Hannah Richell, author of The Shadow Year
Tell us about your latest creation:
The Shadow Year is the story of a group of friends who stumble upon an abandoned cottage and decide to drop out for a year and attempt to live self-sufficiently. What begins as a fun experiment soon spirals into darkness and tragedy. Thirty years later, a young woman arrives at the same cottage and begins to uncover the secrets of what happened there all those years ago. It’s a dark and twisty drama with a thread of suspense running through it.
I am originally from the UK, but I’ve called Sydney home since 2006 and became an Australian citizen in 2010.
When you were a kid, what did you want to become? An author?:
I was a pretty dreamy child. My ambitions were always changing: vet … marine biologist … archaeologist … but always in the background was the desire
What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:
I’m proud of both my novels but I hope my best work is still to come.
Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:
My working environment is a computer, a desk, a window. That’s all I need, although sometimes I pin up pictures or surround myself with books that inspire me. Sometimes I play a little quiet music. I used to write at the kitchen table but I’m now renting a studio room near my house. It’s great to have my own space away from the family, with a door that locks and no little fingers prying through everything.
When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:
I read pretty widely – anything that takes my fancy from commercial to literary fiction. I feel very out of sorts if I don’t have a good book on the go.
What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:
I had a huge appetite for fairy tales, Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl books as a young child. As I grew, I had a particular fondness for stories with a twist of darkness at their heart, such as The Secret Garden, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Goodnight Mister Tom and the ‘Dark is Rising’ fantasy series by Susan Cooper. My grandmother introduced me to the Greek Myths at an early age and they have stayed with me throughout my life and helped to inspire my first novel, Secrets of the Tides.
If you were a literary character, who would you be?:
It goes with the territory that most literary characters don’t have a particularly easy ride, but I’d probably be Laura Ingalls Wilder because I loved her Little House on the Prairie books and always had a secret yearning for that back-to-basics frontier lifestyle.
Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:
I am a very unsuccessful gardener and can spend an inordinate amount of time gassing with my sister on the telephone.
What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:
My husband’s roast beef with a really good glass of red wine.
Who is your hero? Why?:
I’m not sure I have a hero. I think it’s a little dangerous to put people on pedestals … we’re all human, after all. Having said that, I think my family, my husband and my kids are pretty awesome.
Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:
I think one of the biggest challenges to the future of books and reading is the perceived value of the written word.
I see a big shift in peoples’ expectations that content and entertainment be made available to them at little or no cost. When you consider this in light of the digital age, it’s a big problem for the survival of writers, publishers and booksellers.