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July 28, 2014 | by  | in Arts Books |
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Interview with Sebastian Hampson

Sebastian Hampson is an English and Art History student at Vic, and he’s also a published novelist. Last year, his debut novel The Train to Paris was picked up by Australian independent publishers Text Publishing. The book was launched during Writers Week at the New Zealand Festival earlier this year, making him one of the youngest authors to take part in the festival. For our arts and literature issue, I talked to Sebastian about what it’s like to have been published so early in his career.

When did you start writing? What made you start?
I’ve always been telling stories in some form, and I decided when I was about ten to start turning them into novels. And like a lot of writers, I started out doing it for myself, trying to come up with the sorts of stories nobody else had. I’m really glad I started that early because it means you can get the awkward first attempts out of the way more quickly!

How did living in Wellington and studying at Victoria influence your becoming a writer?
Wellington has such a lively artistic community that it’s always been a great environment to be part of, and the same goes for Victoria. It’s very rare in any city to find like-minded people, but I’ve always been able to here. When I was invited to speak at Writers Week during the New Zealand Festival this year, I was amazed at how many Wellingtonians were involved and participating in the events. There’s a real buzz to it.

What’s it like to have been picked up by a publisher so early in your career?
Obviously I feel very fortunate. You hear all these stories about writers struggling for years and years to get anything so much as in front of a publisher, something I had prepared myself for. So I think it’s good to know that you can do it if you put the hard work in.

What can young aspiring writers expect when they’re trying to get published?
It’s easy to forget that writing a first draft of something barely counts as the first step – in my case, I wrote the first draft of The Train to Paris over six weeks in the middle of the trimester, possibly at the expense of a few assignments! But I rewrote it and rewrote it several times over the next year before I even thought about submitting it, and that’s where I ended up doing most of the work. I think you have to be patient but also persistent, and that pays off in the long run.

How important is it to you that there’s a strong writing community for you to be a part of in Wellington, or in NZ as a whole? Or do you see yourself as a bit of an outsider?
I am very lucky to live in such a creative environment, but I’ve always done my own thing and so it’ll inevitably be a bit different from what other New Zealand writers are doing. That’s why I chose to write a book set in France and why I submitted it to Text Publishing, by far and away the best independent publisher in Australia – my perspective has always been international.

Do you have any writing projects planned for the future?
I keep a lot of projects going simultaneously and always write new material because I just can’t stop myself. Whatever I come up with next, it will be very different from The Train to Paris.

Are there any new young novelists who you’re really enjoying at the moment?
Ben Atkins is a great new talent who happens to be about the same age as me, and I’ve been enjoying his first novel, Drowning City.

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