I’m delighted to welcome Ruth F. Hunt to the blog. Ruth’s the author of The Single Feather, published by Pilrig Press.
Rachel flees her past to build a new life for herself. But living a lie isn’t easy. She struggles
with a guilty conscience and the fear of being exposed. Eventually, she has to decide: tell
the truth and risk all, or say nothing and betray everything she has ever believed in. A
stunning debut novel written with intelligence and clarity. Rachel’s efforts to belong
exposes our prejudices against those more vulnerable in society while shining a light on
the power of friendship and the importance of being part of a community.
Can you tell me about yourself, your background and how you got into writing?
My name is Ruth F. Hunt and I live in Lancashire. I was very keen on writing as a child and teenager, and wanted to study Journalism, but at the age of 18 I had an accident and was left with life-changing injuries.
For years after that I didn’t write as time was taken up with work. My disabilities were also getting increasingly difficult to cope with, and I spent a lot of time in and out of hospital. However, a change in circumstances when I was 30 meant I had long periods at home on my own, and that was when I started to write again.
I launched into writing a book, but halfway through I realised it wasn’t working. So I took two novel writing courses with http://www.writingclasses.co.uk and on the first course, the character of Rachel came to me. It was like a complicated jigsaw at first, trying to find pieces that would fit, and taking out those that were not quite the right shape. After many, many drafts I was ready to submit and eventually The Single Feather was ready for publication.
I’m now working on a second novel as well as a collection of linked short stories.
Was it because of your own experiences of disability that you decided to have a disabled protagonist?
I have had the benefit of being both able bodied and disabled, and one of the first things I noticed after the accident, was just how few disabled people I saw in public life, in films and on the television. It’s the same for novels. Bar books for children, there are very few novels with disabled characters let alone a disabled protagonist.
So, it felt right to have a disabled protagonist, especially now as views among the general public have changed. Where once a disabled person may provoke pity, the national press, has been accusing many disabled as ‘faking it’, being ‘scroungers’ and receiving a lot of money from the state. Older people often have the same problems as disabled people but have been treated differently. It’s one source of tension I wanted to explore in the novel.
The ‘vehicle’ you use for structuring the novel revolves around an amateur art group. Why an art group?
Rachel is an outsider, in every sense of the word. At the start of the novel, she escapes from her home, and moves to Carthom, where apart from help from an agency who visit her, she is on her own. I thought about who else would be around during the day time, which is where the art group come in. They are all misfits, and some lonely and isolated, and some carrying heavy, smothering secrets around, just like Rachel. In the novel, it’s not just Rachel who is transformed, but individuals within the group, and the group as a whole. Though it must be said that not everyone has a positive transformation!
The cover is very dramatic – with the contrast between the white feather and the dark background. What was the thinking behind it?
The cover as you say shows a pristine white feather, with the background a close up of the detail of the individual strands of the feather.
Rachel is presenting herself as the white feather, hiding the complicated detail behind – such as where she lived prior to Carthom and how she got injured. However, it’s not just Rachel who is pretending to be someone else.
How can you go through life hiding who you really are?
You mention Carthom, which is a fictional village in the North of England, but you also mention real places such as The Dream sculpture in St Helens? Why did you do it like this?
I wanted Rachel and the group to live somewhere that could be anywhere. So a reader could imagine the characters being part of their own community.
As for The Dream, this sculpture has personal significance for me and my family, as my dad died at Sutton Manor Colliery, which used to be located where the sculpture is now.
Also, being called ‘The Dream’ was a free gift fiction-wise. Rachel starts the book talking about her hopes and dreams, and so at the close of the book, they all help each other to reach The Dream sculpture. Will they each get what they want? That would be telling!
Thanks to Ruth F. Hunt for the interview.