Claire King


Archive for November, 2012

Symbols and Ceremonies

Posted on: November 27th, 2012 by Claire - 9 Comments

I’m planning a book launch. A proper, raise a glass, face to face, huggy, happy book launch. And here’s why.

Symbols and ceremonies see us through life. Through births and deaths, through graduations and marriages, through summer and winter solstices, through war and peacetime. We mark the anniversaries of events that have only the most personal significance as though they matter. Because we know that they do.

They mark a point in time when we recognise some step of our human endeavour, with the people who want to share that with us.

My first novel is about to be launched into a sea of books, an endless tide of literature from the beginning of history to far into the future. One book in millions. I  know my book and I are small fish in a great ocean. But for me this book marks a moment of triumph, of striving and hoping and of sheer good luck.

I really, really, want to celebrate that, and if you do too, you’re welcome to join me.

My launch will be held on Feb 13th 2013 in a beautiful bookshop in London. I’ll be signing books and there will be wine. If you’re a reader of this blog or a Twitter follower and would like an invitation, please do contact me.

I will also be doing an event in Yorkshire a couple of weeks later, with the lovely people at this independent bookshop in Ripon. Please get in touch if you’d like to see me there and when I’ve more details I will let you know.

If you’d like to be part of my book launch in some other way, then please do also get in touch.



I don’t know this man but I like his style.

The post in which I hug Hugh

Posted on: November 23rd, 2012 by Claire - 7 Comments

I was lucky enough to be in London on Wednesday for another drinks reception at Bloomsbury.

Authors who are releasing books in January – June 2013 were invited to meet each other as well as the Bloomsbury team who have been (and still are working on their books). Yet another wonderful evening, made of course by the people who were there – diverse, brilliant and lovely.

You might think (I did) that going to something like this might be a little scary – you know there will be authors there who you really ‘ought’ to recognise, or at least when introduced you should know of and ideally have read their work. (In reality of course no matter how well read you are this just isn’t possible). On the other hand there might be people who you read avidly and admire, but you worry about telling them so without gushing and looking like a bit of a stalker.

 Seychellen 2008 fish

But it seems that most established authors seem to know your fear, and everyone is very relaxed and usually find ways to turn the conversation a two way chat about both of you. No-one asked, for example, “Have you read any of my books?” Authors really are lovely people.

Another thing is that you can’t possibly meet everyone. Walking into a room full of authors is like walking into a bookshop – where do you start? There were so many other people in the room I would have loved to talk to, or even just say hello, but time just flew by.

My highlights of the evening:

  • Meeting the delightful grandmother turned snail-scientist, Ruth Brooks, who was bustling about the room meeting as many people as she could and finding out as much as possible about everybody. Ruth’s non-fiction book is ‘A Slow Passion’:

When BBC Radio 4’s Material World programme announced a search for the UK’s top amateur scientist, little did anyone expect that the winning experiment would comprise one of our humblest garden pests. Ruth Brooks posed this question: Do snails have a homing instinct? The nation was gripped by the unexpected thesis and by Ruth’s online diaries, which catalogued her trials and tribulations as she got to grips with these slimy little gastropods. A Slow Passion is Ruth’s story, with anecdotes and misadventures galore. What starts out as a ruthless vendetta against the snails that are decimating her hostas becomes a journey of discovery into the whys and wherefores of snail life. When Ruth dumps a group of the worst offending snails in a far-off wood, she decides to paint their shells with nail varnish, just to see what happens. And guess what, they come back home. This is the beginning of an obsession that sees the grandmother-turned-scientist prowling about and pouncing on the snails in her garden, sneaking off on night-time missions to repatriate bucketloads of painted snails, reading up on the sex-life of snails (which turns out to be unexpectedly romantic) and, eventually, sending off the application to a national competition for home science. With charming illustrations, A Slow Passion is a sweet, funny and surprising investigation into the hidden life of snails, which will change the way you look at the smaller (and slower) things in life.


  • * Chatting to wise and witty  Elisabeth Luard, food-writer, journalist and broadcaster, whose memoir is ‘My Life as a Wife :  Love, Liquor and What to Do About the Other Women’

They met in the back offices of Private Eye. He was the proprietor, the man the press called the Emperor of Satire, who every girl in London wanted to date. She was the reluctant debutante, an art student, and the office typist. Their affair was secret, and passionate, and days at the office were followed by nights in her Pimlico flat. When things got tricky, she swapped London for Mexico. He followed and proposed. She was just twenty-one when they married.

Luard’s fascinating, witty and often brave memoir charts forty years of marriage to a man who was as cavalier and unreliable as he was charismatic and charming. Good-looking and athletic, with a keen intelligence and a deep understanding of and love for women, Nicholas Luard was also an absentee father, a philanderer, a wheeler-dealer whose numerous harebrained business schemes usually lost rather than made money, and ultimately a man whose love of the bottle was all-consuming. But while life with Nicholas was never going to be easy, it was also never going to be dull.

In My Life as a Wife, award-winning writer Elisabeth Luard tells the story of her life with this hugely glamorous and extraordinary maverick of a man. She traces their years spent together in London, Spain, France, the Hebrides and Wales, with four children, one of whom died tragically from AIDS. It is a journey littered with numerous eccentric friends and innumerable escapades, often staying just ahead of the bank, through to the grim days of her husband’s terrifying descent into alcoholism and insanity, his liver transplant and ultimately his death.

Yet this is a story of laughter and hope as well as sadness – the healing power of children, the comfort of the kitchen table, the delight of good food and the simple joy of making life work – written by a woman of spirit.


  • * Making a bee-line for William Sutcliffe, whose book ‘The Wall’ is one of my must-read novels for 2013. William was telling me about his trips to Israel and Palestine to research his novel, and about how he managed to keep a focus on storytelling rather than political ‘tubthumping’:
 Joshua is thirteen. He lives with his mother and step-father in Amarias, an isolated town on top of a hill, where all the houses are brand new. At the edge of Amarias is a high wall, guarded by soldiers, which can only be crossed through a heavily fortified checkpoint. Joshua has been taught that beyond the concrete is a brutal and unforgiving enemy, and that The Wall is the only thing keeping him and his people safe.
One day, looking for a lost football, Joshua stumbles across a tunnel which leads towards this forbidden territory. He knows he won’t get another opportunity to see what is beyond The Wall until he’s old enough for military service, and the chance to crawl through and solve the mystery is too tempting to resist. He’s heard plenty of stories about the other side, but nothing has prepared him for what he finds…
The Wall is a novel about a boy who undertakes a short journey to another world, to a place where everything he knows about loyalty, identity and justice is turned upside down. It is also a political fable that powerfully evokes the realities of life on the West Bank, telling the story of a Settler child who finds there are two sides to every story.
That’s just three of the amazing people in the room. And it was wall-to-wall with them!
  • I also got to catch up with some of my fellow 2013 literary debutants, as well Stephen May whose brilliant novel ‘Life! Death! Prizes!’ has just been nominated for the Costa Award 2012 and meet some other fellow newbies, like Hannah Evans, whose book MOB Rule (January 2013) talks about her lessons learned as a mother of 3 boys.
  • Finally, Roshi Fernando and I plucked up the courage to go and ‘mingle’ with the very approachable Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Here I am hugging on him like some kind of groupie, as we told him how we admired his work on sustainability, food integrity and eating seasonal produce and chatted about literature, France and figs.

Hugging Hugh

Last but by no means least, I had the chance to catch up in person with the lovely people at Bloomsbury involved with The Night Rainbow as well as other editors, designers, marketing, sales, PR and rights people, all of whom are working hard on all our different books with such passion and care.

I feel really privileged to be a part of this Bloomsbury family.





Free Review Copies of The Night Rainbow at Waterstones

Posted on: November 18th, 2012 by Claire - 2 Comments


This offer is now closed, and I was going to take down this post. But then I noticed that readers’ reviews are now coming in (you can read them here) and I wanted to say a big thank you to the reviewers, who are writing such considered and detailed reviews for The Night Rainbow. I really appreciate it. Thank you!


I’m over the moon to be featured as one of Waterstones current six Read & Review titles.

You can enter a free draw to win one of 24 early review copies of The Night Rainbow (you need to be a Waterstones card holder, but if you don’t already have one you can easily apply for one online – there are lots of advantages).

Closing date was 6th December 2012

De nachtelijke regenboog

Posted on: November 9th, 2012 by Claire - 11 Comments

Yet another beautiful cover!

This time for the AW Bruna/Orlando Dutch edition of The Night Rainbow, which will be published in May 2013.


Als u vragen hebt over de Nederlandse editie kunt u contact opnemen met

Just to remind you, here are my UK and US book covers. We had a discussion with booksellers and Bloomsbury *here* about why they are so different.

The High Roads and Low Roads of Scottish Fiction

Posted on: November 6th, 2012 by Claire - 10 Comments

I read with interest recently an article that said Scottish children are not being taught enough Scottish literature. A debate has now sprung up over whether or not it should be made mandatory in schools up to exam level. Personally I don’t think that’s a useful approach, but I do believe strongly that if you don’t engage with the culture of the place you live – including the literature and art as well as the local surroundings – then you are likely to feel disengaged from the place, with all the associated problems this brings to a society. Here’s an interesting essay on the subject.

I mentioned this to my Twitter friend, Scottish author Alison Bacon, and she offered to post here on the subject. I asked her if she would talk about what Scottish fiction has meant to her. What did she grow up reading, and how has that influenced her writing?

Here’s what she has to say: My early preferences were the usual suspects: – Enid Blyton (any or all) and series like Sadlers Wells  and The Chalet School,  but for a while adventure stories by Scottish author Jane Shaw were my real favourites. (Like the period feel? Collector’s items now, apparently!)

I went on to historical novels – any period, any country, including Rosemary Sutcliffe, Mary Renault and with them D.K. Broster’s Jacobite Trilogy And so, if we let pass that Broster wasn’t actually a Scot (!) I’d still argue that Scottish literature was always part of my reading mix. As a teenager I progressed to the miscellany of fiction with which our house was filled, popular novelists of the forties and fifties like Howard Spring, Ernest Raymond, Agatha Christie, and amongst them Scottish classics –  Kidnapped,  Catriona, The Heart of Midlothian. I can still see them lined up around the walls of the ‘front room’ although if anything nudged me towards them it was probably the good old (can we say that now?) BBC whose Sunday serials gave a pretty decent nod to RLS as well as Dumas and Dickens.

Meanwhile, school neither encouraged or discouraged us in reading ‘home-grown’ authors: Burns, Buchan, and Barrie all figured, if briefly. But in the sixties the trend was for modern (in many cases American) authors. I think I only got to the fabulously lyrical Sunset Song and the rest of A Scots Quair via the 1970s TV adaptation (which wonder of wonders, is now available on YouTube!)

To be honest, as I grew up, I don’t remember distinguishing in my mind between Scottish and other writers. Books were generally good things, any decent story would do. But I’m reminded by a member of the Facebook Support Scottish Writing group that I and an entire generation were brought up on the Sunday Post, an icon of popular culture and the prime motivator in my learning to read!

Later, married in England and burying myself in Margaret Drabble and Penelope Lively, I was brought back ‘home’ in reading terms by none other than Inspector Rebus. Never mind the plot or the body-count,I was instantly hooked by the writing ‘voice’. I still can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something in the prose that just feels right. Rankin, like Iain Banks, is from my own neck of the woods, but I find that other Scots writers have the same effect, particularly poet and novelist Moira Forsyth whose dialogue has a ring of authenticity that is instantly satisfying. There are still more gaps in my Scottish reading than I will ever have time to fill, but I’ve recently added James Robertson and Janice Galloway to my favourites as well as Scottish indie authors like Catherine Czerkawska and  Chris Longmuir  all of whom to satisfy that need to hear the ‘guid Scots tongue’.

Going on to writing,  I’m inevitably influenced (no iconoclast me!) by the books I have read, including all of the above. But I don’t consciously ape any writer either. So is my writing style ‘Scottish’? I’m not sure I could answer that for myself! Nor do I feel that Scottish writers have particularly influenced what I choose to write about. My first novel (unpublished) was set in Oxford and France. But a trip to Scotland in 2007 (our first for many years) prompted a strong feeling of homecoming, and maybe even a sense of guilt at having gradually let the idioms and rhythms of speech slip from my conscious memory. And so A Kettle of Fish became, literally, a nostalgia trip, not in the sense of a memoir (I hasten to add!) but I think I used Ailsa’s story not so much to rediscover my roots as to repair my memories of them. Does that make sense?

From my point of view, the experiment worked, because I feel I know Fife better now than I did when I started the novel.I just have to hope that it works for my readers too. I’m afraid I’ve shied away from what is maybe the crucial question of what makes a Scottish writer. Scottish blood? Living in Scotland? Writing about Scotland? Any or all of these will play a part. As an exiled Scot with a desire to write, I’m not sure that I would have put myself in that group before I started Kettle. But it feels like I’m part of it now

 About Ali and her Writing  Ali Bacon was born in Dunfermline in Scotland and graduated from St Andrews University. She now lives near Bristol. Her writing has been published in Scribble, The Yellow Room and a number of online magazines. She was shortlisted for the A&C Black First Novel Competition 2006. Her first published novel is A Kettle of Fish.

Website and blog:

A Kettle of Fish  is a rollercoaster family drama set in Scotland and published by Thornberry Publishing Buy it from Amazon UK (£1.99) or Amazon USA in Kindle format. You can ‘Look Inside’ to read a sample.

Facebook page: Print edition coming soon.

Spotted in The Bookseller!

Posted on: November 4th, 2012 by Claire - 4 Comments

I’m in The Bookseller this week, tipped for February, which is now only 3 months away.

I’m in the last trimester of a very long gestation, and now the bookshops are starting to think about The Night Rainbow. I’m a bit excited!

Just like a movie

Posted on: November 3rd, 2012 by Claire - 4 Comments

Something that struck me this week, watching the response to the disastrous weather in the USA, was how the phrase “Just like a movie” was used again and again.

It’s the same reaction we heard from witnesses of 9-11. “It was like something out of a disaster film”. I understand how that feels – I watched those events unfold on a TV on another continent, but I also felt it hard to grasp that this was news footage and not fantasy.

There is human suffering – natural and man-made –  happening all over the world, right now. There is genocide in Sri Lanka and Syria, there are devastating floods in Thailand and Pakistan, there are earthquakes and famines and civil wars. But these terrible events are not set in landscapes that we have seen in Hollywood films. So they don’t look like the movies. And I wonder if we find them harder to understand, in some way, because of that? Because it’s a story we haven’t heard?

Pakistan floods: Families stilll lack shelter, three months on

Storytelling is so important to human beings. We tell each other scenarios – real or imagined – and show characters who suffer, but who overcome adversity in the end. And our brains absorb these stories almost as though we have lived the experience itself. We learn, without having had to suffer.

Stories are told in many ways, in written fiction, in art and on film. We project our fears and hopes into these stories. And although, thinking of the disasters I mentioned above, Hollywood hasn’t always got it covered, you don’t have to look far to find written stories about these kinds of events. The best selling book in the world chronicles them all.

Do we feel comfort that something we experience is so terrible that it is just like in a movie or in a book? Perhaps. Because the day we are confronted with something that we have not yet been able to imagine will be a terrible day indeed.