Writer Christoph Fischer from England interviews Anna Bowen about HATTIE and her process of writing this award winning novel.
How did you come to writing in the first place?
In my mid-twenties, during a time of change and emotional struggles, I began writing poetry. The writing was a wonderful way to express myself and to deal with stressors. Words just flowed out of me. I had never before experienced that kind of desire to write.
When did you first have the idea for this book?
I began writing HATTIE in 1987 though at that point I didn’t know it was going to be a novel. One day, as I was writing in my journal, Hattie’s voice came to me. Right from the beginning the stories were driven by her character. As the amount of stories grew I realized that this was turning into a novel which felt like an important piece of work.
Where did you get the inspiration for Hattie herself?
I believe my openness to the energy of this character was influenced by several things including my connection with the universe, my spirituality, intuitiveness, and being a nurse. I spent many years working in critical care, and after that in mental health. I also facilitated support groups for women who were survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. That with my own experiences as a survivor gave me an awareness and understanding of the effects of abuse and trauma on one’s being. All this connected me with Hattie.
What is it you admire most about Hattie and what is it you dislike the most?
It is difficult to name just one thing that I admire about Hattie because I have known this character for more than two decades. I admire Hattie’s willingness and determination to speak her truths; to stop being a lost soul. Through her brutally honest storytelling, Hattie faces her self and the life she lived. I also love the way she talks to the reader. She connects on a heart level, and draws them into her experiences. I can’t say there is anything about Hattie that I dislike. Though during her life she sometimes came across as aloof which I think added to her sense of isolation and kept others at a distance.
How long did it take you to write HATTIE?
HATTIE was written over a period of about 7 years. Back then writing this novel was not my priority. During those years, I was working, raising our two children, taking care of our home, focused on my personal healing journey, and also going to school. I was doing a lot of other writing including poetry, journaling, and academic writing. Looking back at those years I am glad that I was not writing HATTIE with the intention of “getting it done” by a certain period of time. I think the casual and patient nature of writing HATTIE allowed for the flow of words to come as they needed to and when they needed to without the pressure of meeting an imposed completion date.
Why there is no exact mentioning of the time the story is set in?
You are not the first one to ask me this. Not revealing a specific time and place of origin was intentional. The hard abusive life that Hattie lived is like what many women around the world face every day – past, present, and future. And, just as Hattie did during her life, many women (and men) keep silent and hold secrets about abuses suffered. Not being specific about the period gives HATTIE a timeless and universal appeal that can connect to a wider readership; her life and the way she experienced the trials in her life is validating to the realities of life on this earth and the experiences of many.
Also the way Hattie reacted and responded in life to some of her traumas – by denying what happened – is a common human response to sufferings that injure one’s mind, body, heart and spirit. People also use denial as a way to avoid truth; what this sadly does is perpetuate abuses. Had I been more specific about time and place some readers may have used that as a reason to deny any connection between Hattie’s life and what can happen anywhere and anytime.
What would you say is the main message of the book? What was your motivation to write this story?…
To read more of this interview please go to Christoph Fischers blog.