Inside the Author’s Cranium: Marilyn Hilton

I am thrilled to share an interview with the delightful Marilyn Hilton. Her novels, “Found Things” and “Full Cicada Moon” are stunning works of art. Don’t forget if you visit here and leave a comment, your name will be entered to win a copy of her recent novel, “Full Cicada Moon!” The winner will be announced on my Facebook page on October 7. Now here is Marilyn in her own words:

1. What’s your favorite word? Try.

2. What’s your least favorite word? Should.

3. Describe your work ethic: I’m very grateful to the people who have put their faith in me, so I do what I say I’ll do and I deliver the best work I can. It’s the only way I can live with myself.

4. What is your main writing fault/flaw? Plotting is usually the hardest part of writing a story for me. If I had my way, my characters would sit around and talk about their day. To put them in uncomfortable situations and make them actually do something burns tons and tons of my brain cells, and that hurts. But once I get going, I enjoy it.

5. Any tips on how to flesh out a character? Writers are taught to make their characters unique by knowing the details. That’s very true, but to me, I know my characters best and they feel most real to me when I know how they feel about themselves, the people closest to them, and their situation. That way, I know how they’ll respond in genuine ways to what happens to them in the story.

6. Any tips on developing plot? Because plotting a story is usually hardest for me (see above), I want to hear some tips from you. But I’ve learned a few tricks—like keep asking “What if?” and see what pops up; systematically use spreadsheets, index cards, sticky notes, and a story notebook (one notebook for each story); and allow my subconscious mind to work on the story as I do other things.

7. Who are your favorite prose authors? There are too many too name! I like to read different genres—all ages of children’s literature, women’s fiction, mystery, and romance. And the longer I’ve been writing, the more I’ve read, so the list is really long.

8. Who are your favorite poets? Some of my favorites are Mary Oliver, Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Li Po, Wesley McNair, Seamus Heaney, and Elizabeth Bishop. These are my evergreen favorites, but I subscribe to “Poem-a-Day” from ( and am always discovering new poets (at least, poets new to me).

9. Who are your favorite heroes/heroines in fiction? This is another hard one to answer, but Atticus Finch and Tom Robinson of To Kill a Mockingbird, Beth March and Marmee of Little Women, and India Opal Buloni of Because of Winn-Dixie are among my favorites.

10. Who are your favorite visual artists and composers? Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Andrew Wyeth, and Georgia O’Keeffe are among my favorite classic artists. Also John Singleton Copley—I’m related to him but I genuinely like his work. But I also love the astounding work of children’s book illustrators. One of my favorite things to do at conferences is to look at the artists’ portfolios and go home with postcards of their work.

11. Who are your real life heroes? We rarely hear about or celebrate my heroes, but they are anyone who gets up every morning and does what needs to be done, even when it’s discouraging, exhausting, disagreeable, or hard, and then gets up the next morning and does it again. The people who have endured unspeakable hardship or injustice, who sacrifice for others—they are my heroes.

12. What intrigues you? I’m intrigued by the real-life stories people tell me. Everyone has a fascinating story to tell, and when they start talking, I’m all ears.

13. What profession other than writing would you like to learn? Secretly, I want to be a rock singer.

14. What profession could you never handle? I could not be a mathematician—really.

15. What natural talents have you been gifted with? I can talk like Donald Duck but I’m not sure that’s a natural talent.

16. Assuming there’s will be an afterlife, who would you like to meet and why? I believe in an afterlife, and I hope to see my family again and meet my ancestors. There’s so much I want to say to my parents and grandparents—most of which is to thank them for all they did for me. Then I want to ask my ancestors what life was like for them in this world.

17. What is your favorite writing motto/mantra? Trust the creative process. It gets really messy, but if you stick with it and see it through, the work will come together and all the angst will have been worth it to see the end result.

18. What motivates you? I’m very driven to set goals and finish what I set out to do. I was a dreamer as a kid but was often afraid of failing so I would either not start or not finish the things I dreamed about. So, I’d say that my desire to change who I used to be motivates me, and I enjoy setting higher goals and seeing how far I can go with them. Life is an adventure but it’s short, and you realize that doing is more satisfying than dreaming.

Marilyn Hilton is the author of the middle-grade novels, “Full Cicada Moon” and “Found Things”, and several short stories, poems, and articles. She lives in Northern California with her husband, three growing-up children, and a mini-dachshund named Daphne.

To learn more about Marilyn, visit

Photo by Michael Pettrey

About Linda Boyden

Teacher. Author. Artist. Storyteller. Poet. I write a poem a day. A picture book each month. I write novels for kids. I color in and out of the lines. I help young children love words and stories. I believe laughter comes straight from the Creator who put us on this fine Earth so we can help one another do our best.

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2 responses to “Inside the Author’s Cranium: Marilyn Hilton”

  1. Fun interview! I think talking like Donald Duck does qualify as a natural talent!

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