I am delighted to introduce to the blog
Claire ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you for chatting to us about your book
The Perfect Affair.
Where did you get that first blinding flash of inspiration for The Perfect Affair?
It actually came via two sources. Firstly, I was shown a photograph of a reception held sometime in the 1960s to mark the launch of a ship. There was something in the way two of the people in the photograph were standing which told me that there was more to their relationship than met the eye. They were studiously not looking at one another and yet I could feel a tug of connection between them and so started thoughts about writing a novel about characters torn between love and duty.
Secondly, I drove by a house one day which had the most amazing stained glass in its front door and this got me thinking about doorways and about the sun throwing colours onto a hallway floor. To me doorways are liminal places and so I wanted Eve and Myles to meet on a doorstep and for this boundary to represent the struggle between right and wrong that they experience in their relationship.
What can you tell us about the story that won't give too much away?
There are two stories in the novel: one chronicling Rose’s affair with Henry in the 1950s and the other following Eve and Myles’s relationship in the present day. What I wanted to show most of all are the choices the two women face in their respective generations and how some of these choices are very different from one another and also how some are very much the same. There are therefore quite a number of motifs linking the two narratives. Moreover, I didn’t necessarily want pass judgement on the rights and wrongs of their respective situations but instead to give voice to the heartbreak people can suffer and cause when they find themselves falling in love with someone they shouldn’t.
Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. How do you feel about them when the book is finished? Are they what you expected them to be?
I always go into a period of mourning when a book comes to an end. You’re right, I do live with them and it’s a 24/7 thing so when it’s done I experience a kind of grief. My characters move into my head and heart and even if I don’t do it consciously, I find I'm working on plot points or the scenes they will people when I’m going about my daily business. Therefore when I do sit down to write, it’s like they’re real and have been there all along and are speaking through me and so I don’t actually have much of a say. It’s all a bit weird really!
And, I guess that because of this my characters can and do change as the novel progresses. In The Perfect Affair Rose was supposed to be a bit part but she became more and more vocal and visible and, rather than it being a conscious choice, her story spilled out concurrently with Eve’s. I guess the only person who really stayed as I had intended him was Henry, but then that’s Henry for you; constant and steady!
Which character in the story did you identify with the most?
I suppose it has to be Eve because we are roughly the same age and my sons have recently been the same age as Eve’s daughter is in the novel, so there is a lot I can identify with in her life. However, to make us different from one another I made her tall with long straight hair whereas I am short with short curly hair and this helped me distance myself from her and see her story more objectively!
Are you a plotter...or ...a start writing and see where it takes you, sort of writer?
A bit of both. I do plot the overall arc of the novel; I decide on my settings and time frames and sketch out my characters and do whatever research is necessary but then I kind of let the story take over. I find my books have their own narrative urge and that if I over think things this doesn’t leave room for invention. What I love the most is sitting at my keyboard and seeing what happens. Obviously in doing it this way there are good days and bad days! I usually do have a rough idea how the book will end but don’t like to admit this to myself so as to keep it a surprise for me as well as the reader! This all changes, of course, in the editing process when I have to hone and buff my prose and ensure everything ties up but the first draft has, in the past, tended to be a bit of a voyage of discovery!
Do you write the type of books you like to read and which authors have influenced your writing?
Yes I suppose I do. I like books that make me think, that I have to work at to tease out their meaning. Like with poetry, I like novels I come out of knowing more than when I went in! I recently did an MA in Victorian Literature and so hugely admire the technical and narrative skills of writers such as Eliot and Dickens. My favourite novel ever is Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and I’m a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway but also love Margaret Atwood, Anna Quindlen, oh the list is quite endless! I am a voracious reader and am currently reading The Magus by John Fowles, have just re-read The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell and The Guernsey Litearary & Potato Peel Pie Society and a recent favourite has been Where Love Lies by Julie Cohen. I’ve also just completed another MA, this time in Poetry, and have fallen completely for the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop. She is, as a friend recently said, like a cat. She always falls on her feet in her poems! I do so envy her this!
I am currently working on another novel which is a multi-point-of-view, multi-generational story set between 1987 and now and which has trust as its core theme. So, I have my work cut out!
More about Claire can be found on her website.
Claire~ Thank you it's been a real pleasure to learn more about the writing process and the fascinating background to The Perfect Affair.
Jaffa and I wish you continuing success with your writing career.