Clare Carson – Q&A

Today I’m pleased to welcome Clare Carson to the blog. Clare’s debut novel, Orkney Twilight, is published by Head of Zeus on 17 September 2015.

Clare has kindly answered some of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about Orkney Twilight. 

Orkney Twilight is a story narrated by Sam,  an eighteen year old political activist who  is better at playing board games than she is at relationships. Sam wants to find out about her father, Jim, an undercover cop. She has grown up knowing that he has a secret job, and witnessing some of his activities. He has always told her stories and made jokes to explain what he is doing but she decides she wants to dig up the truth beneath the fictions. She sets off on a holiday to Orkney with Jim and her friend Tom, a trainee journalist, and she starts digging.

2. Where did the inspiration come from for the book? 

When I was a child, my father worked for a secret police unit that very few people knew about until a documentary revealed some of the details in 2002, two years after his death. I wanted to write a story about the strange absurdities of growing up in a family where private lives and secrets of the state are entwined. I set it in the Orkney Islands because I spent many childhood summer holidays there and I thought the wild landscape and ancient monuments were right for a mystery about hidden histories.

3. Orkney Twilight is your debut novel. What has surprised you most about the publishing process? 

I was surprised to be published! I hadn’t shown the manuscript to anybody before I emailed it to an agent. I pressed send, thought oh well that’s the last I’ll hear of that – and then I had a positive response. It took a while to sink in. And then I got a publishing contract and I was surprised and delighted about that too.

Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel? 

I plan and then I write and I realize my plan is rubbish, but I keep going because at that point I think it’s better to write a terrible first draft than produce a good plan. I wrote the first novel while working and looking after children so the process was stretched out over three or four years. The time line for the second novel is much shorter – it will be about a year and a half from first line to publication.

5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all? 

I am an anthropologist  and when I’m not writing I work in international development, mainly on human rights. I relax by watching the Great British Bake Off with my daughters. I also walk anywhere to get away from everything including my own niggling anxieties.

6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?

The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It’s more like a poem or a prayer than a novel. Beautifully bleak but, in the end, hopeful.

7. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. What question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer? 

What is that lovely song you are playing and do you always listen to music while you type?

Queen Bee by Taj Mahal and yes, I find music helps me concentrate.

Thanks very much for answering my questions and for appearing on my blog.

Thank you for asking.

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About the book:

“All families have secrets. But some have more secrets than others.

Jim is a brilliant raconteur whose stories get taller with each glass of whisky. His daughter Sam thinks it’s time she found out the truth about her dad.

On holiday in Orkney, Sam spies on Jim as he travels across the island. What has he hidden in the abandoned watchtower? Who is he meeting in the stone circle at dusk?

And why is he suddenly obsessed with Norse myths?

As Sam is drawn into Jim’s shadowy world, she begins to realise that pursuing the truth is not as simple as it seems…

Set against the harsh beauty of the remote Scottish islands of Orkney, inspired by the author’s own childhood, this is a gripping first novel from an astonishing new talent.”

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