In conversation with... Hannah Vincent

Hi Hannah! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of The Weaning. Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: Thank you, Silvia. Sometimes I answer this question by saying that the book is about a psychotic childminder but it is also about a childminder and her immense capacity for love. It’s also a book about my love affair with writing.

Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing or did it develop before your eyes as the characters grew on the page and did something that you were not expecting?

A: I don’t plan my writing but I always know where it is heading. I know the destination scene but there are adventures and detours along the way and sometimes the destination looks different to the way it looked at the start of a project – does this answer your question?

Your debut novel, Alarm Girl, was published by Myriad Editions. The Weaning is published by Salt. How did your new book deal come about and how did you feel when you held the printed book in your hands for the first time?

A: Oh, it’s always a lovely feeling to have the printed book in your hands for the first time! The idea that your book is available for people to pluck off a bookshelf in a bookshop or a library… people you don’t even know! I am so grateful to Myriad and Salt for making this dream come true for me – both are wonderful inde publishers with whom I am proud to be associated. Myriad saw an early draft of The Weaning and passed on it so I sent it to two others and was delighted when Salt emailed me to say they wanted to publish it.

Does the publishing of your second novel feel any different to that of your debut novel? Do you feel more confident, for example?

A: It doesn’t feel too different, no. The nervous excitement feels the same. I suspect that for most writers each new book is a case of ‘back to square one’.

If this novel could be turned into a film, who would you cast in the role of Bobbi?

A: I don’t think about such things. Bobbi is me and she is you.

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about a scene in the book that you love or that was particularly difficult to write?

A: I found it difficult to write all the baby scenes – it’s hard to quantify how one spends time with babies or very young children because much of that time is spent doing very banal things or finding pleasure and interest in apparently small and random activities. I loved writing these scenes, too, though, because it took me back to moments of play and time-passing with my own children when they were very little. In answering this question of yours I realise that baby scenes are possibly the best writing exercise since the task for any writer is surely to render even the most banal and apparently random elements of life super-interesting and poetic and arresting! I’ll set my students a baby writing task next week!

Is there anything that didn’t make it into the final version of the book?

A: Masses. I halved my manuscript before sending it out to publishers. Literally halved it. The material I cut was stuff I really liked but that writing advice to ‘strangle your darlings’ is a good one, I think.

If you are already working on your next writing project, would you mind giving us a little anticipation of what we are to expect?

A: I am working on some short stories and I have a new novel on the go, which an agent I am courting described as ‘very ambitious’… (I hope she meant that in a good way).

Due to the popularity of social networking websites, interacting with readers – be it via Twitter, Facebook Instagram etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?

A: I love interacting with readers, whether in person or virtually or electronically via social media or email. Sure, this kind of activity can be time consuming and attention consuming but disruptive to the writing schedule? No, the writing is going on all the time. Getting busy on social media can mean the words might not come so easily when I hit the laptop but that doesn’t matter, the writing is going on in my head all the time and I have learned to go with the flow.

What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: Go with the flow! Oh, and write every day – best advice I was ever given. Doesn’t matter what you write but if you’re serious about writing you will want to Write. Every. Day.

Thank you for your time!

A: You’re most welcome, Silvia.

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