Hannah Vincent is the author of Alarm Girl and The Weaning. Her short story collection, She-Clown, was published by Myriad Editions on 26 March 2020.
Hannah kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about She-Clown
She-Clown is the public version of our female selves. She is our performed self – she is the person we become for others. Even when we are home alone, we are still likely to be performing ourselves on social media or in text messages, dating apps or over the phone. Whether we are in role as young singleton, daughter, sister, wife/partner, mother, professional person or domestic goddess we are rarely a ‘pure’ self – does such a thing exist?
2. What inspired the book?
I have always been a clown. It can be exhausting at times. As I grow older, I have become more aware of the performance I give out and perhaps I am less compelled to perform myself for others – or at least, if I put on a performance, I am increasingly aware what this is. The stories in this collection describe stages of life when I wasn’t so aware of the performance I was putting on and they project forwards into a future to consider what performances might still be to come.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
I begin with a rough sketch. When writing short form I have an idea of the shape of a story and when writing novels and plays I often have an image for the final scene, so I know where I’m heading. I try to develop characters and allow them to dictate the eventual story trajectory.
4. Having been through the publishing process, is there anything about the process of creating a book that surprised you?
I am continually surprised by ways in which the unconscious mind finds expression in a concrete, consciously produced artefact that is the book I am promoting by answering these questions.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
Watch telly. Read. Walk. Sing.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Jane Eyre is a book that bears re-reading, I think. I never tire of Jane or of Charlotte Bronte’s revealing of her.
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
I appreciate specific questions about specific characters in my work. My most fulfilling experiences as a published writer have been the conversations I’ve had with readers who respond to my characters as if they are real-life people. I wonder why I haven’t been asked about how She-Clown gets herself into the situation described in the title story of this collection. Perhaps it’s because the answer is obvious – we live in a patriarchy, which is why She-Clown behaves as she does. As with many of the stories gathered here, the ending points towards a possible escape from the tyranny of male supremacy and hints at a way of achieving a more equal society, which would be happier for everyone, men and women alike.
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About the book
Captured in familiar situations as well as in flights of fancy, the women in these stories are engaged in acts of self-preservation: they are exhilarated to discover the joy and surprise of other women’s company, they make bold sexual choices, they go on a night-time excursions; as grandmothers, they give their grandchildren unsuitable presents.
In one story, a young woman and her mother harness their creativity to express their horror at the world around them. In another, a teenage mother struggles with her feelings for the father of her child. One of the tales follows a woman who experiences the freedom of the workplace while another shows how imprisoning it can be.
Compassionate, unexpected, and full of small triumphs in the face of adversity, this collection establishes Hannah Vincent as one of the freshest voices in contemporary fiction.
About the author
Hannah Vincent is a novelist and playwright. She studied Drama and English at the University of East Anglia and completed the MA in Creative Writing at Kingston University. She has a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Sussex. Hannah teaches Creative Writing on the Open University’s MA and life writing on the Autobiography and Life writing programme at New Writing South. She lives in Brighton.