Brought to Book: Kerry Hudson on the long line of Aberdonian fishwives from whence she came

‘We all carry small worlds within us. Whoever we are wherever we come from . . . we have stories to tell’

Author Kerry Hudson. Photograph: Nick Tucker Author Kerry Hudson. Photograph: Nick Tucker

Author Kerry Hudson. Photograph: Nick Tucker Author Kerry Hudson. Photograph: Nick Tucker


What was the first book to make an impression on you? I read To Kill a Mockingbird sitting on the steps of my council estate block when I was around 13. It portrayed a tenderness that it wasn’t permissible to show in the environments I grew up in.

What was your favourite book as a child? My mum somehow found a Southern American dialect version Brer Rabbit in a charity shop – I still remember her doing the accents.

And what is your favourite book or books now? I’ll keep banging on about my love of Roddy Doyle until my last breath. Funny as hell, black as tar, sentences so sharply constructed they could cut you while you read.

What is your favourite quotation? “When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object.” (Milan Kundera)

Who is your favourite fictional character? It’s not original but Holden Caulfield all the way.

Who is the most underrated Irish author? Claire McGowan writes intelligent crime novels with strong women at their centre.

Which do you prefer – ebooks or the traditional print version? Traditional print. The turning of a page is a joyful thing.

What is the most beautiful book you own? I have a beautiful edition of Carol Ann Duffy’s The Bees – the illustrations, and of course words, are exquisite

Where and how do you write? I travel a lot so I write everywhere and anywhere: planes, trains, cafes, hotel rooms, street markets, parks. It’s a good skill to learn to be able to work wherever you can balance a notepad or laptop on your knee.

What book changed the way you think about fiction? Janice Galloway’s This is Not About Me is effectively a fictionalised memoir. It was the first time I’d seen the genres so explicitly tampered with in that way and I remain excited by the possibilities it presents.

What is the most research you have done for a book? I travelled for a month across Russia, from Moscow to Lake Olkhon and back again, for my second novel, Thirst.

What book influenced you the most? Most recently, Andrew Solomon’s Far from the Tree, a nonfiction exploration of what it is to be born different from your parents. It made me completely assess my understanding of what it is to be “other”.

What book would you give to a friend’s child on their 18th birthday? The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. A dear friend gave me a copy during a birthday when I was having a rough time and it was the best gift I could have received

What book do you wish you had read when you were young? I identified with Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson when I read it as an adult. I think reading it as a child might have helped me make sense of a lot of things.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author? Work hard, don’t be an arsehole, buy a good chair.

What weight do you give reviews? I try to treat them like they’re horoscopes. If they’re good I am joyous and if there’s an ill wind blowing I try to put them out of my mind. But I read them all and learn what I can from them.

Where do you see the publishing industry going? I think the publishing industry is serious about tackling gender bias in reviews and pay for female writers. There’s also a lot of excellent contemporary feminist books out at the moment.

What lessons have you learned about life from reading? That we all carry small worlds within us. Whoever we are wherever we come from, we have conflict, love, hope, sadness . . . we have stories to tell.

What has being a writer taught you? Be mindful, pay attention. Amazing things are happening all the time if you’re looking for them, so live a good life, full of things that make you curious.

Which writers, living or dead, would you invite to your dream dinner party? Truman Capote, Muriel Spark, Dorothy Parker and Jack Kerouac. No food but a lot of booze.

What is the funniest scene you’ve read? The scene where they attempt to cook their first burger in Doyle’s The Van still makes me insensible each time I read it.

What is your favourite word? A (definitely unpublishable in a respectable paper) word from the first line of my first novel.

If you were to write a historical novel, which event or figure would be your subject? I’d love to write about the long line of Aberdonian fishwives who I come from: fierce, strong, not afraid of a scrap and could fillet a fish in five minutes, easy.

Kerry Hudson's second novel, Thirst, is published by Random House

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