Interviews

Abigail Dean: ‘I want to clamber inside stories and live in them.’

Abigail Dean

Abigail Dean has been selected as one of the 10 Women’s Prize x Good Housekeeping Futures authors. A panel of industry experts have chosen 10 female authors aged 35 and under who are exciting, boundary-changing, and inspirational. In other words, the classics of tomorrow for today. Below she explains how her debut novel Girl A was published.

Tell us about the inspiration behind your first novel. 

I’ve long been interested in true crime – the podcasts, the documentaries – but I’ve always wondered about the years after the headlines and the trial. How do people live with trauma, amidst public scrutiny? Is it ever really possible to leave that behind? I’m an only child, and those questions combined with my love for big, fictional families. The family in Girl A may have been made infamous by abuse, but they’re also an ordinary family, with all of the humour, rivalries and grudges of a shared childhood.

Tell us about your journey to publication. 

I’ve always loved writing. I first sent a manuscript out to agents when I was a teenager, in hard copy, accompanied by a very serious covering letter! At the beginning of 2018, I was working long hours in a law firm, approaching thirty, and realized that I had abandoned writing in favor of something that wasn’t making me particularly happy. I was in the privileged position of being able to take three months off to begin writing Girl A. It was a long, heatwave summer, and I spent eight hours a day in my local library, working on the first draft. I chipped away at the novel for the next year, while I was back at work, and submitted it to agents in 2019. I remember refreshing my inbox at least 200 times a day in those first anxious weeks. The querying process is long and stressful, but this time around, agents were interested. I worked on Girl A for a further five months with my agent, the wonderful Juliet Mushens, and we sent it out to publishers that autumn. When the first offer came through, I was away with work in rural India, with no phone signal, and couldn’t hear a word Juliet was saying!

What motivates you as an author? 

I love reading, and I hope that my books can inspire some of the feelings I’ve experienced reading other writers’ books. It’s a love that’s almost painful, at times: as if you want to clamber inside the stories, and live in them. In my time, I’ve loved and loathed so many characters, and the idea that someone could feel that way about a character I’ve created is one of the best things in the world.  

What do you think you’d be if you weren’t a writer? 

I like to think that I’d make a great detective, of course; but I think all thriller writers like to think that! 

WP X GH Futures is about celebrating the female voices of the future – what do you hope to have achieved as a writer in ten years’ time? 

I hope to be writing books that people still want to read, books that move and entertain people, and creating characters who stick with them long after the pages are closed. 

Don’t forget to vote for your favourite author here.

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