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Hiawyn Oram

As a child

I was born in South Africa. A childhood filled with space, wildlife, books and ideas but plagued by the cruel apartheid regime which only came to an end in 1993, many years after I’d left. I wrote a play when I was about 10, persuaded or bulldozed my friends to be in it and teachers to let us perform it for the school. I haven’t the slightest idea now of what it was actually about.

As an adult

Our family lived in Johannesburg. I went to junior school there, a boarding school in Natal and then did a BA in English and Drama at the University of Natal, now the University of Kwa Zulu. After graduating I became an advertising copywriter for J Walter Thomson in Johannesburg and then, exiling myself to London with barely a penny to my name, I wrote ads for toothpaste, chocolate bars and Lucozade at Leo Burnett. Skittlewonder and the Wizard was my first children’s book, published in 1977.

As an author

I work in my study on the first floor of my house in West London overlooking a pub – thankfully a quiet pub. In the early years of writing I had no study and worked in our dining room. I have published over 100 books including for Walker Snowboy and the Last Tree Standing.

Ten things we didn’t know about Hiawyn Oram

  1. When I’m not writing I paint because paint can say things that words can’t, don’t or won’t.
  2. I couldn’t illustrate a book in a million years. It’s a skill which I bow down to.
  3. Why I live in London is an unsolved mystery. The ocean is for me.
  4. Unsurprisingly my favourite food is seafood.
  5. I could be the only person in the world who hates potatoes, even potato chips.
  6. Writing lyrics or words to be set to music is something I could do all day, every day.
  7. As a child I moved a stone and was confronted by a furious snake called a Rinkhals or Ring-Necked Spitting Cobra and am lucky to be alive.
  8. Nearly 50 years later, I still miss the light and wildness of rural South Africa.
  9. Growing up I badly wanted to be an actress but when I got a place at a London Drama School I lost my nerve and that was the end of that.
  10. Latest mission is to remember to smell 5 beautiful scents a day.

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