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An Interview with Kate Hamer

Kate Hamer is the author of the wonderfully compelling debut novel The Girl in the Red Coat, a gripping, atmospheric psychological thriller about the disappearance of a young girl.

We absolutely loved this book so wanted to find out more about Kate herself – about her career so far, her influences and what she’s working on now.

Read on for our interview with her!

An Interview with Kate Hamer

How did you get into writing?

In a way writing has always been there. I was lucky enough to be brought up in a bookish kind of household and I was obsessed with stories from a very early age. I not only read voraciously but I wrote too – poems, little stories that sort of thing. I continued writing throughout a fairly long career in the media but it was winning the Rhys Davies short story prize in 2011 that was a real turning point for me. It gave me a real dose of confidence. Not long after that I began The Girl in the Red Coat.

Can you tell us a little about your debut novel, The Girl in the Red Coat?

It’s a dual narrative between Beth and Carmel, mother and daughter and one of the enduring themes of the book is that bond. Carmel is eight, a rather unusual child, and drives her mother to distraction by always wandering off. At a story telling festival she actually goes missing properly and the rest of the book charts their separate journeys. I would say it goes in a direction you probably wouldn’t expect but it’s hard to talk about without giving too much away! Suffice to say the seeds of Carmel’s disappearance lie in her strangeness.

The title of your novel paints an evocative picture – could you picture Carmel Wakeford clearly when you were writing the book?

Very much so! In fact the whole book began with having a very clear image of her, standing in a forest and wearing a bright red duffel coat. I knew in the image she was lost and in a way the mission of writing the book was to find out why.

What attracts you to psychological thrillers?

I love reading about the workings of the mind, books where the seeds of the action is deeply rooted in the characters involved. To me, it gives a richer reading – and writing – experience.

Who are your biggest influences?

In terms of wring I love authors such as Maggie O’Farrell, Helen Dunmore and Hilary Mantel. I also watch a lot of films and would count that as influential on my work as books. I love the films of the director Guillermo del Toro, Spanish cinema and British nineteen sixties films. I’m sure the creepy little chiller ‘Don’t Look Now’ – with that image of a little red coated figure running down the dark alleys of Venice – played its part in the inspiration somewhere!

If you could recommend one book you’ve read recently, what would it be and why?

The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah. I love reading something that is completely unlike anything I’ve read before and that’s certainly the case with this book. Memory is the narrator of the book, convicted of murder and in a Zimbabwe prison. As an appeal against her death sentence her lawyer convinces her to write down her memories – which become the novel. The language just shimmers with life.

What’s next for you?

I’ve written the first draft of my next novel – a coming of age tale with a strong dose of the supernatural, so I’m working hard on that. Plus getting out and about with events for The Girl in the Red Coat. Connecting with real life readers has been one of the unexpected joys of being published.

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