16 April 2019

Hannah O’Brien: ‘Be prepared to be part of a team’

by Curtis Brown 120 Curtis Brown 120

Welcome to the next in our series of Curtis Brown 120 blog posts, these blogs include exclusive interviews with authors, agents and publishers; writing tips; industry insights – and much more besides.

Today the CB120 team talk to the wonderful Hannah O’Brien (@HannahGamon), the Marketing Director for HarperFiction and Avon (HarperCollins). Among other things, Hannah talks about her first experiences in publishing, gives advice to her younger self, and reveals her go-to book recommendations…

What was the first book you ever worked on?
Scandalous by Tilly Bagshawe! I remember spending hours honing the copy for an internal giveaway, lugging all the books down in the lift and standing in reception shouting, ‘FULL OF SEX AND SCANDAL. GET THE PERFECT READ FOR YOUR SUMMER HOLIDAY’. I think more copies got picked up after I left the stand…

What’s your favourite debut novel?
God, that’s hard!! Of the ones I have been lucky enough to publish in HarperFiction, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, The Woman in the Window and The Binding all have a piece of my heart. Outside of work, I have pressed Ayòbámi Adébáyò’s debut Stay with Me on everyone I know. Just exquisite.

If you could tell your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Only one?! Let me at least have three.

  1. You will spend so much of your life working. The more you love what you do, the less work you will do. Do not give in! Persist and do what you love.
  2. Always make time to be kind and act by your own moral compass. Never compromise your integrity.
  3. Opportunity is everywhere. Don’t narrow your own view. Be constantly curious.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Be prepared to be part of the team! Being a writer isn’t just writing the book (although that is the part which I am in awe of!), it is also being your own publicist and marketer. Hone your pitch, sell your idea, network.

Which book do you always recommend to others?
Too many to name. Cutting for Stone is always the one that no one has ever heard of but is profoundly brilliant. Anything by Ann Patchett. As a languages student, I love A Clockwork Orange. Oh and you can never go wrong with The Shipping News or Half of a Yellow Sun. And I STILL maintain that the Millennium series houses some of the best thrillers I’ve read. Perfume and Hotel du Lac! Okay, okay, I’ve finished.

What was the last book you read?
I just finished Curtis Sittenfeld’s short story collection, You Think It, I’ll Say It. Pure pleasure. I loved every word.

What’s your guilty reading pleasure?
Oooooh! I love a properly cosy crime. The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra is just the ticket.

What (non-Harper Collins!) debut novel campaign have you been really impressed with recently?
I am constantly grateful to work in an industry with so many talented people and am always in awe of their brilliant campaigns. I thought The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock publishing was sumptuous and set the bar for creativity! It has only just been published, but I am constantly impressed by what I’ve seen of the Queenie campaign. The fact that This is Going to Hurt continues to ride high in the charts so long after release is testament to a fantastic campaign too.

To find out more about the Curtis Brown First Novel Prize, click here. 

To read more Curtis Brown 120 blogs, click here.

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