Here at Women’s Writes we had the most amazing opportunity to interview Hannah, the author of The Education of Ivy Edwards. Following the life of a 31 year old woman, this book looks at what happens when relationships fail, when you have problems within the family, and also what the meaning of friendship is. Filled with plenty of laugh out loud moments, this book strikes a perfect balance between comedy and sincerity, and we could not WAIT to ask Hannah all about her book (WHICH COMES OUT IN PAPERBACK ON 13TH AUGUST EEEK).
Hey Hannah, thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions! We are HUGE fans of the Education of Ivy Edwards (I have told everyone that will listen to read it), and we just love you as an author.
THANK YOU! You guys are so supportive, it means the world.
Was there one moment in your life when you thought, “I want to be a writer”, or did it come about more naturally?
I have always written, and for some stupid reason I told myself I would write a book by the time I turned thirty. I also said I would be fluent in French by thirty, but I am nowhere near realising that goal. I wanted to be an actress and I auditioned for drama school after university, but I have a stammer, and whilst I have never stammered on stage, I found the audition process totally anxiety-inducing, and my speech suffered as a result. But you don’t stammer when you write, and after getting rejected for drama school the words began to flow much more freely. I wrote journals, dialogue for plays and short scenes, and I always had the character of Ivy in the back of my mind, but it took me a long time to figure out what to do with her.
Are any of the moments based on real life events? The book seems almost as if Ivy could be my best friend, she is so easy to relate to and so down to earth.
I’m so happy you said that! I want readers to think that Ivy is speaking directly to them, like they’re having an intimate conversation over a wine (or five) with their best pal. As any writer does, I have drawn on real-life experiences, and I hope that honesty and authenticity makes Ivy’s journey relatable to readers.
What is your favourite piece of advice that you wrote for Ivy, and since finishing writing the book is there any more advice that you would add on to the list at the end?
I think the most important piece of advice is to be kind to yourself. Ivy has such destructive tendencies, and these manifest themselves when she thinks she is undeserving of love. She doesn’t really know who she is or what she wants in this first book; she thought she knew, but then when her fiancé leaves her, her world shatters and she feels so desperate and alone that she spirals out of control. She tries green juices and exercise but it’s not going to do her any good because fundamentally, she doesn’t love herself. If you don’t love yourself, whatever you do – whether that’s have meaningless sex, go ‘out out’, or channel J Lo – won’t make a difference. The advice she reads at the end of the book is retrospective – she wishes she had those pearls of wisdom when Jamie split up with her, but if she did, her story would be a lot less interesting!
On your Instagram Live with us you talked of how the choice of Ivy as 31 was very purposeful (but as a female just turning 20 I know that even with 11 years between me and Ivy I know EXACTLY how she feels a lot of the time). Are your other books going to focus on women of this age or is there going to be a varied age range?
As a woman, there are so many expectations to navigate, and there aren’t any right answers. I was not where I wanted to be at thirty – nowhere near it, in fact. I struggled with my sense of self and identity, and felt enormous pressure to be in a certain place just because I had reached a certain age. I felt a lot of shame around this, yet the more people I talked to, the more I realised that everyone was dealing with their own version of this anxiety. People think your twenties are all about self- discovery, and when you hit thirty you should suddenly know who you are and where you’re going, but the reality is wildly different, and I think it’s important to address that truth.
Who is your favourite character (except Ivy) in the novel?
The mother – without a doubt. Margaret Edwards can be so unsympathetic and selfish, but she has a heart of gold and comes out with some truly bonkers comments. My mother is my best friend, but of course we drive each other mad. I drew on the intimacy we share when I was creating the character of Margaret. I don’t think I could cope with a real-life Margaret, though. I’d have to move far, far away from home, or take up Valium.
Is there one specific theme from the novel that you think is essential to talk about in today’s society?
I think it’s important to have female characters that are multifaceted and complicated, because that’s what’s true to life. When we’re dealing with our own issues, reading a book with a character that reminds us of ourselves makes us feel like we’re not alone- that we are seen, and heard. Ivy can’t cope with the pressures of millennial life and its expectations, that’s one of the reasons why she finds solace in relationships with people much older than her. I think we can all relate to that, and the more we see these flawed characters, the more we realise that it’s OK to be imperfect ourselves.
Are there any female authors who inspired you to write?
Nora Ephron was a genius and an absolute goddess. Her comedic timing was sensational. I’m in love with her, always will be. I read so much Judy Blume when I was younger; she wrote everything from the heart and covered topics that others were afraid to talk about, which was very brave – especially in those days. Helen Fielding’s raw, confessional style broke the barriers when it came to writing about messy women – she was a huge inspiration. I think Donna Tartt and Jessie Burton are unstoppable forces, too – I’m in awe of them as writers.
And finally, we want to know about how you read! Here at Women’s Writes we have discussed in great detail what our favourite reading conditions are, and we would love to know what yours are?
Pre-COVID, I would have said my ideal reading conditions were on a beach. There’d be a cool breeze in the air and nobody would disturb me for hours. When I go on holiday I take more books than I can carry – I get angsty if I think I’m going to run out of reading material. I started off lockdown reading feverishly, but my concentration has gotten worse and worse over the weeks. I have a stack of new books I want to read, I just need a beach to read them. One can hope …
Thank you so much for answering these questions! We know how busy you are, but it is such a privilege to talk to you. This book has provided me with so much comfort in lockdown, knowing that I am not alone in my inability to carve a clear path out for my future. Thank you for giving us such a beautiful piece of work and we cannot wait to read future books!!!
Thank you so much xxx