About The Author
Edward Hogan was born in Derby and now lives in Brighton. He is a graduate of the University of East Anglia's acclaimed MA in Creative Writing (other graduates include Kazuo Ishiguro, Anne Enright, Tracy Chevalier and Susan Fletcher). He was granted a bursary to support his writing through the David Higham Award for unpublished writers.
His first novel, Blackmoor, was set in a former Derbyshire mining town where a young man uncovers the truth about his mother, of whom the locals had been deeply mistrustful. It won the Desmond Elliot Prize for debut writers and was shortlisted for the University of Wales' Dylan Thomas Prize. Hogan was also shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year award.
His second novel, The Hunger Trace, is set around a wildlife park in Derbyshire, run by the widow of the man whose vision the park was, in the grudging company of her stepson. Her nearest neighbour, Louisa, is a falconer, uncomfortable in the company of others, who shared a dark childhood secret with the park's founder. The two women gradually develop a wary friendship.
Ed has also written two young adult titles, to be published by Walker Books. The first, Daylight Saving, is due to be published in 2012.
Ed talked to us about writing The Hunger Trace, including the importance of a good editor, the lonely life of the falconer and the complicated power of relationships between women.
Below the interview is a list of titles by Edward Hogan currently in print in the UK. You may find other editions in our 'New and Used' section by typing the author's name into the Search field at the top of this page and selecting the 'Author Exact' filter to the far right of the Search field.
Questions & Answers
Maggie has considerable difficulties getting on with her stepson, Christopher. Does this stem from Christopher's loss of his father or is there something fundamentally antagonistic about their relationship?
I think, deep down, Maggie and Christopher really love each other. Before David died they had a strong relationship. Christopher was used to his father going out with quite aloof, snobby women, and along came Maggie - very open and friendly.
When his father dies, Christopher is angry, and there aren't many people on the hill at whom he can direct that anger. His stepmother is an obvious choice, but it's pretty devastating for Mags, who wants to help him.
For such a young man, Christopher has an intense desire to start a family, even seeking it out online. Does this come from having lost touch with his birth mother and then losing his father prematurely?
Christopher's educational report might suggest that he has trouble understanding the emotional side of life, but that isn't true. He just processes his emotions in a more logical, transparent way - it's healthier than some of the other characters! He's lonely, he has urges, but he's also quite conservative, always banging on about 'family values'. During the novel, his understanding of family values changes a lot.
Maggie's neighbour Louisa had long wanted a relationship with Maggie's late husband, David, with whom she shared a dark secret from their youth. Was this a missed opportunity for her or was their love destined never to be?
Louisa has impossibly high moral standards. She was infatuated with David, and incredibly loyal to him. When they got in trouble, she sacrificed herself, and she expected a return. It seems incredibly unfair to her that she wasn't rewarded with his love. In a way, however, the sacrifice she made drove David away.
Louisa lives the lonely and intense life of a falconer. Is her closeness with her birds indicative of issues she might have with forming human friendships? And how did you go about researching falconry, to make the detail so authentic?
I hit the books hard in terms of falconry: autobiographies, training manuals, fiction, medical texts, nature writing, magazines. I also tracked down some falconers (they can be quite reclusive!), and flew some hawks. Falcons aren't like dogs. They aren't unconditionally affectionate. They respond to the falconer primarily because the falconer provides food. If you feed a falcon too much, she will disobey. She may even leave. That really struck me as important in understanding how Louisa responds to people. She spends her life caring for these hawks who don't actually need her. That's a comfortable position for Lou. The big test comes when someone decides to love her back. A two-way relationship is quite a responsibility.
Your two main characters are both female, as was the principal character in your first novel, Blackmoor, and they are all complex characters about whom readers may well have mixed feelings. Are you wary of crossing a line beyond which readers may struggle to empathise?
I don't think you can afford to be too judgmental as a writer. That's what makes it interesting. In Louisa, for example, you have a character who appears quite tough, but you have to ask yourself how she came to be that way. She shuns people, but it's only because she's afraid of how badly she wants them around. I hope readers will sympathise with her.
You have a very strong working relationship with Francesca, your editor at Simon & Schuster. What benefit do you think this has for your writing?
I'm very lucky to be working with Francesca. She got straight to the heart of what the novel was about, and we rewrote from there. We spent about a year, going back and forth. Francesca stressed the importance of following a character through all the stages of an emotional journey, rather than just skipping to the big dramatic scenes. That certainly heightened the feelings in the novel.
On your publisher's website [http://authors.simonandschuster.co.uk/Edward-Hogan/62700902], you list your favourite fiction as Close Range by Annie Proulx, A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Union Street by Pat Barker and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. Do you think there's any significance to the fact that they're all books by women?
It's difficult to answer that question without making generalisations, and without the help of a therapist! First and foremost, they're all amazing pieces of writing. In very different ways, Union Street and Jean Brodie present - with great insight and accuracy - the complicated power of relationships between women. That's something in which I am very interested.
You're a graduate of the University of East Anglia's famous Creative Writing MA course. What do you feel was the greatest benefit the course gave your writing?
It gave me an audience. Every few weeks I submitted my work to a group of hungry readers. That completely changed how I wrote. Before, I had only submitted my work to my 23-year-old self: a very indulgent little judge. I realised that most of the readers liked the same things as I did: complex characters, and a story that works.
You won the inaugural Desmond Elliott Prize for your first novel, Blackmoor. Did this feel a like a significant milestone for you?
Very much so. I felt extremely fortunate, to be honest. It's difficult to get an objective idea of one's own work, but when I read the other shortlisted books, I felt very pleased to be considered alongside them. The Desmond Elliott Prize gave me that most precious of things: time to write.
You've also written two young adult novels, the first of which is due out in 2012. What differences did you find writing for a younger readership?
I loved writing Daylight Saving, which comes out in 2012. I'd read a lot of young adult fiction, and was inspired by the profundity of the ideas flying around in David Almond, Patrick Ness, Meg Rosoff, Siobhan Dowd. I loved the leanness of the writing. I had also re-watched Back to the Future, and E.T. Amazing films; films about family. I wanted to tap into that sort of energy. And no, Mr Amis, I have not suffered a brain injury.
You've embraced social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Do you enjoy this sort of direct interaction with readers or is it just a necessary aspect of self-marketing for authors today?
I love hearing from readers (talk to me! @edhoganderby). On Twitter I follow lots of people who are much cleverer than me, and they point out what I should be reading, in terms of fiction and news.
Can you tell us anything about what you might write following The Hunger Trace?
Ha-ha! No. I'm open to suggestions....