Hannah Stevens is a writer currently based in Leicester in the UK and has a PhD from the University of Leicester where she is also a tutor in creative writing. She has co-founded and currently co-runs Wind and Bones (http://windandbones.com/), in collaboration with Dr. Will Buckingham. She writes short stories and flash fiction and has just completed her first book-length collection, In Their Absence. Her pamphlet collection, Without Makeup and Other Stories, was published in 2012 by Crystal Clear Creators, to critical acclaim. Her website is: http://hannahstevenswriter.com/
Interview with Sandra Pollock
SP: When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?
HS: Being or becoming a writer has been a gradual thing. It was a fluke that I started to write at all. It was something I enjoyed so I just kept doing it.
SP: What type of writing or genre first caught your interest and why?
HS: Poetry initially. I used to read lots of modern poetry. I love the Bloodaxe trilogy that started with Staying Alive. Poetry is a balm during difficult times, I think. Later it was short stories. I mostly read short stories now because I love the form but I often go back to poetry.
SP: Who would you say has had the most influence on you as a writer?
HS: Daphne Du Maurier. Her short story ‘The Birds’ bowled me over when I first read it and inspired me to try my hand at short story writing. I also like her novels but I love her short story collections in particular. Joyce Carol Oates has also been a big influence. Her short stories are devastatingly brilliant and often explore tensions around gender and in the domestic sphere. They’re dark and immaculately crafted.
SP: When did you begin to see yourself as a writer?
HS: It’s been a gradual thing. I love to write and so just kept doing it. I don’t really think of myself as a writer generally, which is odd really because it’s a big part of what I do.
SP: Where did you study your writing?
HS: I studied Creative Writing at De Montfort University initially. Originally, I was just going to study English but that year DMU had just started to offer creative writing as a joint option. I had no idea I would love it so much. After my undergraduate degree I had quite a gap from studying because I did some travelling, working and hanging around with interesting people. I didn’t study a Master's degree and went straight into a PhD. I completed my PhD at the University of Leicester.
SP: What would you say is the main thing studying Creative Writing taught you or helped you with?
HS: It was good for introducing me to new authors and forms of writing and for connecting me with other people who write.
SP: Where does the inspiration for your stories come from?
HS: It really varies. It can be something that I’ve read in the news, a small interaction I’ve had with somebody, an image, a line in a song. Inspiration comes from so many different places.
SP: Most of your stories in the pamphlet Without Makeup and Other Stories are tinged with sadness some more than others. Is this how you see life?
HS: Though sad and difficult things happen to everybody, I think that I’m generally quite an optimist. The current political climate in view of the Conservative government and Brexit are definitely making this more difficult currently, though. I’m appalled by the Conservative government and how they are making people suffer.
SP: In Without Makeup and other Stories why did you go for six mini stories in place of, say two longer ones?
HS: It wasn’t a conscious decision: each story just felt ‘right’ I guess. I do find it easier and more satisfying to write shorter rather than longer pieces, though.
SP: What made you decide to create a pamphlet?
HS: It was actually the result of entering a competition run by the small press publishers Crystal Clear Creators and funded by Arts Council England. There were six winners in total. Individually we all worked with a writing mentor and wrote our resulting pamphlets.
SP: What did you need to learn about that you did not know before?
HS: It was the first time I’d worked on a sustained writing project, rather than just ad hoc pieces. So that was interesting because it took sustained work to generate ideas and then edit a number of pieces at the same time.
SP: What advice would you give new writers?
HS: I would encourage anyone who enjoys writing to continue to do it. It might be unlikely that you’ll be able to make a living solely from writing but if it makes you happy then find the time to do it. As much as possible do things that make you happy.
About the interviewer
Sandra Pollock loves fiction, fantasy and poetry and is taking an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester.