The Girl in the Red Coat – Q&A with Kate Hamer

A while ago I was lucky enough to read a copy of The Girl in the Red Coat which was the debut novel by Kate Hamer, my review can be found here. To celebrate the launch of the paperback version of the book I’m today taking part in Kate’s blog tour and managed to catch up with her to ask a few questions.

What was the inspiration behind the story in The Girl in the Red Coat?

It was twofold really. Firstly, it’s a book about the relationship between mothers and daughters. When I took a look at novels where this was the main feature they seemed very thin on the ground which seemed strange for such an interesting and potent relationship. Secondly, I kind of ‘saw’ Carmel – not in reality of course but in my mind’s eye. She was a little girl wearing a red coat, standing in a forest, lost. From that moment on I knew I wanted to find out what had happened to her.

I believe you attended a novel writing course whilst writing the book, did attending this influence you a lot? Did it change the plot of your novel at all?

The plot didn’t change at all but the course encouraged me to look at the book with a technical eye as well as the emotional one. I also met a bunch of brilliant people. Sharing your work can be hard but if you want to be published it’s essential. It was a great environment to do that in – everyone passionate about books and supportive but not afraid to say what they think.

What is your typical working day like?

I try to start by at least 9.30 to harness that morning energy. Of course everyone’s different but I’ve spoken to many, many writers who are the same, and for whom the mornings are the most creative buzzy time for writing. I start by going over work already written. I’m always tempted to read the novel right from the beginning but as I get further and further into it that becomes completely untenable as you’d spend the whole day reading! I carry on working until mid or late afternoon and then make myself go out for a walk. Sitting writing all day isn’t the healthiest of occupations! Sometimes, I’ll go for a walk anyway – if it’s really not working. I don’t think it’s a good idea to keep sitting there when it’s really not flowing. I find thinking time just as important as writing time.

What is your ideal afternoon off work?

I love window shopping – the business of other people, lights, fashion, window displays. For me it’s the perfect antidote to sitting in a room alone writing. Then it would be on to an early supper with friends or family – perfect!

That sounds like a perfect afternoon to me! Do you read a lot yourself and if so who are your favourite authors?

I read constantly but with always a slight anxiety that I will never be able to read absolutely everything I want to in one lifetime! I think reading is the most important thing for a writer to do. In terms of favourite authors that changes all the time depending on what I’m reading – at the moment I’m immersed in reading the Italian author Elena Ferrante. But I do have old favourites – Maggie O’Farrell, Edna O’Brien, Ian McEwan. I love unputdownable dark twisty thrillers such as Erin Kelly’s ‘The Poison Tree’ and it’s also great to read very new stuff – two that have really caught my eye that are being published this year are ‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep’ by Joanna Cannon and ‘The Anatomy of a Soldier’ by Harry Parker. Both brilliant reads.

Thanks for the recommendations, I’ll have a look at those. If you were not a writer what would be your ideal job?

I fantasise about being a gardener sometimes, though generally when the sun’s shining so I’d be a rather fair weather one!

Finally what are you working on next?

I’m on the second draft of another novel. It’s a coming of age tale again, threaded through with the supernatural. These dark months over the winter have been great to get immersed in it.

Thanks very much to Kate for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer these questions. I look forward to her next novel coming out.

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer is out now (Faber & Faber, £7.99)

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