A new voice in Irish literature

Above: Izzy signing copies of her book, photo courtesy of the author.

Eoin Meegan

Izzy Hodder’s first novel Someone Like You deals with the perennial tale of teen pregnancy. We meet Amy, a 17-year-old girl in her final year at school, whose world is turned upside down when she unexpectedly discovers she is pregnant.
Amy has very supportive parents, a loving boyfriend, Luke, a small coterie of close friends, and a precocious brother who is into photography. Her first anxiety is at having to break the news to her parents. (I couldn’t do that to them, was my first thought, yet I had to was my second – page 12) followed by the inevitable choices which lie ahead, an abortion or see the pregnancy through to term; heartbreaking decisions that countless young women have to face daily, hence the title. To find out what Amy does you will have to read the book, which I wholeheartedly recommend.

Background:
Izzy studied English and philosophy at university but found the subjects didn’t grab her. So after taking a year out she returned to Trinity College Dublin to pursue a subject that she holds dear, psychiatric nursing. She is currently working in St Pat’s where she finds the going tough but rewarding.
Initially several publishing companies expressed interest in publishing Someone Like You, including an Irish publisher who wanted the setting changed from London to Ireland, but Izzy held out for the deal that she wanted.
Her tenacity paid off when she landed the perfect deal with Austin Macauley. The book was launched back in February in Hodges Figgis bookstore in Dawson Street, by Senator Lynn Ruane with an attendance of over 100 people, when we lived in very different times.
The launch was a great success and the book immediately became a Hodges Figgis bestseller. Additionally, it sold very well across Europe and in Australia.
At only 21, Izzy Hodder is probably one of Ireland’s youngest published writers and a name to look out for. Before the lockdown NewsFour met Izzy to discuss, among other things, this her first novel. The obvious question needed to be got out of the way first.

Is Someone Like You semi autobiographical?
Izzy clearly, and with a smile that lights up the room, answers in the negative.
“Absolutely not. I was doing the Leaving Cert at the time, and like most teenagers started messing around online when I should have been studying (laughs). Then I happened upon a blog that dealt with 16-17 year old girls who were pregnant. I didn’t realise how big it was, and that’s when the idea got somehow implanted in my head for the book. I wrote consecutively for a few months, there were no plateaus, the ending and the beginning were there from day one. It was like it came to me fully formed, like the book wrote itself.”
Was there a specific reason that Someone Like You was set in London and not, say Dublin?
“Yes, when I wrote Someone Like You abortion was still illegal in Ireland, so that wouldn’t have been an option. Also the support groups for teen pregnancies we encounter in the book didn’t exist here. So it just wouldn’t work.”
The book explores the idea of choice. I’m thinking of Crystal, another girl in the novel who came from a different socio-economic background to Amy, and didn’t enjoy the same family support.
“Yes. We have a real thing about how we think a young pregnant girl would look. In another world Amy could have been Crystal. Sometimes people feel obliged to do certain things, and it may not be the right thing to do, but they feel it’s what other people want them to do. I think the book shows that any girl or woman can make the choice that is right for them.”
Is your first published work?
“No. I had an article published when I was only 13. I was surfing in Clonakilty, on Inchydoney beach [Izzy is a lover of riding the big waves], when I got the incredible offer from the Irish surfing magazine Tonnta [Irish for waves] to interview Bethany Hamilton, it was an opportunity I jumped at.”
[Bethany, for anyone who doesn’t know, is an Hawaiian girl who had her arm bitten off by a shark when she was a teenager. Later she went on to be an accomplished surfer, and is an inspiration to thousands.]
So, what writers inspired you growing up?
“My teen hero was Dawn O’Porter whose book ‘Paper Airplane’ is based on her diaries. I was always writing diaries and stuff as a teen and always felt, somehow, someday I would have material in there for a novel.”
[Other streams of inspiration for Izzy include Jeffery Eugenides’s, Middlesex, Tayari Jones, American Marriage, and Chanel Miller (Emily Doe) Know My Name.]
So what has Izzy Hodder planned for the future?
“I’m working on a completely different book now, which in a way is more challenging. It is about a sexual assault at a party, and it is set in Ireland. I think I’m a cause-driven writer.”
When confronted with dramatic change sometimes the loyalty of close friends is tested. I liked the way this theme was explored in Someone Like You. I have to say the reaction caught me a little off guard.
“I think for some people when faced with big life-changing events it can sometimes bring out their flaws. But that’s ok, because no one is perfect, but we still love them anyway.”

At leisure
After a hard day’s work or study Izzy’s preferred way to unwind is dance. She is a trained pole dancer, and has an aerial sports studio called Tribe where she works out six days a week. Another hobby of hers is to travel, which has taken her all over Europe, as well as to Dubai, the Far East, and of course Australia where her father comes from. She was hoping to go there in March to visit family but unfortunately Covid-19 put paid to that.

Summary
While the story of an unwanted pregnancy isn’t new, Someone Like You brings a freshness to it that is invigorating, with characters that are finely drawn, intelligent and believable. The choices we make in life all help to define us, as they impact not only on ourselves but on those we love.
In the final throw it’s not perfection that matters, but family and love and togetherness. An intelligent work from a woman you will definitely hear more of.
Someone Like You is published by Austin Macauley and is available in all good bookstores, price €8.95.