How Tessa Hadley writes

Tessa Hadley ‘When I started I thought I wasn’t a person with a good memory but you tap into uncanny places where you have things saved up that you didn’t know you did until you got to that level. You don’t know until you have to, that the sandwiches were wrapped in greaseproof paper, not clingfilm.’
[in an interview with ‘The Times’ newspaper, January 17, 2017]

Tessa Hadley

[photo: Mark Vessey]

Writing, for Tessa Hadley, is inextricably connected to memory. ‘Not precise memory but memory as a hunch and a feeling and an atmosphere.’ Like me, she had a shy childhood, one spent on the edge, watching, looking in, absorbing everything.

She concentrates on getting the details right. ‘The whole texture of the work is the details of that world and no other. What was it like being a teacher living in a skinny dilapidated Georgian house in 1967? What colour did they paint the walls? What words would they have used when they were speaking to each other?’ She is wary of writing about things she doesn’t know.

Hadley writes about domestic life and families. Her latest book is a collection of short stories, Bad Dreams and Other Stories. It was through writing short stories that she found her voice, when earlier attempts at novels had left her unsatisfied. ‘I wrote one or two and thought, ‘Ah! That’s what I sound like! And I got it. It took a long time for me.’

Read my review of The Past by Tessa Hadley.

Tessa Hadley


‘Bad Dreams and Other Stories’ by Tessa Hadley [UK: Jonathan Cape]

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Sebastian Barry
Mary Gaitskill
Sara Baume

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