Thirst by Kerry Hudson

Thirst is a joyous read despite its depiction of poverty, violence, abuse and deprivation. It is sliced through with warmth and fizzes with energy from start to finish, just as Hudson’s debut, Tony Hogan… did.

Security Guard Dave meets Alena when she shoplifts from the swanky London department store he works in. Both of them have been battered by life and they are, each in their own way, broken and desperately in need of kindness. And both have secrets.

Alena left her Siberian housing estate to journey to London where she hoped to find a better life. Dave has always dreamt of leaving his estate and travelling. Real life isn’t like that though and both have had their dreams destroyed. When they come together they are uneasy and wary. The things that have happened to Alena have transformed her. She’s had to psychologically armour herself. This is a story of love and redemption, but Hudson’s customary realism ensures there’s no fairy story guaranteed happy ever after. (I was holding out for a “maybe a bit content for a period of time” ending and nope, I won’t tell you if that happened or not.)

I raced through the book, eager to know what would happen. It’s an engaging, bright, beautiful novel with an important heart. Blimey, Kerry Hudson is good. 

Come back tomorrow to read Kerry’s answers to my Smash Lits questions.

The WoMentoring Project

From time to time I’ve thought how wonderful it would be to have a writing mentor. I know other writers who have been mentored and found it enormously helpful. Then I’ve looked at the cost and dismissed the idea. In January this year I was involved in a twitter conversation with Kerry Hudson and a few others and Kerry suggested there should maybe be a peer mentoring site for women writers as a way of supporting them, and them paying it forwards and so on. What would be the tweeting equivalent of thinking aloud? Well, she was doing that, and she ended by saying she was totally going to do it.

Because Kerry is amazing, she has launched The WoMentoring Project today, not even three months later. Here are some details:

About?

The WoMentoring Project exists to offer free mentoring by professional literary women to up and coming female writers who would otherwise find it difficult to access similar opportunities.

The mission of The WoMentoring Project is simply to introduce successful literary women to other women writers at the beginning of their careers who would benefit from some insight, knowledge and support. The hope is that we’ll see new, talented and diverse female voices emerging as a result of time and guidance received from our mentors.

Each mentor selects their own mentee and it is at their discretion how little or much time they donate. We have no budget, it’s a completely free initiative and every aspect of the project – from the project management to the website design to the PR support – is being volunteered by a collective of female literary professionals. Quite simply this is about exceptional women supporting exceptional women. Welcome to The WoMentoring Project.

Why do we need it?

Like many great (and not so great) ideas The WoMentoring Project came about via a conversation on Twitter. While discussing the current lack of peer mentoring and the prohibitive expense for many of professional mentoring we asked our followers – largely writers, editors and agents – who would be willing to donate a few hours of their time to another woman just starting out. The response was overwhelming – within two hours we had over sixty volunteer mentors.

Our mentors are all professional writers, editors or literary agents. Many of us received unofficial or official mentoring ourselves which helped us get ahead and the emphasis is on ‘paying forward’ some of the support we’ve been given.

In an industry where male writers are still reviewed and paid more than their female counterparts in the UK, we wanted to balance the playing field. Likewise, we want to give female voices that would otherwise find it hard to be heard, a greater opportunity of reaching their true potential.

Applications

In an ideal world we would offer a mentor to every writer who needed and wanted one. Of course this isn’t possible so instead we’ve tried to ensure the application process is accessible while also ensuring that out mentors have enough information with which to make their selection.

Applicant mentees will submit a 1000 word writing sample and a 500 word statement about why they would benefit from free mentoring. All applications will be in application to a specific mentor and mentees can only apply for one mentor at a time.

Why our mentors are getting involved

The reason I’m doing this is simple: mentoring can mean the difference between getting published and getting lost in the crowd. It can help a good writer become a brilliant one. But till now, opportunities for low-income writers to be mentored were few and far between. This initiative redresses the balance; I’m utterly delighted to be part of the project.

Shelley Harris, author of Jubilee

I have only achieved the success I have with the help of others, and now I am keen to pass on that help. I particularly want to reach out to those who don’t have the privileges of wealth, status or existing contacts, but who have so much to gain and to give.

Marie Phillips, author Gods Behaving Badly

I’m so pleased to be involved in the WoMentoring Project, and I can’t wait to meet my mentee. I know from my own authors how isolating an experience writing can often be, especially when you’re just starting out, and so I really wanted to be involved. I hope that knowing that there is someone on your side in those early days will give writers courage and confidence in their work.

Alison Hennessy, Senior Editor at Harvill Secker

The WoMentoring project is the kind of opportunity I would have relished when writing my first novel. It’s founded in the spirit of paying it forward, and I’ll take real pride in sharing whatever experience I’ve gained with a mentee. I’ve benefited from the advice and encouragement of some truly inspirational writers, the right voice cheering you on can make all the difference when you’re in your solitary writing bubble. The formality of the mentoring arrangement also gives a sense of responsibility and focus – something that’s invaluable when you’re lost in the sprawl of a work-in-progress – and it’s beneficial to mentors too.

Amylia Hall, author of The Book of Summers

My career as an editor has been immeasurably enriched by working with inspiring women writers, yet the world of publishing would have been inaccessible to me without the time and support I was given when first starting out.  The WoMentoring Project is a wonderful, necessary thing and I’m very proud to be taking part in it.

It all sounds bloody marvelous. If you are interested in applying to be a mentee (is that the word? It looks really strange) then head over to the site and check out all the ace people who have volunteered to mentor. And three cheers for Kerry please.

Hip hip…

Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma – Kerry Hudson

One of my fave novels of 2012 was Kerry Hudson’s stonking debut – Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma. It’s a great read with characters that fizz off the page and sear themselves into the reader’s mind. Opening with the words “”Get out you cunting, shitting, little fucking fucker!”” we immediately enter the world of Janie Ryan. Her story takes place against a backdrop of poverty, council flats and B&B’s, benefits, booze, crappy food, strong women, and shitty men. Hudson’s voice is refreshing, lively, and real, and although the subject matter is bleak her humour shines through. Yes, the sweariness and Scottishness may have reminded some reviewers of Irvine Welsh, but I reckon there’s a fondness for, and a likeability to, the characters that make it closer to a Roddy Doyle novel.

The book has been critically acclaimed by far more important folk than I, and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, the Saltire Scottish First Book of the year, the Green Carnation prize and the Southbank Sky Arts Award. Pretty damn impressive! As of this week it’s available in paperback and to celebrate Kerry has been doing a wee blog tour. She’s been chatting to people about various things – her inspiration, favourite writing spots etcetera. I wondered if all the praise for her debut made writing her second novel super pressurised. 

That difficult second album. Second novel syndrome. How to train to be a taxidermist. I googled all of these in the final months of finishing up my second novel, Thirst. If you are writing your second novel right now DO NOT DO THIS. It is very unhelpful as there are swathes of articles who’ll tell you about each and every author whose second novel got consigned to the bottom drawer. Forever.
The common reasons that these articles and blogs give for a second novel being difficult is: The first novel is autobiographic/semi-autobiographic and had been being ‘written’ for years before fingers ever hit the keyboard. That there is more pressure, people are waiting for the book, you have ‘readers’. That if you’re uncontracted (as I was) for that second book then the pressure is double because that might be it, game over, The End. I recognise all of these symptoms and I know I’m not alone, the writers I’ve spoken to about this gave their own stories of procrastination, despair, manic optimism over an idea only to realise it is pure panic-driven madness. 
But, I live to tell the tale (boom boom). So here’s how I slayed the second-novel dragon:
I quit my job, gave up my flat, used every single penny I had and took myself off to Vietnam for four months. I don’t recommend this first step unless you’re feeling very brave and you know in advance that Hanoi is actually absolutely fucking freezing over the winter months but it did mean it was all or nothing in getting it finished.
I have always tried  pragmatic about writing; it’s a job and there are jobs that are tougher, much tougher. Writing is a joy, having the freedom to write what we choose is a privilege many don’t have. Whenever I felt myself slipping into angst because a scene wasn’t working and thus becoming a little too fond of my South East Asian hot toddy (made with lime and Vietnamese whisky) I’d remember how lucky I was and Just Bloody Get On With It.
I was methodical. I had a schedule of when all of the editorial drafts needed to be completed; structural, a scene by scene rework (10 pages a day), another draft for the development of each of the main characters and a read aloud. Before I began reworking anything, I reread it and wrote down what was happening on the page and what I wanted to happen. I didn’t always stick to the schedule and the notes didn’t always help but at least I knew how far behind I actually was when I was slipping.
I downloaded Scrivener. Scrivener, you little beauty! My second book has two protagonists and three separate timelines. A huge, and very technical, departure from Tony Hogan. Scriveners functionality saved me from rocking in a corner while chewing on my own hair.
I stopped thinking about the Other Stuff. Other stuff is: the response to your first book, comparisons to the first book, fears of only having one book in you, terror that your publisher is buying other new books that might be like yours, other writers already publishing their second books, the voice in your head that is always ready to tear a strip off you. Instead, I just thought about the story, how vulnerable my characters were and how I wanted to do them justice.
So that’s it really: Arse to seat, organise, get Scrivener, get out of your own head and into the story. Sounds easy. It bloody well isn’t but it is worth it; as my debut comes out in paperback I know next July Thirst, my second novel, will be on shelves next to it. And I’m no longer Googling scary articles about the trouble with second novels so can spend more time looking at pictures of pissed off animals in fancy dress on Buzzfeed.

Ah, I’m so glad Kerry has managed to write her way through any worry and really look forward to reading Thirst when it comes out. For now though she’s organised a competition to win a signed copy of Tony Hogan…

‘Want to win a signed copy of Tony Hogan? I’m trying to put together a Tony Hogan soundtrack. Simply submit your song suggestion to me @kerryswindow on Twitter with the hashtag #tonyhogantune by the end of Tuesday 9th of July. If your song is one of the ten selected for the soundtrack (and you were the first to suggest it!) I’ll send you a signed copy of Tony Hogan.’ 

You’d best get cracking eh? You can find out more about Kerry at her website, and follow her on twitter @KerrysWindow.


Not really a best of the year with salt

This is not really one of those end of year best lists as it relies solely upon my rubbish ability to recall what I have watched, read, listened to and thought for a whole year. So, instead I’ll call it a “thing” – tada:

Keith Ridgway’s Hawthorn and Child is my most memorable read of 2012. My review is here and I love that despite reading it in August I am still thinking about it in January.

Honourable mentions to Kerry Hudson’s Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma which fair fizzes off the page, and Jenni Fagan’s superb The Panopticon (review here).

2012 began with me adoring Nicki Minaj. She seemed poised to be the smartest, coolest rapper/singer/hip-hopper in the universe. But then… that didn’t happen.

I don’t know what I did before Spotify, making my own playlists makes me so damn happy. I surprised myself by listening to my “Beans. Cheese. Toast.” playlist far more than “Hip Hop Happiness” or “Goodness”. Turns out you can’t beat damn fine pop. I did really like Mark Lanegan’s “Blues Funeral” – it sounded proper. And I rediscovered my love of Pearl Jam.

Telly was Elementary, The Mentalist, Chicago Fire, Home and Away and Neighbours (always) and my absolute fave – Sons of Anarchy. Edit – Oh, and Homeland of course. I am ever so slightly obsessed  with how awesome Clare Dane’s nose is.

I took these snaps on New Years Day when I went for a walk on Littlehampton Beach – it was a day bright with possibility and made me feel entirely content. I wish you all a wonderful 2013.

Kerry Hudson – woot woot! Tony Hogan Bought me an Ice Cream Float before he Stole my Ma – Blog Tour

I am so chuffed to be part of Kerry Hudson’s blog tour. Her debut novel “Tony Hogan Bought me an Ice Cream Float before he Stole my Ma” was published this week and it’s an absolute cracker. Her characters fizz off the page and sear themselves in your mind. Her use of language is a real pleasure as she describes people, places, feelings and situations in vivid, fresh ways.

So, this is Kerry:

Bio
Kerry Hudson was born in Aberdeen. Growing up in a succession of council estates, B&Bs and caravan parks provided her with a keen eye for idiosyncratic behaviour, material for life, and a love of travel. Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma is her first novel. Kerry now lives, writes and works in London. 
Blurb
When Janie Ryan is born, she’s just the latest in a long line of Ryan women, Aberdeen fishwives to the marrow, always ready to fight. Her violet-eyed Grandma had predicted she’d be sly, while blowing Benson and Hedges smoke rings over her Ma’s swollen belly. In the hospital, her family approached her suspiciously, so close she could smell whether they’d had booze or food for breakfast. It was mostly booze.
Tony Hogan tells the story of a Scottish childhood of filthy council flats and B&Bs, screeching women, feckless men, fags and booze and drugs, the dole queue and bread and marge sandwiches. It is also the story of an irresistible, irrepressible heroine, a dysfunctional family you can’t help but adore, the absurdities of the eighties and the fierce bonds that tie people together no matter what. Told in an arrestingly original — and cry-out-loud funny — voice, it launches itself headlong into the middle of one of life’s great fights, between the pull of the past and the freedom of the future. And Janie Ryan, born and bred for combat, is ready to win.

Just from the arresting cover image and the title this feels like a book you want to read.


I read an article about with Kerry at The Herald in which the interviewer reflects “What strikes one immediately is how unusual it is to find such characters in fiction – in the driving seat, that is, and written by someone who has lived that life, rather than parodying or mocking a class they don’t understand.” And I nodded whole-heatedly. The lit world does seem chock full of writers who are mainly white, middle class, and well educated. Kerry’s response was “I suspect the reason there aren’t any books (that reflect where she comes from) is that not enough people escape sufficiently with enough intact to then be able to write a book about it and get it published . Obviously I work for a children’s charity and I see it all the time: young people will just be crushed and futures absolutely destroyed by a bad upbringing or a neglected upbringing.” 
I have known Kerry in the internet writing world for several years now. We are twitter, blogger and Facebook pals. One of the things that has impressed me the most about her (apart from her ace writing skills, obviously) is how she just got on and did it. I asked her to tell me how! What worked for her in terms of motivation and discipline. And I asked how she manages to use social media without being sucked into its time wasting grasp. This is what she said:
Like most authors I work full-time as well as writing novels. I often liken the situation to bigamy, trying to split your affections painfully in half while reassuring both parties you’re not short-changing either of them, that it’s The Real Thing, just twice. 
It took me seven months to write Tony Hogan… from writing the first line on a sweaty Vietnamese train to sending it off to my now agent while living on a boat on the Thames. That’s obviously considered fairly quick but I had the absolute luxury of having each and every day to do nothing but recreate those swear words, council estates and egg, chips and beans dinners of my childhood. 
My second novel, Thirst, was written while holding down a full-time events job. I was back in London with all the friend and family commitments that go with that and also dealing with rounds of edits and pre-publication work for Tony Hogan… I did however get two months of full-time writing in thanks to a grant the Arts Council England through the National Lottery Fund. I finished Thirst in a year and half. 
Big difference eh? 
So, I’ve worked it both ways. I’ve squeezed writing sessions into ten minute slivers where before I’ve even written a word I’m mourning the writing time being over, and I’ve also had whole wonderful days stretching ahead to get down a measly 1000 words. Here’s what I’ve learned: 
If I want to write I can’t mythologise my writing: As soon as I start thinking about it as something as ‘proper’ as a novel  I freeze up. Instead tell myself it’s just a story. I tell them all the time in other circumstances; over a pint, when I’m late for work, talking about a really amazing gelato place I’ve found (it’s Gulupo in Soho, you should all go). They are just words, strung together to make descriptions, to explain something the way I intended to. Respect your writing but remember, at core, it is just a story same as any other. So especially for that first draft, just sit down and write it.
Which brings me to number two. When I’m writing my first draft I let my strange, often incomprehensible, mind do what it wants with no pressure to Fix Things. It goes without saying it’s impossible to make a table without wood or a sculpture without clay. That first draft for me is all about creating that ugly, shitty, unruly lump of raw material to make something with.
Set a target: The most productive writers I know set a daily target and stick to it. Make it 200, 500 or (my preferred figure) 1000 words but make it realistic and DO IT. Of course, some days you’d submit yourself to a Vajazzle than sit down and write that story. For me that applies to all but the rarest days, but once you get the first few sentences out you’ll be grand and when you’re finished you can look the world in the eye and say, ‘yes, I’m a writer.’ 
Social-media mumblings: I love me some Twitter but I know it could be easy to while away hours finding out what people ate on their toast that morning. Instead, I use the #amwriting hashtag and tell everyone what I’m planning to do that day and then report back on how much I actually did. I blogged my wordcount everyday when writing Tony Hogan… using that potential public shaming as a motivator works for me. I really don’t want to go back on Twitter two hours later and say I’ve watched two epic episodes of crime-writer-turned-crime-buster series Castle and written only three words.
Brace yourself…I don’t have a TV: I had one for years and years, growing up in our house it was on pretty much 24 hours, I love TV. And that is why I can’t have one. I watch box-sets or catch-up TV but no more than a few hours a week. I know, I know, it seems like eating a cornflake as your weekly calorie intake but honestly, I don’t miss it that much and I write a lot more.
Laugh: That is all. Just laugh. Writing is hard sometimes, there will be moments of disappointment, days when the words won’t come, when you want ceremonially burn your latest manuscript. So remember to laugh and, as much as possible, keep it in perspective. They’re just stories after all…

What a fab response. Thank you. I also had a few Smash Hits style daft questions to finish up with:

Janie relishes her food so here is a wee food based bit:

What are your favourite crisps? 

Salt and Vinegar or Pickled Onion Space Raiders  

Favourite soft drink? 

…Coke-float!

Favourite cheese?

 Is it greedy to say all of them?

You write so convincingly of being a teenage girl My favourite line in the whole book is “Even though I was free dinners and didn’t have the right coloured uniform I still got to be boss because I didn’t have glasses or a plaster over one eye…” It sums up so accurately the hierarchy of school cool. Where did you fit in?

It depended on the school. Sometimes bearably in the middle so you flew under the radar if you stayed in shady corners, but mostly right at the bottom with the geeks and freaks. Funnily enough though it’s the ‘bottom of the pack’ kids who mostly went on to do cool stuff – revenge of the geeks indeed!

Who was the poster on your bedroom wall?

 Keanu Reeves

Who is the most famous person you’ve met? 

I once used the toilet after Angelina Jolie at a theatre in London. She queued like everyone else, was tiny and perfect and I swear to God the cubicle smelled of roses afterwards…I’m aware this is making me sound like a scary stalker. 

What’s your favourite colour? 

Red

What’s your favourite smell? 

The smell of toast

Favourite Cuss?

LOVE this question! I’m quite fond of Motherfucker at the the moment delivered with the emphasis on the Mo-. 
Thank you. I wish you MUCH success with your book. 

P.s Will there ever be a follow up?

I’d love to write a follow up and see what Janie gets up to next. I definitely wouldn’t be ruling it out! 

Hurrah! I want to know what happens next, definitely.

Kerry’s blog tour continues tomorrow at The Little Reader Library Blog 

Oh, and she is running an AMAZING competition that I totally want to win. (PICK ME PICK ME!)

The prize draw is open to anyone who hosts or comments on a Tony Hogan post. There is no purchase necessary. There is no limit to how many times a name can be entered i.e. if you comment on three blogs you have three entries but it’s only possible to win one prize per person. The winning names will be drawn at random on Wednesday 1st August and announced on my Tumblr blog and on Twitter.
1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes consist of: 
1st prize – A three chapter or synopsis critique plus afternoon tea at Beas of Bloomsbury, London (at a mutually beneficial date and time) with Juliet Pickering from the AP Watt Literary Agency to discuss your critique. Plus a personalised copy of Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before he Stole My Ma.
2nd prize – A  literary hamper containing a personalised copy of Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma as well as three of my most recommended writing theory books and Hotel d Chocolate chocolates to enjoy while reading them.
3rd prize – A personalised copy of Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma.

You can keep up with all things Kerry at 

   
  


www.kerryhudson.co.uk

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