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:
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.
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
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?
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?
What’s your favourite smell?
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