The following is an interview with author Hannah Dolby regarding the upcoming release of the novel, No Life for a Lady, from publisher Head of Zeus. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Dolby about her creative process in bringing the story and characters to life, what she hopes that readers may take away from the story, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of No Life for a Lady! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Hannah Dolby: No Life for a Lady belongs to its Victorian heroine, Violet Hamilton. She is busy searching for her missing mother, who disappeared from the seaside town of Hastings ten years earlier, while avoiding suitors, domesticity, and ideals of how a proper young lady should behave.
I was inspired by the vision of a woman who wants passionately to learn about all life has to offer and is not prepared to be kept to the narrow constraints of her time, as well as by the crumbling grandeur of Hastings & St. Leonards, the quirks and wonders of the Victorian era, and, finally, the joy of writing a novel that makes people laugh.
BD: The novel deftly combines romance, mystery, humor, and feminism. What can you share with us about your creative process in weaving these narratives together, and what have been some of your creative influences?
HD: I loved writing this book, because I had been trying to write a serious historical novel for years, which was very dull indeed, and then I spotted the UK Comedy Women in Print Prize, decided to enter, and the words just flew. Eventually, I came joint-second in the competition. In my writing, characters come first and often drive the action – if I know what they are like, I know how they’ll behave in a given situation. I’ve read widely all my life, and a few of my influences include Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, Dorothy L Sayers (who interweaved humour into her murder mysteries), and, more recently, funny woman-centered books like Bridget Jones’ Diary and brilliant detectives like Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum. Women make good sleuths not just because they are analytical and clever, but because they are funny, perfectly-rounded human beings with vulnerability and empathy.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Violet’s story will connect with and impact readers?
HD: I’m lucky enough to have some wonderful reviews already, and my favourites are the ones that describe the book as like a hug or a warm duvet that you want to wrap yourself up in. I wrote my book during the pandemic to cheer myself up, and I’m delighted it is making other people laugh, too. There are serious points and sadnesses in the story, of course, but, overall, if it makes my reader forget about real life and enjoy the light-hearted, quirky world of Violet Hamilton for an afternoon or more, I’ve done well.
BD: Do you foresee expanding the novel into subsequent books or even into other entertainment mediums, if given the opportunity?
HD: I am currently writing the sequel, which will be out next year – so my heroine’s adventures are not over. And I think her story would make a fantastic television series as so much of Victorian Hastings still exists – from the rusting pier to the higgledy-piggledy houses in the old part of town – it would make a great location. Here’s hoping!
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
HD: There’s the sequel, and I’m also thinking about a gothic romance that’s a bit like Jane Eyre but funny… governess trapped in a castle with a brooding hero with hilarious adventures ensuing. I have plenty of ideas, it is just finding the time to write them all down!
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about No Life for a Lady and your other work?
HD: I am building a website, but it’s not quite up and running, so the best way at the moment is to follow me on Twitter (@LadyDolby) or on instagram (@dolby_hannah). But as soon as the website’s done, I’ll be shouting about it!