This summer, I was lucky enough to attend BookExpo, the big trade show in New York where the year’s brightest literary stars are introduced. In a sea of articulate, fascinating speakers at the conference, one stood out to me: Christopher Meades. His book, Hanna Who Fell from the Sky, sounded like one I’d want to read under any circumstances but after hearing his story, I was desperate to get my hands on a copy.
We all know it’s hard to write a novel, much less get one published. Now imagine trying to accomplish that after a devastating head injury leaves you unable even to speak or concentrate or read for prolonged periods of time. And then imagine that you have somehow managed to overcome those obstacles well enough to write your novel and get picked up by a publisher–but now you have to speak to an enormous room full of people about your circumstances. Christopher Meades did all this and spoke so engagingly and wittily that he became my personal hero. The book itself is unique and wonderful–read more about it, below. I hope you enjoy this interview with Meades.
— The Debutante Ball (@DebutanteBall) November 25, 2017
Hanna Who Fell From The Sky
Hanna has never been outside her secluded community of Clearhaven. She has never questioned why her father has four wives or why she has fourteen brothers and sisters. And in only one week, on her eighteenth birthday, Hanna will follow tradition and become the fifth wife of a man more than twice her age.
But just days before the wedding, Hanna meets Daniel, an enigmatic stranger who challenges her to question her fate and to follow her own will. Then her mother tells her a secret—one that could grant Hanna the freedom she’s known only in her dreams. As her world unravels around her, Hanna must decide whether she was really meant for something greater than the claustrophobic world of Clearhaven. But can she abandon her beloved younger sister and the only home she’s ever known? Or is there another option—one too fantastical to believe?
“A strange and beautiful fable with shades of Deliverance, Room, and Winter’s Bone” —Laline Paull, award-winning author of The Bees
“A gorgeous blend of dreamy folklore and gritty reality” –Erika Swyler, bestselling author of The Book of Speculation
“Your heart will soar and ache for Hanna on her thoroughly original coming-of-age journey” – Kelly Simmons, author of One More Day.
Talk about one book that made an impact on you.
I read Janet Frame’s The Carpathians twenty years ago and the book was amazing, beautiful and surreal. Frame has an incredible ability to interlace her plots with her themes, making every line of dialogue meaningful), and the theme of The Carpathians is about language and how much a person has to say. It questions whether an individual can “use up” all the words they’re allocated before their time on this world is done. Even though I read the book in a single day, it touched me so much that The Carpathians became one of my main inspirations for becoming an author. I think the dream of any writer is that readers will read their work and feel the same inspiration.
When you were a teenager, what did you think you’d be when you grew up?
When I was 18, I took an aptitude test and the job that came back was…florist. I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t cut, stemmed or planted a single flower in my life. Also, unless you own the shop, I was pretty sure the job didn’t paid all that well. My father thought it was hilarious. Eventually, I did too. But back when I was 18, my dream job was playing lead guitar in the next Guns N’ Roses, so it was pretty hard to picture myself arranging gerbera daisies all day. In reality, I’m so glad I chose being an author as my occupation. I’ve had the opportunity to work on exciting books with great people and to meet other authors as well. It’s really been a dream come true. I’m so grateful for every single reader who takes the time to read my work.
Has anyone ever thought a character you wrote was based on them?
Yes! My friend’s mom approached me at my first book launch and thanked me for basing the doctor (who shows up in a single chapter) on her. I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. But I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, so I just smiled and said, “You’re welcome…”
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
1). Never give up! The book industry can be tougher than most people imagine. And getting published is a daunting task. But that old axiom of “10% inspiration and 90% perspiration” is true. Work your butt off. Follow your dream. And don’t be discouraged by naysayers.
2). Support other authors. Speaking of naysayers…don’t be one! Aspiring authors tend to think any author who gets published is taking their place. But really, there’s room in publishing for all the talent in the world. And I bet you’ll find that when you put good will out there, it comes back to you in spades.
3). Make your book as great as possible. This might seem like obvious advice, but authors are often reluctant to edit their work. “I’ve already written that part. It’s fine,” they might say. But the great thing about writing is that you can always make your work better. It’s not like painting where if you make a change, you might ruin the whole piece. Rewrite your sentence/paragraph/chapter/novel until it’s the best it can be. Then put it in a drawer for two weeks, take it back out and rework it again.
4). Start small. I’m a novelist, but before I ever had a novel in stores, I started out by getting short stories published in literary journals. Writing short fiction – even if it isn’t your ultimate goal – is wonderful practice for aspiring novelists. Plus, you’ll find that having your work appear in a literary journal, and thus becoming – by definition – a published author, is a huge thrill.
5). Read Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne. It’s the single best resource to teach writers how to write. If you’re a writer receiving rejection after rejection from literary agents, this book could very well change your life.
Have you ever tried writing in a different genre? How did that turn out?
I have. My first three novels (all released by a small press in Canada) were very different from Hanna Who Fell From The Sky. My first novel was a lighthearted farce. My second was dark, slightly strange and set in 1930’s Russia. And my third was YA written in first person. Hanna Who Fell From The Sky is completely different as well. It features my first female protagonist and I would describe it as very-readable literary fiction. Watching my two young daughters grow up inspired me to write Hanna as a brave, determined and – above all – empathetic young woman. I wanted to create the kind of character I hope they aspire to be. Maybe one day when they’re young women themselves, they might read a copy of Hanna Who Fell From The Sky and see their father in a whole different light.
Christopher Meades is the author of Hanna Who Fell From the Sky (Park Row Books, September 2017) and three other novels, including The Last Hiccup, which won the 2013 Canadian Authors Association National Award for Fiction. His stories have been featured in dozens of journals including The Fiddlehead and Upstreet. He lives in Vancouver with his family, including two young daughters. Christopher dreams of one day escaping his cubicle and living by the beach. You can read more about him at: