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Last minute entry makes it - Hannah Sutherland gets serious witty

Hannah's work area

Hannah says: “My view when I write is very OTT — still got the balloons up from my toddlers birthday and just can't bring myself to take them down yet.”

When did you first hear about the CWIP Prize?

It was literally on the day of the deadline! Somebody shared it on Twitter, and I didn’t think I stood a chance, but submitted my opening anyway after reading about the competition, loving the books on the published longlist from last year and the fact that it was free to enter, and was shocked to receive that life-changing email to say I’d made the longlist.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

I work part-time as a teacher and for the rest of the week, I run around after my toddler and attempt to write when he sleeps. I’ve been writing since my school days on and off, short stories here and there, parts of novels which I’d never complete, but it wasn’t until March 2020 when I decided to prioritise my writing, set aside time each day to write, actually finish my novel and short stories and then work on draft after draft, enter competitions and submit to magazines. It’s all just sort of gone from there and now I can’t imagine not making the time for writing!

Talk to me about teenage angst: Was it manifested in poetry or diary form?

Definitely diary form, and definitely dramatic with lots of exclamation marks for added angst.

Can you describe what your novel, LIFE LESSONS, is about in two sentences?

When Ella meets gentle Reilly, she thinks he’s ‘The One’ but blows it by oversharing that he needs L plates in bed. Can Ella win him back and learn some life lessons along the way?

Did you set out to write a funny book?

No, not at all!! I’d written my Novella-in-Flash Small Things, which placed Highly Commended by Bath Novella-in-Flash Award in April 2021 and will be published by Ad Hoc Fiction soon, and I wanted to write something in a completely different form and with a different subject matter. I wanted to write something with a strong, relatable female lead who is facing that existential crisis we all face when we hit thirty, and that’s where Life Lessons came from!

What inspired you to write about the topic of “The One”?

I think there’s SO much pressure of women to do things by a certain age in their lives — to find the one, settle down, marriage, kids and social media makes it so much more amplified when it can seem everyone around you already has their shite together. There’s this constant motion, this striving for the next thing and when you’ve got it, for example, marriage, those around you then ask when you’ll have children, and then if you have a child, they ask when you’ll have the next. I feel like there’s this myth that when you reach your goal, you’ll be happy, but the goal post changes and there’s pressure to strive for the next goal. So I wanted to write about that, and I find humour is a grand way to say something serious!

How did you find writing about the awkward side of intimacy?

Oh, I love it! The cringier, the better, and I cringed writing many of the chapters in Life Lessons. I wanted it to hopefully reflect real life, where casual sex isn’t always perfect, can be awkward and that these could be real life people with normal bodies (not the six-pack men who save the woman — Ella certainly doesn’t need saving!) and I really hope that comes across.

Who do you enjoy reading?

I’m a huge fan of Alice Ash, Lara Williams, Alissa Nutting and Naoise Dolan. Razor-sharp observations, darkly funny and a writing style which is instantly recognisable as their own.

What’s your favourite type of humour?

Subtle humour that says something about the society we live in, or humour that takes you by surprise where you’re like, ‘I can’t believe I just read that! What?’ Humour that’s bold and unafraid.

What’s your most cringe moment in the last five years if you’d care to share for our delight?

Gosh, so many! I think I’m just quite an embarrassing person in general. Only last week I was waiting to be picked up in town, saw what I thought was the car stop at the lights, so I waved and off I popped over to the car. The sheer terror in the random woman’s eyes as she sped away from me just as I reached the door is imprinted in my memory. But sure, it’s a good job I don’t live in a wee village in the North East of Scotland where everybody knows everybody… oh wait.

Where does your writing magic happen, and can you tell us about your writing routine?

I write on my sofa in my living room surrounded by cushions and blankets ­ bra off, joggers on, messy hair, a bag of Kettle Chips with a side of Irn Bru and plenty of tea! Nothing fancy, just super comfy and cosy.

My writing routine is a bit mad. I write from about 5am–7am, then either spend the day at work or with my toddler, then when he’s asleep, I write/read/edit/workshop from 7pm–11pm, sleep and then do it all over again!

Hannah's writing area

Hannah’s writing area…...we like the blankie

Helen Lederer ‘I’ve recently been introduced to sugar free iron bru and find it inspiring - will combine with kettle chips since whatever you are doing is working! Impressed at your last Minute. Com entry success.

2021 Unpublished Longlist
‘Life Lessons’ by our Hannah Sutherland is fourth from the left

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