Among the questions I had for Clare Clark (see Monday's interview) were a couple to do with her writing methods and routine, and as there wasn't sufficient space in the article to include what she had to say on that subject, I thought I'd post her answers here.
I began by asking Clare about the book's complexity and how she went about constructing a long novel which contains so many elements and themes. I wondered whether she was working with all the strands together, carrying them throughout and weaving them in as she went, or were some aspects later additions, characters or references brought in by way of 'accent colours' when the bulk of the work had been done?
"Naturally much of the book is planned, if not from the beginning at least as the story unfolds, so that as the writer you are always several chapters ahead of yourself. With Beautiful Lies the novel unfolded much as it is now, so that I wrote it chronologically, rather than drastically restructuring it afterwards. Having said that, it remains the prerogative (and job!) of a novelist to make sure that there are no dropped stitches in the knitting so there is always a certain amount of going back over what you have written to make sure that it works as a whole. What startles me always is the way that, even if one doesn't always know precisely where a book is going as you write it, you often discover that, even when it takes you to places that surprise you, there are elements you have already written that seem to set you up for the outcome, as though a part of you knew where you were going all along. I don't know how that works, and I suspect I don't really want to investigate it too closely or attempt to unpick it, in case by doing so I somehow damage the mechanism by which it works."
Related to this, I asked Clare about her daily routine and whether her research and planning were all done in advance or fitted in as required during the writing process itself.
"I don't have a ritual as such, though I would admit that I am pretty disciplined. Because I tend not to work too much in the holidays, I have to use the time I have carefully. Every day, once the children have left for school, I catch up on necessary admin (it helps to clear my head) and then go out to the shed at the bottom of my garden or to the library. If it is a writing day I try not to stop until I have written a thousand words. As for research, the bulk of it is done before I start writing. The saying 'write what you know' is just as important to the historical fiction writer as the contemporary one, perhaps even more so, and I have to feel that my knowledge of the period is not only intellectual but emotional, so I have to have done sufficient reading for it really to have penetrated my heart as well as my head. I think that the research acts like a crystalline solution - as I read, the story starts to take shape and it is when the crystal is almost fully formed that I know I am ready to start writing. Of course there will always be details to investigate - it would be impossible to know exactly where one's story is going to take one before you start, and I wouldn't to as the best things happen when you are open to them."
For more posts on writing click here and scroll down, and for further interviews click on the authors' names: