Friday Reads – The Hollow Sea by Annie Kirby

It’s time for another Friday Reads post and this week I’m featuring The Hollow Sea, the mesmerising mythology inspired debut by Annie Kirby. Let’s find out a bit more about the book then get chatting to Annie. 😊


They say the Hollow Sea is cursed. A wild expanse separating the remote islands of St Hía, not even the locals brave its treacherous waters.

But new arrival Scottie feels a pull she can’t ignore. Because behind the curse is the legend of Thordis: a woman whose story feels eerily familiar. No one knows what became of her, but Scottie believes Thordis’s fate may answer questions about her own past.

Despite the islanders’ warnings, Scottie sets out to discover the truth. But as she dares to cross the Hollow Sea, will its secrets give her the answers she needs?

Or will the past drag her under?

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Welcome to my blog, Annie. What inspired you to write this book?

I wanted to write a book about infertility that didn’t end with a baby, but also that didn’t end with the protagonist going mad and stealing someone else’s baby. Trying and failing to become a mum is an experience that I think is underrepresented in fiction, as is the decision to stop fertility treatment, even though it’s something that thousands of people go through. I also wanted to represent the complexity of many people’s journeys towards permanent childlessness, for example being in unsafe relationships, or grappling with childhood trauma can be factors in not becoming a parent along with many other factors.

I also love the sea, remote storm-lashed islands, sea mythology, whales, seals and the uncovering of decades buried secrets, so I wove all of that in too. It was important to me that childless-not-by-choice people might see even just a small part of their experience reflected in the book, but also that people with no experience of or even interest in childlessness could read the book and enjoy it.

What research did you do when writing The Hollow Sea?

One of the characters in the book goes to work in a seal sanctuary, so I decided I would do the same and volunteered for a 2-week stint at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary. I thought I would be cuddling and bottle-feeding seal pups, but the reality was very different and included prepping frozen fish for feeding until you couldn’t feel your own fingers anymore, rinsing fish blood out of hundreds buckets a day and cleaning up seal pup poop, which smells as unpleasant as you might imagine. But it was also a life-changing experience and I loved working with rescued seal pups in the sanctuary hospital as well as feeding the permanent residents. I was amazed to learn that some seals can be very picky over which fish they like to eat! It was the hardest work I’ve ever done and I’m in complete awe of the animal care teams who have to do it every day. I was so glad I did it though, because it enabled me to write about working in a seal sanctuary so much more authentically and in a much less sentimental way than I might otherwise have done.

How fascinating! What are you writing at the moment?

A ghost story set in 16th century Italy and 17th century London, based on the lives of noblewoman Vittoria Accoramboni, who was assassinated in Padua aged 28, and John Webster, the English playwright whose 1612 play The White Devil was loosely based on her life. I’ve been lucky enough to receive some funding from the Arts Council of England to help me write the book and will be going to Italy soon to do some research and visit some of the places Vittoria lived. I’m very excited about both the book and the research trip!

A research trip to Italy sounds amazing! Thanks so much for dropping by to talk to us today, Annie. Lots of luck with this book and your new one!

Meet Annie


Annie Kirby lives on the south coast of England where she work part-time as a research fellow in a university. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia and a PhD in American Studies. Her short stories have been published in anthologies and broadcast on national radio and she is a winner of the Asham Award for short fiction. Her first novel, The Hollow Sea, was published by Penguin Michael Joseph in 2022.

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Karen King – Writing about the light and dark of relationships.
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