I’m delighted to welcome Hannah to My Reading Corner. Hannah’s debut novel The Dead Wife’s Handbook was published by Penguin on 13 February 2014.
Hannah has very kindly agreed to answer some of my questions:
What inspired you to write The Dead Wifes’s Handbook?
The book was inspired by a conversation with a friend about her ex-husband: she was talking about how she felt uncomfortable about the possibility of him telling his new partner her secrets. I started thinking about how that’s probably quite a common anxiety and that the most extreme version would be if you were dead and powerless to intervene, but nonetheless able to hear some of those conversations. And then the figure of the dead wife – Rachel – came into my head and once she was there I just kept thinking about how she felt. And so I started writing her story.
How long did it take you to write and did you plan the storyline in detail at the beginning or just run with it?
I spent about six months researching and planning it (I do a LOT of planning), and writing the first chapter (which I sent out to agents and on the basis of that got taken on by my agent). The first full draft took about four months, but it then went through endless editing: the finished book is draft twenty-two or twenty-three – I lost count!
The book cover design is beautiful. Did you have any ideas or input into the design?
I completely love the book cover. I didn’t really have any input beyond telling Penguin, when they sent me the first version of it, that I loved it! I think my job is to write the book and then trust the publisher that they know best how to package and sell it.
What is the best piece of writing advice you have ever been given?
‘Autobiography often doesn’t make the best fiction.’ It was an agent (now very famous) commenting on the first novel I tried to write when I was about twenty-two. He was right. I think it’s fair to say that given the protagonist in The Dead Wife’s Handbook book is dead, I’ve listened to his advice!
Name 3 favourite books
The Golden Notebook – Doris Lessing
The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
Grace Paley’s Collected Short Stories
What book are you currently reading?
I’m very late to the Elizabeth Jane Howard party, but I’m reading The Light Years and it’s wonderful: I can’t believe it’s taken me decades to discover her.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently doing some revisions to book 2 (which is still under wraps at the moment) and wondering whether the characters for book 3 could be just a little bit quieter in my head until I’m ready to deal with them!
Thank you very much for taking the time Hannah, I was lucky enough to be sent a proof copy last year and it was one of my favourite books of 2013. I can’t wait for book number 2!
You can read my review of The Dead Wife’s Handbook here