Hannah Richell recently released her debut novel Secret of The Tides, a fabulous family tale with a hint of mystery. Hannah has made her home in Sydney with her family and she took some time out to speak to us, I hope you enjoy hearing about her journey as much as I did.
Before embarking on your debut novel you marketed books and authors, do you think that helped with your writing?
My publishing jobs meant I read widely and allowed me to immerse myself in the world of words everyday, so that was definitely an advantage, although I also think it was a hindrance too. Being surrounded by so many great authors and their stories meant it was a little daunting to consider writing myself and it took me leaving the industry to summon the courage and try.
What inspired you to write THIS book?
There were many things that inspired me along the way, but the biggest inspiration – and probably where the heart of the story came from – was my own journey into motherhood. It was such a powerful, transforming experience, a time of great joy and love, but also great vulnerability and fear. I think it was becoming a mum that made me focus on the idea of what connects a family – and how powerful those bonds can be, but also how fragile too. It was thinking about what could happen to a relatively ‘normal’ family to break those bonds that became the seed of the idea behind Secrets of the Tides.
Is it unusual to be published in so many countries all at once? What was your reaction when you found out?
I think I’ve been incredibly lucky to have my debut novel bought by so many foreign publishers and it still feels exciting and surreal. I am delighted to think the story of the Tides will translate to people around the world and there has been much popping of champagne corks in recent months.
Your debut novel Secrets of the Tides was released April 24th, what can you tell us about the novel?
Secrets of the Tides is my debut novel. It’s the story of a family torn apart by the events of one day. The narrative is told through the mother, Helen and her two daughters Dora and Cassie and as each woman tells her side of the story, the reader gradually unravels the secrets that have pulled their family apart. It features a rambling old house set high up on the Dorset coastline, a confused young woman searching for answers from her past, and a whole host of long-buried secrets. I think of it a little bit like a mystery story – a family saga with a dark edge of suspense running through it. I’ve been told more than once it should be read with a box of tissues on standby.
You grew up in England, holidaying in Dorset, what do you miss the most about the place?
I love the English countryside and always felt happiest as a kid when I was out roaming across the landscape with our family dogs. Dorset is a spectacular county and its coastline is really beautiful. I miss green fields and hedgerows and rickety wooden stiles and English birdsong.
What prompted you to set Secrets of the Tides there?
I wanted the Tide family to live by the sea and it felt very natural to place them in Dorset, in the area I knew and loved from my own childhood. Memories came flooding back to me as I wrote, and so I wove echoes of them into the novel as I went. Dorset was right there in my gut, in a way that Sydney, while equally beautiful and evocative, wasn’t quite yet.
Living in Sydney seems like it would be quite a change from England, what do you love the most about living here?
Sydney is such a positive, vibrant city. I honestly don’t know if I would have started writing if we’d stayed in England – moving here seemed like an opportunity for change. So Sydney, to me, represents optimism and possibility. I love the light and the colour and the incredible access the city allows to city sights and culture, as well as beaches and beautiful parks. I love that my kids get to spend so much time running around outdoors and that for many months of the year all we need to throw on in the morning are jeans and t-shirts.
Working with so many wonderful authors seems very daunting to me, did you ever get star struck?
ALL the time.
Who is your favourite author to read?
I have so many favourites and I really hate choosing … but I would race to a bookshop everytime for new novels from Maggie O’Farrell, David Mitchell and Ian McEwan.
Can you tell us a bit about how you relax and unwind, how do you spend your downtime?
I’m a bit of a homebody. I love good food, good music, good books, good films and good wine – and they’re all the better when shared with family and friends.
What is next for Hannah Richell?
That difficult second novel! I am in the middle of writing it and loving the getting to know new characters and being able to treat writing like a job – but wrestling at the same time with feelings of self-consciousness and self-doubt. Having a publishing contract doesn’t seem to make it any easier.
What does being a woman mean to you?
It means different things to me at different times. Daughter, sister, wife … and now mother. Sometimes getting the balance right is hard. I’m in that early stage of being a mum to two little kids and it’s all-consuming. Yet nothing beats the experience of watching them grow – when I look at my son and daughter they just blow me away.
Thanks for talking to us Hannah, good luck with the second novel – I look forward to reading it.