You’ve heard of her melting story, now let’s get to know this imaginative author better.
Welcome to another Date with a Debut Author, bookworms! This is a Bookstr series where we sit down with a debut author and get to know them, their writing process, and their book. Each week we’ll get the chance to go on a date with a new author.
This week we had the privilege to meet up with Hannah Whitten, author of For the Wolf, to learn more about her, her writing, and her debut fantasy series.
Date with a Debut Author gets you up close and personal with the debut authors you should be watching out for. So, are you ready to get to know Hannah? Let’s go!
Conversations Over Coffee
Since we’re just getting to know Hannah.
Serena Knudson (SK): On your website, you have “in the in-between” written in the header. What inspired that and what does it mean to you?
Hannah Whitten (HW): I’ve always been very drawn to liminal spaces. I love the idea of places in-between, gray areas where possibilities are endless, and magic and mundanity coexist. It’s something I find myself writing about over and over, so it seemed like an apt website title!
SK: What is something you are passionate about?
HW: This feels like a stock answer, hah, but stories. The stories we tell ourselves and each other shape our world, and give us safe places to process trauma, discover ourselves, and find comfort. I think fiction is really important (which is a “well, duh,” statement for anyone reading this, I’m sure), but when I was a kid I was told more than once that I spent too much time thinking about things that weren’t real, and thus weren’t important. I don’t think that’s true at all.
I’m also really passionate about genre fiction in general, and how it should have the same amount of respect and clout as literary fiction (especially genres like horror and romance–some of the best and most interesting books I’ve ever read have been in these two genres! They have important things to say!)
SK: Your About page on your website says you like to make music when you’re not writing.
Do you play any instruments?
HW: I can kind of play High and Dry by Radiohead on the guitar, but that’s the extent of my instrumental prowess.
SK: Do you sing?
HW: I do! I actually sang semi-professionally for a while. I’ve done traveling honor choirs since I was a kid and was a wedding singer off and on in college.
SK: Have you ever been in a band?
HW: I met my husband because we were in a band together! He sang me the John Mayer cover of Free Falling and it was a done deal.
SK: What kind of music do you play?
HW: Mostly alt-acoustic stuff, like Phoebe Bridgers and Daughter. I wish I could metal scream, but alas, I cannot.
SK: Do you listen to music while you are writing? If so, what do you like listening to?
HW: I listen to mostly post-rock instrumental stuff while I write—my favorites are Caspian If These Trees Could Talk, and *shels. I also really like listened to Alcest while I write—they have lyrics, but it’s all in French, so it doesn’t throw me off!
SK: I know a lot of readers have compared For the Wolf to Little Red Riding Hood and the Beauty and the Beast. You’ve also commented on how you took elements from classic fairy tales to twist For the Wolf into its own folklore, you called it a melting story. Were there any other fairy tales that inspired For the Wolf?
HW: The other tale I pulled from most obviously is Snow White–Neve’s name was actually Snow in earlier drafts. I drew a lot of inspiration from other more archetypal, less solidly plotted fairytale ideas, too, like Green Man mythology and Death and the Maiden. There’s also some shades of Bluebeard in there!
Let’s Get Intimate!
Don’t you want to learn more about this interesting author?
SK: What came first, the plot or characters in For the Wolf?
HW: Definitely the characters. I had Red and Eammon in my head and basically shaped a plot around them!
SK: What risks have you taken with your writing that have paid off?
HW: Really leaning into all the trope-y stuff that I love and running with it. I wrote WOLF for me, and was as self-indulgent as possible, including all the things I like without worrying about if others would like them, too. I think you have to love your work in order for others to love it, so go full tilt into the things that make you happy.
SK: Has publishing a book changed the way you view yourself?
HW: Not really the way I view myself, but it’s changed the way I view my work. I try to look at things from all angles, and really dig to the bottom of why I’m making the decisions that I am in a narrative. Trying to strike the balance of writing for yourself and for an audience is tricky, and throwing your work out there to be loved or hated is fraught, to say the least. I’ve had to both detach myself from my work and hold it more closely. It’s weird, but it’s rewarding.
SK: I know For the Wolf was a Barnes & Noble Pick of the Month from the moment it was released. What were doing when you found out? Did you celebrate?
HW: I did! My editor told me about a month or two before the book came out since B&N picks their monthly selections in advance. That was definitely a pizza and Prosecco night.
SK: You are now working on the sequel for For the Wolf. For the Throne is scheduled to be released in June 2022. How has your writing process changed after publishing For the Wolf?
HW: I outline now! WOLF was completely done via discovery writing–I had no idea what was going to happen next and was just along for the ride. But with THRONE, I planned a lot more and plotted the book out before I started drafting it. It made the whole process much easier! Who knew!
Fun and Games
Now that we’re well-acquainted with Hannah, here are some fun questions and what she had to say about them.
SK: If the Wilderwood series was chosen for an adaptation, who would act as your characters?
HW: Oh, I have THOUGHTS. Ben Barnes, Adam Driver, or Oliver Jackson Cohen would make a great Eammon. Florence Pugh IS Red in my head, and Adelaide Kane is Neve. John Boyega would be an excellent Raffe, Nathalie Emmanuel would be Lyra, and Eddie Redmayne would be Fife. I think Dylan O’Brien could do a great Arick. And even though Isla only has a handful of scenes, I think Brit Marling would be perfect.
SK: What is one thing you wish more people knew about you?
HW: I’ve got intense anxiety and often find social media overwhelming, so if I don’t respond to your message, it’s not you, it’s me!
SK: If you could spend the day with any fictional character, who would it be?
HW: Samwise Gamgee. I want him to cook for me.
SK: If you could know the absolute truth to one question, what would you ask?
HW: Not to get too existential, but what happens after we die.
SK: What ridiculous thing has someone tricked you into believing or doing?
HW: When I was in elementary school, someone told me you weren’t supposed to unwrap gum before you chewed it. So, I chewed some really papery gum for a couple weeks before someone asked me what the hell I was doing.
SK: What are some of your book recommendations?
HW: Vita Nostra by Sergei and Maryna Dyachenko, The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins, Small Favors by Erin Craig, The Grace Year by Kim Liggett, The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri, White Magic by Elissa Washuta, Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall, Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher, Plain Bad Heroines by Emily Danforth, Her Soul To Take by Harley Laroux, Wound From The Mouth of a Wound by Torrin A. Greathouse, White Is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi!
For the Wolf: As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.
Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.
But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole. (Via Goodreads)
Hannah Whitten lives in Tennessee with her husband and children, two temperamental cats, and an angelic dog. When she isn’t writing she enjoys writing, making music, and attempting to bake. Check out more Date with a Debut Author articles here.