Victoria Hannan is a writer, photographer and creative director living in Melbourne. Her writing has appeared on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, 3:AM Magazine and in her monthly TinyLetter about swimming pools.
Kokomo, her first novel, was written at artist-in-residence programs in Brazil, Tasmania and Iceland. Kokomo was the 2019 winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript.
A stunning debut novel from the winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript.
When Mina receives an urgent call from her best friend back in Melbourne, her world is turned upside down. Her reclusive mother, Elaine, has left the house for the first time in twelve years.
Mina drops everything to fly home, only to discover that Elaine will not talk about her sudden return to the world, nor why she’s spent so much time hiding from it. Their reunion leaves Mina raking through pieces of their painful past in a bid to uncover the truth.
Both tender and fierce, heartbreaking and funny, Kokomo is a story about how secrets and love have the power to bring us together and tear us apart.
Published by Hachette Australia
Released 28th July 2020
This was a very personal and introspective session. The discussion of the novel and its two main characters frequently seemed to weave in and out of the author’s own life experiences. When asked about the likeness between herself and the main character, Mina, Victoria said that there is a definite emotional resonance, some shared life experiences, and a view of the world combined.
We began with an author reading of the first chapter, a reading that was prefaced with an apology from Victoria for ‘all the penises’. This first chapter has been for Victoria, the most worrisome. It’s a chapter that she dearly loves, the aim of it all along to be funny, but from the beginning it’s had mixed responses. From those who know her, they get the joke. From editors, ‘I love the first chapter but it’ll have to go.’ And yet, it stayed, something Victoria feels extremely lucky about.
When asked what Kokomo is about, Victoria gave what she calls, her elevator pitch, followed by this, the shortened version: ‘A book with a lot of dicks in it.’ From what I’ve gleaned today, I’d say this is both actual and metaphorical. More specifically, the novel is about bodies and sex, grief, and the juxtaposition between staying and leaving. It’s written to be both intimate and observational. Later in the session, Victoria gave another reading, from much further into the novel, of the other character perspective, Mina’s mother.
Prior to Kokomo, Victoria had written a lot of short pieces about bodies and sex, as well as three novels. The novels she labels as all bad, never to be seen again, but they were a training ground, each offering an exercise in sustaining a narrative that is novel length. The third novel was the one that led to the top line idea for Kokomo. At a point where she was at a bit of a cross roads in her life/career, Victoria ended up applying for a heap of writing residencies in far flung countries, got one in South America, quit her job, and wrote the first draft of Kokomo over there.
Ironically, Victoria actually hates the Beach Boys song Kokomo.