Our creative writing courses have been featured on the influential book-industry blog BookMachine quite regularly of late. In this post from last week, Norah Myers interviews our former student and author of The Girl in the Red Coat and The Doll Funeral Kate Hamer.
What motivated you to take a Curtis Brown Creative course in London?
I’ve written since I was a child – I used to write stories, illustrate them and staple the books together. Then through my professional life in radio and television I continued to write – short stories, poems, ideas for larger pieces of work. I always had the burning ambition to write a novel though and I’d written a large part of the first draft of The Girl in the Red Coat when I spotted an ad for one of Curtis Brown Creative’s London writing courses.
The name jumped out at me straight away as I knew Curtis Brown to be a huge, top agency. It just seemed the right time. I wanted to put all my eggs in the ‘writing basket’ and it seemed like a way of doing that by going straight to the horse’s mouth as it were. I applied with no expectation of actually getting onto the course!
What did you gain from the course that you couldn’t have learnt anywhere else?
I think for me it was demystifying publishing. From the outside it can seem like a bit of a dark art. Because the course involves so many people that actually work in the industry – editors, agents, publishers – you get a real insight and an understanding that on the whole it’s not this terrifying thing, but mainly full of people that are simply passionate about books. The course also encouraged me to think about writing in a technical as well as an emotional way.
Did the course teach you some writing practices and rituals that helped when you felt stuck or uninspired?
The group I was part of are still in touch with each other and being part of a ‘tribe’ definitely is a great thing. We meet a little less often now, but I know if I ever felt that way I could go to them for ideas on how to move on.
How did you secure your agent? Tell us the story.
I sent queries to four agents. One responded quite quickly politely declining, I had interest from the other three. I ended up going with Alice Lutyens from Curtis Brown. It sounds straightforward but it didn’t feel it at the time probably because this was the end of a long process of writing and revising. What I found hard was the idea that even when you get an agent, which feels like an ‘I’ve arrived!’ moment, it still doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to be published. Fortunately Alice did an amazing job in that department!
You’ve just published your second novel. How did the work from your Curtis Brown Creative course help you shape and complete your second book?
I think that lesson – of viewing writing as a technical as well as emotional exercise has stayed with me through the second novel. Hopefully it’s something I won’t forget.
Kate Hamer’s debut novel The Girl in the Red Coat was published in 2015 and was shortlisted for The Costa First Novel Prize, the British Book Industry Awards Debut Fiction Book of the Year, The John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger and the Wales Book of the Year. It was a Sunday Times bestseller and has been translated into 17 different languages. Her new novel The Doll Funeral was published in February 2017 and has been chosen as an editor’s pick on Radio 4’s ‘Open Book’ and Book of the Month in the industry journal The Bookseller.
For an in-depth course as part of a group of 15 (in which students are selected on the basis of their submission) with a great tutor and participation from our literary agents, apply for:
Six-Month Novel-Writing Course in London with Christopher Wakling (deadline for applications is Sunday 21 January).
Six-Month Online Novel-Writing Course with Lisa O’Donnell (deadline for applications is Sunday 28 January).
For a dedicated online course for those writing for young adults or children as part of a group of 15 (in which students are selected on the basis of their submission), with a top children’s author, apply for:
Writing YA and Children’s Fiction with Catherine Johnson (deadline for applications is Sunday 4 February).
We are also offering three low-cost ‘foundation’ online courses, featuring tuition from CBC director Anna Davis:
Starting to Write Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 15 January).
Write to the End of Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 22 January).
Edit & Pitch Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 29 January).