Q&A with Ruth Hogan, Author of Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel

by Heather Caliendo
Author interview Ruth Hogan - book club chat
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Ruth Hogan is the author of several books including The Keeper of Lost Things, The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes and the upcoming Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel.

Ruth Hogan describes herself as a “rapacious reader, writer, and incorrigible magpie” whose own love of small treasures and curiosities and the people around her inspired her first novel. She lives north of London.

Here’s a quick take of Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel: When Tilly’s beloved father suddenly disappeared, she and her mother moved into Queenie Malone’s magnificent Paradise Hotel in Brighton. But when her mother sent her off to boarding school with little explanation and no warning, she lost the life she grew to love. Now an adult, Tilda has grown into an independent woman still damaged by her mother’s choices. When her estranged mother dies, Tilda returns to Brighton and the home she loved best: The Paradise Hotel. With the help of the still-dazzling Queenie, she sets about unraveling the mystery of her exile from, only to discover that her mother was not the woman she thought she knew at all. .

Let’s get to know Ruth in such a lovely Q&A as she talks favorite novels, story inspirations, and much more! 

What are some of your favorite novels?

I love anything by Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice is my absolute favourite. I first read To Kill A Mockingbird when I was at school have read it many times since. More recently I was hugely impressed with The Binding by Bridget Collins and Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield. The book that made me want to be a writer is called Morning’s At Seven by Eric Malpass. I have lost count of how many times I’ve read it and it never fails to enchant me.

When did you know you wanted to become an author?

When I was at junior school. Creative writing was always my favourite subject. But my love of writing came from a passion for reading. My mother taught me to read before I started school and I was lucky enough to be brought up in a house full of books. My parents read me a bedtime story every night until I could read for myself.

Where do you get your story ideas for your novels? Are any of your characters inspired by real people?

I often use photograph books for inspiration. I particularly like social history photography and some of my favourite photographers are Diane Arbus, Martin Parr, Tony Ray-Jones, Christopher Payne and Ari Seth Cohen. I’m also a documentary junkie – the stranger the subject, the better! I’m one of those horrible people who tears articles out of magazines and newspapers to file away in a folder called ‘Book Ideas’.

Some of my characters are inevitably inspired by people I’ve seen or met. The character Joseph Geronimo Heathcliff O’Shea in Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel was inspired by a homeless man I met years ago whilst walking my dogs. I knew that I would use him as a character in a book one day and when I got home from the walk, I wrote down every detail that I could remember about him. Life on the road is extremely hard and I doubt that he is still alive, but I am eternally grateful to him for unwittingly inspiring one of my favourite characters, and I hope that my book is in some small way a memorial to him.

What inspired you to write Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel? What do you hope are some of the key takeaways?

The book is based in Brighton – one of my favourite places. My dad was born in Brighton so maybe it’s genetic! I eloped to Brighton in 2016, got married in the Royal Pavilion and then skipped down the pier in my massive frilly frock to ride on the galloping horses carousel and the ghost train. Nobody batted an eyelid. And that’s the wonderful thing about Brighton. It’s colourful, completely crazy but also inclusive. It’s a place where differences are not only tolerated but celebrated. I particularly enjoy writing about people who are different in some way. I describe them as being ‘cracked in the kiln’. People who are on the edges of mainstream society, who don’t give a damn what other people think of them or are damaged in some way. Brighton was the perfect home for these people and the place almost becomes a character itself in the book.

The novel was also inspired by my own childhood and some of the everyday events and places in Tilly’s chapters are drawn from my own memories. A central theme in the novel is mother and daughter relationships and this was inspired, in part, by my own relationship with my mother. She was a product of her generation and class – boys pursued an education and girls got married and had children. Bright and beautiful, she won a scholarship to the local grammar school and would have loved to pursue a career in art. But she was forced to leave school aged sixteen and get a job in a local manufacturing company. She married and had children, but I think the disappointment of unfulfilled dreams always haunted her. She suffered from depression and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for a period when I was very young. I still remember visiting her there.

My mother was determined that her own daughter would not suffer the same fate. She pushed me very hard when I was at school and at times, I was frightened of her. But as an adult I know that everything she did, she did because she loved me, and she couldn’t have been prouder when my first book was published.

I hope that QUEENIE demonstrates that sometimes people do the wrong things for the right reasons, particularly if that reason is love. I hope it inspires people to celebrate their individuality whatever form that might take, and to accept others for who they are and not judge.

What do you think are some of the key elements that are required in a well-crafted story?

My novels are very much character driven, and I think it’s crucial to write characters that the reader engages with. It doesn’t matter whether they love or hate them, so long as they care about what happens to them and what they do. I like a novel to have a strong sense of place. For me, a book is a film that plays in your head, so I try to describe my settings in a way that the reader can clearly visualize them. I also believe that an author should write about what they know, what they feel passionate about. Passion always comes through in writing. As a reader (and a writer) I also love a twist in the plot!

What are you currently reading and what’s on your TBR (to be read) list?

I’m currently reading The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes as it’s my book club choice this month. My TBR pile is a teetering tower of pre-publication proofs that I’ve been asked to read!

Thank you to Ruth for participating in the Q&A! Click here to order Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel on Amazon.

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