Hannah Vincent

Hannah Vincent

Alarm Girl is a rite-of-passage story, told partly from the point of view of a child who hasn’t been told enough about the circumstances surrounding her mother’s death. To fill in the gaps she makes up her own version of the truth. Set in South Africa, the book’s location is a metaphor for the strange emotional world a child inhabits after the death of a parent.

You began life as a playwright so how much is writing plays and novels interchangeable?

My experience of writing plays means I am confident writing dialogue – I can hear my characters speaking to one another. I did a lot of acting when I was young and this has been helpful too - I am ‘in role’ when I am writing!

In a play, the writer only reveals the tip of the iceberg – what characters say to one another and what they do on stage. In prose, the writer has the freedom to show the reader a lot more of the iceberg but writing plays taught me how to be economic and show only what is necessary to the drama.

One thing that doesn’t feel the same - watching a play is a communal activity but I am really enjoying the private relationship a novelist has with their reader.

You now teach creative writing, so what is the best advice you give to your students?

Write every day.

Read lots.

Writing is rewriting.

This is your debut novel, so was writing it anything you imagined it would be?

I have written three previous novel manuscripts so the process of writing Alarm Girl didn’t feel especially er, novel. Publication is entirely new to me and so far it is everything I dreamed of – in my wildest dreams! Being a debut novelist, I have nothing to compare Myriad to, but I feel wonderfully looked after by them.

You are now studying your PhD so can you tell us a bit about this?

My thesis title is ‘The Politics of Form: Female Autobiographic Writing and the ‘social novel’. I will write a novel as part of my research, which draws on my experience as a child-minder but which fictionalizes this experience. I am interested in blurring the boundaries between ‘life writing’ and fiction. My research also considers the ways in which contemporary female writing is critically received, compared with male writing.

The book has been shortlisted twice, so how did that make you feel as a new writer?

An extract from Alarm Girl was shortlisted for Myriad’s Writers Retreat Competition and this not only gave me a confidence boost, it was of practical help as it alerted Myriad to my work and meant that they read my novel submission with greater interest/attention than they might have if I hadn’t been a previously shortlisted writer and therefore on their ‘radar’.

Hookline’s shortlisting provided a vote of confidence too. Any shortlisting does this, which is why it is useful for writers to send their work out into the world. It helps us writers feel we are not working in a void – reassures us that we aren’t mad to carry on writing. It’s important not to rely on other people’s affirmation but it does help – there’s only so much self-justification we can survive on!

Rejections can be helpful too – I had a really constructive reader’s report (from Alma Books) on an early manuscript of mine. Plus of course, rejections help us cultivate the thick skin that serious writers need.

What is next for you?

Novels 2 and 3, perhaps another radio play (my first Come to Grief is broadcast on Radio 4 in the Afternoon Play slot on the 15th of July) and more cake.




by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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