Claire King

Author

Archive for the ‘Themes’ Category

No Spoilers Please

Posted on: April 25th, 2016 by Claire - 4 Comments

What makes something a spoiler?

Although my new novel isn’t out until July, it’s been available on NetGalley for a while for reviewers to get hold of, a few uncorrected proofs have been sent out and there was recently a Goodreads giveaway, so it’s now in (very modest) circulation.

A few reviews have started to pop up, and since they are so lovely – and also gratifying for an author with pre-launch wobbles (PLWs) – I thought I would add some of the comments onto my Everything Love Is book page.  You can see that here.

Image0004LOW RES

However, in order to do that I had to edit out a few lines of what I would consider to be spoilers. I don’t believe for one minute that the reviewers considered their (very kind and insightful) words that way. But some of the comments included information that, as the author, I’d prefer future readers discovered at their own pace, through the story itself. And if they learn about it before diving in, well, it could spoil the read. Not ruin it, but still make it somehow less gratifying than I had intended, and tried to achieve through the (meticulous) way I wrote it.

With The Night Rainbow there was a huge potential spoiler, and to start with I was quite obsessive about looking at reviews to see if it had slipped out, and thanking reviewers for their discretion! I knew how easily it could be mentioned when trying to summarise what the book was about.* Thankfully only a few reader reviews ever mentioned it, although one national newspaper mentioned it in the first line of their otherwise glowing review. We couldn’t do anything about the thousands of print editions, although at Bloomsbury’s request they did edit the online version.

*I know how hard it is to answer the question “What is it about?” because I am asked it often and struggle to respond in any meaningful way. With some books it’s not a problem – it’s easy to talk plot points without spoiling the story – but with the kind of books I write, it isn’t and I find it easiest to stay thematic. With The Night Rainbow I would say it was about hope, our human struggles with grief, and the tenacity of children. With Everything Love Is I am simply telling people it’s a love story. I do realise that these are not always satisfactory answers, and I’m sorry about that. This is why I need reviewers, obviously.

I am always so moved by the careful way people phrase book reviews. I think that because book reviewers are book lovers, they  are sensitive to avoiding sharing plot points that could affect someone else’s experience of the book, even when this makes writing a review much harder to do. The question is, where is the line drawn between explaining something that gives a little context to the book, and revealing a spoiler, and as an author, should we just try not to get involved? After all, once our novels are published what people say about them is out of our hands.  We cannot curate readers’ experiences of our books any more than we can govern if they like them or not.

 

 

Food

Posted on: August 12th, 2013 by admin - 6 Comments

Summer Food

Food has been on my mind lately. (This is not unusual).

I love food. I love the colour and smell and taste of it. I love how tactile its preparation is and I like eating with my hands too. Food is one of the simplest human necessities that is also one of the finest pleasures, and you can do it three times a day. Sitting around a table to a meal can bring us together and it can nourish us. Of course food can also divide us, make us miserable and destroy us.

There’s little wonder, then, that food slips into fiction a lot. It certainly features heavily in my own writing

In The Night Rainbow, food is central to Pea because she’s having to source a lot of it for herself. She picks ripe peaches straight off the trees, waits for the morning baguettes to be delivered by the breadlady, and is very happy to take the biscuits that Claude offers. Her mouth waters at the pans of paella at the market and she tries to improve her mother’s mood by preparing food for her.

Food is also prominent in my next novel, although in a very different way, and I often use food as a metaphor in my flash fiction. Here are a couple of examples up at Fictionaut:

Anything Again

Flesh & Blood

Here is tonight’s supper, cooked and photographed by Mr King:

Since we moved here to France, our relationship with food has changed, and I was recently asked to write a magazine feature about our experience – the way we shop, prepare and eat French food. This week a photographer was sent over to shoot pictures of me with the family, as we took our weekly trip to the market, made meals and ate together. It’s was quite a surreal experience, and a very tiring day, but at the end of it, seeing how we eat through the eyes of someone else made me appreciate more than ever just how fortunate we are.

Here is a picture my husband snapped of me in the kitchen between shoots, wondering what to make for lunch:

Claire in the kitchen

And here is the photographer, Tom Parker, in our very shabby kitchen, taking photos of our pickles and preserves! You can bet when his photos turn up in the magazine feature it will all look very French and glamorous. (UPDATE: And here they are!)

Food_Photographer

But food isn’t really glamorous at all, is it? Certainly around here, the people who produce it work extremely hard for very little pay. If anything, the attitude we tend to have in our family towards food is one of gratitude and respect. Gratitude because we have such good and plentiful food, and respect in terms of our understanding of how it is produced and limiting waste.

This summer we crossed the Pyrenees over into Spanish Catalunya. We stayed at a lovely gîte there, owned by a family who have a few arable fields nearby, plus a farm with fruit, vegetables, chickens and pigs. They also have a Michelin starred restaurant. The farm is called Tancant cercles, which means closing circles, and their philosophy is that they produce the food they serve in their restaurant from start to finish, including growing the grain for their livestock. The owners were happy for us to take our children to have a look around the farm. There they showed us the harvested grain in the hoppers, which they feed to their pigs, they showed us the vegetables they grow and the free range chickens, and let the children go in and collect eggs. They showed us the pigs out and about, and the pregnant sows and those suckling the new litters. Then the owner took us and showed us the fridges, where they hang the pigs which have come back from the abattoir, the sausage and ham making processes and the cuts of meat, ready to be sold, or to be used in their restaurant. Later, we ate in the restaurant, and our children could point out pretty much everything on their plates and how they had seen it at the farm.

I know that this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I do feel strongly that when many children and adults don’t have a clear understanding of how the food gets to their plates, seeing the end to end process is an important part of having respect for the food you eat. My children are still young, but they can now make the link between the piglets they petted and the ham they ate. As they grow up, I hope that they can keep that in mind, and never justify eating food produced in a way that they would not be happy to witness for themselves.

If you are ever in the area, the hotel/restaurant is Els Casals and the gîte (which sleeps 14) is La Rovira. They are all within a few minutes of each other, not far from Berga in Northern Spain (Catalunya, about an hour North of Barcelona).

Also, I’m thinking that maybe next year I might run a little writers retreat there, so let me know if you’re interested.

Old farmhouse in Spain



Great Expectations

Posted on: February 21st, 2013 by Claire - 7 Comments

A week on from the publication of The Night Rainbow and lot of people have been asking me the same question – how do you feel?

I suspect the expected response is something along the lines of “Amazing!” But in practice for me the answer is much more complicated than that. I’ve heard some authors say that upon publication they’ve felt numb, or scared, or nothing at all. That’s certainly not the case for me. I have felt elated, thrilled and joyous. I’ve also felt anxious, a bit stressed and possibly a little obsessive. And I’ve felt grateful, a lot of grateful, for those who’ve supported me, knowing that what is to many just one more book out there in the world is to me the realisation of years of ambition and work and hope.

Rainbow in a meadow

Hope?

A lot has been said about hope:

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)

“Hope is a good breakfast but it is a bad supper.” (Francis Bacon)

and my favourite,

“I am prepared for the worst but hope for the best.” (Benjamin Disraeli)

Yes, that’s the one. That’s how I feel now – hopeful, but in a realistic sort of way. I hope that things will go well with The Night Rainbow. That it will sell well and people will love it. That it might even get nominated for some kind of a prize. I probably should be being bashful and saying “Oh no, not my little debut, I’m just grateful it’s been published at all.” But let’s be honest, that’s not true. I do hope for still more good things. And I’ve felt this way at every step along my writer’s journey:

  • The sharing of a piece of writing with someone and waiting for their reaction, hoping for a positive one.
  • The submitting of a poem or a story into a competition and hoping for a placing or even a win!
  • Submitting work to a journal and hoping for acceptance.
  • Submitting to agents and hoping every the ping of every email is a request for a full.
  • Hoping that the publishers will want to offer a contract.
  • Hoping for foreign rights deals.
  • Hoping for a nice cover quote or two and then later for good reviews…

It’s not greedy to hope, it doesn’t mean you’re not very happy with what you already have. It’s simply picturing the road ahead in a positive light. Despite the inevitable rejections and disappointments along the way, we dare to hope in all aspects of our lives because if we didn’t, what would the future look like? We have hopes for our loved ones and for others around us, for ourselves and for our societies and beyond. And the fact we perpetually experience things not working out as we’d hoped doesn’t – or shouldn’t – teach us we were wrong to hope.

We can’t give up hope because it keeps us moving forwards, keeps us living.

I titled this post Great Expectations because some people have said things like ‘You must have great expectations for your book!’ But I don’t. Expectations are another matter. If your hopes are not met then there’s a twang of disappointment and you move on. But if have expectations, and they are unfulfilled the disappointment is much more profound. You probably don’t have a fall-back. Expectations don’t allow for being prepared for the worst.

So here I am, hoping for the best, but prepared for the worst, since there’s not much else I can do for this book. However, there’s a lot I can do for the next one, and hope won’t fix my edits… I’m putting my attention to those now so I can hand the new novel into my agent and start all over again…

A Launch Party Mingle

Posted on: February 1st, 2013 by Claire - 4 Comments

I’m having (whoopee!) an actual launch party in London on 13th February, on the eve of The Night Rainbow’s official publication date, but not everyone can be there, so I’ll be doing some virtual mingling over the next couple of weeks with some very smashing people indeed.

I’m hoping it will be like being at a party on the web, where you wander around chatting, you meet some new people, ask some questions, have a bit of a laugh. And all this without having to wear heels. So come on in, help yourself to a drink, and I hope you have a good time!

Champagne glasses

Take a glass and mingle

Who I’ve met so far:

Kate at For Books’ Sake, where we talk about the portraying pressures of motherhood and how long a story should be.

Jen at The View From Here literary magazine, who asks me what are the important things, and where did the idea of a night rainbow come from?

Roz Morris, about the Undercover Soundtrack to The Night Rainbow – the songs that were part of its making.

Joe at the Bristol Short Story Prize, the home of my first published short story, who asks “What has it been like?”

Dan at Dog Ear Discs  – who asks about the environment of the novel and the surrounding countryside. “It becomes as important as the characters. Was it based on an actual place?”

Simon Savidge, who pokes around my bookshelves and asks “Are there any guilty pleasures?…”

Jen Campbell – Bookshoppist and author, who I may have made happy-sad.

Caroline Smailes, who wants to know about being a debut author and asks “How has your following your dream influenced your daughters?”

Isabel Costello on her Literary Sofa, where we talk about the pleasures and challenges of writing in a child’s voice.

Waterstones blog, where I talk about the inspiration behind The Night Rainbow

Alison Bacon, who asks about my experience of the publishing process with a top publisher, as well as life on twitter!

Vanessa Gebbie, who asks “How much did you want the novel to explore notions of non-belonging?”

Alison Wells – Who has been running a series of posts exploring ways of keeping our head above water in physical, mental, emotional and creative areas. I talk to her about keeping the joy in writing

Rumjhum Biswas at Flash Fiction Chronicles where I chat about how writing short fiction has influenced my novel, and what I looked for as an editor of a literary magazine

 

Spotted across a crowded room! I’m heading towards…

Chris Mosler  over at Thinly Spread, who has things to say, and a giveaway!

Nik Perring, about getting started and keeping going on a novel and…

… Jonathan Pinnock, who wants to know how I managed to wait out the two years from signing a book contract to publication…

and other people too…I hope there’s enough champagne.

The-Night-Rainbow-front

Paparazzi!

Marie-Claire selected The Night Rainbow as one of their top reads for the month.

Marie Claire Book Review

“An original and beguiling debut.”

Stylist magazine tipped me as one of their 4 soon to be bestsellers (alongside Maya Angelou and Dan Brown!)

You'll be on tenterhooks throughout

You’ll be on tenterhooks throughout

Good To Know magazine have listed The Night Rainbow as one of their 2013 book club picks (alongside Jodi Picoult, Yann Martel and Jojo Moyes!). If you post a review here you could win an e-reader.

 

Overheard…”Have you read it yet?”

Dan at Dog Ear Discs – The picturesque setting of Southern France in the midst of a heat wave is almost hypnotic.”

Nettie Thompson – “Pea and Margot are characters who stay with you, long after the last page is turned “

Teresa Majury – “…a narrator who will grab your heartstrings and never let go”

Tracey Upchurch – “Favourite character? Margot — little sister, voice of reason, bearer of night rainbows.

Laura Vickers at For Books’ Sake – Recommended for… Dreamers, mothers, lovers of the rich landscape of the south of France, and those in need of warming up.”

See more reviews on this page.

I’ll update the page with links as they happen.

For mingling in person, please see my events page here.

Champagne photo (c) Chris Chapman

 

 

 

Be careful!

Posted on: January 6th, 2013 by admin - 12 Comments

It’s the 6th January 2013 and it’s a glorious warm sunny day here in the south of France. We took the dogs out to a nearby field we’ve named The Big Meadow, for a run. After the Christmas holidays we all needed a good run.

From the meadow you can cross a fallow field and go down to a stream that comes down off Canigou. In summer it is teeming with water boatmen, tadpoles, dragonflies and pond skaters, but at this time of year the water is low and you have to look harder for waterlife. There are also lots of games to be played with pebbles, fallen branches, shadows and reflections and the nearby cows in the adjacent pasture.

My smallest daughter is just 5, and as she crosses the rocks I stand back, because I know she wants to do it, and she wants to do it by herself.

My instinct is to go with her, hold her hand, tell her ‘Be careful!’ But I don’t. I stand back and wait.

“Please don’t slip, please don’t slip, please don’t slip and hit your head.” (What I think).

“You’re doing brilliantly! You’ve got great balance.” (What I actually say.)

She does fine. She gains a little more confidence in the process and I gain a little more confidence in her abilities.

I’ve been following the early reader reviews of The Night Rainbow recently, and one of the discussion topics is about Pea, who is 5 1/2, and the fact her adventures in the meadows and down by the stream are unsupervised.

‘Is that realistic?’ readers ask.

The truth is I don’t know, because I don’t let my own children go wandering off down in the meadows and by the water on their own. When they get to a certain age then of course I will; I just don’t know what that age is yet. I’m hoping I know it when I see it.

But once upon a time young children, some as young as my daughter, were allowed to go tadpoling, or hunting for sticklebacks without adult supervision. It used to seem normal. It doesn’t any more, does it?

**UPDATE**: I’ve been directed to a couple of interesting websites that talk about this topic.

Here is an article called ‘Please don’t help my kids‘ : “I don’t want my daughters to learn that they can’t overcome obstacles without help. I don’t want them to learn that they can reach great heights without effort.”

Here’s Free Range Kids : “Fighting the belief that our children are in constant danger from creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers, Ivy League rejection letters and/or the perils of a non-organic grape.”

Archives

Feeds