Today, I would like to welcome debut author Hannah Richell to Jera’s Jamboree.
Hannah Richell was born in Kent and spent her childhood in Buckinghamshire and Canada. Having worked in the book publishing business for the first years of her career, she emigrated to Australia in 2005. She lives with her husband and two young children in Sydney and returns to the UK as often as possible to spend time with family and savour the green grass of home.
Hannah’s debut novel, Secrets of the Tides was published in the UK 12th April 2012. I was fortunate enough to receive a copy from Louise Weir at LoveReadingUK prior to publication (you can read my review here). It was a ‘keeper’ for me!
Secrets of the Tides is one of the Richard & Judy’s Book Club Autumn 2012 books. You can watch Hannah’s interview on her website.
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Orion (11 Oct 2012)
Every family has its secrets. Some are small, like telling a white lie or snooping through a private drawer. Others are more serious, like infidelity and betrayal. And some secrets are so terrible they must be hidden away in a deep, dark place, for if they ever came to light, they would surely tear a family apart. The Tides are a family full of secrets.
Returning to Clifftops, the rambling family house high on the Dorset coastline, youngest daughter Dora hopes for a fresh start, for herself and the new life she carries. But can long-held secrets ever really be forgiven? And even if you can forgive, can you ever really learn to love again?
SECRETS OF THE TIDES is the spellbinding debut from Hannah Richell, a rich and compelling family drama with a dark thread of suspense at its heart.
Hi Hannah. Thank you for spending time with me today.
Thank you for having me – and for the generous review you wrote for Secrets of the Tides. You made my day!
What was the inspiration behind Secrets of the Tides?
There were so many things that inspired my debut novel but it’s always felt as though the story of the Tides grew first and foremost out of my own journey to motherhood. For me, becoming a parent was a very transforming experience. As a new mum I was amazed at this almost instant connection I felt with my newborn baby. It’s such a primal, protective love that surges up from within. Suddenly, I saw so clearly those bonds that entwine a family. My starting point was to think about those bonds and wonder what would have to happen to shatter the ties that bind together a relatively normal, close family.
I’ve always loved novels that have both a strong sense of family and a sense of place at the heart of them: The Camomile Lawn, Atonement, I Capture the Castle, The Shellseekers … so I would have to say I’ve been inspired in part by those books that I’ve enjoyed at different times in my life too.
The story is based in Dorset and your descriptive writing brings the environment to life. Is there a reason why you chose Dorset as a location?
My grandparents used to own a house near Bridport and we visited them regularly as a family and spent many happy moments with them in their house and garden, and down on the pebbly beach in Seatown. In my novel the location is fictionalised, and the house, Clifftops, is completely made-up, but it felt very natural to weave echoes from those childhood days into my writing as I went.
I wrote the novel while sitting at my kitchen table in Sydney but the funny thing is I think the extreme distance helped connect me to the place. If I had been sitting in Dorset, immersed in the landscape, I think I might have found it hard to write the place. Instead, I tapped into the essence of my childhood memories and conjured up the environment like a photograph or postcard in my mind. All I had to do then was pick out the details I wanted and translate them into words on the page. I was probably driven on, in part, by homesickness too. It was lovely to use writing to reconnect with England, while living so far away.
The story is very emotive, in part I think, because of the depth of the characters. How did the characters come to life for you? Did they grow as the story progressed or were they there from the beginning?
They definitely grew – and changed – as I wrote the story. I wrote basic outlines for each character in the beginning so I knew roughly who they were and what journey they were each on, but as I wrote and redrafted they began to shift and change. The more time I spent with them, the more layers I saw in their personalities and that was always very important to me in writing Secrets of the Tides. I wanted the characters to have good qualities and flaws, I wanted them to engage potential readers and invoke sympathy, but also frustration and anger too. I don’t think, as human beings, we are good or bad, black or white, and so I wanted my main characters to have shades of grey, like all of us.
You started writing Secrets of the Tides after the birth of your son. The story is quite deep and very poignant, which seems to be in opposition to the joy of a new life. Do you think the joy of the birth allowed you the balance to be able to express the ‘rawness’ of life in your writing?
Wow, that’s a really great question. I haven’t been asked that before.
Writing the story of the Tides was a dark journey, an emotional rollercoaster. I haven’t experienced tragedy and loss in the way that my fictional Tide family have, but writing as a new mother with all those raw emotions and hormones buzzing around in me definitely helped me to empathise with their loss. Motherhood, for me, came with great joy and great fear: joy to be doing something that felt so natural and so important, but also fear about whether I would measure up. I’m sure it’s all entwined: that joy, that fear, that ‘rawness’ as you put it. And of course holding my son close at night after a day’s writing was a very comforting thing.
What has been the hardest part of your writing journey so far?
Finding the time to fit it all in. I’m sure like all women juggling a job and a family it’s hard feeling pulled in two directions. I want to devote myself to these two precious children who have entered our lives, but I also want to spend time closeted away writing. I’m not sure I always get the balance right.
But really, I’m not complaining. I’ve found two things I love doing and I feel very lucky to be pulled in two such wonderful directions. I also have a very supportive husband who’s not afraid of doing laundry or dishes!
On your visit to the UK, you did a road trip through Dorset, visiting bookshops and booksellers along the way. What is the one memory that will stay with you?
I absolutely loved being back in Dorset. I was so lucky. I was treated to one of those rare spring days when the sun shone and everything looked perfect. There are so many great memories for me of that trip: driving along the coastal road, seeing my book in bookshops along the way, meeting passionate local booksellers, gazing out across a sparkling Lyme Bay… I could go on and on.
For me though, the most meaningful memory will be the few quiet moments I got to spend at my grandparents’ graveside. My grandmother passed away just last winter and sadly I wasn’t able to attend her funeral. My road trip with Declan from Orion unexpectedly took us through the village where her ashes were buried and we had just enough time to stop for a few moments so that I could pay my respects. It felt like a strange serendipity, to be there to launch a novel that grew from time spent with my grandparents all those years ago, and to simultaneously have the chance to say a quiet and personal thank you beside their grave. It was emotional and special and I will never forget that moment.
And finally, can you give us an idea of what you are working on now?
I’m writing my second novel, which I hope will be another emotional rollercoaster full of dark secrets and self-discovery. I’m loving getting to know a whole new cast of characters but what I’m not loving is the self-doubt that creeps over me now. It’s a very different experience writing something with the thought of a publishing contract and deadline hanging over me and I’m having to try hard not to second guess myself and just relax into it.
Thank you for having me on your blog, Sharon! I’m honoured. x