Hannah Vincent is the author of the new story collection She-Clown and Other Stories. Her other books include the novel Alarm Girl. She lives in Brighton, UK.
Q: Over how long a period of time did you write the stories in your collection, and do you see any themes running through the book?
A: The ages of children who feature in the collection are an indication of how long I’ve been writing these stories – the babies and children do and say things my own children said and did and my sons are 22 and 19 now…
When I was revisiting early stories and rewriting/redrafting them it was lovely to re-connect with this earlier incarnation of my family life.
I would say themes of female yearning and the pressure of performance run through this book. Many of the characters experience strain in performing themselves according to certain expectations of them (real and imagined).
Quite a few of these characters are living if not on the margins of society, on the margins of their own homes and work organisations. Many of them share an underlying sense of redundancy, of bafflement at the structures they find themselves confined by/existing in.
Q: How did you decide on the order in which the stories would appear?
A: Once I noticed the stories seemed to chart different stages in a woman’s life, the order of the stories was a no-brainer, really. They depict girlhood, early adulthood, first serious job/relationship, early motherhood, middle age, old age and beyond and I ordered them chronologically.
Q: As a novelist, short story writer, and playwright, how do you see the various disciplines coexisting for you?
A: I appreciate the ways in which these different forms demand different skills and writing techniques and I am alert to ways in which I might be able to import certain of these techniques across the different forms.
For example, the spatial arrangement of characters in space and how they relate to one another and how they relate to the space itself is something I learned as a playwright and I bring this awareness to my prose writing.
As for the ways in which short and long form prose co-exist for me, I find the short story an extremely punishing form to write in so I am writing a nice spacious novel at the same time. The roominess of a novel comes with its own particular difficulties, of course…
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m writing my third novel (the rather “spacious” one mentioned above) and I also have two new short stories on the go.
Once I completed my story collection I thought I might leave short form prose alone but I had a couple of experiences recently which were extraordinary and self-contained and seemed to lend themselves perfectly to short stories. I can’t resist writing them out.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from She-Clown and Other Stories?
A: I hope readers might consider these stories as describing the different stages of one woman’s life as well as exploring the plurality of female experience.
My hope is that readers might be inspired to think about this cultural, historical moment as a moment in which patriarchal ways of organising society, government, business, and home might usefully give way to female methods – it’s about time, yes? It’s our time.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb