An Interview with Lucy Clarke
June 2015

Lucy Clarke is a British author, who lives with her husband and small son on the south coast of England. She has a first class degree in English Literature and is now a full-time writer. Her novels “The Sea Sisters”, “A Single Breath”, and “The Blue” are a mixture of psychological suspense and emotional drama.

Your new novel “The Blue” comes out in July 2015. Please could you tell us a little about it?

With a spin of a globe, Lana and Kitty escape their lives in England and journey to the Philippines. There they discover The Blue – a beautiful yacht manned by a group of wanderers. When they’re invited to join the crew they slip into an idyllic routine of sailing and snorkelling around the isolated islands of the Philippines, embracing a way of life that makes it easy to forget the secrets they left behind.  

But as they set sail for open water and leave land behind, a dangerous swell of secrets and lies threatens to spill over. Trapped on the claustrophobic atmosphere of The Blue, the pasts that they’ve worked so hard to bury threaten to sweep Lana and Kitty away.

What inspires you to write? How do you get your ideas for your novels?

My strongest influence is place. I like to set my novels in a place – or places – that excite and inspire me. Being a lover of the coast, perhaps that’s why the sea plays such a large role in all three of my novels to date. Another element I’m also fascinated by is the shift in characters when they are removed from an environment they know intimately, and displaced somewhere foreign. I enjoy seeing how they react, whether they flourish or flounder in that new space – and ultimately, how the experience changes them.

Please describe your journey to finding an agent and to the publication of your first novel.

I was 24 when I realized that I’d love to be a novelist: then came the small matter of actually doing it. Like most writers I needed to work to support myself whilst trying to make it happen, so I set up a small business delivering events in schools, which afforded me both an income and a flexible schedule so I could make time to write.

It took me until I was 30 to sign my first book deal. I could paper a wall with the rejection letters I received along the way, but eventually good news landed. I was delivering an event at a school in Kent when I got the call to say I’d had an offer, and my knees literally went weak with the shock. A month later I sold my business, and now I’m thankful for being able to do what I love full-time.

What is your writing routine? Please describe a typical writing day.

I have a 6 month old baby, which means my typical writing day is somewhat shorter than it used to be! I write Monday-Friday from 8am-12pm. During those daily blocks of four hours, I turn off the internet, silence my mobile phone, plug in my headphones, and write furiously. I try to answer emails in the evenings once the baby is asleep.

How is your actual writing process?

Usually I begin with a simple premise that I then thicken into a plot outline. I don’t have the outline pinned down chapter by chapter; rather, I’ll split the book into three ‘acts’: the beginning, the middle and the end, and plot the key events that will take place within these acts. I’ll also create brief biographies for each of my main characters.

After that, I get down to writing. I ‘free write’ the first draft, which to me means writing it in one big gulp without looking back. This draft is always very short – perhaps only 30,000 words. After that I build upon the draft – and often write seven or eight drafts before I have something I’d be happy to show my publisher. I suppose it’s a little like the way a painter may work: they layer colours and play with textures and shading until they can eventually stand back and think, ‘Yes. That’s what I was after.’

When working on a novel, do you ever dream about the story or your protagonists?

Occasionally. When I do, it’s utterly wonderful.

Are you usually confident when you start writing a new novel, or are you plagued by self-doubts?

Oh God, I’m always plagued with self-doubt when I write! When I start a new book I usually have a fortnight of being utterly in love and excited about the story; then the first plot problem will raise its head, and from that point on it’s a seesaw of emotions. Luckily I have a wonderfully patient and encouraging husband who reminds me that I go through this with every single book!

Do you first write by hand or type the story right away?

My first draft is always written by hand in a journal.

Do you have a favorite writing place?

Yes, a beach hut on the south coast of England. I can shut myself away, and work uninterrupted with a view of the sea.

How long does it approximately take you to write a novel?

12-18 months.

Do you already have an idea for your fourth novel?

I do! I can’t give away anything too much just yet, except to say that the novel will be set in a place very close to my heart – and I’m hugely excited about this one!

Thank you very much for your time, and all the best for your future!

For more information, please visit Lucy Clarke’s website.