Since winning the Fresher Writing Prize Best Short Story award in 2016 for her story Cyfannedd Fach, Hannah Persaud has not put her pen down! Her love for writing has led her to complete her debut novel, The Codes of Love which will be published March 2020 in print by Muswell Press and in audio by Bolinda.
In light of her recent success, we reached out to her to see what inspired her first novel.
What is The Codes of Love about and what inspired you to write it?
The Codes of Love is about a contemporary marriage that is falling apart. Ryan and Emily seem to have it all – successful jobs, beautiful house, and the secret to a happy marriage. But beneath the surface trouble is brewing in the shape of Ada. Whimsical, free spirited and beholden to no-one, she represents the freedom that Emily’s been striving for, and the escape that Ryan didn’t know he wanted. As things start to unravel they are forced to face some long-hidden truths. The Codes of Love looks unflinchingly at the strength of sexual attraction, the balance of power, and the consequences of giving in to desires.
In 2016 I wrote a short story called “Cyfannedd Fach” that won the Fresher Writing Prize. It was judged by Francesca Main and Madeleine Milburn and it was the first competition that I’d ever won – I was overjoyed. Then a year later it won InkTears Short Story Contest. It was one of the first stories I’d ever written, and it originated from a stay in a remote Welsh cottage. It’s a beautiful landscape there and I felt a real connection with it, so I decided to see if I could expand that short story to a novel, and The Codes of Love is the result of that.
How did you feel when you found out that Muswell Press and Bolinda wanted to publish your work?
There’s been no feeling like it before or after. It was literally my dream coming true. I was walking on a cloud for weeks afterwards.
How did you find the process of approaching publishers with your novel?
My brilliant agent Laura Macdougall (of United Agents) held my hand throughout the process and I’ll always be grateful for that. I knew that it would be nerve wracking going on submission with my novel, but I hadn’t expected to feel like I was free falling. But having Laura there for support, advice and reassurance was invaluable – it’s so important finding the right agent who you know believes in your work as much as you do.
The Codes of Love is based on your winning short story Cyfannedd Fach, do you hope to connect more of your future stories?
I do! I absolutely love writing short stories and have no shortage of ideas, time is my only constraint. I write (and read) widely across genres and already have a couple of short stories that I’d like to experiment with in novel form one day.
What advice can you give to those hoping to write their own novel one day?
Read and write
A lot. I deliberately started writing short stories as a way to get better at writing, but it did a lot more for me than that – as I shared them with the wider world, it built resilience too. Entering competitions is a great way to get used to rejection (if a bit brutal), and if you place in some of them, a great confidence boost too.
Engage with the writing community
I’ve found the writing community on Twitter to be incredibly supportive. It’s a great way to share information on competitions and opportunities, to meet people who might be willing to feedback on your work, (and vice versa) and generally to remind yourself that whilst writing is a solitary activity, it doesn’t have to feel lonely.
Use social media
When I decided to write seriously, I started using Twitter and set up a website to showcase my work. I think modesty is overrated when it comes to writing – if you’re not willing to promote your work how will anyone else read it? Getting short stories into anthologies and online is a good way to get your name known, but often these are read by limited numbers of people and are available for restricted periods of time. So having a website where you can showcase some of your work as well as provide information on your competition listings etc can be invaluable. Also, if your plan is to seek agent representation at some point, being visible can be a really good thing. Agents, publishers and book bloggers use Twitter quite extensively, and you never know who might be looking at your profile. It’s not essential to use social media but it definitely helped me, and we writers need all the help we can get when it comes to getting noticed.
The actual writing
I’m not well placed to advise on the actual process of writing a novel. I seem to employ a different approach each time I start and have written an entire novel with no planning (which resulted in weeks of untangling chaos) and another with every chapter planned. I haven’t found the system that works best for me yet, and maybe I never will. But I think that a commitment to the process is key, as there will be times when your confidence wanes, you hate your writing, and you think it’s all a waste of time. I guarantee this. And you need to find the inner strength, commitment, perseverance and resilience to carry on even when you feel like this, because if you don’t finish the novel then you’ll never know what could have been.
We can’t wait to dive into Hannah’s The Codes of Love. Here is a sneaky preview so be sure to keep an eye out for it on shelves in March 2020!