- Latest Book: The Escape
- First of all – Can you give us the ‘elevator pitch’ version of your latest book.
Set in 1945 as World War Two ends and the iron curtain falls, and 1989 as the Berlin Wall is breached and the iron curtain lifts, this dual-timeline story features two women who share a history and a dark secret. Can they save each other now the time has come to reveal it?
- Tell us something about yourself that we likely don’t know! The more obscure the better!
I proposed to my husband on Leap Day 1996 at Split airport, when he was on a 72-hour leave pass from peacekeeping operations during the Bosnia conflict.
- Do you write in silence, or with music? If you write to music, give us the top three songs on your writers’ playlist this week.
Both – I write in longhand in silence in the first instance, then transcribe/edit with music onto my laptop. I like a bit of classical, or some chilled indie electronica. This week’s listening has included Mahler, The XX, and Sandro Perri, amongst others.
- Are you a plotter or pantser?
Again, both. I happen to agree with the so-called 6Ps theory (prior planning prevents p*ss poor performance). However, no plan survives first contact with the enemy, as they say. Hmmm, I realise that sounds a bit military. I suppose another way of looking at it is like a birth plan: having something written down makes you feel secure, even though you secretly know it will all go Pete Tong once the contractions start!
- Have your characters ever ‘gone off script’ – hijacked your story and taken it in a direction you didn’t expect?
With my second book, The English Agent, a character insinuated himself into the narrative and ended up bagging a whole storyline. It didn’t change the book’s ending, but it made the journey there a whole lot more engaging.
- If you could spend time with any character from any of your books, who would it be and what would you do?
I have a soft spot for Vi, one of the main characters in my third book, The Night Raid. She’s the sort of friend who’d hold your hair off your face if you were being sick, even though she’d be the one who plied you with doubles and got you drunk in the first place!
- Which of your characters can you say you would least get along with in real life?
Vera Atkins was an SOE agent handler in WW2, and I used her fictitious namesake in The English Agent. She was a formidable, fiercely intelligent woman, who didn’t suffer fools gladly. You know, the kind of person who is always loudly and impatiently right about everything. I think I would prefer to admire her drive and intellect from a safe distance.
- Do you read your reviews?
I try not to, because it’s just an exercise in egoism, isn’t it? But sometimes I can’t help myself. If I get a really bad review, I’ll go and read the reviews for an author who I really admire, and remind myself that even truly brilliant writers get the occasional one or two-star rating, and that makes me feel a bit better.
- What has been the toughest criticism you have been given since becoming a published author?
The criticism inside my own head, if I’m honest.
- What is the best compliment you have received?
I have had some lovely, genuine, compliments from fellow authors. I won’t say who they are because it’s a bit show-offy, but praise from a writer you admire is just the best feeling.
- Do you have a day job when you are not writing? If so, what do you do?
At the moment, no (I have three teenagers, a dog, and a father-in-law who lives in our annexe, so life is still busy). I occasionally run writing workshops and give talks, though.
- Can you name three authors who have inspired your writing?
Mary Wesley, Joanna Trollope, Kate Atkinson.
- What was your favourite book as a child?
The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
- What scene in your latest book was the hardest scene to write (without giving away too many spoilers!)
Hmmm…all the East Germany scenes were tricky because there was less to go on, so the research was challenging – there are lots of books in English about wartime Germany and UK, but not a huge amount (although the ones that do exist are very good) on Cold War East Germany.
- Do you have any other author friends? If so, can you name a few and have any of them given you a piece of advice you would consider invaluable on your publishing journey?
Because I’m a member of the Romantic Novelists Association (RNA), who are a sociable bunch, I know quite a few romance authors, and regularly meet up with the ones who are in the RNA Nottingham Chapter, including Cathy Bramley and Caroline Bell Foster. I also used to work as a nanny for literary fiction author Betsy Tobin (who now runs the bookshop Ink@84 in North London and writes rom coms under the pen name Natalie Cox), and it was seeing her succeed as an author that made me realise that ‘real’ people can be writers too, and inspired me to start my own journey towards publication.
For Bonus Points – Answer five fabulous frivolous questions!
- What is your biggest fear?
Obviously the loss of a family member – but I’m sure that’s true for everyone. In terms of phobia-type fears, I’m okay with snakes and spiders, but keep those leeches well away!
- If you could have any superhero power, what would it be?
To make depressed people happy again.
- If you could write one line to be etched into your tombstone, what would it read?
- If you could give your younger self ONE piece of advice, what would it be?
Hang on in there.
- Finally – Who are your latest Cover Crushes?
I’ve recently read Kate Atkinson’s Transcription, which was predictably brilliant.
You can purchase Clare’s latest book: The Escape here on Amazon.
You can read our full review of The Escape here.
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Wonderful interview. My compliments!