Recently I read and reviewed the captivating The River Home by the talented Hannah Richell. Today I am fortunate to welcome her to Mic Loves Books to share some more about the book and her career with us.
I am excited to begin hosting author interviews and though these were not my first set of interview questions written I am thrilled to have Hannah Richell on as my first author interview, I hope you enjoy learning a little more about her and her work.
Hi Hannah, Welcome to Mic Loves Books. We are thrilled to have you here and I look forward to learning a little more about The River Home, your fourth novel.
Thank you so much for having me!
The River Home is your latest release, can you tell us a little about the story?
The River Home drops the reader into one tense week with the Sorrell family, who are reuniting for the last minute wedding of their middle daughter, Lucy. Drawn back to the family home, Windfalls, on the banks of the River Avon in Somerset, the family must pull together for a big family day, while facing the hurts and secrets hidden in their past that have kept them fractured and distanced until now. It’s a story about families, about loving and living, and about learning how to let go and heal.
The book tackles some pretty heavy subject matter, can you tell us about your inspiration?
The inspiration for the story came from my own life experiences. That’s not to say that I have directly experienced anything that my characters go through, but I have loved and lost, I have felt deep pain and grief and I wanted to show, through my story, something that I learnt the hard way: that learning to live with the most painful chapters of our life, while challenging, can often help to illuminate and enhance the more beautiful ones too.
Kit is a best-selling author who started her career as a new first-time mother, is this something you can relate to?
Well Kit is a bestselling author on steroids, so while I can’t relate to her levels of career success (I wish!) I do absolutely relate to the blossoming of her creativity at the time she became a first-time mother. This is what happened to me. I wrote my first book, Secrets of the Tides, as a new mother, in moments when my baby slept. I think motherhood for me was a time of great transition and creativity and I, like Kit, certainly felt drawn to write and create. Though of course, with that, comes a difficult juggle, a feeling of being pulled in two different directions. I hope this internal conflict comes through in the character of Kit, because it’s certainly something I felt keenly.
Kid did all her work on an old typewriter with no back-ups, which was quite a risk. Can you imagine working with no back-ups?
I once lost half a manuscript (momentarily) after my three-year-old daughter threw a glass of water over my laptop by accident. It was such a horrendous few days, trying to retrieve the document from my drowned laptop, that I learned very quickly to back-up, back-up, back-up. But each writer I know likes to work a little differently, and has various superstitions and practices in place that helps them find their Muse. Kit’s practices are a little eccentric, but they work for her… mostly! Having just answered this question, I now feel compelled to go and back-up my current work-in-progress … back in a second! 😉
Windfalls is evocatively depicted, is it based on an actual place?
Windfalls and the village it sits within are both fictional places drawn from my imagination, but they are inspired by areas I know and love well in rural Somerset in the South West of England. I live very close to the River Avon now, and walking its paths in all seasons certainly helped to shape the novel. The river is such a central motif to the novel, both physically and metaphorically. It represents different things to different characters, joy, freedom, pain, shame. Ultimately it reinforces a central message: that no matter what we face in life, life goes on, a constant, relentless flow that we must embrace. I found being near the water as I wrote the novel a great inspiration.
The River Home centres on the Sorrell sisters but Kit and Sibella are also important characters. Which of these women resonates with you the strongest?
This is a brilliant and difficult question. I see parts of myself in both of them. Kit, the writer and mother, torn in so many directions, juggling her career and her children and her relationship with Ted, wrestling with her guilt that she might be failing at all of them. Sibella, as a young widow, is drawn from my own experiences of grief, loss and learning. Though they are rivals, I feel for them both. The scenes they share were some of my favourites to write. At a push, I’d say Sibella resonates a little more strongly. I hope I’m a more attentive mother to my own children than Kit is to hers!
Which of the women was easiest to write?
I spent the most time with Margot inside her head, so while I wouldn’t say she was particularly easy to write, I felt by the time I had finished the novel that I knew her the best.
The book ends quite abruptly, enough so that I wondered if there was a portion of text missing. Without spoilers, can you tell us why you ended the story where you did?
I get a little annoyed with stories that wrap up too neatly and offer convenient happy endings. After all, that’s not how life goes. There is never a neat full stop or a careful tying-up of all loose ends. What the characters have gone through will leave deep, emotional scars. I thought it would seem a little flippant to suggest absolutely everything could be resolved in one emotional week. I wanted to leave the reader with a sense of resolution and hope, but also allow them to decide what actually comes next. I know this might annoy some readers, but it felt important to me to write it this way and the clues are all there for what I think happens next, if you follow them.
Are you working on anything new you can tell us about?
I’m working on my fifth novel, which delves into the messy relationships within a tight-knit group of forty-something friends who have all reunited for one long, chaotic and super-stressful weekend. One event sees the weekend spiral into uncomfortable territory and shines a light on each of the characters’ life choices. It’s proving to be a lot of fun to write.
What is the most valuable piece of writing advice you have been given?
Enjoy each win – big or small. Each new page laid down, each new draft, each new publication. It’s a long game and it can be lonely and hard when self-doubt strikes or things don’t go to plan. If you’re enjoying the writing and celebrating the successes, big or small, it makes it a far more enjoyable ride.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. It’s been a pleasure following your writing career and your books just keep getting better.
Thank you, Michelle. Your support means so much. x
The River Home is published by Hachette and available now where all good books are sold.