When Hillary Homzie moved to England at the age of six, she felt like she’d been transported inside one of her favorite Brothers Grimm fairy tales. She remembers, “A castle at the top of the hill, cobblestone streets, and a magical garden called The Grange.” Normally an extremely shy child, something blossomed in Homzie when she pretended. She and her best friend created an imaginary fairy world in the garden using puddles as fairy pools and mushrooms as fairy houses. They wished with all their might to see a fairy in the garden. Homzie says, “I always wanted something magical to happen to me.”
Now it has. Homzie is the author of a successful new chapter book series called Alien Clones From Outer Space. Barton and Nancy Jamison are the human brother-sister duo, and Beta and Gamma Zeeekwarplatzatot are their alien counterparts from Ungapotch. For Homzie, the two sets of doubles are a zany fantasy adventure come true.
In high school and college, Homzie’s love of pretending became a passion for performing. On stage, Homzie didn’t have to be herself. She could be whomever she chose. Soon after graduating from the University of Virginia, Homzie moved to New York City and began writing and performing sketch comedy, funny skits which incorporated her talent for storytelling with her desire to perform. Homzie has appeared in comedy clubs in Soho and Greenwich Village in New York and the Boston Comedy Club.
The principles of comedy—what makes something funny—helped her as she wrote the Alien Clones From Outer Space books. The “fish out of water” principle describes the alien clones’ arrival on Earth, and their difficulty understanding our earthly ways. In book one,Two Heads Are Better Than One, Beta stands in for Barton during a baseball game and routinely misunderstands common phrases that are familiar to children. When the coach tells Beta to keep his eye on the ball, Beta jogs to the pitcher’s mound and sticks his eye on the ball. When he hits a home run, the coach tells him to tear up the bases, so Beta picks up the rubber base and begins shredding it. According to Homzie, “Children understand the dual meanings and its funny because they know.”
Another comedic principle is “mixed identities.” Because Beta is Barton’s clone and Gamma is Nancy’s clone, there are endless possibilities for mix-ups, confusion, and mayhem. Homzie also combines mixed identities with “wish fulfillment” or the idea that the clones will be responsible for Barton’s and Nancy’s chores, freeing up Barton and Nancy for the fun things in life. In book two, Who Let the Dogs Out?, the clones are left to mind a pet store under Barton’s and Nancy’s care. What could go wrong?
According to Homzie, “Writing is a way to rewrite the past. As a child, I was non-confrontational and not quick verbally. Now, I can recast the past. I create conflict in my books to help me confront it directly.”
Since the release of Alien Clones From Outer Space in September, Homzie has been visiting schools and, to the delight of her readers, performs her books complete with simple props and voices. She even speaks fluent Ungapotchian. Children leave a Homzie school visit saying Zaptopkaka (Wow! in our language)! Homzie also encourages others to perform her books, because the performance “is greater than one person communicating with the text.”
Homzie lives in Napa Valley with her husband and two sons. In addition to writing for children, Homzie writes plays and screenplays. Her short play, “The Juice of It”, is a finalist for the Heideman Playwrighting Award in Louisville, Kentucky. Additionally, she has two screenplays optioned by movie producers. “I feel lucky that I get to do something that I love. I hope everybody can find that. The rejection part of writing can be hard, but if you focus on the hard work, while building a support network, the writing process itself will sustain you. Of course, the dream of publication is always there.”