Hive by Canterbury’s April Doyle

Climate change is such a common phrase in the news that it’s lost its power, neutered by its ubiquity. Sometimes the only way to see something afresh is to look at it through a different lens, and April Doyle’s debut novel Hive does just that, looking at the decline of pollinators in a story set in a near future that is getting closer and closer every day.

 

Where did the idea for Hive come from?

I think the idea was brewing away in my head for a while – there has been so much news and programming about climate change and biodiversity loss. A few years ago I was going through a phase where I wasn’t sleeping well and every morning I’d be wide awake for Farming Today on Radio Four – they did a series of reports about how pollinator decline was affecting farming.

 

Did the story involve a lot of technical or scientific research? If so, were you surprised by anything you discovered?

I tend to do research as I go along when I’m writing – I think if I’d stopped to think about it before I started the novel I would still be in my research phase – there is so much to learn, and I know I’ve only scratched the surface. I was amazed to find out about all the different species of bees there are in the world. I knew a little bit about our native bees, but I didn’t know about all of their different habits. Some of them don’t form hives. Some of them live underground. I discovered that not all bees are yellow and black striped – they come in all different colours, shapes and sizes. I learned about how bees defend their hives when threatened, and that came in handy during a particular point in the novel (no spoilers).

 

The future of Hive is depressingly near. Was it a sobering subject to write about?

It was. This is a really scary subject, and it’s always tempting not to think too much about issues like this because it quickly starts to feel overwhelming. But something in me wouldn’t let this idea go, and I kept coming back to it, even though it scared me. I tried to explore some of the potential consequences for our world if pollinators continue to decline, through the lives of my main characters. But although it’s a difficult topic the story is also about hope in adversity, and what can be achieved when people try to work together to get through difficult times.

There are so many people working on solutions to the climate crisis right now. I hadn’t really appreciated it until I watched the Earthshot Prize last year. It would be wonderful if these innovations were more in the news. I’m trying to stay hopeful for the future.

 

Did living in rural Kent affect the story or setting?

It was really helpful to set the book in the place where I live, and have it right outside my door every day when I was writing Hive – I’ve never done that before. I grew up in Wiltshire but I’ve lived in and around Canterbury since I was a student and with each move we seem to get a little further out into the countryside – it’s such a beautiful county! The first draft of Hive was set in America, on the West Coast, where bee farmers begin the pollination season taking their hives to the almond orchards. In the second draft, moving the setting to the Garden of England definitely felt like the right move – it helped me to get closer to the characters and their stories, and I think it made the writing stronger. The setting in the novel moves from the Weald of Kent right across to the Isle of Thanet and a fictionalised version of the giant greenhouses at Thanet Earth.

 

Who are your creative inspirations?

I love Barbara Kingsolver’s novels, and the work of Ursula le Guin. I go back to Nora Ephron’s books and screenplays again and again. One of the writers who inspires me most is Anne Tyler. I wish I could write characters as well as she does.

When I feel like I need some creative inspiration there are three books I always dip into: Stephen King’s On Writing, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic.

 

What was the last great book you read?

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus – it’s completely wonderful.

 

Are you working on any new projects at the moment?

I’m trying to find an agent for my second novel – and I’m now at work writing my third. I’ve always got something on the go, the ideas just keep coming!

 

Hive is published by The Book Guild, and is available at Canterbury Waterstones and online in paperback and as an e-book.

by Alice Smales

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