4 March 2014

Author Interview: Hannah Beckerman

Today, I am thrilled to welcome the lovely Hannah Beckerman to my blog for a Q&A! I recently read Hannah's debut novel with Penguin called The Dead Wife's Handbook, and what an emotional rollercoaster it was! A beautifully written account of a dead's wife view of her family from heaven, it is a moving and touching book that I really enjoyed, a stunningly strong debut. Hannah was kind enough to answer some of my questions, so please enjoy!

You can buy The Dead Wife's Handbook as a paperback or an eBook now.

You can read my review of The Dead Wife's Handbook here.

Q1. Please tell me about your new book The Dead Wife's Handbook

The Dead Wife’s Handbook is the story of 36-year-old Rachel, who’s dead and is narrating the story  from some sort of netherworld, where she’s afforded sporadic access to watch the lives of the living, not least those of her husband, Max and seven-year old daughter, Ellie. The book is about love and loss and how both Rachel and the people she’s left behind have to come to terms with their grief and with life moving on.

Q2. Obviously, the book is about a very emotive subject. What made you decide to choose this topic for your debut novel?

It wasn’t so much that I chose it for my debut novel as it chose me! Once Rachel as a character was in my head I just knew that I had to tell her story.  Also, I’m a pretty emotional and analytical person myself so I think it was always quite likely that might writing would be emotive too.

Q3. The book is written from a unique perspective - that of the dead wife, Rachel, herself. How hard was it to write this book, and where did you get the idea for writing it from Rachel's point of view?

The idea came from talking to a friend about the news that her ex-husband had started a relationship with a new woman. My friend confided that she felt concerned about her ex-husband sharing all her secrets with his new partner, and it got me thinking about how that’s probably quite a common anxiety. And then I got to thinking about the most extreme example of that, and hence the idea originated of a dead wife, looking down on her husband as he makes his first forays back into the dating world, and all of the complicated emotions that might evoke.

Q4. How did you feel when you signed your publishing deal with Penguin? What's been your favourite part of the publishing process for The Dead Wife's Handbook so far?

The Dead Wife’s Handbook was sold to Penguin a fortnight before I was due to give birth to my daughter so it was a pretty emotional time all round. I remember getting the email from my agent to say that Penguin were going to offer, and just reading it and re-reading thinking, ‘Really?!’

I think my favourite part of the publishing process so far has been becoming part of the book community online. The blogging community has been so welcoming and I’ve loved being a part of it and getting to know so many brilliant people. And I’ve met (virtually!) loads of great people across the publishing industry. I’ve found it an incredibly supportive and collegiate place, which I really value and is very refreshing.

Q5. What sort of books do you like reading yourself?

I like a book either to make me think, laugh or cry. There are so many great books in the world that I get a bit frustrated if a book can’t make me do at least one of those things (and the best books, in my opinion, make you do all three). I read mostly contemporary fiction - people like Nicole Krauss, Sarah Waters, Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes... but if I carried on listing all my favourite authors we’d be here for a very long time!

Q6. What do you do when you aren't writing?

Not much at the moment, in all honesty. I’m looking after my 16-month old daughter full-time, so am fitting in writing in the very early hours of the morning, during her lunch-time nap, in the evenings and at weekends. So we tend just to have one family day a week together and mostly we see friends or family. But when I have a bit more free time I like long, lazy lunches with friends, country walks, travelling and movies. And reading, of course.

Q7. Have you enjoyed using social media as a way to connect with your readers so far? What are the benefits and the downfalls for you?

See question 4! Yes, I’ve loved it. It’s really tapped me into a community I didn’t even know existed a year ago.

The benefits are manifold: meeting lots of people who are passionate about books in the way I am, getting great book recommendations, chatting about everything from books to babies and everything in between. And the Twitter community in particular was genuinely an incredible source of support to me in the run-up to the publication of The Dead Wife’s Handbook: having your first novel published is a pretty scary event (as well as being incredibly exciting) but it was made so much less anxiety-inducing by the bloggers’ involvement and support.

The only downside, really, is that I’ve become so involved in the Twitter community that I find it hard ever to turn Twitter off. That’s just about manageable when I’m pottering around with a little one, but I need to get better at turning it off when I’m actually supposed to be writing.

Q8. Are you working on your next book yet? Can you tell us anything about it?

I am indeed. I’ve done the first draft and am just working on the second draft (aka my agent’s notes) at the moment. The subject is still under wraps for the time being but I promise that you’ll be one of the first to know!

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