Hannah Foley lives in Devon in a little red brick terrace house with her children. She loves going for adventures in the countryside and by the sea in all the exact same places she used to go adventuring as a kid. Her debut novel The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle won the Kelpies Prize in 2018 and is published by Floris Books on March 18th. VIP subscribers will be able to enjoy our review of her debut tomorrow, in the meantime… we convinced Hannah to answer MyBookCorner’s questions…
Tell us about you in 25 words or less.
Book addict. Reader. Middle-grade author. Mum of three. District nurse. Gardener. Cyclist. Devon lass. Introvert. Countryside wanderer. Piano-player. Nature lover. I think that’s about it!
Your debut novel, The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle, is hitting the shelves this month. Can you tell us a little bit about how it came to be?
Avery Buckle began life in an evening class, where I was supposed to be learning how to write a picture book. Hats off to you picture book authors, picture books are very difficult to write! I was travelling a lot for work and I kept on developing the short-story I’d started in the class, scribbling in notebooks on trains and coaches, more for fun than anything else.
Then I hit a real low point in my life, and things got quite dark for me for a while. Around this time I saw the Kelpies Prize for unpublished children’s fiction was open for entries. I felt like I had nothing to lose, so typed up Avery’s story and entered it. I didn’t think anything would come of it. In a funny way, entering the competition was a sort of closure on a period of my life – a farewell gesture. You can imagine my astonishment when I was short-listed and won! Going up to the awards ceremony at the Edinburgh Book Festival was such a special moment.
Then the work really began, editing my story with the wonderful team at Floris to get the The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle publication-fit. It was supposed to come out in June last year but had to be delayed because of Covid It’s been a long journey to get here, but I’m super proud and super excited that Avery will finally be making her way in the world.
Ok, here’s a challenge… can you sum up your book in five words? [runs and hides!]
Magic. Adventure. Friendship. Belonging. Scotland
What does a typical day look like for you?
I don’t really have a typical day. I work part-time as a district nurse. I’m a mum of three primary school-age children. Life is busy and loud! There’s a lot of juggling. When I work weekend or Out Of Hours shifts, I often get time back when the kids are at school. I grasp those opportunities with both hands, cramming in as much writing (and gardening!) as possible!
What makes you happy?
I’m all about the simple joys in life. When you’ve struggled with your mental health, each moment of well-balanced living can feel so heart-achingly precious. I love my allotment, walking in the countryside, belonging to a community, feeling rooted, dimpsy evenings in my little garden, a dry roof over my head, a warm meal in my belly, my children’s kisses and cuddles, the stars on a freezing cold night out in the middle of nowhere. And I have to say, I love checking out blogs like The Book Corner, for the latest amazing children’s books. A perfectly plotted middle-grade novel, full of phenomenal characters, makes me very happy!
What’s on your TBR pile at the moment?
I’m a huge fan of essayists, so I have a Wendell Berry collection waiting for me to get my teeth into. Starfell by Dominique Valente and The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman are both children’s novels in my TBR pile. Tiger Skin Rug by Joan Haig would be there too but I ordered it the week before the latest lockdown so it’s currently trapped in my local Waterstones!
What’s your worst habit?
My worst habit is constantly clearing my throat when I’m reading. I’ve done it ever since I was a kid because I was worried that I’d been reading for so long I might have lost my voice, and now I can’t seem to stop doing it. It’s very annoying for anyone sitting near me!
Your favourite word?
I have two… The first is ‘corpuscle’. It literally means “small body” but is used to mean a tiny particle. Historically corpuscles were regarded as the basic constituent of light and matter. Lots of receptors in the human body are called corpuscles. I love the different ways the word is used, and it’s fabulous to say out loud.
My second is ‘hiraeth’. It is a Welsh word meaning a deep longing. My Mum is Welsh and this word resonates with me on so many levels. It’s often interpreted as homesickness but it’s much, much more than that. It’s a gut-wrenching longing for the very land itself, and it’s always bittersweet.
What are your top tips for budding writers?
This question more than slightly triggers my imposter syndrome I’m not sure I’m in a position to offer tips to anyone! Maybe I could say this… keep great writing as your goal. We’ve all read the books which, when we’ve turned the last page, we think, well what was all the hype about? And we all know the absolutely incredible authors, whose books change your life forever, but who seem to get very little fanfare. It’s these authors who are most treasured by children, no matter what the book sales stats might say. And I know which group I’m aiming to be in. I’ve got so much to learn myself as writer, but I’m going to keep at it, improving every day, because kids need truly great writing to help them grow.
Is there anything that’s surprised you about the publishing process?
I think the biggest surprise for me was just how wonderful it was to work with editors on my manuscript. I’ve loved how I’ve been challenged, and how much my writing has come on as a result. I have felt so encouraged and valued, and I have learnt a phenomenal amount.
Can you give us a glimpse / hint at your current WIP? (I can bribe you with cake!)
This might sound a bit like a cheaty evasion but I generally have two or three WIPs on the go at once, sometimes more. A hint from each of my current projects goes a bit like this… magicians, rivers, a snowstorm, and Anglo-Saxon riddles. Make of that what you will! 😉
Just for fun
Tea or coffee? Coffee
Paper books or e-books? Paper books
Cake or chocolate? Cake
Write or type? Argh! A bit of both?!
Poetry or prose? Prose
Hot or cold? Ooo… um, cold if I can come back and snuggle up by the fire, hot if I can relax with a good book in a deckchair under a shady tree.