I first had the pleasure of meeting Adele Geras fifteen years ago at Tÿ Newydd - Lloyd George's old house on the Llyn peninsular - on a writing for children's course. The book I wrote a little of there (having started it a few weeks before) was the first book I ever had published.
Adele Geras has written many, many books for children including TROY which was shortlisted for the Carnegie and Whitbread awards. She eventually entered the world of fiction for adults the same year as I did - 2003 (but her books I am sure have sold many more). I heard her read an excerpt of FACING THE LIGHT at the Knutsford Literature Festival in 2002 and found it very engaging.
I bought her second book tonight. It is called HESTER'S STORY.
She read from her latest book A HIDDEN LIFE which started with a deliciously cantankerous woman leaving a will that would displease everyone.
Sophie Hannah started off as a poet. Her poems are funny and rhyme, and written, she says, about her relationships with ex-boyfriends. She read a few out and I liked them very much; as she says they are in the easy-to-understand, non-obscure mode. Her mother's poetry is more in the usual modern style and she has won an Arts Council of England Writer's award to write some more.
Sophie Hannah has now found much success with her psychological thrillers which are word-of-mouth best sellers. The first was LITTLE FACE and the second, HURTING DISTANCE, I bought tonight.
I found it interesting to hear about the genesis of Sophie Hannah's two novels. In the first she thought of the start and worked out the end; whereas in the second she started from the ending. They both sounded really intriguing. Sophie Hannah says she is a plot-driven author; and although the police are the same throughout all her novels each one is told from a different character's (someon directly involved in the crime) first person's viewpoint.
Adele Geras's work, in contrast, seems to be more character-driven - gentler and warmer novels about relationships and families. Plot, she says, she finds most difficult - so the two seem to enjoy a symbiotic and mutually supportive writerly relationship.
Adele Geras has another daughter - who is not a writer (this daughter is emphatic about this, apparently), but is in publishing (non-fiction), and Adele's husband, Norman Geras, is a professor at the University of Manchester (but more importantly is the writer of the successful Normblog).
It was an enjoyable and entertaining evening with a good balance of reading and explanation. As we went home my friend Elizabeth and I tried to imagine breakfasts in the Geras household (when they are all together) and came to the conclusion that they were probably quite different from the monosyllabic grunts and sarcasm-laden silences that punctuate the usual Hodmandod repast (snails are not generally good in the morning).