One of the most powerful novels I've read for some time was Helena Close's The Clever One, so when she agreed to do an interview I was absolutely thrilled to get the chance to ask her some questions.
1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?
I see dead people.. jk - .I see all age groups really - moms, dads, grannies, teens, twenty somethings. A good book should have no age limit - not that I'm presuming my books are good!!!
2. What advice would you give to authors just starting out?
Read as much as possible. And write every day. Treat it like a job. Don't bother waiting to be inspired - learn the craft through hard graft and the inspiration will look after itself. Ignore the little voice in your head that tells you that you're rubbish - we all have one of those and we learn to ignore it.
3. If you could ask any other author any question, what would you ask and who would you ask it to?
It would be Cormac McCarthy - probably my favourite living writer. And the question would be simple - why are you a much better writer than me?
4. The Clever One features some very mature themes - do you feel it's suitable for all ages, or would you rather younger teens waited until they're a bit older to read it?
I don't think it's suitable for younger teens - although they probably could relate to a lot of the themes in it but I think if they were older they would have a better understanding of the themes.That said - life is scary unfortunately.
5. Do you listen to music when writing? If so, did The Clever One have a particular soundtrack?
I never listen to music/radio etc while working. I usually work in complete silence. But often there's a soundtrack in my head - for The Clever One it was the soundtrack of the time - The Killers, Kings Of Leon, Fionn Regan.
6. I know you're a big fan of This is England 88, and in some ways your gritty writing reminds me of Shane Meadows' work on the screen. Would you like to see The Clever One adapted as a film or TV programme?
Shane Meadows is a fantastic writer - his stories - though bleak and gritty - are full of heart. I was a huge fan of the movie This is England and was very doubtful about 86 and 88 but Shane didn't let me down. Brilliant writing. Storytelling at its very best. I take any comparison between my writing and his as a huge compliment!
I have to be honest, while I loved the film of TIE, I couldn't get into the TV series. I'll have to give it another go.
7. Have you ever thought about collaborating with another author on a novel? If so, who would be your dream writing partner? (Alive or dead, I'm feeling generous!)
I wrote four novels with my best friend Trisha Rainsford under the pen name Sarah O Brien. We are currently just finishing our fifth. We also wrote a kid's novel called BandWorld. It's currently seeking a home in the publishing world. I'd love to collaborate with Cormac McCarthy but my current writing partner may take offence and I might end up dead. I don't think Cormac would be the collaborating type. And I love my current set-up - doing something I love with my best friend - it's the dream gig - I just wished it paid a little more!!! Trisha is hilarious and we laugh our way through our working day.
8. Which book would you recommend to people who enjoyed The Clever One while they're eagerly waiting for your next novel?
Easy. Matt Haig's the Radleys. Loved loved loved this book about a vampire family - real vampires - not the silly kind in Twilight that just want hot girlfriends. And another book called Dogboy by Eva Hornung. Harrowing but wonderful.
Dogboy sounds really interesting, and I agree with you on the Radleys being a great read.
9. What do you enjoy most about writing? What would you rather not do at all?
I love writing. I enjoy every aspect of it - even the parts that shouldn't be fun. I love when a book finally comes together - when all the jigsaw pieces fall into place and you're searching for ages for the final few pieces and then they just fall out of the ether when you least expect it. That's the best feeling in the world. I love it.
10. What's next for Helena Close?
I've just finished my fourth novel. It's called The Day You Left - and it's about a 14 year old boy whose mother walked out on him four years ago and suddenly one summer she arrives back looking to play happy families... and of course I have an idea composting away for the fifth novel...and the movie...and the short story collection....
Will be looking forward to them all! Thanks very much for taking the time to answer my questions, Helena.
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