Internationally bestselling writer & speaker
Let me tell you about who I am now and who I used to be.
Now, in 2019, I’m lucky enough to be published in 49 languages, and to have sold millions of copies of my books across the world. I’ve taught Creative Writing for more than twenty years — to students at Trinity College, Cambridge, where I was Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts between 1997 and 1999, and at hundreds of schools, colleges, universities, libraries, literary festivals and residential writing centres (like the wonderful Arvon Foundation centres) all over the UK and also abroad. I’ve recently helped to create the new Crime and Thriller Writing Master’s degree at the University of Cambridge, and I’m the Director of that course. I’ve also helped many writers to develop their ideas and find agents and publishers for their books.
I feel very lucky to have had more than twenty years’ experience (including many joyful moments and many painful ones) in the book-industry trenches, as a published author in many different genres — poetry for adults and children, general fiction for adults and children, crime fiction, self-help. I’ve also written two musicals, in collaboration with my genius composer friend Annette Armitage! I’ve learned so much since 1992, when I published Carrot the Goldfish, my first picture book for children, and I’ve put everything I’ve learned into the Dream Author programme so that you can learn from it too.
I wasn’t always as lucky as I am now, however. I used to think about my writing in a way that could make me seriously unhappy. In 2004, before I heard that Hodder & Stoughton wanted to publish my first crime novel, Little Face, I feared that no one would ever publish or read this novel that I loved so much and that I’d poured my heart and soul into. That state of fear was horrible — I still vividly remember how disempowered and confused I felt, how full of self-doubt. If I’d only known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have worried for a second; I’d have known that, as a writer yet to launch herself upon the crime fiction scene, I was in a position of great power and potential. If all my publishers dumped me tomorrow, I’d be sad that those relationships were over, of course, but I would not feel confused or disempowered. I would set a new goal, make a new plan and take steps to put that plan into action — and, crucially, I would believe that I could succeed. I would fully understand, after more than twenty years as an extensively published writer, that it’s what’s happens in my mind that matters most, not what happens to my books in the outside world.
I’ve created the Dream Author programme so that you can all have the opportunity to put yourselves in that same strong position: knowing you can cope brilliantly with temporary setbacks and even massive failures (I’ve had *so* many of these, and they’ve all, ultimately, been good for me) and still take steps towards achieving your writing dreams no matter what life throws at you. And if you don’t currently believe that’s possible, all I can say is that by the end of my one-year Dream Author programme, I bet you will believe it as strongly as I do. I’ll have a year to prove it to you, won’t I? And let no one say that I don’t love a challenge!
My official biog is below, and you can also find me all over the internet:
Sophie’s Official Biography
Sophie Hannah is an internationally bestselling writer of crime fiction who has sold millions of books worldwide and more than two million books in the UK alone. She is published in forty-nine languages and fifty-one territories, and her novels were adapted for TV as Case Sensitive (Hat Trick Productions for ITV1).
In 2014, with the blessing of Agatha Christie’s family and estate, Sophie published a new Poirot novel, The Monogram Murders, which was a top five bestseller in more than fifteen countries. She has since published two more Poirot novels, Closed Casket and The Mystery of Three Quarters, both of which were instant Sunday Times Top Ten bestsellers.
In 2013, Sophie’s novel The Carrier won the Crime Thriller of the Year Award at the Specsavers National Book Awards. She has also published two short story collections, one supernatural/horror novel, several children’s books, and five collections of poetry – the fifth of which, Pessimism for Beginners, was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Award. Her poetry is studied at GCSE, A Level and degree level in the UK. Most recently, Sophie has published a self-help book called How to Hold a Grudge: From Resentment to Contentment – The Power of Grudges to Transform Your Life, and launched a podcast, also called How to Hold a Grudge.
With composer Annette Armitage, Sophie has co-written two musicals: The Mystery of Mr. E — a murder mystery musical and Work Experience — a musical locked room mystery. In 2018, The Mystery of Mr. E was staged at literary festivals across the UK (under the title The Generalist), with more stagings on the way. Work Experience had its first staging in Cambridge, in March 2019.
Sophie is the Course Director of the University of Cambridge’s new Master’s Degree in Crime and Thriller Writing and an Honorary Fellow of Lucy Cavendish College in Cambridge. She lives in Cambridge and the Cotswolds with her husband, children and — last but definitely not least — her Welsh Terrier, Brewster!
Why and how I chose the name Dream Author
I didn’t. It chose me. Nor do I remember a precise moment when I decided to do this. What happened instead was that, gradually, awareness started to dawn. It was obviously and brilliantly going to happen: I was really going to do this thing — start a coaching programme for writers — and it was going to be called Dream Author. I loved the name as soon as it appeared in my mind. It’s a phrase that’s often used by publishers, and one I’d heard so many times. I wanted to reclaim it for and on behalf of writers.
When publishers talk about a ‘Dream Author’, they mean an author who is a dream to work with. If you’re described as a ‘Dream Author’ by any book industry professional, it means that you hand in your books on time, thank your editor for helpful feedback instead of snarling, ‘How dare you try to sabotage my precious masterpiece?’, and you don’t demand the instant firing of the entire publicity department if your novel doesn’t enter the charts at number 1.
From a writer’s point of view, though, the term ‘dream author’ can and should mean something different, something that’s more about how effectively you define and pursue your dreams, and the extent to which you are able to make precisely the creative contribution that you want to make according to your own talents, needs and ideals. In order to be your own dream author — an author with the right set of dreams and the ability to take action to help realise them — you must master all the skills you will need in order to thrive in a world that won’t shift to accommodate your dreams unless you give it no choice but to do so. This means adopting a whole new approach to the imaginative, business, psychological and emotional aspects of being a writer.
Is Dream Author just Sophie Hannah? Is there anyone else involved?
I (Sophie) will be doing all the coaching and content creation, and there are other people involved behind the scenes. Kate Jones, who has worked for the London School of Economics’ summer school, will be managing the administrative side of things, so some emails about the practicalities of Dream Author might come from her. And my website designer and marketing dynamo Faith Tilleray will be working on the Dream Author website and the tech and marketing side of things.
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“It is 100% possible that you will achieve your Dream-Goal. Yet, it feels absolutely impossible, because you’re trying to assess what you can achieve in the future based on what’s happened in the past. This makes no sense! Past You obviously couldn’t have achieved what Future You will be able to achieve.”