DIVA: Your debut novel Tony Hogan Brought Me an
Ice-cream Float Before He Stole My Ma came out last week.
Congratulations! How are you feeling?
KERRY HUDSON: Having my first book out is a
heady cocktail of terror, pure elation and dizzying gratitude that
anyone took a chance on me. Thankfully so far people seem to be
taking the Ryan Women's love, loyalty and laughs to their hearts. I
guess it's like any roller-coaster - you hold on tight and try to
enjoy the thrills.
Tony Hogan has been described as being in the tradition
of Trainspotting "but with softer edges". Can you tell our readers
a bit about the book and your protagonist, Janie?
Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-cream Float Before He Stole My Ma is
an authentic and hopefully funny portrayal of family life told
through the sharp, smart voice of the eldest daughter, Janie Ryan.
The novel follows Janie, her Ma Iris and little sister Tiny as they
travel from the fish houses of Aberdeen, through ramshackle council
estates, to the kiss-me-quick cheap thrills of a failing seaside
town. It's a book about the bitter-sweet nature of mother and
daughter relationships and the unexpected joys that can be found in
adversity - a plate of chips, finding your place on a beer soaked
dance floor or, indeed, the first taste of an ice-cream float and
against the backdrop of the 80's and 90's. Because it opens when
Janie is born and finishes on her sixteenth birthday it's very
intimate and while Janie's born a fighter, there's a vulnerability,
loyalty and hope in often overwhelming circumstances too - she's
always looking to break beyond the legacy of what life's given her.
In summary, she's a girl with a filthy mouth and a big bruised
I read that the novel began as a collection of short
stories, is that right? How easy (or difficult) was it to fashion a
novel out of those stories?
That is true but it wasn't quite a collection, just three short
stories and a little scene of 500 words that all explored my
background and stories my grandma and mum had told me.
I think the act of using those short stories as stimulus for the
novel was easier than I might have expected because, for me, short
stories (though I love them) are so much harder to write than
novels. When I started the novel it felt so much more natural to my
writing style, like discovering you hadn't been speaking in your
native tongue for your whole life. It felt I was finally getting to
stretch out after having been cramped in a small space for too
I also read an interview where you described Tony Hogan
as a semi-autobiographical novel, and mentioned that you wrote it
in Vietnam. Did you make a conscious choice to get some distance
from the UK while you worked on the book?
Yes, being in a culture and society so different from the one I
was writing about was hugely helpful. It meant I couldn't be
influenced or helped by what was around me and so I was forced to
build every minute detail from my memory and imagination. The other
benefit was being totally alone, free of commitments and so able to
completely immerse myself in writing the book. My partner at the
time was working at a newspaper in Palestine so except for Skype
chats to her it was just me, Janie, Iris and Tiny in a sweaty
little room in Saigon making up stories together. It was a huge
luxury and privilege to have that time and I'm still so grateful
There are a lot of very funny moments in the novel, but
it's also quite dark at times, perhaps especially because the
protagonist is so young throughout much of the story. How important
was it to get that balance right?
It was hugely important I think. You can't tackle dark issues
without showing some light too. I really wanted to be as honest as
possible and luckily that meant documenting the laughter that can
be found echoing in even the darkest corners. The Ryan's are a
family who laugh a lot, maybe especially so when they're up against
it, and Janie brings comedy to the book first by observing a very
adult world through her child's unknowing eyes and then, as she
becomes older, describing it all in with a wry, sarcastic humour. I
hope I got that balance right but it's really for the reader to
judge and that's quite a subjective thing. So far quite a few
people have told they were laughing on one page and then getting
teary eyed a few pages later which is the best compliment I can
Do you think working class women's voices tend to be
underrepresented in British fiction?
I do unfortunately. Certainly I started writing Tony
Hogan...because I couldn't find any books that represented where I
came from. The funny thing is working-class narratives have been
gaining real presence in the film industry in the last few years (
This is England, Fishtank, The Arbor, NEDS, Ill Manors) but somehow
this hasn't translated into fiction, particularly working-class
stories written about women by women but Tony Hogan... was
published and by the brilliant Chatto & Windus, so that gives
me hope things are moving in the right direction.
You have already written a second novel, and started
work on a third. What motivates you and how do you make time to
write while also working full-time?
My main motivation is that I feel so incredibly lucky to be able
to write and have people read it. But even if I wasn't being
published I'd continue to to do so because if I write for an hour a
day, even if it isn't easy or I'm struggling, that is still the
best part of that day. I've never loved anything the way I love
writing, thinking about stories and exploring characters.
Fitting it in around work is a challenge though. I tend to grab
a few hours when I can each day - usually for an hour before work
when everything is quiet and then another hour in a noisy cafe in
Hackney after work. I go out a lot less than I used to, drink less
often because I can't write with a hangover and I don't have a TV.
It sounds a bit like a regime but like I say, nothing makes me
happier than getting down a good scene and when I do have a night
off I can head down the road to the Dalston Superstore and drink my
body weight in Red Stripe guilt free!
Where can readers find out more about you and keep up to
date with what you're doing?
I have a Tumblr: kerryhudson.tumblr.com
(I know, so down with the kids) and a website that has events and
press and the like: kerryhudson.co.uk. but I
probably spend more time on Twitter (@Kerryswindow) than on either
of those two because I love a chatter with other readers, writers
and @DIVAMagazine about what they all ate for breakfast.
Tony Hogan Brought Me an Ice-cream Float Before He Stole My
Ma is available now from Chatto & Windus for £12.99