Interview: Kate Hamer

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Pembrokeshire-born Kate Hamer won the Rhys Davies short story award in 2011, and her winning story was read out on Radio 4. She has since been awarded a Literature Wales bursary. She lives in Cardiff with her husband and two children. She talked to us about “The Girl in the Red Coat”, her first novel (Faber & Faber), which has been described as a crime book, a psychological thriller and domestic noir.

Author photo © Mei Williams

How did this book come about? The subject of mothers and daughters has always intrigued and interested me. It’s not something wildly over represented in literature, but when the idea came it was out of the blue. I had the image of a little girl standing in a forest wearing a red coat. The only thing I knew about her was that she was lost. When, several weeks later I sat up in bed and wrote the first chapter it was the voice of her Mum that came through –talking about the loss of her eight-year-old daughter. So Carmel and her mother, Beth, came at different times.

Where does the book take readers? It’s a hard book to talk about without too many spoilers but hopefully it takes readers to a place they don’t expect. Ultimately, I see it as a book about love rather than loss.

What attracts you to this type of story? I always loved fairytales. To me, they have a bit of everything – magic, recognisable familial relationships, peril, intrigue. There’s a deeper reality about them that goes beyond the everyday and the mundane. The description of the novel I’ve liked most was a ‘twenty-first century fairytale.’ That’s the sort of book I like to read myself.

What are the challenges in creating the world your characters live in?I think getting the relationships right. It’s a book very much about the relationships we have with each other so if they are off kilter it will tell.

What makes your book stand out from the crowd? I’m not sure I’m the right one to answer that! All I know is I wrote the story that I was burning to write – it’s for other people to judge it.

What is the most inspiring thing that has happened to you as a writer? Something that happens every day – reading. It’s something I am constantly in love and amazed by. At the moment I’m reading ‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern and it feels like I’ve discovered something new again. As an avid reader it happens all the time.

Tell us about your experience of writing books. How did it all start for you, and what kind of writer are you now? Where in your heart has the creative instinct found root and grown? Writing started at a very young age for me – it’s really been a life long process. I always kept notebooks and wrote short stories but the journey of writing a novel is the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done. That’s an interesting question about the creative instinct. In some ways I think it’s about the possibility of living more than one life. Every story you tell you go with the characters through their lives and experience things with them – so you aren’t ever just stuck with the one life!

Where is your writing going to take you and your readers next? It’s a coming of age tale again, this time it’s set in a forest. I’m loving being on that journey again.

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer is out now (Faber & Faber, £12.99)

Read more about the book in the author’s own words here.


Selected Reviews:

2015’s oh-so-chilling thriller breakout. (Grazia)

Unpredictable and moving. (Marie Claire)

Thrillers about abducted children are hardly a fresh idea, but Kate Hamer’s debut novel may be the most original take on the subject since Ian McEwan’s The Child In Time…There is a surreal, fairytale-like quality to this unique and beguiling book. (Sunday Express)

Gripping. (Sunday Express Magazine)

The Girl in the Red Coat keeps the reader hooked – and awake into the small hours. (Isabel Berwick, Financial Times)

Told in two very different voice, this debut is moving, tender and tense, exploring love and loss from the view of adult Beth and her otherworldly child in a way that’s devastatingly convincing. (Psychologies, Book of the Month)

Page-turning yet beautifully written. (Huffington Post)

The Girl in the Red Coat is a well-written psychological thriller, slotting into the genre that has spawned recent hits such as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl or Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train … An engrossing read, to be devoured in a single lupine gulp. (Lucy Atkins Sunday Times)

A polished page-turner of a novel. (Kate Kellaway, Observer New Faces of Fiction 2015)

Told alternatively from Beth and Carmel’s points of view, Hamer is incisive when it comes to the former’s distress … but masterfully captures the voice of the latter. (Lucy Scholes, Independent)

Hugely moving, this is a story that will keep you guessing until the very last page. (Dead Good Books)

This hotly-tipped debut centres on an eight-year-old girl who goes missing at a festival, and her mother’s attempts to find her. (Guardian)

Those keen to be in on the ground floor of a new writing career will be delighted with the number of enthusiastically trumpeted debuts on their way, including The Girl in the Red Coat. (Alex Clark, Observer)

Eschewing the more obvious police procedural, Hamer’s novel is instead interested in its protagonists’ psychological and emotional survival, in a way that at times recalls Emma Donoghue’s Man Booker-shortlisted Room. Returning throughout to themes of courage, compassion and healing, Hamer has produced a thoughtful, boldly imaginative page-turner that also dares to have a heart. (The Lady)

This is a fantastic debut novel…The book is well written, drawing the reader into the lives of the two, strong female characters. The voice of Carmel is evocative of the child in Emma Donoghue’s Room. (New Books Magazine)


TGITRC JACKETThe Girl in the Red Coat


Kate Hamer

She is the missing girl. But she doesn’t know she’s lost. Carmel Wakeford becomes separated from her mother at a local children’s festival, and is found by a man who claims to be her estranged grandfather. He tells her that her mother has had an accident and that she is to live with him for now. As days become weeks with her new family, 8-year-old Carmel realises that this man believes she has a special gift… While her mother desperately tries to find her, Carmel embarks on an extraordinary journey, one that will make her question who she is – and who she might become.

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