08 Jul Q&A with author Clare Furniss
When did you know you wanted to write?
I always loved writing – when I was at school it was the thing I most enjoyed and was best at. I dreamed of being an author, but I didn’t really think it was something I could do. It wasn’t until I took a career break and had my children that the need to write became overwhelming and I signed up for a week-long Arvon course. It was on that course that I started writing ‘The Year of The Rat’!
What did you write first? Did you show it to anyone?
‘The Year of the Rat’ was the first thing I wrote, but it started off a very different book to the way it ended up. Hardly anyone saw the initial scenes, but the tutor on the Arvon course, Linda Newbery, read them and was very encouraging. That made so much difference to me – she really gave me the confidence to persevere with it.
What is your writing method? How do you go about making up the stories and, crucially, finishing what you start?
I’m not a detailed planner. I tend to know what the starting point is (so for the ‘Year of The Rat’ I started knowing that it would be about a girl whose mum had died in childbirth but the baby had survived) and have an idea of roughly where it will end, although that’s not completely set in stone. I know a few of the scenes along the way and I start by writing a few of those – I find they tend to be a good way of getting to know my characters and opening up other plot possibilities. I plan in more detail once I’ve already written quite a lot, working out how it all fits together, where the gaps are and what needs to fill them.
What are your writing habits?
I aim to write 1,000 words a day once I’m in the swing of a story, but it doesn’t always work like that. I spend a lot of time at the beginning of the process writing notes and fragments or just reading and thinking, and then towards the end I might write 3,000 words in a day. I like to write in different places too. I have a desk at home, but sometimes it’s easier to write away from home where there are fewer distractions. Libraries and coffee shops are ideal! I love writing early in the morning, I find I can get a lot more done in much less time. Your internal editor isn’t as intrusive at that time (or very late at night either) so you’re more likely to have flashes of inspiration or make leaps that you might not otherwise. It’s hard though as my children are up pretty early and I find it difficult to make myself get up earlier than them, especially in the winter! Late night writing is great too, but sadly I tend to find I can’t function too well the next day any more… I’m getting old!
How do you capture your ideas?
I scribble them down on bits of paper that I then lose, or in notebooks, which I then forget about…
What are you working on right now?
I’m finishing my next book ‘How Not To Disappear’. It’s the story of Hattie, a teenager who has just found out she’s pregnant, and her great Aunt, Gloria, who is in the early stages of dementia. They go on a journey together and on the way secrets from Gloria’s past are uncovered. It’s written as a dual narrative so we see both Hattie’s story and Gloria’s teenage story from their point of view. It’s been challenging writing two intertwining stories, but good fun too!
What books have helped you in your writing process?
I must admit I haven’t read any books about how to write. I always find reading books I love very helpful in thinking about how other writers do it, the techniques they use and the way they use different approaches to achieve what they do.
What are you most proud of?
I can honestly say the thing I’m proudest of is having finished the manuscript of ‘The Year of The Rat’ and all the effort and patience it took to get it to a point where it was ready to send off. After you’ve reached that point, everything that happens has an element of luck to it – you’re not completely in control. But getting to that point, and all the hard work and perseverance that involves, without ever knowing if it’s going to pay off, is all down to the writer.