Polly Hall is a writer and poet from the South West of England. Her debut novel, THE TAXIDERMIST’S LOVER, has received rave reviews. Publishers Weekly has called it "rich, decadent prose . . . allusions to THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN nicely ground the ending in the gothic tradition" and Booklist gave THE TAXIDERMIST'S LOVER a starred review, saying it is a "lyrical debut, told with the confidence of a veteran.” And, THE TAXIDERMIST'S LOVER has just been nominated for the BRAM STOKER AWARD for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Polly has been gracious enough to take a few minutes to talk about the new book.
MB: The title of your new book makes it sound like a romance, but it’s being compared to the likes of the Bride of Frankenstein. That's seems like opposite ends of the spectrum. How would classify THE TAXIDERMIST'S LOVER? Romance? Horror? Both?
PH: I’ve always found it a bit tricky to define which genre my writing fits. THE TAXIDERMIST'S LOVER is a mixture of romance, gothic horror, contemporary horror, literary fiction so in a way it represents the content of the book mirroring the hybrid taxidermy creatures themselves. It is a love story but not in the conventional romantic sense. Love is slippery. Love can be horrific. Scarlett and Henry’s love has been likened to Heathcliff and Cathy and Frankenstein’s monster & his bride. You get the picture. I like the idea of genre blending or genre busting.
MB: Your new book, THE TAXIDERMIST'S LOVER, was just released in December of last year. How long did it take you to write it? What did you learn from writing this first novel that will help you moving forward with your writing career?
PH: I wrote the first draft of THE TAXIDERMIST'S LOVER while I was studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, UK. The intense critiquing and writing during the program encouraged me to get the words down and finish the book. So, in terms of the time it took to write, I guess it was several months, however the editing process and the search for a publisher took a lot longer. I learnt to listen to feedback constructively from other writers. The best thing I gained was more confidence in my own writing and getting published is a huge confidence boost.
MB: Give us a little "inside" scoop on your novel. Without any spoilers tell us something about your book that we won't find in the jacket copy or PR material?
PH: Authors are supposed to like their characters but I don’t have a problem with unlikeable characters. They just have to be interesting. Even though I guess Scarlett is the narrator and star of the show, my favourite is actually, Felix, the rival taxidermist. I wanted him to be so hyper real that he almost mimics the hybrid taxidermy creatures themselves.
MB: How does your writing process differ between writing poetry and writing a novel?
PH: I’d say writing a novel is like going on a road trip in that you might take some turns that lead you to a different destination and discover new territory on the journey. Poetry is like looking at a map and precisely setting out the details in micro form.
MB: Let's shift gears for moment and talk about reading. Many writers say that reading is just as important as writing. Do you have a specific genre that you tend to frequent when selecting a book to read?
PH: I’m a big fan of contemporary lit fiction and can’t keep up with all the new books I add to my Goodreads to-read list. I love a well written non-fiction nature book: Helen McDonald, Robert McFarlane. Writers such as Clarissa Pinkola Estes and David Whyte & Elif Shafak connect with something primal within me. Anything by Andrew Michael Hurley or Markus Zusak or Bernadine Evaristo. I’m also happy re-reading classics especially Hemingway, Du Maurier, Golding and of course, Mary Shelley. Contemporary poetry also helps shape my writing.
MB: What can we expect from you in the future? Are you working on any new projects?
PH: I aim to finish my memoir in 2021 drawing on my experience of adoption. It also covers my experience of endometriosis. Both are huge topics that need to be talked about. I’m working on my second novel which will include sinister elements. I tend to veer towards the gothic. And I’m very new to poetry film but have discovered I love combining visual, audio and words in this condensed format. Another nod towards hybrid!
MB: Let’s finish this up with something a bit offbeat. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
PH: Funnily enough I had my spirit animals drawn for me once and it turns out they are a deer and a hare. In terms of affinity though, I love wolves for their unwavering instinctual sense of self. I have walked with wolves and they are quite magical.
MB: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. Good luck with THE TAXIDERMIST'S LOVER.
Polly Hall's new book THE TAXIDERMIST'S LOVER is available now. You can discover more about Polly and her book on her website at www.pollyhall.co.uk. You can follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/pollyhallwriter, and on Facebook at facebook.com/PollyHallWriter/.
You can buy THE TAXIDERMIST'S LOVER at the following retailers.