachers did more, they didn’t, and it got worse and had a negative impact on my life.

P.P.s The song I sang on the tour bus was “Innocent Eyes” by Delta Goodrem.

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Here are a few other photos of me over the years:

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As always, if you liked this post, please do give it a like, and feel free to comment. I’m always happy to hear from people, old and new! 🙂

And do check out my other posts:

I’ve started blogging about my trip to Australia:

Living in Australia – Part 2: My first Christmas away from my parents (Christmas Special!)

My post about my 34km trek across Salisbury Plain tank training ground for charity:

The HALO Trust: Safe Steps – Challenge Complete!

A few posts to see my writing:

Rose Garden Sanatorium – Prologue

New Story idea! – Butterfly House

My Normal – A Short Story by Penny Hooper

My website:

thegirlwhowhispered.com

I’m abseiling 165ft for Barnardos!

So, this weekend I came across this event, it happens every year apparently, and when I read that this event involves abseiling down a 165ft UNESCO World Heritage Site and a famous landmark in Scotland, I said to myself; “Am I mad enought to do this?” When I realised I was more than crazy enough… tap tap… register interest.

AND TODAY… I have officially signed up to do it! So on the 21st of May I will be going up the Forth Rail Bridge and deliberately climbing over the edge and pushing myself off to abseil (free-fall, like the SAS!) down onto the beach below. Crickey!

If anyone would like to donate, I have set up a JustGiving page…
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Penelope-Hooper1

And of course, I will be blogging about it. Hopefully I’ll get my hands on a go-pro or something so that I can film it too? We shall see.