Monday, 10 February 2014

The Dead Wife's Handbook - Hannah Beckerman

Blog Tour - Author Interview with Hannah Beckerman

It was my pleasure and privilege to be able to ask Hannah Beckerman a few personal questions about  her two full time roles that of a mother and author and things that inspired her to write her debut novel, The Dead Wife's Handbook.
About the book...
The Dead Wife's Handbook is the stunning emotional debut from author Hannah Beckerman.

'Today is my death anniversary. A year ago today I was still alive.

Rachel, Max and their daughter Ellie had the perfect life - until the night Rachel's heart stopped beating.
Now Max and Ellie are doing their best to adapt to life without Rachel, and just as her family can't forget her, Rachel can't quite let go of them either. Caught in a place between worlds, Rachel watches helplessly as she begins to fade from their lives. And when Max is persuaded by family and friends to start dating again, Rachel starts to understand that dying was just the beginning of her problems.
As Rachel grieves for the life she's lost and the life she'll never lead, she learns that sometimes the thing that breaks your heart might be the very thing you hope for.

Interview with Hannah Beckerman...

You say your love of books came about because your mum used to take you to the library every week — which books through the decades have stayed with you?

Oh, so many. There are books that I remember from being really young - I vividly remember my amazement at the end of The Very Hungry Caterpillar when he turns into a butterfly. And then, a little older, I loved everything Enid Blyton wrote: I read all The Faraway Tree books over and over again. I devoured all the St Claires and Mallory Towers books repeatedly, and probably my favourite of all was Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes (I was obsessed with going to the Royal Ballet School at White Lodge for most of my childhood!) I think childhood books - a bit like memories - lurk silently in the shadows of your mind and reapear to give you little snippets of nostalgic happiness when you least expect them.

Do you take your daughter to the library every week, just like your mum did with you? How has the library experience changed for you as a child going with your mother to that of you being the mother taking your child?

I don’t, but only because she’s sixteen months and her favourite game in the library at the moment is to run around pulling all the books off the shelves and giggling very loudly! I’m sure the library is something we’ll do together more as she gets older. But my husband and I have been reading to her every day since she was about four months old: we now have an hour of books in bed when she wakes up in the morning (at 5am!), read at various points throughout the day, and always have books at bedtime. It’s wonderful to see how much she loves books and it’s really the only thing she’ll sit still for!

Being responsible for the idea that became ‘The Big Read’ must have been an incredibly proud moment, what have you done since that has topped that feeling?

The Big Read was definitely the highlight of my twelve years in TV: it was amazing to have engaged that many people in books and reading, and a really special project to have run. I’m not sure anything’s topped that, actually, because it was such a big, inclusive project. But things that come close would be a film I commissioned and Executive Produced when I was at Channel 4 called ‘Young@Heart’ about a group of pop-song-singing pensioners (yes, really!) that won awards around the world and got made into a movie by Fox Searchlight. And, of course, having The Dead Wife’s Handbook published! 

Your jobs as both an author and a mother of a toddler are both very demanding. How do you manage to juggle all of the balls?

By accepting that I’ll frequently drop the balls and being okay with that! I think most working mums will say the same thing: you just have to learn to accept that you can’t do everything perfectly, and that nothing can have 100% of your time and attention. The way I (sort of) manage at the moment is to work in every grabbed hour I can: for a couple of hours very early in the morning before my husband goes off to work, during my daughter’s lunchtime nap, in the evenings and at weekends. But looking after her full-time when she’s young is a choice I’ve made so I make it work as best I can.

Would you ever consider living in a foreign country again or have your priorities changed and if you would which country would it be?

We lived in Bangladesh for two years before our daughter was born and it was quite a tough experience so I’m not sure I’d want to do that kind of overseas posting again. But we’ve talked about living on the east coast of America - New York or Washington - if the right job came up for my husband. The beauty of being a writer is you can do it anywhere, and the beauty of the east coast is that it’s really not that far away for people to come and visit. We’ll see!

Knowing what you know now, do you wish you had started writing sooner or do you think that your work experiences helped you to shape your novel The Dead Wife’s Handbook?

I think my life experiences (of which work is of course one) completely defined The Dead Wife’s Handbook. I’d been quite ambitious and career-focussed in my twenties, and then I got made redundant and moved overseas for a couple of years and I think being away helped me re-prioritise what was really important in life: namely the immediate relationships you have with the people around you, and that the work you do should give you some sort of satisfaction and fulfilment rather than just status or money. And it’s those lessons that are really key to the book.

Now The Dead Wife’s Handbook has been printed is there anything you would change and have you read it since you did your final edits?

The Dead Wife’s Handbook went through 22 or 23 drafts in total (I lost count!) so since I did the final proof-read back in October I haven’t re-read the book. I have absolutely no doubt that when I come to read it again there will be the odd phrase or word that I think could have been refined, but in terms of the plot and structure I don’t think there’s anything I’d change (at least I hope there’s not!)

The cover is one of the most stunning book jackets I’ve seen in a longtime — how much input did you have into the design?

I’m glad you like it! I didn’t have any input at all in the design, really: Penguin sent me that jacket and everyone agreed it was perfect so it was a pretty short discussion! 

I know you recognise and appreciate the blogging/social media community but how realistic is it for you personally to keep up the levels of interaction you have now?

Good question! There will definitely be a point in the next few weeks when I have to get my head down into book 2, and that will inevitably mean turning off the internet. I tried it one day last week and got more done in an hour than I had the whole of the previous day! But it’s hard because I genuinely love being part of the Twitter community and if I’m away for a few hours I feel like I’ve probably missed out on loads of stuff (jeez, that makes me sound slightly addicted!) So I may need to wean myself off long enough just to get the second book finished but I doubt I’ll ever be off it entirely - not for a whole day, for sure!

If The Dead Wife’s Handbook was to be made into a film would you want to be on the casting couch and if so who would you put into the key roles?

Calling all film producers: the film rights are STILL AVAILABLE! God, I would so love The Dead Wife’s Handbook to be made into a film, not least because I think it’s a really interesting creative challenge as to how you visualise Rachel and her world, and how you convey all of her thoughts and feelings on screen. 

I’m rubbish at playing fantasy casting because these characters have lived in my head for so long I know exactly what they look like - and they just look like themselves, not any real-life people! So I think (if it ever came to casting for a movie) I’d have to leave it to the casting director (and hope that I didn’t think they’d got a character TOTALLY wrong!)

Your mother is your number one fan, buying and gifting your book to her friends. Have they all read and enjoyed it or are they posh ornaments to bring out at the WI meetings?

Ha! My mum is the least WI person you’ll meet! But you’re right that she’s my biggest fan (I think she’s sent out ten copies to friends and family so far!) And yes, they are all being read, and the reason I know this for sure is that Mum very sweetly forwards me all their emails with feedback: it’s like I have a whole separate review network! And yesterday I received a lovely (proper, hand-written) card from my mum’s best friend (who I’ve known my entire life) saying how much she loved the book and how she’d never devoured a book so quickly. And that kind of feedback is what makes it all worthwhile. 

Hannah Beckerman is a former TV and film producer living in London. The Dead Wife's Handbook is her first novel. For information about her and The Dead Wife's Handbook follow the links below.

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Hannah's website:

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Newsflash..Urgent buy the book!!!

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