Today we are fortunate to be featured on the Claire Corbett Blog Tour to celebrate the release of Watch Over Me, which is one of our May book clubs so keep your eye out for my review.
Claire Corbett has a background in government policy as well as writing on defence and strategy for The Diplomat, The Strategist and The Monthly; all of which are sure to be beneficial to her writing about the occupied city of Port Angelsund.
Please join me as we learn a little more about Claire and her writing.
Hi Claire, welcome to Beauty and Lace and thanks for talking with us.
When did you know you wanted to pursue a writing career?
I think I’ve always known it. Since I could read, I’ve been writing. When I was four a little poem of mine was published in something put out by the University of British Columbia, where my mother was studying. By the age of nine I was sketching out ideas for fairly out-there novels involving families of sea urchins.
Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?
I was encouraged by various publishers and agents over the years, including Penguin and A&U, before being picked up by Allen and Unwin through my agent. I did have some short fiction published in the years before having my first novel accepted – it was enough to let me know that I could write but hadn’t mastered the form of the novel. That took a long time.
Watch Over Me is your second novel, can you tell us a little about it please.
For me this is quite a magical novel because of its setting in the High Arctic; it has that mysterious quality of fog and glacial light and then there’s the ever-present danger because the city of Port Angelsund, where it’s set, is under occupation. Which puts the central story, an illicit love between the main character, Sylvie, and her officer, under stress. So, WATCH OVER ME is about what it might be like to try to love under the impossible pressures of occupation and modern war.
Where did the inspiration for the story come from?
Fog. Fog and darkness and the contrast of danger and safety, of wanting to come in from the dark and the cold into warmth and light. And a place: a small cottage dug into the sandstone cliff by the wharves in Sydney – I was so fascinated by that place that looked as if it had been there since the early days of the colony. I transplanted that idea and that image to my northern city but surrounded it with darkness and mist and that overpowering desire to seek refuge from danger.
How did you go about the world building?
For this book, I started with memories of my childhood in Vancouver, the fogs, the sea, the cold, the foghorn. And memories of camping and hiking in the Rocky Mountains – thinking about bears, watching eagles, picking wild berries. Then lots of reading, lots of research, sometimes travel if possible, more reading, collecting all kinds of stories and scraps: images, photos, films and for this book – people. I did a lot of research on military and strategic matters, went to conferences, talked to officers and veterans. I kept coming back to images and the images grew out of research – when does the sun rise at that latitude, what kind of plants grow there, that sort of thing.
Can you tell us a little about your writing process. Do you plot or are you a pantser (writing by the seat of your pants)?
It’s always a bit of both. As I said above, I usually start with an image. But there are also certain events I know from the beginning I want in the story and I start by writing them and the setting. But most of it I don’t know. I’m trying to capture certain feelings and I keep writing until I do that to my satisfaction. In that sense, I don’t know ahead of time. If I wasn’t discovering, creating and learning as I was writing, I wouldn’t be interested enough to keep going.
What made you choose your writing genre?
I’m not sure I have a genre. The most important thing to me is being able to use my imagination to create beautiful and scary and mysterious stories and to use my visual sense, along with eliciting powerful emotions. Many kinds of stories can do that: my first novel was a detective story as well as speculative fiction. This book has elements of romance and thriller so…I think I can write any genre, really.
Who has inspired you throughout your career?
George Orwell. His writing is so clear and beautiful and important. I love Angela Carter’s lush prose. Margaret Atwood’s humour and imagination inspire me. As a child I’d have to say that Tove Jansson, who created the Moomintrolls, and fantasy writer Alan Garner inspired me to want to write. I also loved Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea. I find her thoughts on writing a constant inspiration.
What are you reading right now?
I always have a few books I’m reading. I’ve just finished re-reading The Lover by Marguerite Duras and I’m looking forward to teaching it. I want to read more Duras – I like the way she writes about love and sex. Currently Ruby Moonlight, poetry by Ali Cobby Eckermann. I’m also reading Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, and loving it. It starts with the Moon being blown up, which is not only dramatic in itself but leads to consequences beyond anything I could have imagined. I’ve just finished Ghost Fleet by Peter W Singer and August Cole: a mindblowing novel describing one way the next world war could start and all the hi-tech in the pipeline, including tattoos that connect you to the internet, drones like little lobsters that patrol beaches and climb communications towers. Amazing. And all of it under development now.
Are you working on anything new you can tell us about?
Yes, I’m working on my oceanic novel, about what is happening in the seas around our continent. It also features a woman who falls in love with a ship, which is a unique romance but I promise not as strange as it sounds.
Thanks for your time Claire, good luck with the blog tour and launch of Watch Over Me.
Watch Over Me by Claire Corbett is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99, available now.
Please also check out the rest of the stops on the tour.