Christine Hamill

Christine grew up in in a small country town in Tryone, Northern Ireland with her seven siblings, mom, dad, a dog, a hutch full of rabbits, and a shed full of pigeons. She moved to Belfast in the 1980s to go to university where she studied English Literature. She also lived in Bristol, England and in Tenerife, Spain, where she taught English to young children.

As a child, she wasn’t much good at sports and was embarrassed that she couldn’t do a handstand. She liked reading, but wasn’t from a big ‘book-y’ house; however, one day, when she was eight and off school sick, her mother brought two books home from the library for her to read. One of them described a writer at work in a warm, dark room. She thought that she would like to do that.

She has strong memories of the books she loved as a child – at six it was Alf Proysen’s Mrs. Pepperpot, about a woman who would suddenly and without warning shrink to the size of a pepperpot; at eleven she loved reading The Growing Summer by Mary Noel Streatfeild, in which four siblings land in Ireland without their parents to spend the summer with a strange aunt. Later, Christine discovered and loved poetry. Her son is studying science and she sometimes stops him in the hall and force-feeds him poetry from her favorite collection.

After leaving university, Christine wrote a lot of poetry and was accepted into an MA program in Creative Writing at Bath University, England, but discovered that same year that she was pregnant. She returned to Ireland to bring her son up and wrote and illustrated stories for him when he was a baby and toddler. It wasn’t until she was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2008 that she began writing in earnest because, as she says, “the clock was ticking and I still hadn’t written a book. I started writing in the hospital bed.” Three months later, she had written her first book: B is for Breast Cancer, a funny and unsentimental “beginner’s guide” of what to expect when you are diagnosed with breast cancer. The following year she wrote The Best Medicine (Spring 2017), a funny story about a twelve-year-old boy coping with his mother’s diagnosis of cancer. “It is not about my son, but it was my way of saying to him, “even though I am sick, keep on living, keep on laughing.” Both books sat in a drawer until her son said, “What’s the point of writing books no one sees. E-mail some agents.” She did, and the rest is history.

Christine was fifty years old before she got to see her books in print. She says to all would-be authors, “Let yourself do it: I was afraid I wasn’t good enough, so I never let myself do it. Now, I am so glad I did.” Her other piece of advice is to switch off the phone, turn off the wi-fi, and write!

Christine lives in Belfast with her son, Callan. They want a dog. Maybe by the time you read this, they will finally have one.

Annick Press books
by Christine Hamill