Happy International Women’s day and what better way to celebrate than, to support a fantastic female author!
Q&A with Anne Coates:
Q) For readers new to you, can you explain a bit about yourself and your series?
A) Where to begin, Abby? I live in south-east London with three cats – a mother and two offspring she hates. They are all curled up with now so I have to mention them or they’ll sit on my keyboard in protest. I have worked for a variety of publishers and magazines as a staff member and freelance and have written short stories – most of them published in women’s magazines and in e-book two collections. I also write and edit non-fiction. The Hannah Weybridge series draws on some of my experiences as a journalist. The characters of Hannah, Tom Jordan and Princess emerged from interviews I was commissioned to write for a national newspaper.
Q) One thing I absolutely love in a novel, is a strong lead female character and Hannah Weybridge more than delivers on this. What is the inspiration behind her? What was the journey from the idea of Hannah to the published novel?
A) Thank you – I too like a strong female lead and other readers have mentioned they like her feminism. This is important to me. Hannah started off as my alter ego. People who know me and have read the book think Hannah is me. She is not; for a start, she is far more determined and resourceful than I am and she takes risks I’d never countenance. Added to which Hannah has had time to develop her own identity as she sat in a desk drawer for a very long time.
My first attempt at Dancers in the Wind did not find a publisher or agent so I gave up. Then 20 years later I came across the manuscript when I was having a clear out, read it and thought it might work now. So I rewrote it, worked on the timeline and characters and then after a couple of near misses, Urbane Publications signed me up in 2015. A case of everything comes to she who waits – eventually!
Q) Dancers in the Wind has themes of vice, as stated in my review, you researched the topic and spoke to sex workers. Can you tell us about your research process?
A) When I was training as a journalist we were always told to check facts from three sources. With Dancers in the Wind I had already interviewed a sex worker plus women at the English Collective of Prostitutes for another magazine article. I also read various books. But then the creative part takes over and I imagine myself into whichever character I am writing about.
Q) The novel is based in the 1990s, which I loved! I think the 1990’s is such an interesting era. A time before everyone was attached to mobile phones and children played out in the street but sadly an era where abuse went unnoticed. I can see it would make for fascinating reading and wish it was more covered in the genre. What was your reasoning to set the series in the 1990s?
A) Basically that was when I did the first interviews and wrote the first drafts. I’m not sure very many children were playing out in the streets then at least not where I live! However abuse happens all the time, which is a horrible fact of life. If I had updated the story to 2015/16 I would have had to factor in GPS, CCTV and smartphones, which would have changed the way the plot pans out. It would have been a totally different book.
Q) In the novel, Princess/Caroline is very much two dimensional. We see the streetwise hooker and the vulnerable unloved young girl. I think she is realistic and I really rooted for her in the novel. Was she difficult to write? Did you feel a pressure to portray her accurately?
A) I’m so glad you feel like that about Princess/Caroline. I loved her and I think she and Hannah make good foils for one another. They certainly rub each other up the wrong way. Having Caroline in Hannah’s home allowed me to show different sides to Hannah. Caroline thinks nothing of going into Hannah’s private rooms, like her study, which exposes Hannah’s possessiveness and, to an extent, her solitariness. On the other hand, Caroline is secretive too. The women are never totally honest with each other and I loved writing the scenes when they argue. Although Caroline is so worldly-wise on some levels, she is also emerging from her teens with all that that implies. I hope I have managed to convey that and do justice to the young woman she was based on.
Q) What are your favourite genres and novels? What were your childhood favourite reads?
A) It probably won’t surprise you, Abby, when I say I love reading crime novels and there are so many excellent authors writing now. However it’s good to read out of one’s own genre and I have been bowled over by two very different books recently: The Gift Maker by Mark Mayes and Su Bristow’s Sealskin. Both involve the overlapping of the real with the magical and I do like a touch of magic!
As a child, I read everything I could lay my hands on from the Famous Five and Secret Seven book to Anne of Green Gables and the Chalet School series. However my favourite memory is of my mother reading Alice in Wonderland, to me. She had trained at the Italia Conti stage school and she certainly knew how to bring a book to life.
Q) What is coming next in the Hannah Weybridge series?
A) I’m really excited that the sequel, Death’s Silent Judgement, is being published by Urbane on 11 May. Here we follow Hannah, a few months later, in January 1994, going to have dinner with a close friend, Liz but finding her dead in the pro bono dental surgery surgery she ran for the homeless in Waterloo. The police are convinced it was one of her patients high on drugs or alcohol but her mother Lady Rayman is convinced there is more to it and employs Hannah to start investigating…
Thank you so much Anne for agreeing to be part of a Q&A on my blog!
Thank you for inviting me, Abby, and for such interesting and pertinent questions.
Anne’s Hannah Weybridge series is published by Urbane Publications.
You can read more about her and her work on www.annecoatesauthor.com and follower her on Twitter @Anne_Coates1