Welcome to my guest page. Here, every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation, over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, if they are not driving, with a friend about their work in progress, or latest book release. I’ll be talking to all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers.
Hello Hannah. I’m so glad you can join us here today. I hope your coffee is okay.
Hi Paula. I’d hug you, but…nothing to do with Covid, I just haven’t showered. (Nah, not really, I shower once a year whether I need to or not, teehee.) Anyway, thanks for the invite. Lovely to see you!
Right Hannah let’s started by asking you when you first begun your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
I started when I was little, so I was inspired by Beatrix Potter and Enid Blyton, primarily. I wrote animal stories and a few failed openings of detective stories. I had the slight issue of not being able to think up mystery plots! My teenage years were a blip on the writing front, as I was too afraid to try, but in retrospect, I don’t think that did me any harm. I got on with my life and learnt lots, which gave me experiences to draw from and observations I’d use later. Perhaps if I’d have written constantly, I’d be less passionate about it now. Who knows? Anyway, I’m not sure what my ‘chosen genre’ is – is there such thing as Low-key Literary Fiction? I’m interested in people and what we weirdly tend to refer to as ‘normal life’ – the extraordinary in the ordinary. Sorry, Paula, you asked a simple question and I replied with a tirade…Good word, tirade. Tiraaaaade.
Go for it, Hannah. My next question what writing elements do you think are your strongest points, and what would you like to do better?
Probably dialogue and characterisation. What would I like to do better? Erm, dialogue and characterisation! And descriptions. And structure. And everything else. (There: a nice, short, vague answer. You’re welcome.)
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
Not a huge number. I usually finish what I start, but sometimes there’s a while between the initial idea and the final version. They often need time to brew.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter? (If you only write short stories, or play or poetry do you plan your story ( poem), or let the characters lead you.)
I mostly write short stories. The process varies. I don’t tend to plan them to the letter before I start, but I usually know where they’re going, in a hazy sort of way. As I write the opening, I might think, ‘Ooh, I could put such-and-such in the ending/middle’, and sort of fill it out as I go, like a jigsaw puzzle. I planned my university assignment short stories a lot more. Some stories seem to write themselves though and require little editing. I’m not sure if it’s possible to tell which have been planned extensively and which haven’t. Maybe I should get people to guess!
When reading your work through do you ever find that your daily mood swings are reflected in your writing?
Mood swings? WHAT MOOD SWINGS? Nah, I just rant my journal into a nervous breakdown.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
Yes. Not you though, Paula. I wouldn’t dare, not when you’re always sharing dragging-dead-bodies-through-the-woods memes! Several of the characters in my MA dissertation stories were inspired by real people, but sometimes it’s unintentional – my mum laughs because she can often ‘hear’ herself or her dad! There’s a lot of me in my stories too, even in the many ‘old men’ characters. Is my secret safe with you?
Is there anything about you your readers might be surprised to find out?
Hmm, not much. I have a reputation for being an open book – well, in my case, an open short-story-anthology. Maybe my ‘past life’ as a music tutor, brass band conductor, and trombonist? Maybe that I’m only 26? I have the audacity (another good word) to write a lot of older characters. The youth of today, eh?
Did you uncover things about yourself while writing your books (or stories, play, poem) whether that be a long forgotten memory, a positive experience etc.
Ew, yes. It’s uncomfortable at times. I’ve often used memories of tragic events and emotions in my writing. Creativity can be therapeutic though, with so much potential for making sense of the world and bringing beauty out of hardship.
Sorry, that got a bit serious, Paula. Fancy another biscuit before I scoff the lot?
I’m good Hannah. Help yourself, but this time try not to spray me with biscuit crumbs. 😉
How many hours in a day do you write?
I’m doing well if I manage 2hrs. 3hrs at a push. After that, my brain shuts down. I’ve tried everything from 10mins at a time to 2hrs in one go. It makes no difference to the length of time I spend writing.
How do you select the names of your characters?
It varies. Sometimes it’s instinctive. Other times I spend a while researching different names and meanings or looking up names that were popular in the year my character was born. I did that for one of my recent stories. She lived in house No.11, so I thought I’d find the year she was born and choose the 11th on the list, whatever it was. It was ‘Hannah’! If that wasn’t weird enough already, the character was also loosely based on me. I went with ‘Alexandra’ instead.
How long on average does it take you to write a book (story, poem, or play)?
It takes a long time. I’m a slow writer. I have great admiration for all my writing friends who crank out great stories at a crazy speed. One of my 2000-word stories took 4 years! I wasn’t working on it the whole time though, obviously…that would be a bit much, even for me.
Thank you so much for join me in the tearoom today, Hannah, it’s been lovely. Below is Hannah’s bio and links to social media.
Hannah Retallick is from Anglesey, North Wales. She was home educated and then studied with the Open University, graduating with a First-class honours degree, BA in Humanities with Creative Writing and Music, before passing her Creative Writing MA with a Distinction. She was shortlisted in the Writing Awards at the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival 2019, the Cambridge Short Story Prize, the Henshaw Short Story Competition June 2019, and the Bedford International Writing Competition 2019.