Interview with Hadley Wickham, emerging author of My Bed is a Blackhole, by Shelley Carter
When I was first introduced to emerging Perth author Hadley Wickham, I was more than intrigued. A Google search gleaned nothing more than a sample of her debut novel, and a single interview. I was put into contact with her through a mutual friend of ours, and after many months of trying to organise an interview, we finally caught up!
Tucked away in the corner of the laneway bar Helvetica in the Perth CBD, over the din of the Friday-night corporate crowd at the bar, we discussed her book, her career as a Supreme Court Associate, and our mutual appreciation of true crime.
Hadley Wickham was only 22 years old when she wrote her debut novel, My Bed is a Blackhole. Set in the portside suburb of Fremantle over a period of 18 months, it follows the central character Miranda as she navigates her way through a period of her life affected by her mental health. It is a look into the way in which depression affects not only the individual suffering from it, but also how it can be outwardly projected and externalised by the sufferer.
Hadley explains that the story came to her at “2am, on the way home from a Muse concert”. She already had a few other story ideas, but this is the one that materialised into a manuscript. It was an 18-month process to write and conceptualise My Bed is a Blackhole, and is in part inspired by the author’s experience during law school.
The personal nature of the subject matter was one of the reasons Wickham decided to use a pseudonym. Previously published academically under her real name, she wanted to keep her fiction and academic writing separate. “One of my favourite authors is Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (Fiesta) my favourite book of his and I’ve read it multiple times. It’s dedicated to his wife, Hadley, so repeatedly seeing that every time I opened the book ingrained it a little in my brain. At first I just loved the name but then I learnt that Hadley’s real name was also Elizabeth and it just felt like a perfect fit. Wickham on the other hand was taken from those ‘what’s your rapper/stripper’ name generators – it’s the first street we lived on after immigrating to Australia.” she says.
“It’s escapism. I’m quite untethered when it comes to styles and ideas – the more experimental and controversial the better, which is not always great for my other career.
To be able to write about that freely, without thinking too much about the repercussions, it not only encourages me to keep writing, but to also push to find new ways of expressing ideas on paper.”
“Everyone entertains the idea of getting published.” She explains. “I approached several publishers [before getting published]”. Described by Wickham as ‘quite experimental’, My Bed is a Blackhole found a home at Book Guild Ltd in the UK, where she was living at the time.
“Blackhole was therapeutic for me, the writing process was incredibly cathartic so I enjoyed it which is a rare thing for an author to say about a piece of work that is so dark. That being said, sometimes I really didn’t want to write. It was raw, there were times where I did think ‘I can’t do this’ so I didn’t.
As nobody knew I was writing there was no pressure and I think if you want to explore ideas like Blackhole does, it’s important to be very relaxed in your approach as you don’t need the stress of deadlines and life adding to what already is a difficult process.
Personally, I don’t think Blackhole is a sad book. Yes it’s dark and confronting, but I didn’t start writing with the idea: ‘I’m going to make this as sad as I possibly can.’ I started out thinking: ‘I could write something that might have a positive impact on someone other than myself,’ and that thought really excited me.” explains Wickham.
“In practical advice, I would say find your ‘space’. For example, I had a wonderful playlist that I would listen to on repeat when I was writing; it gave me a bubble to work in that I could come out of whenever I wanted.”
A book everyone must read: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
One of my favourite books: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Next on my reading list: Swing Time by Zadie Smith
My Bed is a Black Hole is available for purchase online at Booktopia.