‘I want to write storylines that dig deep into a reader’s emotions, with characters that we talk about and relate to as if they were real.‘
– Stuart Hobrow
It is a pleasure to welcome my guest Stuart Hobrow to Swirl and Thread today. Stuart published his debut novel Happy to Have Nothing in November 2020, a book described as ‘a coming-of-age love story‘
Stuart has written a wonderful post about his writing path and inspiration for his debut so I do hope you enjoy.
[ About the Book ]
July 1996 – However implausible the logic, as long as the image of her mum’s lifeless body lying on a cold kitchen floor remained vivid in her mind, Mel would never be able to stop blaming herself for what happened. And while the guilt smoulders, Mel’s ensuing erratic behaviour emerges with the opportunistic sabotage of another relationship. The words of advice in the notes left by her mum don’t always help Mel to steer in the right direction, and the odd crash continues to be unavoidable.
May 2017, a visit to a drugs den leaves Mel feeling uneasy about a teenager she sees there. Mel is torn about whether to help the girl but intervenes anyway when she sees her vandalising a gravestone. Could the fallout from a mistakenly sent text present an opportunity for atonement – or are some things too broken to be repaired by the glue of regret and forgiveness?
Purchase Link ~ Happy to Have Nothing
[ Guest Post by Stuart Hobrow ]
I always wanted to write but juggling a career alongside family life left little free time to put ideas into pages of words. When I became a house parent, not only did it enable me to become a better husband and dad, but it also provided the opportunity to finally let out the characters and plots that had been running riot in my imagination.
My working life has included teaching, but much of my career was spent helping youngsters with a range of issues and barriers – from career decisions and self-harm, to abuse, homelessness and substance misuse. Though the work was often mentally and emotionally draining, it was incredibly rewarding. It is inevitable that those experiences will have influenced some of the ideas in my writing.
I want to write storylines that dig deep into a reader’s emotions, with characters that we talk about and relate to as if they were real. That was the basis upon which my debut novel, Happy to Have Nothing, was written.
The title comes from a note written by Poppy, the mother of the book’s main character, Mel. Poppy’s tragic death has an adverse effect on Mel, but a series of notes left for her are meant to act as a life road map for Mel to reflect upon. Not all the notes are immediately accessible, but in this one, Poppy wants her daughter to consider that what is truly important is the love of the people that matter to us the most.
‘You can be as rich as you want to be without a bank balance. Money, jewels, possessions? You can keep them, they not what I want. I’ve seen people that suffer silent and lonely trauma from personal greed and gain. Their eyes empty of colour, darkened by the guilt of selfish deeds, and for foolishly thinking they be better than any other soul because of their wealth. Me? I tell you daughter, I’m happy to have nothing, because I already know that I have everything. My children are the most precious gift imaginable, riches that grow in value every day and yet can’t be counted.’
With the artwork for the book, I wanted to challenge the old cliché about not judging the pages of words inside by the images on the front cover. I invited Catherine Gregg, a local artist and former school friend of mine, to read the story. It was extremely important to me that the artwork uniquely represented and summarised something significant within the story. Catherine focussed on one aspect that was of particular interest to us both and interpreted this through her own style. The result is an engaging image that the reader will be able to make sense of.
Naturally, I am often asked what the book is about. While it is the most fundamental of questions, it is conversely the most difficult one to answer. That’s because the storyline has multiple layers with a number of key characters and stretches between two periods of time. But answered simply, Happy to Have Nothing is a coming-of-age love story. I hope that anyone who chooses to get hold of a copy of the book enjoys reading the story as much as I loved writing it. As an author it goes without saying that you want your work to be well received, and therefore the views of the reader are hugely important. The consensus amongst people who have read it is that the story took them on an emotional rollercoaster which kept them guessing the outcome until the very last page. That gives me great satisfaction.
Stuart Hobrow, April 2021.
[ Bio ]
Stuart Hobrow lives in Shakespeare’s County, Warwickshire, with his wife and two daughters. After graduating from King Alfred’s College in Winchester with a degree in history and archaeology, he embarked on a fulfilling career for many years helping teenagers and young adults. Firstly, he worked for the careers service in Coventry as a front-line practitioner and line manager, before retraining and teaching secondary school history.
When he isn’t writing he likes nothing more than listening to music. He particularly enjoys seeing his favourite bands play live and cherishes the memories from the long list of gigs he has been fortunate to attend. The Lake District is a favourite destination for him and his family to visit, a chance to allow his imagination to run wild with new ideas for his next book while enjoying the simple pleasures of nature’s beauty.
Propelled by the unwavering belief and constant support of his family, he has recently published his debut novel, Happy to Have Nothing.