08 June 2018

Scholarship student gets major book deal: ‘I swear I slipped into another reality, someone else’s life.’

by Katie Smart Author Interviews, From Our Students

We are utterly thrilled to say that Kiare Ladner, the current HW Fisher scholar on our London-based Writing Your Novel course, has just landed a major book deal. Nightshift, the novel she was working on in class,  has been snapped up by Picador in a deal agented by Curtis Brown’s Cathryn Summerhayes. We caught up with Kiare to see how this fantastic news is sinking in.

What have these last few whirlwind weeks been like for you?
It was so exciting to win the HW Fisher scholarship for Charlotte’s course – and then thrilling to get Cathryn as my agent! Then I got an email from Cathryn asking when would be a good time to talk on the phone, and I was set for a disappointing response from publishers. I’d prepared myself to look at whatever happened as a learning experience. But when Cathryn told me Ravi Mirchandani at Picador wanted to buy the book, I swear I slipped into another reality – someone else’s life.

And then, after years of struggling with writing, projects that hadn’t worked out, rejections, a generally downbeat attitude despite it being my obsession (or compulsion) – I got to tell people a happier story. Telling my boyfriend, my father, my friends, my PhD supervisor, other writers on the course. And then, this huge flow of warmth and generosity… It has been incredible.

Tell us about your novel, Nightshift – what inspired you to write on themes of female obsession and the dark side of urban existence?
Obsession with another person, in the sense of wanting to be them, is about the infinite appeal of the other, the mystery of the other – but it is also about wanting to escape the self, there’s a nihilistic element to it. Obsession more generally allows you to lose yourself. Urban existence allows for this too. In a city like London, you can have anonymity. You can be who you want to be, you can explore who you are. There is an exhilarating side to such freedom but also danger. Nightshift is set at the end of the twentieth century when social media was not yet a thing – but even now, particularly as a foreigner, a migrant, in two steps you can be off the grid, you can disappear, you can die.

Things converge and feed into the writing: For a long time I’ve been haunted by what happened to Joyce Vincent, a young woman who lay dead in her flat for three years, about a mile from where I live. Also, while an ultra-cool Polish hairdresser in a basement recording studio in Dalston took six hours to cut my hair, she told me her story of how she loves London. But one moment you’re fine, in a relationship, with a job, the next you’re lost. Plus I heard someone talking on the radio about his youth, and following a destructive path simply because it was the most compelling. And a personal circumstance led me to think about the most intense female friendships I’ve had. Finally, sexuality of all kinds, connecting with others in this very particular way (or experiencing deep aloneness), is a major interest. And so, through fiction, I began to explore…

How is being a student on our course helping your writing?
Charlotte Mendelson’s classes are stimulating and inspiring. Being in a workshop situation with exciting writers is a privilege and a chance to learn. The atmosphere is supportive and the agent-author discussions are full of interest and encouragement.

What has been a stand-out piece of advice you’ve received throughout this experience so far?
When stuck with a hard decision, I told Anna Davis that I needed to sleep on it and then have a really boring day. She said, ‘Or you could ask questions’. I asked, and the way the answers were given – more than the answers themselves – made my choice clear.

Do you have any of your own wisdom to pass on to aspiring writers?
Don’t know about wisdom but for a long time actually creating something, anything, writing a complete story, seemed to me like a miracle that only other people were able to achieve. So I’d tell myself to have faith that it all adds up: the books you read, the time you spend writing, the words, the sentences, the paragraphs – if you keep doing it, in the end something will be there. Writing allows each of us our own realisation, or as Danilo Kiš puts it, ‘Nothing in the history of mankind is ever repeated… each individual is a star unto himself’.

Finally, what’s next for you when the dust settles?
An idea I wrote about in the past snags at me. Not sure. To paraphrase a certain film, if I build slow time into my days, the story will come…

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