Sophie Hannah

How did you become a writer?

Even as a child, I was constantly writing. It has always been my favourite hobby, though I don’t think I ever imagined it would become a career. I just kept writing and writing, and one day I noticed that it was the thing everyone expected and wanted me to do, instead of the thing I did when I was supposed to be doing other things, like school work and secretarial work!  Writing is the only thing I’ve ever really cared about — I’ve never been so committed to or obsessed with anything else.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

The authors who have most influenced me are Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, Nicci French, Val McDermid and Tana French — all are great crime writers with an excellent grasp of psychology. I was also hugely inspired by my primary school teacher, Dorothy Dearden, who had an infectious love of poetry, and my university tutor (and, later, poetry publisher) Michael Schmidt.

When and where do you write?

There's a lovely room at Lucy Cavendish College in Cambridge (where I am a Fellow Commoner) that is usually empty during the day, and has a wonderful view of the college's stunning gardens. I go there to start and finish most of my books. I write in all kinds of places, though: on planes, on trains, in hotels and even occasionally at home… if my dog lets me!

What are you working on now? 

I’m doing the final edits to my forthcoming self-help book, which will be published in November in the UK and January in the US. I have been a self-help addict for many years. My contribution to the genre is called How to Hold a Grudge, and the subtitle is From Resentment to Contentment - The Power of Grudges to Transform Your Life. According to my publishers, the book is 'the ultimate guide on how to use grudges to be your happiest, most optimistic and most forgiving self'! Being someone who holds grudges is seen by many as a bad thing, but what if our grudges, when managed correctly, are good for us? I believe they are, and in my book I offer a new method for processing negative thoughts and turning them into productive, life-enhancing, great grudges!

I’m also working on my next psychological thriller, which will be published in the UK in 2019. It’s called Haven’t They Grown. Beth, a mother of two, drives past an estranged friend’s house and sees that friend for the first time in twelve years. But when the friend's children step out of the car -- children Beth also hasn't seen for twelve years -- they  haven't aged at all. They still appear to be five and three, the ages they were more than a decade ago, when Beth last saw them. How can this be possible? Why haven't they grown?

(I hope I don't have to explain why the book's title is Haven't They Grown! And no, it isn't supernatural! The answer to the puzzle is entirely human-reality based.)

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? 

No. But I do suffer a lot from the urge to procrastinate, and 'Writer's Fear of facing W.I.P’ (Work in Progress).

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

It comes from a poem by Wendy Cope and is beautifully simple: 'Don't let anybody mess with your swing’.

What’s your advice to new writers?

The same advice I got from Wendy Cope (see above).

Sophie Hannah is an internationally bestselling writer of crime fiction, published in 49 languages and 51 territories. In 2014, with the blessing of Agatha Christie’s family and estate, Sophie published a new Hercule Poirot novel, The Monogram Murders, which was a bestseller in 16 countries. In September 2016 her second Poirot novel, Closed Casket, was published and became an instant Sunday Times top five bestseller. Sophie's latest Poirot novel, The Mystery of Three Quarters, is published by HarperCollins and William Morrow later this month.

Sophie has also published two short story collections and five collections of poetry – the fifth of which, Pessimism for Beginners, was shortlisted for the T S Eliot Award. Her poetry is studied at GCSE, A Level and degree level across the UK. From 1997 to 1999 she was Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts at Trinity College Cambridge and between 1999 and 2001 she was a fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford. She lives with her husband, children and dog in Cambridge, where she is a Fellow Commoner at Lucy Cavendish College.