Interview with Sophie Hannah
Ever dreamed of being a better author, or even just an author?
Bestselling writer and poet, Sophie Hannah could be just the person to make your dreams come true.
Sophie Hannah’s body of work has firmly established her as one of the leading writers of her generation.
Her poetry is studied by schoolchildren for GCSE and A level. Translated into forty-nine languages, her novels have sold millions.
Crime thriller, Little Face, Hannah’s first book in the ten book, Culver Valley series, made The Sunday Times top 100 crime thrillers written since 1945 – a chilling story about a mother’s insistence the baby in the cot is not hers. Sophie’s 2013 novel, The Carrier won the Crime Thriller of the Year Award at the Specsavers National Book Awards.
Her new venture, Dream Author www.dreamauthorcoaching.com is a coaching programme designed to help authors and would-be authors achieve their potential – and it’s starting right now!
The Crime Hub wanted to find out more…
Sophie, could you tell our readers why you set up this this programme and what it’s is all about?
I set it up because I noticed that I was doing the coaching anyway. It seemed that every author I met was doubtful, de-motivated, anxious, feeling like a failure – whether they were someone still trying to get their first book published or a top-ten bestselling author.
Worse still, they all fully believed in their stories of ‘I’m a failure’, ‘I haven’t got what it takes’, ‘It’s so hard for writers these days’, ‘My career’s on a downward trajectory and my agent hates me.’ I found that I was forever explaining to writers that they could see a particular situation or approach a challenge in a completely different way and with different beliefs. I’d tell them how I would think about their situation and their eyes would widen and they’d say, ‘You know, if I could think like that, I’d feel so much better and I’d want to do the work again.’
So eventually I thought, let’s do this formally, with a coaching programme for writers in all genres and at all levels of experience. We all face the same psychological and emotional challenges.
So, it’s not about improving writers’ use of English – the nuts and bolts of description or dialogue?
In terms of nuts and bolts, it’s a tricky one. It’s a coaching programme, not a writing course, so the main focus is firmly on how to manage your thoughts and emotions in order to feel strong, capable and confident for the rest of your writing life.
In the process of learning these skills though, you will also learn so much about how to take your writing to the next level. It’s amazing how much your writing improves once you start working on the mindset that’s been driving it. It’s hard to describe exactly how this works – you have to experience it. The learning goes deeper and is more effective than any traditional lesson about ‘How to improve your written English/creative writing.’
Is this purely an online programme or are there opportunities for the writers to meet each other – and you?
The programme is mainly online, with weekly webinars for group and individual coaching and the ‘Ask Sophie’ area for private/email coaching.
There are also weekly ‘Monday Mission’ tasks, monthly workbooks and weekly podcast episodes for members only. There will be meet-ups throughout the year as well, though, and we’ve planned two Dream Author retreats at beautiful Hewenden Mill Cottages, near Haworth, early next year.
What made you use the name, Dream Author? Is that an industry term?
It’s a term you hear quite often in the literary world! When publishers talk about a ‘Dream Author’, they mean an author who is a dream to work with.
If you’re described as a ‘Dream Author’ by any book industry professional, it means that you hand in your books on time, thank your editor for helpful feedback instead of snarling, ‘How dare you try to sabotage my precious masterpiece?’ and you don’t demand the instant firing of the entire publicity department if your novel doesn’t enter the charts at number 1.
From a writer’s point of view, though, the term ‘dream author’ can and should mean something different, something that’s more about how effectively you define and pursue your dreams, and the extent to which you are able to make precisely the creative contribution that you want to make according to your own talents, needs and ideals.
In order to be your own ‘dream author’ — an author with the right set of dreams and the ability to take action to help realise them — you must master all the necessary skills in order to thrive in a world that won’t shift to accommodate your dreams unless you give it no choice but to do so.
This means adopting a whole new approach to the imaginative, business, psychological and emotional aspects of being a writer. That’s why I decided DREAM AUTHOR was the perfect name for my coaching programme.
Frustrated writers often say: ‘I’d love to write a book, I just don’t have the self-discipline to sit there, day after day.’ Do you believe the ability to write a novel is in all of us?
Yes, if we want to write a novel.
Most of us imagine that any obstacles to doing so are innately in us (for example in our inability to discipline ourselves) or out there in the world (we might imagine that it’s a terribly hard time to become a writer, for example, and that there are insurmountable barriers to doing so).
DREAM AUTHOR is all about looking at these beliefs and realising that quite often they’re false and if we discover what’s true, we can reach our goals more happily and easily.