Hello everyone! I have a very special guest for you this morning! As part of Transworld’s official Wake blog tour, I had the chance to interview debut author Anna Hope and ask her about her first novel, which was published by Doubleday earlier this month. And – to celebrate Anna’s astonishing novel and to make this grey morning a little bit brighter – I also have three copies to give away, so make sure to read on to find out how. Now, come take a seat, help yourselves to tea and biscuits and please give a warm welcome to our guest, Anna.
V: Hi Anna, welcome to Books, Biscuits, and Tea! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
A: I was born in Manchester, studied English at University, then went to RADA for three years. I’ve been an actress ever since. But along with acting came a lot of unemployment, and writing was a way of keeping me sane while waiting for the jobs to come. Eventually I took a Master’s in Creative Writing at Birkbeck College and decided to take the writing more seriously.
V: Your début, Wake, revolves around three women dealing with the aftershocks of WWI and its impact on the men in their lives. What inspired you to write a novel about the post-war era?
A: I knew that I wanted to write about WW1 from the perspective of the female experience; so many of the known tropes of the war are male – the trenches, the barbed wire, the mud. I wanted to look at what the fallout of the war was for the women who lived through it. I was fascinated by the graveyards in France, by the decision not to bring any of those bodies home. How must it have been if your loved one was in a graveyard miles from home? Or if they didn’t even have a grave, but were just one name amongst thousands on a memorial? When I came across the story of the Unknown Warrior I was fascinated. Using the five days from its disinterment in France to burial in London seemed a great opportunity to explore my themes within a tight time frame.
V: How much research went into writing Wake?
A: I read for about a year before writing, and then carried on reading for the two years it took me to write. I became a WW1 geek in the process! I found all sorts of books useful, but it was great to read women’s fiction of the time – most of it now out of print.
V: Are there any other historical fiction authors whose work you admire or particularly enjoy?
A: Ooh… well, yes! Last year I read Mantel’s Tudor novels one after the other. For some reason I had avoided them until then. They blew me away – so immersive and detailed. It was hard to read much else for a while. I’m a big fan of historical fiction. I don’t even really think of it as such. A book which was a great influence on Wake is Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin, which is set in 1974, so also historical, though not so far back. Actually, how far back constitutes historical? I should find out…
V: What are you working on at the moment or what’s next for you?
A: I’m working on a novel set in the asylum where my great-great-Grandfather died, which is on the Yorkshire moors. It takes place during the heatwave of 1911. 1911 was a fascinating year, the high watermark of the British Empire, but also a time when there were currents of great unrest moving through society.
About the book
November 1920, post-war London.
As the body of the Unknown Soldier makes its way home from the fields of Northern France, three women are dealing with loss in their own way: Hettie, who dances for sixpence a waltz at the Hammersmith Palais; Evelyn, who toils at a job in the pensions office, and Ada, a housewife who is beset by visions of her dead son. One day a young man comes to her door. He carries with him a wartime mystery that will bind these women together and will both mend and tear their hearts.
A portrait of three intertwining lives caught at the fault-line between empire and modernity, Wake captures the beginnings of a new era, and the day the mood of the nation changed for ever.
I have 3 copies of Anna’s debut to give away to 3 lucky winners courtesy of Transworld Books. If you’d like to be in the chance of winning, all you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway is open to UK residents only and runs until 31 January, 2014. The three winners will be selected at random and contacted by email. Good luck!