Hannah Foley Writer Author Children's Books middlegrade fiction Avery Buckle
Hannah Foley Writer Author Children's Books middlegrade fiction Avery Buckle
Hannah Foley

My name is Hannah. I am currently working on my next children’s novel for Zephyr Books.

I grew up in a tiny redbrick, terrace house in the South West of England. My dad worked on a nearby country estate which meant I got to spend lots of time running about with my sister, climbing trees and day dreaming in wild green spaces while he was busy mending tractors in the workshop. Dad would take us over the county in one of his beat-up old cars to see vintage tractor shows or along to a ploughing match. I love the smell of machine oil mixed with hay, and have an endless fascination for old engine parts. We could walk to the sea from our house so we also spent long summers splashing about in the waves and digging enormous sand holes! But I loved the winter best, when the beach was empty and the weather, wild.

As I got older I saved up and went travelling, but travelling gave me a funny feeling. It was one of those things I thought I was supposed to do, and supposed to enjoy! People have a marvelous time travelling, don't they? You can tell, because they show everyone amazing pictures of themselves in exotic places doing adventurous things. But I just kept feeling very odd. Much later on, I read something Joanne Harris wrote about the false superiority of travellers and my discomfort suddenly made sense. I came to understand the way Western European people 'do' travel is problematic and steeped in the history of colonisation.

Eventually I trained to be a nurse. There wasn't much money in my house growing up so it was important I got a useful job which would allow me to pay my way. I expect a few of you can understand that. It was only much later, when I had a little girl of my own, that I fulfilled a lifetime's ambition and went to Art College in Edinburgh to train to be an illustrator. We lived in a cottage on a sheep farm in the middle of nowhere while I studied. We got snowed in lots of times and had adventures in the hills. It was brilliant. When I left Art College I worked as a freelance illustrator, drawing everything from lions and rhinos through to the insides of cells. My absolute favourite thing to draw was frogs. They have such expressive faces and comical bodies. Did you know that frogs can breathe and drink through their skin? Amazing! There are two cheeky frogs in the Billy Hippo picture books by Vivian French which I was lucky enough to illustrate.

"Hannah Foley is a sparky, imaginative new voice in children's fantasy."
                                                                                                                                            - Scottish Books International

I had an idea I would like to write and illustrate my own picture book so I joined an evening class to help me learn to do that, but whenever I tried to write a picture book a rather funny thing would happen. I kept writing a much longer story for older children instead. I couldn't seem to stop myself, I just couldn't write a picture book. One day I decided to be brave and entered my story into a competition called the Kelpies Prize. I was very, very surprised when my book won! It was a special thing to hear my name read out at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (which is a wonderful and important book festival if you don't know it). In 2021, The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle was published by the Kelpies imprint of Floris Books.

Now, I live back in Devon in a little redbrick, terrace house with my own children. I love going for adventures in the countryside and by the sea in the exact same places I used to go adventuring as a kid. When I'm not adventuring or writing books or drawing pictures I work as a nurse – at the moment, as a Specialist Nurse for people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune condition involving people's brain and spinal nerves, for which there is currently no cure. These nerves affect absolutely every function in the body, which might give you some clues as to the widespread effects of the condition.

You can find out more about Multiple Sclerosis by visiting the webpages of the:
MS Society
MS Trust

In February 2023, my second children’s novel, was published by Zephyr Books. The Tiger Who Sleeps Under My Chair is a dual-time mystery story, set on the Jurassic Coast in Devon. I was very grateful for wonderful reviews, including these kind words from Zillah Bethel and Hilary McKay:

“A great friendship story, fascinating, intricate and hopeful” – Hilary McKay

“A superb excavation of the mind’s terrain” – Zillah Bethell

I was delighted that The Tiger Who Sleeps Under My Chair was endorsed by the incredible UK mental health charity, Our Time. I am now working on my next novel for Zephyr Books. Keep your eyes peeled for more news on that soon!

Below is a link to a blog post I wrote on the topic of my writing life:
• Where I Write - click HERE

Hannah Foley
Hannah Foley icecream

Photograph by Rosie Parsons

Me, when I was 4, enjoying the beach

Copyright Hannah Foley 2023